Europe’s 10 best destinations to escape the crowds

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Published 2020-07-28 09:28

Whilst the coronavirus pandemic may have put international travel plans on hold for the time being, it’s never too early to start planning your next trip away. For many people, avoiding crowds has become a priority. Thankfully, many European destinations remain largely untouched by mass tourism, where you can enjoy the sites and visit the best attractions without waiting in line.

We’ve put together a list of the top 10, lesser-known European destinations for you to add to your 2022 travel itinerary. When planning your trip, be sure to check whether you need an ETIAS authorisation. The new visa waiver for Europe will be launched at the end of 2022 and will become a mandatory entry requirement for many non-EU citizens.

Cordoba, Spain

Avoid Spain’s tourism hotspots Barcelona and Madrid and head to the city of Cordoba in Andalucia. Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral is an impressive complex and one of the finest symbols of the 2 cultures which have influenced southern Spain.

Wander around Cordoba’s historic center and you’ll be delighted by pretty courtyards and charming white houses. Juderia, the old Jewish quarter, is also well worth visiting. 

Montpellier, France

Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. Home to the Eiffel Tower and important galleries such as the Louvre, it’s easy to see why. However, if you want to experience French city life away from the bustling capital you should consider Montpellier.

Montpellier is a beautiful Medieval city in the south of France. With its own triumphal arch, Porte du Peyrou, and many other historical landmarks, Montpellier has plenty to offer tourists.

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, a welcoming city in Belgium, is the perfect destination for a relaxed weekend away. Ghent is a port town in the north-west of the country and is both beautiful and fascinating.

Gravensteen, the medieval ‘Castle of the Counts’, is one of several interesting buildings to visit to learn more about the city’s history. 

Graslei and Korenlei are the 2 quays in Ghent and form part of the historic center. This area of the city is particularly beautiful and perfect for a riverside stroll. 

Lübeck, Germany

Instead of heading straight for Berlin or Munich, why not check out Lübeck in Germany's northernmost state? 

Lübeck is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the largest historic center in Germany, famous for its 7 spires. Explore the streets and alleys to discover courtyards, merchants’ houses, and guildhalls. 

When in Lübeck don’t miss the chance to see the Holstenor which guards the western entrance to the Old Town and a recognisable monument across the country. 

Lake Como, Italy

Situated at the base of the Alps Lake Como, the third largest of the Italian lakes, is a breathtakingly beautiful setting.

Charming towns and villages dot the edge of Lake Como. Bellagio, Varenna, and Como are the most popular. Seek out smaller destinations such as Nesso or Argegno for the most peaceful stay. 

You can relax at the beach, try windsurfing or go for walks in the countryside surrounding Lake Como, all whilst enjoying the incredible views.

Kazimierz Dolny, Poland

Poland is often, unjustifiably, left off European travel itineraries. Kazimierz Dolny demonstrates why we’ve been missing out. The little town offers visitors a more authentic view of life in Europe as the locals go about their day undisturbed by tourists. 

The town has long been popular amongst artists keen to paint its beautiful landscapes, as well as artists seeking inspiration and calm.

For such a small town, there is a surprising number of historical sights in Kazimierz Dolny, from the 14th-century church in the Market Square to Renaissance and Baroque granaries.

Riga, Latvia

Being the capital of Latvia, Riga is a bustling city and you will find fellow tourists, but nothing compared to its French, Italian, and Spanish counterparts. Riga is the ideal choice if you want to visit a European capital without the crowds.

Riga’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting vibrant squares and a collection of architectural styles such as gothic, baroque, and Art Nouveau.

There are several city parks and green spaces to enjoy in the city which are great for a leisurely stroll and spending some time in nature. In addition, the beach in Jūrmala can be reached in just 20 minutes. 

Tallinn, Estonia

Another Baltic capital to add to your list is Tallinn in Estonia. The enchanting Old Town itself is reason enough to visit, boasting some of the best-preserved medieval architecture to be found in northern Europe.

Around half of Estonia is forestland, so even when in the capital nature is never far away. Boat trips from Tallinn harbor take visitors to Prangli, Aegna, and Naissaar islands which are havens of pine forests and beaches. 

Bergen, Norway

Despite being the second-largest city in Norway, you’ll feel like you’re in a small town in Bergen. Set against a backdrop of fjords and mountains, Bergen is a truly stunning city.

The district of Bryggen is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a reminder of the town’s seafaring history the wharf now features waterfront museums, galleries, and restaurants.

Take the Fløibanen funicular to the top of  Fløyen mountains and see the city from above.

Bad Ischl, Austria

Bad Ischl, just over 40 km from Salzburg, is a quaint spa town steeped in history. Emperor Franz Joseph chose Bad Ischl for his summer holidays during most of the 68 years on the Habsburg throne, and who can blame him?

Alpine peaks and lakes provide stunning scenery and the town has laid back atmosphere throughout the year. You can visit the Emperor’s former summer residence and be transported back to the late 19th century. 

A spa town, you’ll find several health resorts and thermal spas in Bad Ischl offering a range of treatments and experiences.