In every European city, we go to, we taste the feeling of ‘I wish I lived here. But at some point, unfortunately, the cities really feel like they are very similar to each other. A historical town square, colorful buildings, huge churches with pointed towers are the sights that we will encounter in almost every European city.
What if we draw a slightly different route? Maybe we will find a completely different flavor in the back street of that very long road. What if we turn to alternative routes that are not known to many, but to the cities indicated by arrows and where dozens of travel guides are written on them? How would we turn our direction to deserted cities and towns, whose stories are hidden, not appalled by tourists and wonders of nature and history? Here are the 10 most beautiful hidden routes in Europe;
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1. A Beauty That Resembles Postcards – Škofja Loka, Slovenia
Slovenia, one of Europe’s most undiscovered countries on its own, is not as popular as other border countries Austria, Hungary, Croatia, or Italy. But it is difficult to understand the reason for this because it competes with the countries I count with its magnificent mountains, greenery, and historical texture. It is also a much more reasonable option in terms of travel budget and cheaper than other euro countries in terms of price.
The town I will tell you about is Škofja Loka located 20 kilometers northwest of the country’s capital, Lebanon. You can reach here by a 20-minute train ride from the city center. Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is also 20 minutes away from the town. Škofja Loka is a charming medieval town. It is said to be one of the best-preserved areas in Slovenia. It is already on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The ideal address for a tranquil holiday with its roads adorned with cobblestone, old houses that invite you to a fairy tale, and lush forests surrounding this beautiful town.
Where can we see in Škofja Loka? First of all, the first place you should go is the historical stone bridge. In this respect, photographs taken especially in summer are almost like a postcard. Capuchin Bridge is a 600-year-old bridge.
The church and monastery, which bear the same name as the bridge, were built in 1709 and dazzle with their majesty. The library of 30,000 books owned by the monastery is also the place where the first and only copies of the country’s most important works are kept. The Škofja Loka Castle and Museum, which lies on the green meadows, is also one of the places to visit in the city.
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2. Pals with its Festivals, Fine Wines and Olive Trees – Spain
We’re heading to a town in the Costa Brava in the northern part of Spain, in the Catalonian coastal region, which can be called a town or even a village. Pals has a population of only 2,400! Pal is a medieval town that dates back to the 9th century. Its meaning comes from the Latin palus. This means wetland. Pals looks like a movie set with its stone houses covered with vines and flowers, arched streets, and olive trees.
Torre de las Horas, the Clock Tower, is one of the tourist spots you can visit. The tower was actually built on the ruins of a castle that was destroyed after the Catalan civil war in the 15th century. You can visit the Casa De Cultura Ca La Pruna Museum, which dates back to the 15th century, where you can visit an exhibition of Catalan wines and visit the 18th-century pharmacy. You can visit Sant Pere Church, which houses Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles with its 1000-year history.
The best time to visit Pals is August. Because festivals indicating the gastronomy and cultural richness of the city are organized. The first of these is the feast for the stomachs, the Cheese and Wine Festival. The last week of August is happening.The other is “Nit d ‘Espelmes.” It fascinates visitors with this interesting festival atmosphere where the whole city is illuminated with 10,000 candles.
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3. Spa City Druskininkai – Lithuania
Lithuania is a little-known destination on its own. Druskininkai is the city I want to tell you about. A city located on the border of Belarus and Poland, on the banks of the Nemunas River. It is best known as a spa and spa city. We come to the region for spa tourism from the surrounding border countries and from all over Lithuania.
Druskininkai has a very peaceful atmosphere thanks to its nature surrounded by lush green forests and waters with minarets and it adds health to people. The population of this peaceful city is only 14,172 people. In addition to spa tourism, there is a huge ski complex of 8 hectares that can be visited in summer and winter. This complex, called the Snow Arena, is an area that serves 365 days between Baltic countries. In the Snow Arena, there are various ski slopes and cable car systems that differ on demand.
