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Travel in Europe is booming, especially in places like Rome, Madrid and Paris. It’s not uncommon to find crowded streets and long lines at attractions in popular destinations.
But Europe has so much more to offer. You can bypass the crowds by visiting some of the continent’s most beautiful, but often-missed destinations. Here are some of our favorite overlooked destinations in Europe.
1. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo by Canva
Ljubljana is Slovenia’s stunning capital city rich in complex history and unique culture. It is considered to be a “Green City” because it is committed to upholding sustainable practices. The city has a pedestrian-only downtown that fosters a vibrant and people-centric atmosphere. I spent a day in Ljubljana which is simply not enough time to experience this magical overlooked destination in Europe.
The architecture is colorful and breathtaking featuring styles reflecting many different cultural periods. Overlooking the city is the formidable Ljubljana Castle, well worth a visit for the views alone.
In Slovenia, every distinct province is known for different dishes. It is worth touring the entire country to try all the amazing food. In Ljubljana specifically, try Štruklji, a traditional dumpling, Jota, a hearty stew, and prekmurska gibanica, a delicious layered pastry with cottage cheese, walnuts, and apples.
It’s well worth your time to stroll through all the markets (many of which are open year-round) and try the unique fruit spirits, rosemary white chocolate, and even bear salami.
Slovenians pride themselves on their quality dairy products so much so that they have 24-hour milk, cheese, and yogurt machines planted all throughout the city. The milk is always fresh and unpasteurized and whatever doesn’t get used gets turned into other milk products such as butter, yogurt, or cheese.
Read More: Top 10 Things to Do in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Rügen, Germany. Photo by Canva
Did you know that Germany has islands? Rügen is Germany’s largest island. Located in the Baltic Sea, it’s an idyllic retreat that offers natural beauty, rich history, and leisurely relaxation. With its beaches, lakes, dense forests and chalk cliffs, Rügen has something for every type of outdoor adventurer.
Be sure to visit Jasmund National Park, home to the striking white chalk cliffs of Königsstuhl, a sight that has inspired artists for generations. Then take time to explore the local fishing villages, seaside resorts and harbors. The famous seaside resort of Binz still showcases the grandeur of the 19th-century spa culture, while the nearby hunting lodge of Granitz Castle provides panoramic views from its scenic tower.
For a rejuvenating escape, Rügen provides a unique way to experience German culture while relaxing in a laid-back island setting.
It pays to get off the beaten path while traveling in Europe.
Read More: Island-Hopping in Germany (Yes, Germany!)
Annecy, France. Photo by Canva
Known as the Venice of France, Annecy is a charming town situated in the French Alps on a bright turquoise lake that is often an overlooked destination in Europe. Sparkling canals carve through the town reflecting the colorful old medieval buildings. Annecy is vibrant with year-round activities that vary per season. Its dynamic three-dimensional landscape will likely ignite a fiery burn in your legs but the views make it so worth it.
While you’re in Annecy, spend some time strolling through Old Town, relaxing by the lake, exploring the museums and trying the fabulous cuisine. I visited a castle museum called Chateau d’Annecy which was filled with modern art and had breathtaking views.
When I was in Annecy, I stayed at a hostel called Auberge de Jeunesse which had great amenities and views of the lake. It was a hike to get there, but it was a cozy stay for my two nights there. There are also many quaint hotels directly in Old Town that would make your stay that much more magical.
Read More: Discover the Dreamy Town of Annecy in the French Alps
Ghent, Belgium. Photo by Canva
If you’re seeking an authentic European experience away from the tourist crowds, Ghent is an excellent option. This quiet gem is in the Flemish part of Belgium. Flemish is closely related to Dutch and is one of three official languages in Belgium – the Flemish province in the North, the French in the Center, and a small German province in the East.
Nestled along the banks of the rivers Scheldt and Leie, Ghent celebrates its medieval past with well-preserved architecture, cobblestone streets, and picturesque canals. Don’t miss the city’s castle, Gravensteen, which stands tall as a reminder of its storied past, and the Gothic St. Bavo’s Cathedral, which is home to the famous masterpiece “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” by the Van Eyck brothers.
