Your friend is taking a trip to Europe? Where is she going — London, Paris, or Rome? There are a few spots that people know and love when they head to Europe. But when you’re traveling to some of the most popular destinations, don’t the crowds ruin some of the excitement? On your next European vacation, avoid the tourists and check out these six under-the-radar cities that are just as fascinating and thrilling as their more visited counterparts.
Modern Bucharest is one of the safest democratic cities in eastern Europe. Because of its colorful past, Bucharest still hasn’t caught on as a major tourist destination, which makes it perfect for people who want to enjoy the sites while avoiding the crowds.
Visitors enjoy the plethora of shopping and restaurants. There’s a unique mixture of modern and historic architecture, including the second largest, and the heaviest, building in the world: The Palace of Parliament. It was once the palace of the communist ruler but has since been turned into Parliament’s headquarters and a spectacular attraction for visitors.
For history and fantasy buffs alike, Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as the inspiration for Dracula, built his castle within driving distance of the city. Take a day and head over to Bran Castle for a unique, albeit creepy, experience. Just keep an eye out for bats.
Noto, Sicily, Italy
If you like baroque architecture, Noto is the place for you. The entire city was built in the same style giving it an authentic, old-world Italian feel. While other travelers are fighting the crowds of Rome, you can enjoy a relaxing day at one of the several pristine beaches in Noto. When your time in the sun is through, head back to the city for some of the best food that has ever been served. If you’re looking for a truly relaxing Italian getaway, there’s no better place than Noto, Sicily.
While everyone is enjoying their trips to Munich or Vienna, Salzburg remains largely under the radar, which is surprising because of its historical and cinematic background. Not only is it the birthplace of Mozart, one of the greatest composers of all time, but it was also the filming location for “The Sound of Music.” Many people might not know that “The Sound of Music” was based on a true story. The von Trapps really did live in Salzburg, and you can even visit their house.
After you’re done following in the footsteps of Julie Andrews, Salzburg is packed with history for you to enjoy. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its outstanding value to humanity. There are cobblestone streets, baroque architecture, elaborate palaces, and Medieval churches to explore.
In northern Scotland, far from the busy tourist destination of Edinburgh, lies a smaller city named Inverness. It has retained much of its history, including some interesting buildings like St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Inverness Castle, while also providing all the modern amenities you could want.
For nature lovers who also want the comforts of a contemporary city, Inverness is hard to beat. The compact cosmopolitan center is surrounded by the natural beauty of Scotland. After enjoying the pubs, restaurants, and shopping, head over to the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles and go monster hunting at the famous Loch Ness.
The Alentejo, Portugal
If you’re looking to slow down during your vacation, the Alentejo region of south-central Portugal is perfect. There’s not much in the way of exciting nightlife and high energy adventures, but that’s seen as a good thing. Travelers who go to Alentejo go to take their time enjoying the beauty of nature, the pristine beaches, historic buildings and the numerous vineyards. Even the hiking is meant to be relaxing. Most of the area is flat, perfect for leisurely walks, bike rides, and horseback riding.
If you’ve ever been interested in time travel, Ghent is about as close as you can get. The entire city looks like it’s still in Medieval times. Construction of the city started around the year 600 CE and grew to its peak in the 11th to 16th centuries, right at the prime of the Dark Ages. Much of the architecture has remained the same.
Gravensteen castle was built in the 1100s and is still the centerpiece of the city. It has been turned into a museum that showcases authentic Medieval weapons, armor, and “judicial objects,” a nice term for torture devices. In addition to the historic sites, there’s a beautiful riverwalk, modern hotels inside ancient buildings, and some of the best restaurants in the country.