From a historical point of view, one of the most iconic buildings of the city is “The Joy of All Who Sorrow” Church. Although the name sounds rather strange, this is the name of the Virgin Mary in the Eastern Orthodox sect. This beautiful church also offers a beautiful view with its bright blue exterior and historic wooden houses around.
One of the striking buildings of the city is the large brick church that stands out with its pointed towers. It is referred to as St. Mary’s Church and was built in the 1840s. The main street of the city is Vilnius Street. Shops, restaurants, and cafes can be visited on this street.
Of course, Druskininkai Aqua Park and Spa center can be shown as the most famous tourism reason. In addition to all these, there are some very interesting spots in Druskininkai. Although they are generally not of much interest in mainstream tourism, these spots can be of particular interest to curious tourists in pursuit of interesting things and those who love alternative travel routes.
Since Druskininkai is located on the borders of the former Soviet Union, it has some examples of Soviet architecture. You should definitely visit these examples of architecture that are very avant-garde and often terrifying to the present. For example, Balneological Hospital and Vandes Parkas are good examples of these architectural structures. If you happen to be in Druskininkai, don’t neglect to visit the lush green forests.
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4. Hel Peninsula – Poland
The Hel peninsula is the subject of many jokes, based on its name. Tourists visiting Gdansk can find statements like ‘Go to Hel!’ In their tourist guides. Hel is a peninsula at the edge of the city of Gdansk on the northernmost coast of Poland. It is located on the Baltic Sea coast and is 34 kilometers long.
Hel looks like a fishing town. It has a population of 4 thousand. Usually, it functions as a holiday destination where the people of Gdansk or tourists coming to the area take a one-day getaway. However, especially in the summer months, with its long beaches and sea tourism, you can feel as if you are not in Poland but in a Mediterranean country.
So what can we do in Hel? First of all, of course, you can throw your towel on the sandy beaches and enjoy the rare sun. Visiting the seals! In Sanctuary, which is a conservation center where injured seals in the Baltic Sea are treated, you can coincide with the feeding time of the seals in the summer months and have a heart-warming experience. The 41-meter-long lighthouse, which is still actively used today, is also open to visitors in summer.
How can we reach Hel? You can reach Gdansk by ferry from the center. This 3-hour cruise will also offer you a pleasant sea and canal tour. Or you can reach the town by a 2 and a half-hour train journey from the main train station.
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5. Journey to Dracula’s Mystical Lands – Sighisoara, Romania
The famous region of Romania has been the subject of various legends from the history of Transylvania. There are so many sources written on the region for ages… They all talk about the mysticism of this strange land, its deep caves, howling wolves at night, and its steep slopes.
The most famous thing that came out of Transylvania is Dracula, who inspired the British writer Bram Stoker. It is rumored that Dracula, with his real name Vlad Tepes, lived in the city of Sighişoara. Even today, you can visit the house where Vlad was born in this city.
Sighişoara is a town located in the city of Mureş. It has many villages within its borders. It is located on the Tarnava Mare River. Its population is 30,000. Pastel-colored houses, cobblestones, and medieval castles make up the city’s skyline. If you are tired of the similarity of Europe’s Northern and Western Europe and are looking for a more interesting destination, you should definitely visit this town.
Eastern Europe has its own mysticism. Sighişoara is also a nook hidden in lush forests with its spiral slopes and towers surrounding its historical houses. While you are in Sighişoara, you can of course visit the somewhat deserted building, which is rumored to be the house where Dracula was born, and be in Vlad’s room. There is also a bust of Vlad in the center of the town.
While you are gone, be sure to climb the clock tower and watch the view of the city in the greenery. Sighişoara is also a good place to buy interesting figures and accessories for your home or your loved ones. The people of the region are both very fond of handicrafts and different things can occur in such a mystical environment.
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6. Annecy Inspiring Artists – France
We are going to France, one of the most elegant countries in Europe. Our way to the southeast of the country, near the Swiss border, to a city whose beauty spreads by word of mouth: Annecy. How beautiful is this city? Mountains with snowy peaks visible in the distance during the day form a magnificent pair with the deep blue Lake Annecy, which is described as Europe’s cleanest lake.
