Europe’s popular draws like Venice and Bruges are bursting to the brim. Why not explore these less busy but as charming lesser-known Europe destinations?

We all have our travel destination bucket lists, most likely with entires like the Colosseum, Times Square, the Pyramids of Giza or the Eiffel Tower. But sometimes we need to venture down the path less taken and discover a place we never knew we always wanted to visit. These lesser-known Europe destinations may just do the trick! 

The challenge is to uncover these out-of-the-way places that also offer the best views and smallest crowds, all without exhausting your bank account and yourself. Sometimes it can feel like a balancing act. Luckily, with a little bit of research, you can discover the less touristy, less expensive alternatives to all the bucket list destinations out there. Here are six ideas to get you started.

Ghent Instead of Bruges, Belgium

Travel lovers to Belgium may find themselves at a crossroads when trying to decide which city to experience: Ghent or Bruges? Both are fairytale cities full of history and culture with canals lazily winding their way throughout the citys’ well-preserved medieval architecture. But Ghent, a port and university city in Belgium’s East Flanders Province, will lead you away from the more touristy crowds.

Home to Ghent University, this city is known for its more authentic, down-to-earth, youthful vibe. This progressive culture has inspired Ghent to become one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in Europe. Ghent also hosts the Ghent Festival, a 10-day-long music and theatre festival with both stage as well as street performers, and the International Film Festival of Ghent.

To experience a more peaceful side of the city’s rich culture, wander among the exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts or the City Museum for Contemporary Art. Or get away from the hustle and bustle entirely by visiting Bourgoyen Ossemeersen, a 230ha nature preserve on the outskirts of the city.

Ghent Belgium Europe travel

Ghent. Photo via Pixabay

Piran, Slovenia Instead of Venice, Italy

The quintessential Italian tourist destination, Venice has been celebrated for centuries upon centuries for its beauty, architecture, and artwork. Unfortunately, this popularity, which brings in nearly 60,000 tourists a day, has raised environmental concerns over the state of its romantic, legendary canals and the city in general. 

Across the Gulf of Piran, situated on the tip of a peninsula jutting into the Adriatic Sea sits Piran, a picturesque Slovenian city. The red roofs of its old town juxtaposed against the sparkling blue ocean combined with its warm summers and cool winters make it the perfect alternative to over-crowded Venice.

Once part of the Venetian empire and then Italy from 1918-1947, Piran is a small fishing town with a well-preserved old town that offers a beautiful example of Venetian gothic architecture.

Go for a swim off a pier, sail in the gulf, or climb to the bell tower atop the Church of St. George for ideal views of the city and harbor before indulging yourself in Piran’s culinary fare. Known for its seafood, white truffles, olive oil, and delicious wine that won’t break your travel budget, Piran is a foodie’s delight. With an abundance of wellness spas that use the region’s healing mud and salts and an absence of clubbing and tourist shops, Piran promises travelers a quiet, idyllic getaway.

Piran

Piran. Photo via Pixabay

Bavarian Alps, Germany Instead of the Swiss Alps

The Alps are like no other mountains on Earth and for many the Swiss Alps are a bucket list destination. Unfortunately, the crowds, costs, and lack of accessibility can provide barriers to those wishing to cross this destination off their list.

The Bavarian Alps in southern Germany are an equally majestic alternative. The rural culture, dramatic mountains, abundant wildlife, forests, and mountain lakes make this region one of the most scenic places in Germany and all of Europe. Here travelers find the views, all-season outdoor recreation, resorts, and spas, but with less cost and less crowds.

One popular destination is Königsee, a lake similar to a fjord due to the strikingly steep mountains that rise up around it. Königsee is Germany’s highest lake with water so pure that some claim it meets Germany’s standards for drinking water.

Other’s enjoy riding the cable car that takes riders to Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak at 2,692m and home to Germany’s highest ski resort. From here you get a breathtaking 360-degree view of 400 peaks across four different countries.

St. Bartholomew's Church on the Königsee

St. Bartholomew’s Church on the Königsee. Photo via Pixabay

Lake Fuschl, Austria Instead of Lake Como, Italy

Italy’s beautiful Lake Como has served as a muse for artists and a vacation destination for wealthy tourists dating back to Roman times. Villas famous for their elegance dot the shoreline as do second homes for celebrities and the jet-setting crowd. Its natural and man-made sights are what makes Lake Como one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and what’s also lead to its extreme popularity.   

At Lake Fuschl in Austria you can still find the views and culture without the glitz, glam, and crowds. The quiet lakeside town of Fuschl am See offers spas, golf courses, and many hotels including a former Habsburg hunting palace that’s been converted into a luxurious hotel/restaurant. The lake is cradled by humble Alpine peaks and surrounded by forest, making it an ideal hiking and outdoor recreation destination. 

Lake Fuschl is the clearest lake in the region and some say the water is so pure at a certain depth, that it meets drinking standards. It’s a beautiful, quiet, less-traveled place that moves at a slower pace than the outside world, which is exactly why people visit.

Lake Fuschl

Lake Fuschl. Photo: C.S. via Flickr

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro Instead of Dubrovnik, Croatia

While Dubrovnik is undoubtedly an Adriatic gem, it gets millions of tourists after Game of Thrones mania put it firmly on the map. It attracts way too many tourists for comfort, who why not explore neighbouring Montenegro?

You won’t miss out on the shimmering blue of the Adriatic in Montenegro either, and it’s easier on your wallet. The medieval old city of Kotor is a UNESCO heritage site sitting snugly between the Bay and the surrounding mountains. Behind the old town, visit the San Giovanni fortress (includes a lovely if slightly steep hike). And don’t forget to visit Perast, a charmingly photogenic seaside town in Kotor Bay.

Kotor Montenegro

Photo: Ggia via Wikimedia Commons

By wandering off the beaten path and exploring these less-known alternatives, you’re sure to find the authentic experiences in new places travel promises. Get ready for a stress-free, more peaceful vacation with these lesser-known Europe destinations!

Check out our Travel Ideas section for more destination ideas to inspire your next vacation!

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