Europe is simply blessed with so much wonder — be it the continent’s natural beauty, rich history, magnificent castles and palaces, or culinary delights. Most travellers to Europe tend to visit only the well-known and bustling cities of Paris, London, Madrid and Berlin. How about an introduction to the lesser visited cities that are just as beautiful and alluring? Here are three cities that completely took my breath away.

Brussels (Belgium)

Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is such a pretty city. I loved walking along the cobbled-stoned streets that led me along a stretch of centuries-old buildings and massive architectural wonders. The town is full of surprises at every corner – it’s so historical, yet modern at the same time.

Brussels’ bustling Grand Place at dusk.

Brussels’ Grand Place is the most important landmark in Brussels and is surrounded by the city’s Town Hall and guildhalls. The buildings are absolutely majestic with its Gothic architecture and shiny gold trimmings.

A short walk away from the Grand Place is the little peeing boy, also known as the Manneken Pis — another popular tourist destination in the city. It is exactly as the name implies, a small bronze statue of a little boy peeing into the fountain.

The Atomium, one of the most unique structures in the world.

One of my favourite spots in Brussels, the Atomium, is a little out of the city, but so worth the trip! Shaped like a giant atom, the Atomium is the miniature version of an actual atom, which is just… 165 billion times bigger!

Go crazy on the chocolates in Belgium!

While you’re in the city, don’t forget to feast on excellent chocolates, fries and waffles. My favourite season to visit the Brussels is autumn — when the city evokes a feeling of nostalgia, against a backdrop of gold and bronze. Autumn is also the shoulder season when there are fewer crowds — another way to save your bucks! During my visit to the city, I stayed at the Novotel Brussels Hotel, which was next to the train station and a convenient walk to the Grand Place, as well as many of the city’s highlights.

The Grand Place

Address: 1000 Brussels, Belgium.

Operating Hours: Opens from 9am-8pm daily.

How to Get There: A short walk from the Centrale, Bourse or De Broukere metro stations.

Manneken Pis

Address: 1000 Brussels, Belgium.

Operating Hours: All Day.

How to Get There: Head southwest of the Town Hall from the Grand Place.

Atomium

Address: Square de l’Atomium, 1020 Brussles, Belgium.

Operating Hours: Opens from 10am-6pm daily.

How to Get There: A 5-minute walk from the Heysel / Heizel metro station.

 

Oslo (Norway)

Oslo is another charming city located on Norway’s southern coast and surrounded by forests, hills, lakes, and fjords. The capital of Norway is connected by a convenient tram and bus service, which makes it easy to access most of the city’s tourist attractions and landmarks.

I started my tour of Oslo from the Frogner Park (also known as the Vigeland Park), filled with almost 200 sculptures created by the Norwegian sculptor, Gustav Vigeland in the early 20th century. His works are mostly nude, depicting the circle of life and are meant to be timeless.

One of the many human structures that can be found at the Frogner Park.

The beautiful port of Oslo, with the Akershus Castle in the background.

Other historically significant attractions that I visited in the city include the Royal Palace, the Akershus Castle and Fortress and the Nobel Peace Center. If you have more time in the city, a visit to the nearby Bygdøy makes for a lovely day-trip as it is home to some of the city’s most popular museums: the Norwegian Folk Museum, Viking Ship Museum, Norwegian Maritime Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum, and the Holocaust Center, and not to mention, several beautiful manors.

Drop by the Mathallen Food Hall in Oslo for a selection of local and international fares.

Frogner Park

Address: Kirkeveien, 0268 Oslo, Norway.

Operating Hours: All Day.

How to Get There: Bus 20 or Tram 12 to the Vigeland Park.

Royal Palace

Address: Slottsplassen 1, 0010 Oslo, Norway.

Operating Hours: Guided tours only during summer months. Closed the rest of the year. Changing of the guards at 1.30pm daily.

How to Get There: Tram to Nationaltheatret/Slottsparken.

Akershus Castle and Fortress

Address: 0150 Oslo, Norway.

Operating Hours: Opens from 6am-9pm daily.

How to Get There: Tram 12 to Christiania torv.

Nobel Peace Center

Address: Brynjulf Bulls plass 1, 0250 Oslo, Norway.

Operating Hours: Opens from 10am-6pm daily.

How to Get There: Tram 12 to Nationaltheatret.

Bygdøy

How to Get There: In the summer months (early April to early October), the best way to get to Bygdøy is by boat from Pier 3 behind the City Hall. Bus 30 takes you to the island all year round.

To me, the most beautiful time to visit Oslo is during winter, when the season casts a bluish tint on this lovely city. If you are not one for the cold, Oslo makes for a great holiday destination during the summer months. I recommend the luxurious Grand Hotel Oslo for a luxurious stay in Oslo. The brilliant location, right smack in the city centre, gives you easy access to the Oslo Nye Teater, Karl Johan Street, and Parliament.

Dubrovnik (Croatia)

One of the most famous cities in Croatia, Dubrovnik is located on the Adriatic Sea and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of the major locations of the popular TV series “Game of Thrones”, which can only help with tourist numbers. I was completely awe-struck when I first entered the city walls from its sheer magnificence, probably looking like a lost little child in a such a beautiful city.

My favourite thing to do in Dubrovnik is a lovely morning stroll around the uninterrupted 2km wall around the city. It encircles the entire old town, wrapping it within its towering clutches. The 2-hour walk will reward you with the most stunning views of the vast open sea on one side and a sea of orange-roofed buildings on the other.

The beautiful view from the Dubrovnik old town walls.

Exploring the grounds of one of the many monasteries in Dubrovnik old town.

From the tower, you can see Buza Bar, one of the most famous places to watch a sunset in Dubrovnik. Perched along the cliffs overlooking the sea, the spot is perfectly hidden and is only accessible through a hole in the city walls. Heavenly!

Dubrovnik is filled with so many monasteries, churches, palaces and fortresses. Every site gives you excellent photo-taking opportunities to boast to your friends about being in the land of Game of Thrones!

When in Dubrovnik, don’t miss out on the opportunity to indulge in fresh seafood and sip delectable wine at one of the many restaurants in the old city.

The Old City Walls

Address: Poljana Paska Miličevića, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Operating Hours: Opens from 8am-7.30pm daily.

How to Get There: There are 3 entrances to Dubrovnik’s old city walls — Pile Gate, Ploce Gate and St John Fortress.

Buza Bar

Address: Crijevićeva ul. 9, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Operating Hours: Opens from 9am-8pm daily.

How to Get There: Look for a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ along the old town’s south walls.

The best place to visit Dubrovnik is during the summer months (for sunbathing!), and the best place to stay is within the old city walls. It was just wonderful walking out of my apartment, Dubrovnik Boutique Apartments, and be in the midst of so much historical beauty. Many other hotels/guesthouses there are set within ancient buildings as well.

Dubrovnik’s main street — the Stradun.

So what are you waiting for? Make a detour to these beautiful cities when in Europe and be dazzled by the radiance of Brussels, the grace of Oslo, and the enchantment of Dubrovnik. These charming, quaint European towns will give you a sight of Europe that other metropolitan cities can’t.