From the coffee shops of Amsterdam to the rugged wilderness of the Scottish Highlands Europe has always been a much sort after travel destination. It’s a continent filled with a vibrant mosaic of contrasts and teeming with gorgeous landscapes, cultures, history, gastronomy and natural beauty. No matter what part of Europe you travel to, you can expect an unimaginable kaleidoscope of attractions, monuments and epic adventures guaranteed to make your holiday larger than life. Stepping aside from mostly from the mainstream (but with a couple of old favourites thrown in for good measure) here are a few secretly fabulous European destinations that you’d be foolish not to add to your 2016 travel list!
While majority of the tourists head to destinations like Hvar, Dubrovnik, Split, or Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, we suggest you make a beeline towards the much lesser-known Zadar. The easy-on-eye Croatian city is already doing the rounds as one of the best European destinations to visit in 2016, especially for travellers who want something a little under-the-radar. Known for its Roman and Venetian ruins, Zadar is a city teeming with medieval churches, a stunning coastal setting, ancient relics, a satiating nightlife, affordable hotels, and attractions like the Sea Organ (a prestigious architectural object), that really do need to be seen to be believed!
Sitting coyly along on the banks of the feisty River Loire, the spirited city of Nantes is best known as the historic capital of the medieval French province of Brittany, and also as one of the major ports of France. The sixth-largest city of France, Nantes is all about transcendent cathedrals, top-class museums, a unique architectural heritage, the baronial Château des ducs de Bretagne – a Renaissance-era castle, and one of the highest cathedrals of France, amongst other delights. Nantes is definitely one of the staggering gems of French tourism (it’s just that it doesn’t always appear on everyone’s travel list)!
The second largest city of the understatedly beautiful Bulgaria, Plovdiv presents itself as a picturesque, exuberant destination insolently perched on the Maritsa River, strewn with a miscellany of bohemian cafes, cobbled alleys, an unrivalled nightlife, intriguing layers of history and culture, delectable wine, fascinating museums, archaeological monuments, and much, much more. Wait no more, and book your flight to Plovdiv right away!
Nestled amidst looming mountains on a resplendent bay along the coast of Montenegro, Kotor is a stunningly beautiful town, which is also a cultural and natural world heritage site, owing to its medieval architecture and numerous heritage monuments. The labyrinthine lanes of this town further surprise visitors with a medley of charming restaurants, churches, hotels, shops, and cosy bars. If you are a lover of history, nature and art, no other city in the region nails it the way Kotor does.
Stepping back to something closer to the mainstream, Belgium’s charming capital city of Brussels also emanates as one of the best European destinations to look forward to in 2016. Although it’s a controversial choice as the city does tend to divide opinions. Personally I love it! I think there is something delightfully contagious about this city and it piqued my senses with its art-noveau façade, multicultural roots, small-town charm, interesting festivals and exhibitions, great nightlife, ritzy shopping districts and of course the amazing beer!
If the lush, volcanic landscape and infinite greens of the Azores don’t blow away your mind, nothing else will! A sea-splattered, autonomous region of Portugal, the Azores are a group of nine breath-taking islands divided into three geographical groups – the Eastern group made up of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, the Central group made up of Graciosa, Pico, Faial, and Sao Jorge, and the Western group that consists of Corvo and Flores. Each of these islands are blessed with rare, timeless beauty, and boast of their very own unique traditions, landscapes, architecture, and cuisine. These nine alluring islands are seriously not to be missed!
Straddling the river Danube, Budapest has all the right reasons to love it – spectacular art noveau architecture, romantic arched bridges, very cool and intriguing ruin bars, a bustling nightlife and dining scene, excellent wines, idyllic natural beauty, baroque monuments and even a handful of enticing Roman ruins. Be it culture, history, or natural beauty the “Queen of the Danube” brims with surprises galore and it’s quickly gaining traction as one of the must-see cities in Europe!
What’s your favourite places to visit in Europe?