10 AMAZING places in Europe you won't want to miss
Europe is such a popular continent, with so much to offer travellers that visit her from far away shores, and neighbouring continents. Nothing beats the European charm, and that feeling of being inside a fairytale dreamworld, surrounded by castles, flowering meadows, pristine white sand beaches and mouthwatering cuisines, all enveloped by the whispering words of the most beautiful languages.
From the unknown Croatian capital, Zagreb, to the Norman port of Le Havre, which soon celebrates its 500th anniversary, below I've selected for you the ten European destinations that you simply must explore this year.
I've highlighted ten countries, including regions and cities that have gone relatively unnoticed by international tourism, but are becoming increasingly valued by more experienced, knowledgable travellers. I think its worth noting here that i have not visited all of these places, however have researched the subject of Europe heavily and intend to visit a lot of places on the list by the end of this year.
Want join me and be ahead of the pack? Then take my advice and venture overseas to these European gems.
1. Zagreb (Croatia)
"The good Croatian life"
With its Central European appearance and relaxed life, Zagreb has remained eclipsed by the beauty and spectacular Croatian natural parks and coasts. However it is well worth discovering more than the typical tourist destinations of Croatia, and venturing out to a city that combines Vienna, Budapest and Croatia in one. The streets and squares are filled with cafes here and quaint little terraces, where their inhabitants surrender to one of their favourite pastimes: to sit back, relax and drink coffee at any hour of the day.
Renovated and revitalised over the years, Zagreb has been restyled with street art, galleries, creative spaces and an increasingly fertile gastronomy, not to mention the official opening in March 2017 of its airport terminal. With it has come a great number of new routes, allowing travellers to escape to this wonderful city and explore this fabulous area.
Essential experiences in Zagreb:
- Walk between its churches and baroque palaces
- Visit the Museum of broken relationships, dedicated to romances and romantic breaks
- Approach the old station of the Orient Express
- Try the fresh products they sell in the Dolac market, as well as the craft beers that have become fashionable
- Ride the funicular (the shortest in the world) to the top, to visit the oldest neighbourhood and, of course, have a coffee on one of its many terraces, especially on Saturday mornings.
2 Gotland - Sweden
"The sunniest Sweden"
Gotland is one of the most charming regions of Sweden. The Swedes have known this for a long time (it is one of their favourite destinations for the summer holidays) and now international tourists are beginning to discover the charms of this island that sits happily in the Baltic Sea.
Rustic and quiet, it is the biggest and sunniest in the country. Fishermen's villages seem to be stuck in time, sandy beaches and cliffs decorate the shores and mysterious forests and some historical enclaves of enormous interest welcome its visitors. One such is Visby - the capital - a well-preserved example of a commercial city founded in the tenth century, with more than 200 stores and houses of merchants behind its walls.
In Gotland, 90 kilometres from mainland Sweden and easily accessible by ferry and plane, it is imperative to wander through the renovated Strandpromenaden (beach walk), a five-kilometre pedestrian and cycle path that runs along the north coast of Visby, passing by towers, fortresses, ruins and beaches. In summer the town is set for its medieval week, with its squares and streets transformed into markets that host tournaments of knights, magicians, historical readings, musical performances and plays. Want to see a movie come to life in front of your very eyes? Then this is the festival for you.
3. Galicia - Spain
"The new Spanish attraction of the international traveller"
Galicia remained until now, aside from the great tourist currents that visit Spain every year, lagging behind the warm beaches of the south, and the coasts of Levante and Catalonia. But more and more international travellers are beginning to discover the charms of this remote northwestern region.
The Camino de Santiago has done much to make Galicia known to the rest of the world, but also the growing desire to discover, beyond the sun and beach, more authentic landscapes. Galicia is a different alternative to the rest of the country, with its own language, its own music, its impressive architectural heritage, its fishing villages, its hundreds of beaches and a great gastronomy based on the excellent products of the sea and the land. In addition, Cambados was given the accolade of the European City of Wine in 2017.
