The many countries and cultures in Europe offer an abundance of vacation plans. But while you’ve likely felt romanced by Paris, earned a sunburn in San Sebastian or lived like a royal in London, there are plenty of destinations in Europe you’ve yet to explore. Still only a red-eye flight away, these towns we’re talking about feature fewer crowds but just as much charm, giving you — and your travel buddies — a different experience.
Below, some up and coming European cities to add to your travel bucket list. Go ahead and set that out-of-office countdown now, because these hidden gems might create your next #bestripever.
While some travelers book tours dedicated to good eats and popular attractions, this town is great for people who prefer to blaze their own trail – quite literally. If you’re an adventurous jet-setter who tries to top every mountain you find, this city located 45 minutes from Zurich should top your list. It’s on the GoldenPass line, a train route in the Alps that offers gorgeous surroundings and lots of access to nature. You can spend an afternoon exploring the quintessential Old Town, stand in awe of Lake Lucerne, and, of course, hike Mount Pilatus. Make sure to walk across the iconic Chapel Bridge (also known as Kapellbrücke) before you continue on your journey.
Game of Thrones fans make sure to witness Dubrovnik in real life, since it’s home to Kings Landing, but a short ferry ride away is a smaller, equally-as-scenic option. With many direct flights from various points in Europe, Split is easy to fly into and features pebbly beaches and tons of history. Dotted along the Dalmatian Coast, you’ll be impressed with its many seaside joints for snacking and boozing, as well as your ability to float in the salty Adriatic Sea. When you’ve had your fill of sunshine, get lost in the winding alleyways of Old Town, especially the fourth-century Diolectican’s Palace. Old meets new throughout this Croatian town that’s growing in popularity by the minute.
A quick jaunt from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a city that’s known for one very important component of Portuguese life: wine. And lots of it! It’s less expensive than other notable spots in the country, allowing you to indulge more on decadent bites and pairings. What you’ll also love about Porto is the coastal vibe mixed the cobbled-streets and colorful buildings. When you aren’t hopping around wine tasting, make time to tour the baroque masterpiece of Sao Francisco Church, and see the ancient stock market of Palacio de Bolsa.
For honeymoons, anniversaries or birthday celebrations, there’s nothing quite as dreamy as the Greek islands. But while many save their pretty pennies for Santorini or Mykonos, few consider Corfu as an option. Situated on the northwest coast of the Ionian Sea sits this small island with touches of many cultures. From Italy and France to Great Britain, you can sample plenty of culinary dishes here, all while admiring the view from the grand palace of St. Michael and St. George. For those traveling on a budget, cheaper hotel prices make this a more accessible adventure — with the same Greek style.
Don’t let the comedy In Bruges sway you — there’s plenty to admire about the northwest capital of West Flanders. Known as a less-busy retreat for Europeans, you’ll fall in love with the character of this town. With pretty canals, medieval structures, a bustling square, and cobbled streets, the slower pace of this charming country is easily appreciated. If you do just one thing, make sure you climb the 83-meter bell tower from the 13th century in the city center to witness jaw-dropping (and Instagram-worthy) city views.