Under-the-radar summer destinations in Europe

In Europe, Travel Inspiration by KerrynLeave a Comment

A trattoria amoung the sassi of Matera (Photo: vic15)

A trattoria amoung the sassi of Matera (Photo: vic15)

If jostling with summer crowds and sunbathing elbow-to-elbow with other tourists on the French Riviera doesn’t sound like the most appealing summer holiday destination, don’t worry there are still plenty of beautiful, off-the-beaten path destinations in Europe to explore. These little gems are far from the swarms of tourists and are a perfect summer hideaway; so if you want to avoid the crowded hot-spots, here are some under-the-radar summer destinations in Europe that are worth visiting.

Bled, Slovenia

Beautiful Bled Island (Photo: TJ Clarke)

Beautiful Bled Island (Photo: TJ Clarke)

Bled is Slovenia’s answer to Lake Como in Italy. It has all the beauty and none of the crowds. The Alpine town of Bled is located on the emerald green Lake Bled in the north western region of Slovenia, and seamlessly blends Old World charm with the tranquil beauty of an Alpine village. In the middle of the lake you’ll find a white church with a fairy tale-like steeple perched on a small island. Nearby you’ll find Triglav National Park, where you can go hiking and white-water rafting. You can also visit the beautiful medieval Bled Castle, which sits on a rocky cliff overlooking the glacial lake.  Although Bled is very popular with locals, it’s remained untouched by the mass tourism that you’ll find in places like Lake Como. It has all the ingredients for a perfect summer holiday: beautiful scenery, plenty of outdoor activities, culture, history and more. It’s without a doubt one of Europe’s best-kept secrets so if you’re looking for a relaxing summer break why not take a look at holiday rentals in beautiful Bled.

Kiev, Ukraine

Pechersk Lavra in Kiev (Photo: micurs)

Pechersk Lavra in Kiev (Photo: micurs)

While Kiev may be the vibrant capital city of Ukraine, it sees very few tourists. Although the domed churches and historic monasteries like Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Cave Monastery) draw religious pilgrims from around the world, it’s not a place most tourists would even think about visiting. The city is located on the Dnieper River in central Ukraine and is the hub of Ukrainian culture, with plenty of theatres, museums, religious sites, modern buildings and ancient ruins. If you decide to visit Kiev in the summer be sure to visit Hidropark Island in the Dnipro River, where you can swim or sunbathe on the beaches that line the Dnipro. If you have any interest in history you can also visit attractions like the Motherland Statue and War memorials, Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) and Chornobyl Museum. Kiev is also a very cheap city to dine out, so while you’re there try local dishes like Ukrainian Borscht and Chebureki.

Formentera, Spain

Playa de ses Illetes on the Balearic Island of Formentera (Photo: Ferran Nogues)

Playa de ses Illetes on the Balearic Island of Formentera (Photo: Ferran Nogues)

Formentera is one the Balearic Islands. It is located 6km south of Ibiza in the Mediterranean Sea and up until quite recently was only accessible by boat from the island of Ibiza. Now it can be reached from the mainland, which has resulted in an increase in tourism on the island. If you’re looking for a summer holiday in the sun, but don’t want the crowds you’ll find on Ibiza, Majorca or Minorca, then Formentera is a great alternative. Although it’s not off the beaten track, it’s definitely the least crowded of the Balearic Islands, even at the height of summer, and is definitely an underrated destination. The peaceful island has beautiful beaches (where nude bathing is allowed), pine forests and charming fishing villages waiting to be explored. You can spend your day in the sun on beaches like Playa de ses Illetes, Playa Es Arenals and Riserva di Ses Salines, or you can hike to the La Mola Lighthouse, or see the Sanctuary and Castle of Javier in the main village of Sant Francesc Xavier.

Ruse, Bulgaria

Ruse - Bulgaria's answer to Vienna (Photo: Sitomon)

Ruse – Bulgaria’s answer to Vienna (Photo: Sitomon)

If you’ve wanted to visit Vienna but have been put off by the high cost of a holiday in the beautiful Austrian city, Ruse in Bulgaria is a wonderful alternative. The city is located in the north eastern part of Bulgaria along the Danube River, and has even been called “Little Vienna” thanks to the similar Neo-Baroque and Neo-Rococo architecture you’ll find there. Take a stroll down Aleksandrovska Street, have a picnic in Lipnik Park, or visit architectural landmarks like Dohodno Zdanie (Sava Ognianov Theatre), Lyuben Karavelov Library, Rousse Regional Historical Museum and the house of Andrea Turio. The rich history and café culture make this lively little place a real gem, and it’s a lot cheaper than visiting Vienna.

Matera, Italy

The fascinating Sassi de Matera in Italy (Photo: loloieg)

The fascinating city of Matera in Italy (Photo: loloieg)

The city of Matera is located in the Basilicata region of southern Italy. Its claim to fame is the Sassi di Matera cave dwellings, which are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, although in spite of this the city has managed to keep free from the hazards of mass tourism. The Sassi have been featured in films like The Passion of the Christ and The Omen. There are also a number of historic churches and cathedrals in the city, including Matera Cathedral, San Giovanni Battista, and San Pietro Caveoso. You’ll find some fabulous frescoes in these stone churches. Tramontano Castle, which was built in the 16th century, is also worth visiting, as is the Musma gallery, which has a fascinating collection of sculptures. If you’re interested in history, then Matera is definitely an under-the-radar summer destination that you should consider visiting.

Bratislava, Slovakia

The colourful gardens of Grassalkovich Palace (Photo: Marek Bakajsa)

The colourful gardens of Grassalkovich Palace (Photo: Marek Bakajsa)

Bratislava may be the bustling capital city of Slovakia, but it certainly is an underrated city as far as tourism goes. It’s the Prague of 15 years ago, and is a great place to stretch your pound. The city is located in south western Slovakia, along the banks of the Danube River. The cobbled narrow streets of the medieval city centre make it a great walking city. The chic boutiques and trendy cafés that stand side by side with Baroque palaces and historic buildings are testament to the interesting past and promising future of the city. Highlights of the city include Bratislava Castle (where entrance is free), St. Martin’s Cathedral, Slavin Monument and Grassalkovich Palace and gardens. It’s a cultural gem and definitely a city that is under the radar for most tourists.

Amiens, France

The impressive Amiens Cathedral (Photo: dan taylor)

The impressive Amiens Cathedral (Photo: dan taylor)

When people think of summer holidays in France, the usual destinations that spring to mind are places like Paris, the French Riveira or villas in Provence. A fabulous summer holiday destination that is sadly often overlooked in favour of more popular destinations, is the city of Amiens. Amiens is located in northern France and is home to the tallest Gothic 13th century cathedral, the Amiens Cathedral, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also famous for the hortillonnages (gardens on small islands) that are located in the marshland between the River Somme and the River Avre. They’re surrounded by a grid of man-made canals, which has led to them being known as “the floating gardens of Amiens”. If you have a sweet tooth and plan to visit Amiens, don’t leave without trying the local delicacy, the macaron d’Amiens.

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