Are you looking to get away from the crowds to destinations that are just as interesting and beautiful as some of the better known cities? In this guest post Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt lists some of his favourite European cities and towns that are worth making time for. You can follow Matt on Twitter and Facebook.
The travel trail through Europe is well-worn and leads to all the familiar places – Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Cinque Terre, Barcelona, and countless other “must see” destinations. But Europe is a continent with fabulous destinations lurking right off the beaten path that have all the majesty of the hot spots everyone visits but none of the crowds.
Here are nine spots in Europe where you can avoid the crowds:
Cornwall, located in southwest England, is filled with rolling hills, beautiful lakes, small rustic towns, wonderful hiking trails (make sure to take the Camel Trail to Padstow), food, and even a winery. It’s one of my favorite places in England, especially during the summer.
A recent find, Girona is located a few hours north of Barcelona in Spain. It’s a quiet, student city that sees few crowds – mostly day-trippers from Barcelona on the way to visit Dali’s museum. Girona is an old, medieval city with a very well preserved historic Jewish quarter, ancient bridges, and a city wall you can walk across. It has all the beauty of Barcelona but none of the crowds or sky-high prices. It also serves as a good base for visiting the Costa Bravo region.
Located in southwestern France, Nimes is well known for its ancient roman coliseum and ruins. Yet despite its fame, very little people make there way down here and as a such you get this quiet, historic French town mostly to yourself, even in the middle of the summer. Be sure to have a picnic in the city’s gigantic and famous park.
Utrecht is like a mini-Amsterdam. It’s similar in design and feel but lacks the crowds of Amsterdam. There’s a historic city center, an old church, canals, and tons of outdoor cafes. The large student population helps keep prices down. Utrecht is like what Amsterdam could be like if it didn’t have the crowds.
Aarhus is a university town located in Jutland, Denmark’s western province. It’s a very small town and there’s not a lot to “do” here that would keep someone here for days and days like Copenhagen. However, I found that to be the strength of the town. It’s quiet, there are a lot of parks to wander through (the one near the university is especially beautiful and peaceful), there’s a great music scene, and a lot of cheap food due to the universities.
Bristol is a city bursting with great restaurants, fascinating history, diverse activities, and lots of art. I enjoyed the energetic and arty vibe the city had. Bristol is a college town. There’s a youthful feeling here. Bristol is full of great ways to save money – from the museums and cathedrals to the cheap transportation and landmarks. There are a lot of great parks to lay out around, good museums and historic homes, and a waterfront filled with nice art galleries and restaurants. Bristol also makes for a good base of operations for visiting Bath too. The town is one of my favorite in England.
Malta doesn’t get enough love from travelers in Europe, mostly due to the fact it’s not easy to get too. However, this island in the Mediterranean, is cheap, historic, filled with great beaches. That’s a winning combination right there. If you are looking for a cheaper and less crowded version of Greece, this would be it.
Paros is in the Cyclades in Greece and, compared to its neighbors Santorini, Ios, and Myknonos, gets far fewer tourists despite being just as beautiful. This island is for those who simply want to relax. There’s no nightlife, no crowds, no cruise ships docking at the port. It’s tranquil. More importantly, I thought this was the prettiest island in the group. The mountains and valleys had more color to them, the towns looked nicer, the views spectacular. The island is simply striking and serene.
Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. Over a thousand years old, the city is surrounded by beautiful vineyards and mountains making it a wonderful base for which to explore the Czech countryside. The city itself is full of historical buildings, old churches, theaters, and cafes. While everyone is complaining about the crowds and prices in Prague, you can be in a fascinating, less crowded, cheaper city that’s just as beautiful.
Europe is filled with tiny, off the beaten path destinations that have as much charm and beauty as the major destinations we always hear about. Those big destinations are still worth visiting but see and explore more. These nine destinations are just the tipping point of where you can go in Europe to beat the crowds.