Top 10 European destinations you probably haven’t heard of
There’s no denying Europe is a great spot for your holiday, but the truth is it’s bloody packed! If you’ve ever tried to get up the Eiffel Tower, check out the Colosseum or visit Anne Frank’s house you’ll be well aware the queues are absolutely insane. It can be better to visit in the winter to avoid the barrage of tourists but the weather can be pretty dismal. So why not get off the tourist trail and see some quieter parts of Europe that are just as beautiful, if not more so.
Some of the best parts of Europe in one relatively unheard of country. Slovenia has it all; stunning national parks, picturesque lakes, epic castles, terracotta roofed towns and cuisine to dribble over without the massive crowds of neighbouring Croatia or Italy. Head down to lake bled for picture perfect floating church or over to seaside town Piran with it’s Venetian rooftops and hidden alleyways. It’s also the greenest country in Europe. Bonus.
Kiev is undoubtedly one of my favourite cities in Europe. The huge coffee culture and foodie scene mixed with the very cheap Hyrvnia currency make it an extremely liveable city. Recent history also provides some very interesting street art and museums with the Soviet influence never too far away. But Kiev is anything but communist bland, it’s vibrant, quirky, friendly and did I mention very cheap!
All eyes are on this city in northern Greece. As part of the old Macedonian empire it is staked full of Roman ruins and odes to Alexander the Great (and is also the birthplace of Attaturk where you can actually enter Turkish soil while still very much in Greece.). But it isn’t just old ruins and history. It’s emerging as one of the most up and coming cities in Eastern Europe. Jam packed with eateries from around the globe and bars to accommodate any kind of alcoholic (from casual to dancing on the tables with one shoe missing). Take a stroll down the promenade at sunset to take in a slice of the local culture and maybe even take a free ride on a pirate ship around the bay because, well why not?
4. Kutna Hora
As obscure Instagram spots go this one’s pretty high on the list. Just outside of the Czech Capital Prague lies a small town called Kutna Hora with a slightly disturbing little secret. The sedlec ossuary here is home to over 60000 bodies that have had their bones assorted into various displays including a bone chandelier. I’m not really one for dark tourism but this is a pretty unique little spot to have a peruse. Plus these people all chose to be buried here due to ‘holy soil’ so not that disturbing at all.
You’ve heard of Vienna and the rolling Austrian Alps but have you thought of visiting the place that the majority of the filming for The Sound Of Music was carried out? We’re talking cute Austrian houses at their finest. Visit a schnapps farm, eat vast amounts of sachet torte and even hop over the border to Germany to visit the Eagles nest, Hitler’s mountain top hideaway complete with Golden lift. This is living Barry.
If Kiev is my favourite city in Eastern Europe Porto is it’s hot Western equivalent. History, check; Port literally comes from here! Art, check; the blue and white tiles are world famous. Food, triple check. Portugal has some of the best food I’ve tasted anywhere around the world and the bonus to visiting Porto rather than Lisbon is it’s usually about half the price. I can’t think of one negative of Porto. Make sure not to miss the indoor food markets when you’re there.
Now price is never in Switzerlands favour when it comes to travel here. The trains, food and accommodation is going to coast an arm and a leg no matter how budget savvy a traveller you are. But the stunning Swiss Alps make it all worthwhile. Nowhere else in Europe can you find such stunning peaks surrounding pristine wooden chalets interspersed with the most adorable cows you’ve ever set eyes on. Nestled between Interlaken and Jungfrau (the highest point in Europe you can get to without hiking) is the perfect town of Grindelwald. I challenge anyone not to immediately fall in love with this place. There’s plenty to do if you get bored of walking around with summer tobogganing, a cliff walk and mountain carts. Visit nearby Lauterbrunnen for the best brownie of your life or Murren for a Via Ferratta to work it all off.
8. Bath and the Cotswolds
It’s hard to explain to people that London may as well be a different country to the rest of the UK and have in fact petitioned for independence in the past. The rest of England and the UK has so much to offer but barely gets a look in on the tourist radar. One of my favourites is Bath. A Roman town with ancient, well, baths obviously and a pretty impressive cathedral on the borders of the Cotswolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A great base for exploring the quintessential English countryside and not a bad place for a pasty and afternoon tea either.
Ok so Croatian islands are no longer a secret. But this one’s a far cry from the party vibes of Hvar and well off the radar of the sail Croatia vessels. Not far from Dubrovnik, Mljet is 1/3 national park making it a nature lovers paradise. It’s home to the first marine protected area in Europe and some pretty epic swim spots and hikes for those long Croatian summer days. It’s a short ferry hop from Dubrovnik, the walled city that captured the viewers of Game of Thrones as Kings Landing.
Tallinn, Estonia’s beautiful capital city, has encapsulated the best that Europe has to offer in one easy to explore package. Cobblestone streets, colourful houses, a fascinating history and culture, hipster areas full of street art, delicious cuisine and yes, there is gelato! Head to the nearby beach in summer or the Christmas markets in winter. It’s small population means there’s lots of room to explore so why not get out in to the beautiful Estonian countryside. Who knows you may even spot a bear!
So there we have it 10 European destinations that aren’t Paris or Amsterdam (don’t even get me started on London!). Get out there and see something that’s not on 20 of your friends Instagram feed. Europe has so much to offer no matter what kind of holiday you are after.
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