So you've decided to study abroad in Europe. And more likely than not, you will end up in a major city that has a network of university ties working with your US university/college of choice. Choosing the city where you intend on studying abroad for the next semester or two can be a difficult choice, but should really just be broken down to what’s most important to you. Perhaps the city you choose has strong ties with your major, or maybe you just always dreamed of visiting a certain city to learn the language while you receive an education.
Either way, you’ll soon find out that Europe has a diverse offering and each country is truly a microcosm of culture unique to itself, even though it may technically be part of a larger union.
So instead of (or maybe in addition to) visiting the heavily frequented tourist markets or staying to the confines of your host city, you can consider these underrated places to visit while studying abroad in Europe that will be sure to leave you amazed and give you plenty of stories once you're home.
1) Bruges, Belgium
One of the continent's most notorious hidden gems has received more attention since the 2008 film In Bruges starring Colin Farrell, but its tourist traffic is still far behind Europe's major cities. Yet, once you enter the city's historic old town, it's baffling: Here, hidden along the Belgian North Sea coast, is a medieval town straight out of a fairy tale.
The entirety of Bruges’s historic center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to the plethora of medieval buildings that date back to the 12th century, when the city was a major European trading center. When visiting, we especially recommend a boat tour through the canals, along with a walk up the 366 steps to the Belfry that offers a glorious view over the entire city.
Closest Auto France location: Brussels Airport
2) Porto, Portugal
We get it: When you're on the Iberian peninsula, your first inclination is to visit famous cities like Madrid and Barcelona. And it makes sense; both are beautiful cities that will undoubtedly be worth your while.
But so is Porto, the second largest city of Portugal that's nestled along the majestic Duoro River.
Like Bruges, the city's center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its buildings dating back to early medieval times. But Porto's roots go even further back, having been established as a Roman outpost in 300 BC. When in Porto, be sure to check out the Ponte de Louis bridge, along with the 12th century Porto Cathedral. And if you need to cool down, the Atlantic Ocean and several gorgeous beaches are only a few miles away.
Closest Auto France Location: Porto Airport
3) Hamburg, Germany
Mention Germany to European travelers, and you will begin hearing stories about the beauty of Munich and the living history in Berlin. But few will mention Hamburg, the country's second largest city and arguably its most beautiful metropolis. Established as a port in 800 AD, Hamburg has grown to become Germany's richest city on the back of its trading industry. Its over 2,000 bridges are the most beautiful in the world, leading roads and walkways over countless canals and rivers.
The port includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site Speicherstadt, the world's largest warehouse district dating back to the 19th century and housing attractions like the Spice Museum and the Miniature Wonderland. Meanwhile, the Alster—a 164 hectare artificial lake just minutes away from the city center—offers residents and tourists alike a welcome escape from the bustling city life.
4) Budapest, Hungary
Budapest can seem like the forgotten Eastern European metropolis next to the tourist-heavy Prague. Hungary's capital is bisected by the River Danube, and many of its most memorable attractions are beautifully located on the Danube's banks. There's the Hungarian Parliament Building, the country's largest building and one of Europe's oldest legislative buildings that majestically overlooks the river.
The 13th Century Buda Castle, formerly home to the royal family of Hungary, now houses both an art collection and the Budapest History Museum as its main benefactors of the gorgeous river views. It's also part of the city's historic downtown, which—you guessed it—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Auto France Tip: Pick up a rental vehicle at our Munich location and set off on an epic road trip!
Depending on where in Europe you're studying, one of these underrated cities to visit will definitely be within driving distance. And they're absolutely worth your while, giving you plenty of photo ops and memories to take home to your friends in family. So if you're wondering just how to get to Budapest, Hamburg, Porto or Bruges, wonder no more! Simply contact us to find out how a long-term car rental could help you discover the hidden beauty of Europe or take a look at our many long term car rental locations in Europe using our Google map location finder.
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