8 European gems off the beaten track
Visiting some of Europe's most popular sights can make for a stressful experience, what with all the crowds. If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle, why not check out some of these alternative destinations, which are just as beautiful?
The lesser-known stars of Europe
The super-famous places are obviously popular for a reason, but some gems often overlooked. Here are some of our favourites.
1. Marken, the Netherlands
Famous for its quirky wooden houses, white drawbridges and bustling sea port, the village of Marken is located on a beautiful peninsula in North-Holland in the Netherlands, with a population of under 2.000. Join a walking tour led by guides in traditional Dutch clothes, sample the local grain wine, or even pop into the old wooden shoe factory. The village is easily accessible via public transportation from Amsterdam.
2. Alcala del Jucar, Spain
Not far from Spain's eastern coast, approximately midway between Valencia and Murcia, the striking village of Alcala del Jucar perches on a steep hillside above the Jucar River. It is home to the Alcala del Jucar Castle (a mediaeval Arab fortress that has an unbelievable view of the countryside), the 15th-century Church of San Andreas, and the Cuevas del Diablo, a series of caves carved into the face of the cliff. Soak up some historical buildings with incredible architecture, breathtaking natural beauty, and the vibe of Spain, away from the crowds.
3. The Ore Mountains, Germany
Stretching for over 160 kilometres and considered one of the most stunning mountain ranges in either country, the Ore Mountains separate the historical regions of Bohemia in Czechia and Saxony in Germany. The highest peak is the Fichtelberg Mountain with an elevation of 1.250 metres. In the summer, people come to hike in the breathtaking scenery, while in winter it is a location for skiing, snowboarding and bobsledding.
4. Baleal, Portugal
A short hop, skip and jump away from Portugal's capital city of Lisbon, Baleal is a pretty island with a fascinating history that offers a chance to enjoy the country's culture, traditions, food and pastimes in a more secluded fashion. As well as promising beautiful sea coasts and pristine beaches, it’s known to be a surfer’s heaven with amazing weather year-round and great swells.
5. Bachalpsee, Switzerland
Just a short hike from First or Grindelwald takes you to Bachalpsee; an iconic Swiss lake and one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Known in Switzerland as the “blue jewel", it is surrounded by rolling green pastures, blankets of wildflowers and gorgeous views of the mountains. The glacial waters reflecting the sensational mountains look like something straight out of a painting and are something every nature lover must see.
6. Monemvasia, Greece
Known for its impressive mediaeval castles that were carved directly into the rock, Monemvasia is a small island located off the coast of Peloponnese in Greece. It was originally only accessible by boat to ward off enemies, but there is now a single pathway that connects the castle to the mainland. Wandering around this interesting town lets you travel back in time while taking in unforgettable views of the pristine sea.
7. Rye, England
Sun, sand and fish and chips are on the menu in Rye, a pretty town near the East Sussex coast. The town's varied history is preserved in sites like the Ypres Tower, St. Mary’s Church, and Mermaid Street. Wander along the cobblestone pathways between half-timbered houses, and then relax and have a drink at a local pub or stop for a lunch of fresh seafood. Soak up the sunshine at Camber Sands, one of the best beaches in England, and watch seals pop their heads out of the waves. Rye is around an hour and a half from London, and is accessible by train or bus.
8. Mdina, Malta
History and class ooze from every pore of Mdina, a former capital city in the northern region of Malta. The influence of Maltese nobility and religious authorities still remains throughout this fortified city, present in regal architecture and intricate designs. A cool place to visit in Mdina is the Fontanella Tearooms which offer incredible views of the city and a relaxing cup of tea and homemade cakes. Visit the many cathedrals, museums, and catacombs that retell the ancient stories of this unique city.
Discover Europe from a different angle
Get out of Europe's cities and discover a new side to the continent! Have we missed any hidden gems in Europe? Let us know in the comments below!