With so many tourists flocking to Europe to scratch their post-COVID-19 travel itches, it can be hard to find a destination to relax and enjoy the sights without fighting through crowds of fellow travellers. Travel to Europe is booming right now and into 2023 after two slower years of travel restrictions, with many Canadians itching to take advantage of affordable airfare deals. With that comes higher accommodation prices and more crowded tourist destination sites. If you’re looking for a smaller destination that’s ever so slightly off the beaten path, look no further than this list of our top recommended smaller cities in Europe that are worth adding to your 2023 travel bucket list.
1 / 10
Croatia's second-largest city, Split, offers an incredible seafront of the Adriatic Sea and an Old City that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On our must-see list is the Froggyland Museum, perhaps one of the world's strangest museums. Split offers amazing cuisine, picturesque beaches and is more affordable than the popular Dubrovnik (plus, it still offers some of the filming locations from Game of Thrones). We recommend visiting Split during the summer months when boating and beach activities are at their peak, plus the city comes alive for the Split Summer Festival.
2 / 10
The Grecian island of Corfu is an idyllic choice to visit in 2023. With magazine-worthy beaches studded with luxury resorts, a stay in Corfu is sure to be filled with natural beauty, rich history and old Venetian architecture and comfortable weather all year round. With a population of over 30,000, Corfu offers a lovely Old Town with shopping and nightlife without the crowds of Athens, Santorini or Ibiza.
3 / 10
This coastal city is a perfect choice if you're looking for a quieter romantic getaway that still has all the cosmopolitan comforts. Porto is known for its port wine production, so having a glass along the Douro river is a must. Don't forget to promenade along the main tourist square and make a stop at Lello Bookstore, known as the most beautiful bookstore in the world and said to have been an influence for the Harry Potter series.
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4 / 10
Located in beautiful Bavaria on Germany's Romantic Road, Füssen offers old world charm, amazing beers and one of the world's most iconic castles, Neuschwanstein (the inspiration for the Disneyland Cinderella castle. The city is a lovely choice for a winter getaway, with magical forest and treetop walks and cozy Christmas markets.
5 / 10
Skip Barcelona and head to the smaller city of Granada, Spain. Here you'll find all the Spanish delights you would expect, from a rich history of Flamenco dancing to drool-worthy tapas. Find paradise on earth at the world famous Alhambra, an Islamic fortress complex that's home to a number of gardens and monuments.
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If you're looking to experience the charm of Dutch canals without the big city bustle of Amsterdam, head South to the city of Leiden. Art lovers will enjoy it for the history as several great painters were born in Leiden, including Rembrandt. Plan a visit in spring 2023 and you'll be lucky enough to experience the blooming tulip fields (we recommend a bike ride through for the real Dutch experience!).
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The largest city in Belgium's Flemish region, Bruges is the lace-making capital of the world. Beyond that, the city is known for pretty canals where you can stroll the water and treat yourself to a freshly-made waffle. Beer lovers will want to visit in early April when the city celebrates the Bruges Beer Festival.
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Planning a trip to France, but worried about the Paris effect disappointing you? Add Annecy to your itinerary and you can bet you'll be captivated by this southeast French city. Close to the Swiss border and in view of plenty of snow-capped mountains, Annecy is known as the Venice of the Alps because of the beautiful canal that runs through town. Animated film lovers should mark their calendars and head to the city in mid-June of 2023 for the Annecy Festival, the world's largest animated film fest.
9 / 10
Art lovers need little explanation for why they should flock to Basel, Switzerland. Art Basel (taking place in mid-June) is a world-renowned event in the art world where artists, collectors and celebrities gather every year. The city of Basel is an incredible hub for artists and art lovers alike beyond the festival, and the city is home to incredible modern buildings juxtaposed alongside the historic university buildings in town.
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A stone's throw away from Pisa (so make sure you hit up the Leaning Tower) is the quaint city of Lucca. The city is full of gastronomic pleasures and Michelin-star restaurants, making it a lovely destination for food and wine lovers. Mark your calendars for June and July, when the Lucca Summer Festival will take place, bringing in some of the world's top musical acts.