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What are the best slow travel European cities?

Discover some of the best slow travel European cities that fly under the radar and why they merit a place on your next international adventure.

5 minutes
What are the best slow travel European cities
Monty relaxing in Italy.

Europe is a delight for slow travel devotees. Beyond headline destinations like Paris or Berlin are seductive locales with rich histories and vibrant cultures that check all the boxes for a slow travel odyssey. 

If you’re wondering where to embark on your next adventure, join us on a relaxed tour of our favorite slow travel European cities ( read more about slow travel regions).

What do we mean by slow travel?

Slow travel emphasizes the joy of easing down the throttle and immersing yourself in unfamiliar cultures. Instead of a breathless tour between cities and landmarks, you lay your hat in one place and dive deeper into your surroundings. 

This is why some of the best slow travel European cities fly a little under the radar. Less expensive and less crowded, yet with enough to satisfy curious minds.   

What to look for when slow traveling in Europe

Instead of losing time in travel forums comparing the merits of one incredible city over another, consider these criteria. 

Low-density cities

Swerve capitals and densely populated destinations to better connect with local communities. You won’t have to look too hard to find charismatic cities without the crowds, giving you space and time to make deeper connections with the local culture and people.  

Looking for cities with an easygoing reputation 

Good public transport, flourishing neighborhoods, open green spaces, and diverse community events are indicators that local life is good. Online quality-of-life surveys are helpful tools for gauging where people are happy.

Alternatively, make your base in offbeat neighborhoods in busier cities. It can be the best of both worlds.   

Open and welcoming cities

The warmest welcomes are often found in less-visited cities, where businesses and eager locals feel proud to showcase their city. Travel forums are helping when trying to compare the welcome in slow travel European cities.

Go regional 

Sometimes it pays to worry less about the city and focus on the region. With good transport links, a picturesque area can offer some golden opportunities for slow travel fans. We’ve got some compelling recommendations in our guide to slow travel regions.

Experience above sights

Or you can throw everything we just said in the recycling bin and concentrate on finding memorable experiences. Craft workshops, languages you’re learning, regional cuisine, archeological relics, and other unique experiences that tease the slow travel senses can make it easier to choose where to go.   

10 best slow travel cities in Europe

Let’s move on from the abstract and zero in on some of our favorite slow travel European cities.

Malaga, Spain

Beautiful orange tree in from of the church in slow destination city of malaga
Beautiful orange trees grow all around Malaga.

Bursting with color and vitality, the port city of Malaga checks all the slow travel boxes. The birthplace of Picasso dates back to the Phoenician period. The bustling Andalusian city boasts markets, energetic festivals, top-notch art galleries, and enticing restaurants. Not forgetting sunkissed beaches on the Med, that are blessed with 300 days of sunshine annually.

Krakow, Poland

Krakow is close to our hearts, and we can’t recommend it enough for slow travel. 

What Krakow lacks in international fame, it more than makes up for with intriguing attractions, a storied cultural history, reasonable prices, moderate crowds, tasty cuisine, and friendly people. We’re not exaggerating, Krakow truly is one of the best cities to visit in Europe. If that piques your interest, check our guide to slow travel in Krakow

How many days to spend in Krakow
The couple chilling at the grass with the beautiful Krakow’s Wawel castle view.

You can easily spend a week in Krakow and not run out of things to see and do. In fact, it’s hard to find another overlooked city in Europe this small and cozy that would merit a stay this long.

Most visitors don’t expect much from Polish food, and yet almost all leave constantly astonished by the uniquely delicious taste of the local dishes. 

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg is a slow travel jewel in the shadow of the Alps. The compact city is ideal for unhurried exploration. Classical music fans might want to tread in the footsteps of Salzburg’s prodigal son, Mozart. Others will appreciate the first-rate yet uncrowded museums. 

Salzburg is one of the slow travel city
Salzburg is a perfect destination for music or nature lovers.

Outside the city are slow travel adventures, including alpine treks and salt mines which gave Salzburg its name. 

Lucca, Italy

Tuscany tops many travel itineraries. If you crave an authentic slice of Tuscan life away from the crowds in Florence and Pisa, the smaller towns are the place to go. 

Beautiful Italian architecture in slow travel city Lucca.
Beautiful Italian architecture in Lucca.

Lucca has all the Renaissance characteristics of Florence but is small, easy to explore, and blissfully uncrowded. The easygoing and oft-overlooked city is just a short train ride from Pisa, Florence, or even Rome.

Eger, Hungary

Eger is quietly building a reputation as a slow travel European city par excellence. Baroque architecture, Ottoman landmarks, and thermal baths all vie for attention. Affordable and compact, it’s an unsung gem in Hungary and the ideal place to visit after the delights of Budapest.

 Aarhus, Denmark

Denmark’s second city is famously livable. Walkable, easygoing, and teeming with diverting art and cultural activities, Aarhus is a favorite of slow travelers who want to see Denmark but avoid the overcrowded capital.  

Galway, Ireland

Galway has a colorful personality far removed from the city vibes of Dublin. The compact and bohemian city boasts lively pubs, inventive restaurants, and a thriving arts scene. 

The craic is good, and Ireland’s stunning west coast is just a stone’s throw away, making it the sort of place you plan to visit for a weekend but linger for weeks.

Naxos, Greece

The islands of Greece are a far cry from the west coast of Ireland. Just as beautiful, but with fewer clouds. Naxos in the Cyclades is overshadowed by Mykonos and Santorini. But it offers a gentler and less touristy experience that slow travelers will relish. 

The fertile landscape hosts valleys and mountains for trekking. The beaches are stunning, and the costs are far lower than the big-ticket islands nearby. But they’re just a short ferry ride away, making Naxos the ideal camp for an Aegean odyssey. 

Périgueux, France

If you love wine, good food, arresting landmarks, and gorgeous landscapes, you’ll love the Dordogne. 

Périgueux, the regional capital, is a compact and inexpensive riverside city full of fascinating diversions. Nearby are the vineyards of Bordeaux, movie star chateaux, the gastronomic temples of Sarlat and the Perigord region, and towns dripping in medieval character. 

Porto, Portugal

Monty picking grapes in Douro Valley.

Cosmopolitan charm places Porto firmly on the digital nomad map, partly aided by tax incentives. 

Wine lovers know all about the delights of the nearby Douro Valley. But there is much to please slow travelers in Portugal’s second city. Vibrant neighborhoods, world-class cuisine to savor (although you have much appetite left after scoffing a stomach-busting Francesinha,) and an easygoing ambiance that rewards unhurried exploration.

Final thoughts on slow travel European cities

It would take no effort to burnish this list with dozens of attractive slow travel European cities. And no doubt there’s even more to discover. Thinking about the possibilities continually fires our wanderlust. 

Whether you focus on popular regions like Tuscany or the Greek islands or seek the complete package in one magical city, there are undoubtedly myriad slow travel experiences around Europe. Hopefully, we’ve got you thinking about the slow travel European cities in which you want to lose yourself.