Alongside its unique history, Ghent is a progressive town known for art, music, and innovative cuisine. You’ll find a vast array of contemporary galleries, lively festivals, and a diverse gastronomic scene.
Read More: The Low-Key Magic of Ghent, Belgium
Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Canva
Stockholm is one of the most scenic capital cities in Europe. Built on 14 islands that border the edge of a 24,000-island archipelago along the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is a city of water. Bridges crisscross the orderly streets, where modern architecture is built alongside Renaissance-era buildings.
Stockholm has carefully preserved its natural environment and claims to be one-third water, one-third parkland and one-third buildings. You’ll see hundreds of bikes along the bike paths and sailboats navigating the clean waterways.
Be sure to visit the Old Town, called Gamla Stan, which is filled with narrow cobblestone streets and squares lined with pink, yellow and ochre-colored buildings. Don’t miss the changing of the guard at Royal Palace of the Kingdom of Sweden, or the Vasa Museum, home to a well-preserved Viking ship. Take a stroll in Kungsträdgården, the King’s Royal Garden. In the summer, the sun barely sets in Stockholm, providing long days of sunshine to enjoy the pleasant weather.
Read More: Top 10 Things to Do in Stockholm, Sweden
Ronda, Spain. Photo by Canva
Spain is teeming with underrated towns that are bustling with energy and rich in culture. Near Málaga, Spain lies the town of Ronda, one of the most overlooked destinations in Europe. Situated on a cliff in the mountains, the views themselves are enough to draw in visitors. It has a fascinating history dating back to the Roman times and played a significant role during the Moorish period.
While you’re in Ronda, be sure to visit the iconic bride known as Puente Nuevo and explore its picturesque Old Town. Hike along the cliffs overlooking for the mountains and cliffside ruins and indulge in the life-changing Spanish cuisine and wine afterwards.
Fortunately, Ronda is very well connected and is easy to reach by road or by train. You can fly into Andalusia or just visit for a day from the nearby Malaga or Seville. However, I would personally recommend staying there for a few days to truly experience its magic.
Read More: Things to Do in Malaga, Spain: Capital of Costa del Sol
Innsbruck, Austria. Photo by Canva
During the winter, Innsbruck, Austria, draws skiers from around the world, but fall and summer are excellent uncrowded times to visit. Nestled in the heart of the Austrian Alps, the city is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide variety of hiking trails and mountain vistas. The majestic Nordkette mountain range is easily accessible from the city center via a cable car and provides panoramic views of the entire region.
The town of Innsbruck is a destination on its own. Don’t miss the imperial Hofburg Palace or the historic Old Town, with its colorful buildings and attractive streets. Not far is the famous Swarovski Crystal Worlds, where you can view stunning creations and even purchase something to take home.
Take time to dine at one of Innsbruck’s many family-run restaurants to enjoy warm hospitality and traditional Austrian cuisine.
By planning a trip to overlooked destinations in Europe, you can avoid crowds and see unique places you likely never thought twice about. Hopefully, this guide opened your eyes to the unique places in Europe.
Author Bio: Janna Graber is an award-winning American travel journalist and current editor of Go World Travel. Since moving to Austria at age 19 for college, she’s been in love with world travel, and has covered destinations around the globe for more than 40 newspapers, magazines and websites. She’s the author of three travel anthology books.
Author Bio: Isabella Miller is a travel journalist and editor at Go World Travel Magazine. She is a passionate world explorer with an appreciation for the vast range of the human experience. She wants to live it all, from backcountry camping in the Great Sand Dunes to marinating in a saltwater geothermal pool in the Italian Alps. She loves the yin and yang of cities and nature, celebrations and peace, adventure and relaxation. The best kind of trip is when all of the above coexist. This world is nuanced and delicate, filled with infinite stories to tell. She takes great pride and joy in sharing her discoveries with the world.
Go World Travel Magazine is a digital magazine for world travelers. Our editorial content is produced by a dedicated team of travel journalists who know the regions they cover. We cover travel in more than 90 countries.
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