In addition to spectacular cliffs, such as the Cabo Ortegal or Cabo Fisterra, on the Costa da Morte, the photogenic landscapes of the Rías Baixas offer historical cities full of heritage (and good tapas) like Lugo. Here, you have to discover the national park of the Atlantic Islands, especially its crown jewel, the Cíes archipelago.
"Adventure and exploration in the heart of the Balkans"
International tourism is slowly beginning to arrive in Montenegro, especially on board the cruises that travel the bay of Kotor on the Adriatic coast. Less well known is the north of the country, a region for adventurers where few tourists roam... at least for now. Venture within the Tara Canyon, the deepest in Europe and the Durmitor National Park, which carries world heritage.
The greatest national park here is perhaps Biogradska Gora, nestled in the folds of the Bjelasica mountains, with a serene, solitary and unspoiled environment. Its main attraction is Lake Biograd, although there are also very attractive trails that cross one of the most important forest stretches preserved in Europe.
For those looking for history and culture, the destination for you is the monasteries perched on cliffs like Ostron, or the spectacular valley of Moraca. One of the great charms in this almost lost corner of Europe is to visit towns where everyday life remains very far from the rest of the continent.
5. Warwickshire, UK
"At Shakespeare's house "
In central England you can still find peaceful rural landscapes, even around a large city such as Birmingham. This is the case of the county of Warwickshire, a place of bucolic hills and castles, which this year is also topical by one of its historic locations: Stratford-upon-Avon. This is the cradle of William Shakespeare, whose death 400 years ago is celebrated this year in 2017. Everything here revolves around this figure: historical museums, exhibitions, houses and, of course, the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, with an intense program of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Once the homage to the English playwright is honoured, there are many things to see in the surroundings, such as Warwick Castle, or the mansions of Charlecote, Ragley Hall and Coughton Court. It is even worth visiting a city like Coventry just to admire its cathedral. The ruins of the medieval castle of Kenilworth, which house the chambers of Queen Elizabeth I, were first opened to the public in 2014 and are especially photogenic during sunset. There is also The Cross, one of the UK's most acclaimed gastropubs, with a Michelin star. Also of interest are the Regency buildings, the parks and the Royal Pump Rooms of nearby Leamington Spa.
6. Alentejo - Portugal
"Unknown gastronomic paradise"
Culinary wonders, silent landscapes, castles perched high in the hills, steep coasts and enclaves declared as world heritage sites (Roman temples), are some of the wonders of the Alentejo. But this Portuguese region is also one of the great unknown gastronomic destinations, with vineyards, olive groves and fertile fields. It is the soul of Portuguese cuisine, with centuries-old recipes that can be tasted in authentic restaurants.
The recent creation of the Ruta Vicentina coastal crossing, accompanied by the opening of new and creative restaurants, as well as small charming rural hotels, have thankfully not diminished the quiet beauty of the Alentejo. Vineyards, wineries and medieval villas. Its 14th-century walls hide narrow streets leading to impressive architectural legacies, such as its ornate cathedral, medieval cloisters, Roman ruins and a picturesque square.
7. Northern Germany
"New Baltic Landscapes"
Beyond Berlin or Munich, those who want to discover a new landscape in Germany should head north as soon as possible. For example, to Hamburg which this year inaugurates the new Elba Philharmonic, Herzog & de Meuron. Hamburg is one of the traditional ports of northern Germany, a bridge between continental Europe and Scandinavia and between the North Sea and the Baltic. It is surprising that the great inner island, around which the city is organised, inhabits more than 60 museums as well as an abundance of cultural centres and music clubs.
Northern Germany is, above all, a region to enjoy direct contact with nature. Great skies, wild coasts and medieval cities, like Lübeck and Bremen are waiting to be discovered. There are also secret islands preserved as peaceful natural sanctuaries, such as Sylt, a refuge for the rich and famous with over 40 kilometres of white beaches surrounded by dunes, ancient cottages and striped lighthouses. Or Helgoland, a quiet, rocky island and an almost mystical place. O Rügen, the largest island, is a retreat in the Baltic, fast becoming one of the most popular escapades of Berliners in search of nature. The island of Ferman, connected to the continent by a bridge, is sunny and familiar and also very well-known to the Germans but hardly at all by foreigners/travellers. This is a perfect place to seek out wildlife and nature, enjoying the 76 kilometres of beach with friends and family.
