7 of the Best Hidden European Travel Destinations

By on May 2, 2015

Travelers know that Europe is one of the world’s top destinations for lovers of food, culture, architecture, exploration, and adventure.

Many of the most frequented travel destinations in the world are in Europe. Cities such as London, Paris, Venice, Rome, and Amsterdam are constantly swarming with tourists, and for good reason. Each city guarantees an amazing travel experience, and offers countless things to do and see.

Unfortunately for travelers, however, some of those more traditional European travel destinations have become increasingly globalized, commercialized, and touristy in recent years. The traditional European travel destinations are certainly still worth visiting, but many travelers long to escape the beaten tourist path and explore some places that quite aren’t as crowded or as well-known.

For those travelers longing to get in touch with the local people and culture and who are looking for a unique European travel adventure, here are 7 must-visit European travel destinations that are off the beaten tourist track.

1) Munich, Germany

Munich, Germany

Why you should go:

Munich is a beautiful city with a rich history. It’s not quite as globalized as Berlin, and it’s not a very common tourist destination. Therefore, if you’d like a glimpse into distinctly German city life, this is the place to visit. Two things in particular (other than just walking around and enjoying the German culture) that you might want to explore:

Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is the world’s largest fair. It’s been a German and Bavarian tradition for over 200 years. To understand Oktoberfest, anticipate all the German sausage, beer, cheese, sauerkraut, and festivities you can handle. Then double that.
The Duetsches Museum. The Duetsches Musuem is one of the world’s largest museums specializing in science and technology. Of course, everyone knows that Germany is famous for its aptitude and achievement in science and technology. You can think of the DuetschesMuseum as Germany’s answer to the Smithsonian.

2) Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Why you should go:

While Munich will give you a taste of authentic German urban living, Heidelberg gives travelers a glimpse into not only small-city German life, but also into the German medieval culture. During World II, much of Germany’s beautiful Medieval architecture was destroyed.

Heidelberg is one beautiful German city with medieval roots that made it through World War II relatively unscathed. The major travel highlights in Heidelberg are the OldTown, the River Neckar that runs through the city, and HeidelbergCastle.

3) Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Why you should go:

If you love nature, adventure, and the great outdoors, Interlaken, Switzerland should be at the top of your short list of must-visit locations.

Whether you’re looking to enjoy pristine, unspoiled, and gorgeous rivers, trails, and mountains, or you’re looking to try your hand at skydiving, bungee jumping, canyoning, or any other outdoor activity you can think of, Interlaken will not disappoint.

While in Interlaken, I took advantage of a chance to try bungee jumping. If you’re going to try bungee jumping, it’s hard to top Interlaken. One company will take you up in a gondola over an Alpine lake and let you jump from the Gondola. Believe me, it’s an unforgettable experience you won’t regret!

4) San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

Why you should go:

San Sebastian is officially within Spanish borders, but it’s traditionally considered part of Basque Country. To this day, the Basques consider themselves and Basque Country to be distinct from Spain.

San Sebastian is a picturesque coastal city in northern Spain near the French border. It offers a great place to try surfing. There are many instructors who will give you lessons and let you rent surfboards for a very reasonable price. Lesson learned: surfing is harder than it looks! If you love ocean destinations and aren’t interested in dealing with the prices and tourists in places such as Nice, France or Barcelona, Spain, you will love San Sebastian.

Also, if you’re interested in the Running of the Bulls or the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, both of which I had the opportunity to participate in (see link), San Sebastian is a great city to commute from. Pamplona is a very expensive place to stay during the San Fermin Festival and the Running of the Bulls, but you can stay in San   Sebastian for a fraction of the price and commute by bus.

5) Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

Why you should go:

Seville, Spain is one of those cities that’s difficult to completely take in unless you have a full week or two to explore. Seville is absolutely jam-packed with things to do and see.

Some highlights:

Seville‘s Old Town district. One of the largest old towns in Europe.
World’s largest cathedral.
Tomb of Christopher Columbus.
Seville‘s bullring. When it comes to Spanish bullfighting, this is the top of the top. Only the best matadors fight here.
However, Seville is located in the Andalusia region of Spain, so be advised that it gets hot in the summer.

6) Lagos, Portugal

Lagos, Portugal

Why you should go:

Lagos has everything you’d expect from a Portuguese town: elaborately black and white tiled walkways, the ocean, and beautiful white Portuguese architecture.

Lagos is a small town, but it’s very popular among backpackers. While there is some sight-seeing to do in Lagos, the main draw is the laid-back, peaceful, small-town Portuguese coastal atmosphere.

Lagos is a great place to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

7) Pisa, Italy

Pisa, Italy

Why you should go:

Italy has no shortage of tourist hotspots. Admittedly, Pisa is frequently visited by tourists, but it somehow manages to retain its unique and authentic atmosphere.

Pisa is most famous for the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the beautiful Cathedral next to it, but it also offers an excellent opportunity to explore the Italian culture and people. Once you get away from the Leaning Tower, you’ll find that tourists aren’t nearly as common as the local people. You can live among them, eat with them, buy some of the authentic Italian leather goods and cuisine that they sell on the streets and in stores, and spend some time living and loving life, Italian style.

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