Underrated cities in Eastern Europe generally attract fewer visitors than their counterparts in the western parts of the continent. That situation is changing. One of the eastern cities that is attracting more attention these days offers a beautiful array of vistas. It is Dubrovnik, an Adriatic gem on the coast of Croatia.
Beyond cruise ship arrivals, relatively few visitors to Europe experience Dubrovnik. It isn't among the front-line destinations, but perhaps it should be on that list.
This was once a powerful, influential city. It was a trade rival of Venice. But as life in the Balkans became war-torn in the 1990s, Dubrovnik was no longer a place for tourists to enjoy. When the attacks ended, history-minded donors helped restore the buildings and landmarks.
One of the best landmarks is the mile-long walk around the old city wall. For a nominal fee, you can purchase an audio tour guide and enjoy the sites at your own pace. Don't forget your camera, because you'll see some outstanding views as you circumnavigate the old town.
There is a nice selection of budget hotels in Dubrovnik. Some are near the fortifications, while others are convenient for Adriatic beach-goers.
This is a place where you can enjoy azure waters, historic treasures and reasonable prices. It is an underrated European city.
Riga has seen more than its share of tough times. After nearly half a century of Soviet occupation, the city began rebuilding its tourism services. After more than two decades, Riga is becoming a popular Baltic destination, but it remains underrated when compared to other European capitals.
Overland travel to Riga is challenging, with some itineraries plagued by delays and poor connections. But budget airlines such as Ryanair offer attractive fares and convenient connections from airports in western Europe.
After arrival, you'll find that although hotel and dining costs have risen considerably over the past two decades, rates remain lower than what is found in many popular European capitals to the west.
Riga's historic center is among the best-preserved in Europe. Students of history and architecture will enjoy what they find in the Old Town. One of the most sobering yet necessary stops is the Museum of Occupation, now located in the former U.S. Embassy building. Technically, visiting is free of charge, but donations are encouraged. Guided tours require a nominal fee.
Shop for amber and enjoy the wide Baltic beaches. Visit Riga before it escapes the label of underrated destination.
Dresden, like Riga, has seen some difficult recent history. Saturation bombing during World War II led to a long, slow road of restoration for historic sections of the city. Then, in 2002, serious flooding disrupted the tourism business.
The city has been an underdog of late, but the impressive and ornate architecture here hints that power and fortune played a role in the city's past. You'll tour some of the finest buildings in Germany and walk cobblestone streets once leading to Europe's nobility.
Prices here, while not bargain basement, are reasonable when compared with neighbors such as Berlin or Prague. The city lies about halfway between those two popular destinations and makes a great stopover that could give your budget and your senses a rest from higher prices and chaotic lines of tourists.
Bratislava is an easy day trip from Vienna. It offers an Old Town small enough to walk rather easily, and a restored castle from which commanding views of the city and the river are possible.
Just a few miles from the Hungarian border, Bratislava once played important roles in the history of that nation. The proximity to Austria's capital allowed many future Viennese musicians and artists to display their talents in a less competitive environment.
Bratislava's more recent history is equally fascinating. The years of Soviet occupation have left scars, with some buildings displaying graffiti such as "renovate me!"
While tourist services are not at the same level as its more established neighbors, budget accommodations and dining are easy to find here. Bratislava offers a nice underrated stopover for travelers visiting Vienna or Budapest.
Many tourists get as far east as Berlin and then stop. They miss Poland's vibrant capital city of Warsaw and the lower prices it offers to those who make it this far.
Warsaw is well-connected to western Europe by rail, and a mid-range hotel stay generally is affordable. So why is Warsaw underrated?
Don't ask that question to people who enjoy shopping for antiquities in Old Town Warsaw. Likewise, those who enjoy the vibrant Warsaw nightlife might not see this city as underrated.
Enjoy the Old Town Market Square, where you'll find the Warsaw History Museum. Castle Square hosts the annual Christmas Market.