Summer, fall, winter, or spring- no matter what time of year you find yourself traveling in Europe, it is always breathtaking. From the mouth-dropping views, streets lined with history, plazas full of life, to the castles, gardens, bridges, beaches, and the food. Oh, the food. The food alone could convince one to drop everything and plan a trip. Europe can do no wrong. That is, until you arrive and find the sidewalks, cafes, and famous sights swarming with photo-taking determined tourists. Leave the sweaty lines in Paris and head to one of these underrated European towns for a breath of fresh air.
Can’t choose between Italy and Switzerland? This scenic town located in southern Switzerland has the best of both worlds. It is literally 30 minutes from the Italian border and two hours north of Milan. It has that laid back Mediterranean lifestyle and architecture you crave along with lush Swiss alpine trails for all the mountain biking and hiking your heart desires and your legs can handle. Imagine: glacier-tipped alps in the same photo with palm trees and sailboats. It’s the most picturesque beauty you ever did see and a gift from the travel gods.
Check out more about Ascona here.
2.Rothenburg ob der tauber, Germany
Europe is quite famous for many villages lining the streets with ginger-bread-house-resembling architecture but Rothenburg takes the cake (or the cookie, if I’m being technical). Come during the winter months and you might as well be inside a magical snow globe where fairytales come true, the snow never turns yellow, and hot chocolate is always available. Christmas décor lovers, start saving- you will want to buy everything in sight. The only downside to this charming-medieval village is the location; there are no major airports in town and the closest is Nürnberg Airport. But don’t let that discourage you from going. Whether you are coming from Nürnberg, Munich, or Berlin, the train ride into town is sure to be filled with a scenery so enchanting you will forget all about the time. Rick Steves even claims that this is Germanys best preserved-walled town. Note, there are many Rothenburgs in Germany so make sure you are going to OB DER TAUBER!
Check out more about Rothenburg ob der tauber here.
3. Cinque Terre, Italy
Imagine a place where cars are banned, pesto is a staple part of the diet, and crayon box buildings sit staggered alongside the rugged scenic coast of Northern Italy. No cookie-cutter-beige construction in sight; 360 degrees of bright colors from the unique architecture to the crystal sea and the luscious green vegetation and vineyards in between. I guarantee you will want to go home and paint your house flamingo pink or tiffany blue. I also guarantee your homeowners association won’t allow it. The five seaside villages, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore seem isolated from the rest of Italy. Only 3.5-4 hours from Florence and Rome but worlds away. Life here is tranquil and simple. No glitz, no museums, and no Fiats in sight. I’m certain the locals do not know or even care what time it is. This secret treasure fishing village turned Unesco World Heritage-site is not so much a secret anymore. Despite the number of tourists coming and going each summer, the Old-Italian charm and history stays rooted in the narrow roads running through the small villages. Walk into any market or stick around in the square after the sun goes down and you will see the devotion, love, and respect the locals feel towards their home.
Check out more about Cinque Terre here.
Okay, Greece lovers and dreamers, it’s time to give Croatia a chance to sweep you off your feet. It is severely less crowded and expensive than Greece with a scenery just as comparable. Dubrovnik is located along the southern coast of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. It is the perfect location for day trips to Montenegro, and Bosnia & Herzegovina-take advantage of this! Dubrovnik is most famous for Old Town, ancient walls made of stone surrounding a section of the city. Back in the day, these walls were a source of protection from outside danger but today, tourists can now walk along them to see Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea from a whole new perspective. Crossing the bridge and walking through the Pile City gates into Old town is like stepping back in time. Inside the walls is an adventurers dream with a maze of marbled streets and narrow stairways tucked in between outdoor restaurants and shops leading to dead ends, passageways, and hidden seaside bars. If you are feeling adventurous, try a kayaking tour in the Adriatic Sea for an experience you will never forget.
Check out more about Dubrovnik here.
5. Annecy, France
If you’ve ever dreamed of riding a gondola through the canals of a picturesque town but want to avoid the 60,000 plus tourists a day in Venice, you are in luck. This enchanting village is often referred to as the “Venice of France” with winding canals feeding into Lake Annecy, one of the cleanest waterways in Europe. There is lots to do here so plan to stay awhile. In fact, you might just want to stay forever once you see the French alps rising above the pastel-colored houses with balconies sporting flower boxes and lovers drinking coffee along the canals. Here is also where you will find the best outdoor market in France; grab a picnic lunch and head to the beach. Oh yeah, let’s not forget there are multiple sandy beaches to relax and take in the mountain scenery.
Check out more about Annecy here.
6. Hallstatt, Austria
This Austrian lake village is postcard worthy from every angle and is arguably one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval towns. The village sits in a valley on the shimmering lake Hallstatt, surrounded by the spectacular Salzkammergut mountains. There is something truly special about this place; from the alpine homes and cafes reflecting on the lake to the peaceful atmosphere throughout the village. It is completely walkable so forget about the stress of transportation. Cars are not allowed to drive here from May to October between 10am and 5pm. There is much to do in this UNESCO heritage but make sure to check out the ice caves and salt caves. Here is where you will find the worlds first salt mine! Hallstatt is considered to be one of the oldest settlements in Europe.
Check out more about Hallstatt here.
Europe: the land of good hair and endless Nutella. There are so many places to go, sights to see, foods to try, mountains to climb, and gelato lines to stand in. Planning a trip can be overwhelming with all the possibilities. Avoid the major tourist cities and give one of these destinations a chance-we know you will fall in love!