There’s no place like Europe in the summer. Iconic cities like Paris, Rome, and Barcelona are always the ones in the spotlight, but that also makes them the busiest with other tourists and the jacked-up prices. The good news, is Europe is also home to numerous lesser-known cities and towns that have their own distinct charm and allure (and half the tourists). So if you’re looking for a unique summer adventure that’s a little off the beaten path, here’s a list of some more underrated, but must-see destinations that offer a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty around Europe.
Ibiza is the star of the Balearic Islands, but waiting in line for an hour to get in to DC-10 is a nightmare. If you’re looking for something more slow paced, the tranquil island of Menorca remains an unspoiled paradise. With its crystal-clear waters, idyllic coves, and lush landscapes, it’s the perfect summer getaway. Embrace the relaxed Med lifestyle, explore cute charming towns and eat fresh seafood – seaside.
The Jurassic Coast, United Kingdom
If nature is more your thing, check out the stunning rock formations, hike along dramatic cliffs, and uncover hidden beaches. The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site on the English Channel coast of southern England. It stretches 95 miles from Devon to Dorset. Definitely check out Durdle Door – a natural limestone arch and the picturesque town of Lyme Regis, known for its fossil-rich shores and literary heritage.
Dubbed the “Venice of the Alps,” Annecy is a fairy tale-like town in-between mountains and a pristine lake. It’s known for its Vieille Ville (old town), with cobbled streets, winding canals and pastel-colored houses. You can hang out in an old medieval Château d’Annecy, once home to the Counts of Geneva, that’s not been turned into a museum. Eat some raclette and croissants, rent a bike, and embark on a scenic ride along the lake’s shores.
Bordeaux isn’t only known for wine, although that’s not a bad thing to be known for. The southwestern French city is also known for its gothic cathedrals, 18th-century mansions, notable art museums, public gardens that line the river quays and the famous Miroir d’Eau reflecting pool. It’s also the city in France that most parisians say they’d move to if they didn’t live in Paris. #ParisianApproved
Cinque Terre, Italy
While most of Italy is overcrowded with Americans swarming Venice, Rome, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast, somehow the picturesque villages of Cinque Terre remain relatively undiscovered. Cinque Terre, made up of 5 towns, are adorable and colorful fishing towns with the most breathtaking views, charming streets, and great hiking trails. The perfect spots for eating a lot of pasta (with pesto – it’s their specialty) and drinking a lot of wine from the region.
When you think Greece, Santorini, Athens and Mykonos are the most obvious choices, but Corfu is actually one of the most underrated spots. The island just off the coast of the mainland is a less busy hot spot for day-time beaching and adventures, as well as night-time partying. Hang out in Corfu Town to explore historic landmarks and architecture from the Venetian era, take a trip to a picturesque seaside village, relax in a lux resort or party all night in Kavos.
The island of Hvar is the smaller sibling to Dubrovnik and Split, but has a unique blend of history, nature, and vibrant nightlife. If you’re looking for the party, this is it. Hvar Town is full of rich yachters, hot nightclubs, swanky hotels and legendary beachfront beach clubs. You can also find secluded beaches, lavender fields and olive groves for some daytime fun.
Bodrum is a coastal gem that promises adventure and relaxation and behind Istanbul and Cappadocia, is becoming one of the hottest destinations to explore this summer. That’s especially the case for celebs trying to stay out of the scene, but wanting some fun and to check out its picture-perfect beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and a vibrant social scene. It’s the perfect spot for delicious food, city exploring, partying or taking a boat trip around the peninsula.
Escape the crowds of Malta’s main island and set foot on the beautiful and charming Gozo. Bask on the island’s pristine beaches, like the popular Ramla Bay with golden sand or secluded San Blas Bay. From the ocean to the mountains, you can go diving in the azure waters or hike along the cliffs and rolling hills, all in a day. Make sure you try traditional Maltese dishes like Lampuki Pie (fish pie), Rabbit Stew, Bragioli (beef olives) or Kapunata, (Maltese version of ratatouille).
Take a bath in.. Bath. Obviously famous for (and named after) the Roman-built baths with natural thermal waters. The Romans built the city of Aquae Sulis around the hot springs, with a large bathing, recreation and temple complex at the heart of the city and is still active. Not to bathe in, but to visit. Although there is the Thermae Bath Spa for a relaxing and rejuvenating trip.
San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian is a food lover’s paradise and a surfer’s haven. Considering they have the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, it’s definitely a hot spot for foodies indulging in the pintxos culture. If you can get yourself away from eating, you can also spend the day soaking up the Mediterranean sun on one of the stunning beaches like La Concha or Zurriola, catching waves, or entering a beach volleyball tournament.
The Algarve, Portugal
The Soaring cliffs, sea caves, golden beaches, aqua blue water, scalloped bays and sandy islands definitely attract some tourists, especially surfers and partiers, but nowhere near the amount that flock to Lisbon, making this a better draw in the summer. The Algarve coast is still refreshingly undeveloped, giving it more of that Euro charm we all love to see. For the non-surfers, you can explore the bird-filled lagoons and islands of the protected Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, stretching for 60km from west of the capital, Faro, to the enchanting fishing village of Cacela Velha.