In the evenings, the lights of the houses, which are the background of an idyllic poem, are reflected in the lake. It creates an enchanting environment. Doesn’t this beautiful lake be so impressive and inspire artists? The famous French painter Paul Cezanne paints the very Annecy Lake. The cleanliness of the lake has made the area a summer spot for both locals and tourists. People swim here at will. Besides swimming, water sports are also very common. Diving, windsurfing, and paddle surfing are common in the area.
125,000 people live in the city called the Venice of the Alps! Especially Annecy invites you to peace with its streets resembling a movie set and colorful houses in pastel tones. You can sit on the cobbled streets and breathe in the sweet sun, enjoy ice cream and the famous French croissant in its cute cafes.
But when you go to Annecy, there is one thing that is strongly recommended to eat, which is raclette. A special kind of melted cheese consists of dried meat, gherkins, and pickled onions. If you see something eaten feverishly by people all over the city, know that this is raclette. One of the must-see points in the city is The Pont des Amours, the Lovers Bridge. There is a belief that kissing couples will never leave on this bridge that combines two green parks on both sides of the lake.
Finally, it creates the most iconic image of the city with the Palais de l, which divides the lake into two like a ship. Although it was built in the 12th century and used as a prison, court, and a Lord’s house respectively, it is a history museum today. It is a festive spot for the eyes with its towers and stone exterior.
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7. Dinant, Belgium
We are going to a French-speaking part of Belgium. Located in this region called Wallonia, Dinant is a lakeside city just like Annecy. And just like Annecy, it has a center that can be visited in an hour. But as soon as you see Dinant, you will be shot. The colorful houses on the shore of the lake look like many cities so far. But the huge rock rising in the background and the castle above it? The silhouette of the city, which resembles a postcard, takes you to different lands.
Dinant is one of Europe’s lesser-known routes and the population of the city consists of 111 thousand people. The Castle, built-in 1815, overlooking the city of Dinant, is a must-visit. You can reach the top point by a 405-step staircase or by a cable car you get on for 11 euros. The Collegiate Church on the shore is a gothic church built in the 13th century. It creates a pleasant scene with the castle visible behind it.
As in every city, there is a palace in Dinant. This palace, called Castle of Freÿr, draws attention not only with its architecture but also with its huge garden with a magnificent design. One of the highlights of the city is the Rocher Bayard cliff, which looks like it was split by a sword. It is located on the shore of the lake and nowadays a street runs through which traffic flows. According to the legend, this rock piece was divided into two by the hooves of the giant horse named Bayard, which is mentioned in mythology.
When you come to the city, you can take forest trips and visit the huge cave called Grotte de Dinant. Finally, you can take a trip to the history of Brussels‘ famous beer brand Leffe, see how the beer is prepared and tastes. Leffe House also serves as a hotel. You can reach Dinant by a 1.5-hour car or train ride from Brussels.
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8. The Fairy Tale Cotswolds, England
Cotswold Hills in the Gloucestershire region of England; This is a real village-city that takes us back centuries with its yellow limestone single-story houses. Within its borders, it has many villages where lambs run around in its green meadows. When we look at history, we learn that this city actually became like this after an economic disaster. It used to be a wool industry center. Then, when the sector collapsed due to economic difficulties, the village was left without developing itself.
Chipping Campden is a 17th-century shopping street in the city. The magnificent houses of the rich woolen manufacturers of the period are lined up in rows. The most famous building in the region is the Stanway House, which was owned by a monastery for 800 years and then by a noble family for 500 years.
Cotswold has many villages within its borders. Almost all of these villages are houses that look like they’re straight out of a fairy tale or movie. Stanton is one of these villages that we can easily call the world’s most beautiful villages. It has houses with exteriors and gardens adorned with flowers and a 15th-century church. Hidcote Garden is a 20th-century garden design with the theme of open-air rooms, with beautifully shaped plants and trees.
