10 Top Little-Know Destinations in Europe
Europe has many attractions dotted throughout, with various cultures and countries all jostling for attention and most people aware of the top attractions in capitals such as London, Paris, and Rome but there are some real cultural treats to be found outside of these. Unknown corners of the continent can offer up a far more intimate travel experience with fewer thronging crowds to get through and a sidestepping of rampant commercialism. Here are Europe's 10 Best Hidden Destinations.
1. Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
On the very edge of the famed Black Forest, this city sits in the shadow of the tree-covered hill of Schlossberg. Mountain bike trails lead down from the hills into the valley whilst road cyclists can make the most of the gloriously flat roads along the Dreisam river. Home to one of the oldest churches in Europe with the Münster cathedral, its history is beautifully in tune with its picturesque setting.
Not too far from the Swiss border, it is quite possible to do a day trip from Zurich or Basel.
2. Sibiu, Romania
Constructed in the middle ages by German settlers, Sibiu brings together a set of different cultures from Romania, Germany, and Hungary. Another cyclist friendly city, it is a mix of medieval charm and lush parkland inside one of Europe's best kept fortified citadels.
The Cibin River runs right by Sibiu and it is the former capital of Transylvania.
3. Odense, Denmark
Birthplace of the fairy tale creator Hans Christian Andersen, the city pays homage to him with many a statue and museum proclaiming his influence and even has a public bench with many of his characters carved into it.
The third largest city in Denmark, Odense has plenty of wonderful restaurants and galleries to visit and is designed with pedestrians and cyclists in mind. A coastal city on the island of Funen where it has been the capital for over 1000 years.
4. Vézelay, France
A UNESCO world heritage site, predominantly because if its Romanesque Basilica of St. Magdalene, Vézelay Abbey which is a stunning church that dates all the way back to the 11th century.
A hilltop town in the French countryside it is often covered in geraniums during summer which can be fully enjoyed from the many independent cafes throughout the Cure Valley which more often than not will serve the locally grown white wines.
5. Pilsen, Czech Republic
In part, heavily industrialized what with it being the home of Skoda Motorworks and Pilsner beer, Pilsen still holds some spectacular architecture and scenery around its gardens, museums, and galleries.
Not too far from Prague, it often gets unfairly by-passed by those heading straight for the Czech capital.
6. Coimbra, Portugal
The former capital of Portugal and home to one of the world's oldest universities, Coimbra has brilliant medieval and Roman architecture at the heart of the city with Roman ruins and a hill-top fortress to wander around.
An easy trip from either Porto or Lisbon, the university quarter of Coimbra has some of the most stunning architecture in the city and many beautiful churches.
7. Mons, Belgium
The Belfry, the Neolithic Mines in Spiennes and the Dou Dou at Mons are all considered UNESCO masterpieces and it also has the former of home of Vincent Van Gough, which is open to the public and is the capital of the province of Hainaut.
Little wonder then that it was named European capital of culture for 2015.
8. Torún, Poland
Famous for its gingerbread or piernicki, this city is also where the great astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was born and the city has clung to its son with statues and museums dedicated to him as well as his own shaped piernicki.
Noticeably different from Krakow and Warsaw, Torun is well worth the visit on the banks of the Vistula River.
9. Matera, Italy
According to UNESCO, Matera is "the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem," and they should know.
Rich in history and culture, there are many cave dwellings bored into the hillside which can be explored and toured and some are even available to spend the night in. Not as well known as many other Italian destinations but with fantastic history just as impressive as any other region of the country.
10. Maastricht, The Netherlands
Split by the Meuse river, Maastricht is just as beautiful as Dutch capital, Amsterdam. Filled with stunning castles and surrounded by countryside, Maastricht is a bit of an overlooked gem.
With a network of underground tunnels that residents used, when under attack, to sneak up on enemies the history of the city is fascinating and there are plenty of vineyards and galleries to relax in afterward.