Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Wed August 24 2016

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  • Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone | August 24, 2016 1:00 AM ET

    7 Underrated, Astounding European Destinations for 2017: Part 2

    7 Underrated, Astounding European Destinations for 2017: Part 2

    PHOTO: The Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, built to celebrate the 1,000th birthday of the Hungarian state between 1895 and 1902, is renowned for its grand views. (Photo by Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone)

    We started with Cannes in the French Riviera and Naples, Italy on the famous western coast of one of the world’s most beloved peninsulas. These are, of course, more of the well-known of our list of underrated destinations, but today, we head inland to Central Europe and then all the way back out west to another peninsula — the Iberian one.

    Although both Budapest and Barcelona get their fair share of visitors, it’s still mind-blowing to me that they aren’t usually top-of-mind or top-of-list. Airfare to these cities is generally among the more affordable overseas flights, and the cost of living provides excellent value and a lot of fun for your buck. Gorgeous tree-lined neighborhoods, historic quarters, region-specific dishes, fantastic food markets, unique architecture, and less-common language are similarities they both share. But make no mistake — these two destinations have distinct personality in spades.

    5. Budapest, Hungary

    Hungary may be a central part of Europe — both geographically and culturally, yet the land of the Magyars is anything but expected.

    Divided in two by the Danube River — the flatter, walkable, and cosmopolitan Pest and ancient, hilly, imperial Buda — and reconnected by poetic bridges like the Chain Bridge, where lions roar silently in the shadow of a palace, it’s diverse beyond imagination.

    Its history has lent Celtic, Roman, Mongolian, Ottoman and Austrian (just to name a few) influence to its food, culture, and design. Architectural gems like Fisherman’s Bastion make fairy tales seem more fact than fiction, while the embassies on UNESCO World Heritage Site Andrassy Avenue make something as simple as a walk worth a “wow.”

    Plus, this city is affordable. Although Hungary is part of the European Union, they don’t use the euro. Rather, the Hungarian forint remains their primary method of currency and the exchange rate strongly favors us here in the States. It fluctuates a good deal, but generally, the equivalent of $15 gets you a pretty good meal with wine. Cab fares are usually under $10 converted, and public transit is easy-peasy here.

    Pro Tip: If riding the well-connected bus network, be sure to validate your ticket on the on-board machines. Plainclothes ticket inspectors reserve the right to pull you off the bus and write you a citation and charge a fine on the spot for not punching your ticket.

    READ MORE: 7 Underrated, Astounding European Destinations for 2017: Part 1

    4. Barcelona, Spain

    For the life of me, I don’t know why Spain isn’t as glorified as Italy, England and France. I have no problem admitting that when I first flew to Barcelona, I had little to no expectations.

    I wanted to see the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s 200-year-and-counting work in progress. I knew I needed to visit La Boqueria, one of the very best and most impressive food markets in the world. I was curious to hear Portuguese and see the heart of legendary Catalonia. But beyond that, it was — at first — just a less expensive gateway to the rest of my first whirlwind tour of Europe, which included the French Riviera, Rome, Florence and Naples. So when I went there, I was properly blown away.

    There are so many diverse neighborhoods, all with their own sophisticated flair, to attract the well-heeled traveler. Everyone knows to flock to the Gothic Quarter, where La Rambla marks the entrance of the historic medieval neighborhood. But the University area is where you’ll find great cheap and international eats, and Eixample is where there’s Art Nouveau masterpieces, upscale shopping and fancy townhomes.

    Also, did you know there are seven beaches? Including a gorgeous golden beach, right under the sleek sail of the W Hotel in Barceloneta? But if you’re a city explorer like me, you’ll never get to it — there’s too much in this Catalan capital to cover as just a pit stop. I, for one, can’t wait to return.

    Pro Tip: For Gaudi’s most famous works, be sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time. The lines for the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and La Pedrera at Casa Mila can easily wrap around for hours, and sell out by the time you get to the front.  


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Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone Making Lasting Impressions

Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone With experience in both advertising/marketing copywriting and editorial journalism, multiple-award-winning writer Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone’s passion for words is exceeded only by her love of travel. As communications manager for Travel Impressions, she uses that diverse background to create a unique bridge between marketing and storytelling, whether it’s used to share her excitement for Travel Impressions’ latest deals and agent-oriented programs and incentives or for new destinations and suppliers that inspire.
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