Finally, Cotswold’s most visited and most striking place is Bourton-on-the-Water. The village with this poetic name is also referred to as Cotswold’s Venice, like the other cities I have mentioned in the article. Bourton, where its streets intersect with a river flowing slowly, is a region that has been inhabited since the Anglo-Saxon period.
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9. A Green City in the Land of Lakes Vaxjo – Sweden
Inside Sweden is covered with water. Both on the Baltic Sea coast and itself are actually made up of hundreds of thousands of islands. But Vaxjo has no seafront. A city by the lake. It is even located in a region called the lakes region. With a population of 70,000, it can actually be considered one of Sweden’s largest cities. The name of the city consists of the Swedish words vag and sjö, which mean street and lake.
Every visitor tells how this city is enchanted as it turns green. If you want to draw a quiet, calm, green, and regular European route, I would say stop by Vaxjo. The main places to visit in our small city are the ruins of Kronoberg Castle on the shore of Helgasjön Lake. If you are lucky, this is the area where you can see the colorful northern lights combined with the silhouette of the castle. The best option to visit the ruins and around the lake is to take a tour with a 130-year-old ferry named Thor. Built-in 1887 and still active today, this ferry is the first thing tourists do in the region.
One of the iconic structures of the city is Teleborg Castle, which is used as a hotel today. Although the castle built on the shore of Lake Trummen seems to be medieval, it was actually built by an architectural firm in 1900 for a noble earl and his wife. After the couple’s death, the castle is used as a school for female students. Later, the building, which was the property of the city in 1964, was used for both accommodation and various activities with the huge greenery around it.
There are many museums in Vaxjo that can be visited. One of these is the Småland Museum, which was founded in 1867 and is Sweden’s oldest museum. In this museum, Vikings, 19-20. Objects from many eras up to century farmer societies are on display.
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10. A trip full of whales and waterfalls, Akureyri – Iceland
We are going to Akureyri, Iceland’s second-largest city and called the capital of the north. The population of this 138 square kilometers city is only 20,000. You have to give yourself 3, 4 days to visit Akureyri. Because there is a lot to do here. First of all, you can watch the northern lights, one of the most famous activities of the north, in Akureyri. The best way to see the northern lights is dark but fresh air, a lighting system that won’t absorb the light of the sky in your area. Akureyri fits these definitions perfectly and requires a much more affordable budget than other popular centers.
You should visit Laufas Grass Houses, which are like an open-air museum that allows us to see how Icelanders lived in ancient times. I say grass because the steep roofs of the tiny houses are covered with a lawn. It was first built in 1865.
The places to go and the activities that can be done in the city are the kinds that you will not meet anywhere in Europe; offers an experience intertwined with animals and nature. You can reach the countryside with a 15-minute drive from the city center and enjoy horse riding on the farms where even the horses look very happy. For this, there are tours where they offer you delicious options from the famous cuisine of the region.
How would you like to try Akureyri’s famous beer baths to relieve the tiredness of the day? Yes, you didn’t hear it wrong. Beer baths are a service offered every day of the year by a center that opened in 2017. But the best of all is the winter, at the end of a journey through freezing weather and snow. Yeast is thought to regenerate and tighten the body. Icelanders also saw this as an opportunity for renewal.
One of the most spectacular activities in Akureyri is whale watching tours. Even very rare whale species such as blue whales or killer whales can be observed at times of the year in this region with this unique geography. For this, of course, you need to join a tour. Apart from whales, Akureyri is an incredibly rich city in terms of bird species. Bird watching tours are also available in this context.
It is not possible to go north and not slide. Hlíðarfjall, which is open 180 days a year and is considered the best ski center in the country, welcomes its enthusiasts every year with its 700-meter slope. The Christmas House, named Jólahúsið, is a gift shop that you can visit not only at Christmas but at any time of the year. It’s like a typical Icelandic fishing house transformed into a Gingerbread House. Here you can give a try at Icelandic Christmas dishes as well as souvenirs and decorative decorations.
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