By Katie Hamlin
As Europe's most-popular destinations, London, Paris, and Rome are, unsurprisingly, the subject of many questions and trip reports posted in our Europe Forum every day. For many Fodorites, these are the cities you can never get enough of; their offerings are world famous, numerous, and impossible to see in one trip—let alone four or even ten visits.
Not surprisingly, some members balked when I recently asked what "sister" European cities they would recommend to those looking for new destinations similar to the "Big 3". After all, what other cities could ever measure up?
But other members gamely nominated several noteworthy European alternatives. Based on their suggestions (and other Forums recommendations) we've rounded up seven capitals to visit next. While they're generally smaller, lower-profile cities than Paris, London, and Rome, they've still got plenty to offer visitors, from new experiences to special character. They're often better value, too.
"I was in Vienna a few years ago. On a Sunday morning, when I could not figure out what to plan, I decided to attend a church service at St. Stephen's Cathedral. Not knowing the language, I thought it would just be good to see. I am not even a Christian. Well, it was an early morning service and I was surprised to see many locals already seated. The church pews were full but there was a small number of people standing and so I found a nice spot in the front section and just listened and observed. The music was just so relaxing and so soothing throughout the service, that I even forgot I was standing and also lost track of time. When the priest finished talking, a wonderful choir came out and gave the most stunning performance. I was awe-stricken as I had not expected such a great performance. It was simply outstanding. So, I suggest you make a point to go to some church and enjoy some choir music. Because of Mozart and other famous musicians, music is just so amazing in Vienna. Of course, the church performances are even special in every way. Do give it a try."—ileen
Just Asked: Itinerary Help Please: Vienna, Budapest, and Bratislava
Trip Report: Micheal's Austria, But Mainly Vienna Trip Report
Start Planning: Fodor's Vienna travel guide
"Of course, only half of Istanbul is in Europe. It has a three-thousand-year-old history but the city itself is modern and some say hip, but I would not go that far. There is a week's worth of sights including the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Cistern, and Aya Sofya. And for some reason Turkish food is under appreciated."—Aduchamp
Just Asked: Istanbul Experts: Need Apartment Advice
Trip Report: Dina4's A First and Fantastic Visit to Istanbul
Start Planning: Fodor's Istanbul online guide
"Amsterdam's famous Albert Cuyp Street Market, called the largest in all of Holland, fascinates me—not only because of the lower-end clothes and goods being hawked but for produce and exotic edibles since the market vendors come from all over the Europe as do their clients. At the market you will see neighborhood locals dressed in native garb from places they immigrated from - especially the Dutch West Indies and Africans and South Asians, Asians, etc."—PalenQ
Just Asked: Please help me decide: Aubagne, France, or Amsterdam for August of 2012?
Trip Report: PalenQ's Amsterdam - My Favorite Things!
Start Planning: Fodor's Amsterdam online guide
"Give a culture hundreds of years to work with even the most modest ingredients (throw in cabbage here, too) and they will be not only creative, but excel. There are hundreds of types of sausages in KaDeWe, in Berlin. Thousands of beers. The quest has only begun and, sadly, I will not have time to even contemplate the finish line."—Aramus
Just Asked: Feedback needed on my next trip: Berlin & Dresden
Trip Report: Sssteve's A Trip to Berlin and Como
Start Planning: Fodor's Berlin online guide
"If you like photography, make sure you take a few hours to walk around El Retiro Park. There are some wonderful things to photograph there, especially at sunset. I got some beautiful shots of the sun on the lake and coming through the trees. There is also a beautiful glass building (the Crystal Palace) that is wonderful to photograph. Have fun!"—Suru
Just Asked: 10 Days in Barcelona and Madrid: Need Help!
Trip Report: Ekscrunchy's Madrid and Granada: A Magical Winter Week in Spain
Start Planning: Fodor's Madrid online guide
"We did Stockholm in August once—when hotel prices are lowest—few business travelers and most locals on vacation in Spain or the countryside. We got a fantastic deal on the Grand Hotel—which has views to die for."—nytraveler
Just Asked: Anyone done Stockholm/Helsinki/St. Petersburg?
Trip Report: Sferguso's Stunning Stockholm
Start Planning: Fodor's Stockholm online guide
"I would say (shout)—do not skip Budapest. We really loved this city . . . and would highly, highly recommend Hotel Victoria where the rooms have amazing floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the river, parliament, and bridge. Budapest is a fun city with lots of different areas to explore—old city history and new town hip shopping/coffee shops. We are thermal water nuts, but even if you're not usually interested, Budapest has some great baths to explore. Ancient Turkish baths and a huge and elegant public pool in the park . . . not to be missed for a day of fun and relaxation."—kawh
Just Asked: Prague and Budapest Operas and Ballet
Trip Report: Trebex's Budapest Trip Report
Start Planning: Fodor's Budapest online guide
Attention European Regulars: How many of these cities have you been to? What would you add? Share your comments, below.
Photo Credit: El Retiro Park Crystal Palace courtesy Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr