While the tourist masses flock to cities like Paris, Rome and London, there are many beautiful places in Europe that get overlooked. Here are 10 of my favourite beauty spots in Europe that don’t get to bask in the spotlight (but are still definitely worth a visit)…
Ghent is a truly beautiful city – especially at night – but yet it often gets overlooked in favour of Bruges. Not only is it gorgeous, but this picturesque city has lots of history, including being the place where the signing of the Treaty of Ghent took place, which was the formal end of ‘War of 1812’ between Britain and the US. There are many art and design museums worth checking out but one that should not be missed is ‘Museum voor Schone Kunsten’ (Museum of Fine Arts) which boasts work by Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Paul Rubens.
Whilst ‘Stoverij’ is a tradition Flemish meat stew that is very popular, the city does try to get people to avoid meat on a Thursday (Donderdag Veggiedag) and you can find ‘veggie street maps’ in the tourist offices to see where you can get your meat-free Thursday meal.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Hardly anyone knows how beautiful Luxembourg is or even considers visiting it but that should really change. The city has lots of ancient monuments, such as the historical castle, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame – which is decorated with numerous sculptures of the Renaissance. Even though this is a very small city, it was the first place to be named European Capital of Culture twice.
The Second World War American Cemetery and Memorial is well worth visiting, especially for American travellers, as there are over 5000 of their soldier’s are laid to rest there, including General George S. Patton.
Sciacca, Sicily, Italy
This beauty spot has a double battle, not only do people tend to choose Sardinia over Sicily but then if they do get to the island they opt for Taormina on the eastern side. This beautiful coastal town can be found on the southwestern coast, it deserves its place on the list due to the wonderful views of the Mediterranean Sea, the friendly people and incredible fresh fish on offer.
If possible try to go at the beginning of Lent (February), so you can get to see their Carnival, the local citizens come together and make the floats themselves.
This medieval city is Ireland’s third largest city after Dublin and Cork, and has so much going for it. In July it hosts the Galway Arts Festival, the Macnas’ spectacular annual show takes place at the festival – If you get to see them it will makes the trip alone worthwhile.
Traditional Irish Music is very popular in the area, with the group ‘De Dannan’ being based there, also nearly 10% of the population speak Irish and it is sometimes known as the ‘Bilingual Capital of Ireland’. The surrounding countryside is also worth exploring.
Bilbao, Basque Country/Spain
Yes, it is officially in Spain, but you are unlikely to find any locals who acknowledge that they are Spanish – they are desperate to be their own nation. In many schools lessons are even taught in Basque, not Spanish. as you walk around the historical streets you will see posters written in English reminding you, you are ‘Not in Spain but in Basque Country’.
Back in 2010, Bilbao had 18 public parks, Doña Casilda Iturrizar park is a particularly special with an impressive dancing water fountain, where there are lots of species of ducks, geese and swans – so many in fact that it is know locally as “Ducks’ Park”. The gothic St James’ Cathedral is a must-see, and for art lovers, the impressive Guggenheim is seen as an image of modern Bilbao.
Utrecht, The Netherlands
Sadly I have not met many tourists who have been to Utrecht, yet most Dutch people I have met seem to have come from there. This city does not get as many tourists as it should, mainly because anyone travelling to this part of Europe tends to go to Amsterdam. Like its’ rival city it has lots of canals which are lined with bars, cafes and shops. A big selling point is the countryside, once you have spent a couple of days looking at the sites why not grab (well, hire one) a bike and go for a relaxing bike ride and enjoy the clean country air.
People often pass on trips to the Danish capital, mainly due to the cost. The beautiful city is somewhere that should be visited, especially to see Rosenborg Castle, which is across the road from the Botanical Gardens – which by the way are free to get into!
There are also some beautiful canals, interesting museums and restaurants that are out of this world. You can pick up a gift in one of the antique shops, or if you want a bargain then head to the Frederiksberg Flea Market. Make sure you also visit the ultra-trendy ‘Meatpacking’ district.
When you book an European city trip, Sofia probably isn’t a place on top of your list. Sofia tends to get missed as people head to Prague or Budapest but this lovely city has its’ own charm. It has an excellent nightlife (swelled by a large student population) with jazz and Balkan folk music being the popular options. In the daytime there are lots of impressive churches, monasteries and monuments in the city – a special mention goes to the ‘Public Mineral Baths’, which is located in a historic building.
It is highly unlikely most people have even heard of this one, this year happens to be the city’s 760th birthday and is Lithuania’s third main city. I personally think it’s a very interesting place, with a rich history – including the main square where Hitler stood in a balcony and made a speech after Germany took control of the City. There is a lovely river running through the city and lots of beautiful buildings to see, but another major selling point is that the isolated beach which is very close.
If you have a few days then head to the Kursiu Nerija National Park, especially if you can get your hands on a bike as there are lots of fun bike paths to explore.
Bordeaux is a wonderful city, one that often gets missed due to people heading to cities like Paris or Nice, and even local neighbours like La Rochelle. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has some incredible classical and neoclassical architecture. A huge selling point for this incredible city is the ‘Port of the Moon’, somewhere that has to be visited at night to enjoy wonderful colours as the sunsets.
Any trip to France, especially this region means you have to go on a wine tour, there are numerous on offer and they all seem to have excellent ratings on various travel sites.