"The last frontier of Europe"
Secret wineries, monasteries on top of cliffs and unknown towns among vineyards. Moldova, a small country between Romania and Ukraine, is one of the least visited in Europe. Everything in it seems detained in time and surprises those who arrive to the last corner of the continental east. This year's ExpoVin 2017 headquarters is a good destination, for example, to discover fantastic wines from Eastern Europe.
Forgotten and barely known, Moldova receives a small number of international tourists and does not have the necessary infrastructure, but this is one of its great attractions. Its remote environment makes travelling through the country a challenge and an adventure, and its leisurely and timeless lifestyle invites you to converse in the shade of the fruit trees in midsummer.
The few points of interest, are scattered by its pleasant undulating landscapes. The capital, Chisinau, was reduced to rubble during World War II and suffered a devastating earthquake in 1940, but has managed to retain a certain charm and cosmopolitan spirit. It boasts leafy boulevards that mix large Soviet-era concrete buildings with unexpected French-style cafes and bars. Another interesting stop is Cricova, Moldova's best-known winery, an underground wine-growing kingdom located 15 kilometres from Chisinau: half of its 120 kilometres of original tunnels from the 15th century are dotted with bottles. Another interesting stop is the monastery of Orheiul Vechi, carved by monks on the rock of an imposing cliff in the thirteenth century.
9. Paphos (Cyprus)
"European Capital of Culture"
The ancient capital of Cyprus again has a very special title: European Capital of Culture in 2017, an occasion to attract the attention of the rest of the world. Today it is a secondary city on the ancient island of Aphrodite which, after occupation, occupies an overlapping of monuments. Temples, castles, catacombs, Roman mosaics, medieval baths... some extraordinary deposits in Kato Paphos and the Tombs of the Kings, since being declared a World Heritage site.
With more than 3,000 years of history, this city has all the requirements to celebrate the culture. In its ancient odeon where artists have been performing since the 2nd century BC, it still houses every summer, works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and other authors of ancient Greece during the ancient theatre festival. In addition, the castle of Paphos becomes an opera centre during the Aphrodite Festival. This year there will be many other performances, exhibitions and concerts in various settings. More than 300 events will serve to build bridges between cultures and to celebrate Paphos in becoming named as one of the great European destinations.
10. Le Havre - France
"500 years of port history"
This traditional port of Normandy celebrates its 500th anniversary this year. Accompanying this will be a festival of art and music that will be enjoyed over five months of concerts, outdoor art installations, street parades, fireworks performances and a floating zen temple with an underwater observation platform.
Le Havre is fantastic for exploring the rest of Normandy, such as the famous and historic beaches of Allied landing during World War II. It is also worth exploring the city to see one of the great French ports and great showcases of modern architecture that boasts works by Auguste Perret, Othello Zavaroni and Oscar Niemeyer.
The centre, razed in September 1944 by the Allied bombings, was completely rebuilt later under the direction of the Belgian architect Auguste Perret. What emerged from the rubble is an unexpected love letter to modernism and a sign of the optimism and energy of postwar France. A city that is either loved or detested, with large plazas and architectural rarities such as Oscar Niemeyer's Le Volcan, the symbol of the city, this cultural centre has concert halls and excellent galleries and cinemas. Also don't forget to visit the modern art museum André Malraux, whose fabulous collection of Impressionist works are among the best in France outside of Paris. It doesn’t take long to understand why the city was declared a World Heritage Site in 2005.
The above destinations should really open your eyes to cities and countries that are yet to shine themselves into the limelight of an already incredibly popular continent. Approximately 480 million visitors come to Europe every year, and five of its countries sit in the top 10 most popular countries in the world to travel to. Now is the time to adventure to the unknown parts of this magical continent.