Paris, London, Dublin, Madrid, Venice. These are some big names when it comes to European travel. We’re sure most can be found at the top of your dream-destination bucket list. Plus, there are good reasons travel experts will point you to these cities; they’re all absolutely incredible places. Okay, so perhaps you’ve already seen the big cities and you’re ready for something new. Or maybe your style of travel is a little more “off the beaten path” than “must-see bucket list destinations.” We know you’re looking for something a little different from your European travels.
When you step away from the larger cities, you can find yourself in small villages, meeting locals, and learning of ancient traditions and ways of life. So, here are our top ten destinations for exploring another side of Europe, what we like to think of as its “best-kept secrets”.
Why You Should Visit Porto, Portugal
One look at the welcoming façade of Porto and you’ll be awed. A respected spot for foodies, this Portuguese city offers exquisite food and wine, and more than a couple of restaurants with Michelin star ratings. Between meals, make sure you seek out water. The city offers inspiring views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Duoro River.
Why You Should Visit Ljubljana, Slovenia
Slovenia’s capital is absolutely worth visiting. It rates as one of Europe’s greenest and most livable cities annually, yet hasn’t lost that romantic old-world charm that many associate with European living. The city, which follows the path of the Ljubljanica River, even has a storybook castle.
Why You Should Visit Dubrovnik, Croatia
With her charming orange roofline and proximity to the Adriatic Sea, it’s hard to understand how Dubrovnik has stayed off the radar of the travel-savvy for so long. Perhaps the best reason to plan a trip to this Croatian town is a love of all things beachy. With perfect summer temperatures hovering around 80 degrees you’re promised sunshine nearly every day.
Why You Should Visit Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki is a destination you’ve probably heard of, but it may not be on your travel radar just yet. The second most northern capital city in the world is a great place to experience maritime traditions. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suomenlinna, a fortress built on a cluster of islands and connected only by a series of bridges.
Why You Should Visit Heidelberg, Germany
Hidden in a rich forest about 60 miles south of Frankfurt, Heidelberg has so much to offer. While it is true that Germany’s oldest college is found here, you’ll also find an iconic castle and the place of inspiration for several notable names across art and literary history. Poet Goethe and writer Mark Twain adored Heidelberg, as did British painter William Turner. These famed past guests are part of the reason the city is recognized by UNESCO as a City of Literature.
Why You Should Visit Palermo, Sicily
Most people don’t need a reason to visit the Sicily region of Italy, but deciding which quaint town to stop in can present a bit of a challenge. We’re big fans of Palermo and for good reason. Food and drink reign supreme here. Wine bars are upscale, diverse, and sophisticated. The street food is varied and among the best in all of Italy, and the white sand beaches are dotted with seafood restaurants and gelato stands.
Why You Should Visit Bergen, Norway
Bergen is an incredible gateway to explore Norway. The city is known for embracing diversity and incredible street art. When you’re here, everything from the sidewalks to the sides of buildings is considered a blank canvas, leaving artists free to create art at every turn. The city is incredibly walkable, meaning you can experience art and scenery at the same time, and in under an hour. There’s also the troll forest, where troll faces are adhered to trees in honor of Scandinavian folklore!
Why You Should Visit Lyon, France
We’d be remiss to leave this roaring French destination off the list. Lyon is a brief two-hour trip outside of Paris and has much to offer the wayward Parisian. Historically, you’ll find ties to Roman history, and the birthplace of the first-ever motion picture camera. Dig a little deeper and you’ll start to understand why the French are thrilled to keep Lyon a secret.
Why You Should Visit Innsbruck, Austria
Jagged, snow-peaked crags welcome you to this hidden Austrian gem. The peaks are so near to town, in fact, that you can go from the heart of the city to the top of the world in less than an hour. It’s for this reason that the city appeals to alpine sports fans and summer hikers alike. Before you head for the hills of Innsbruck, though, make sure you take a look around at all the city has to offer.
Why You Should Visit Copenhagen, Denmark
This one is probably a bit surprising to see on our list. Well known and often visited, this Denmark city is only gaining in popularity as the years speed by. We’re mentioning it here specifically as a spring destination.