5 Seeds cider is all about that summer feeling of kicking back with your friends and enjoying good times and new experiences.
Planning a jaunt around Europe but want to see more than other tourists taking selfies in front of clichéd locations like Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower? There’s never been a better time to take the road less travelled and see parts of the world that aren’t on your ordinary backpacker trail – towns and cities full of great food, culture and history as well as wild bars, cheap hostels and experiences you won’t get anywhere else.
#1 Gothenburg, Sweden
Stylish, creative and easily explored on foot, this former industrial city is quickly becoming one of the coolest destinations in Scandinavia. Fashion labels and craft breweries are taking advantage of (relatively) cheap rents and turning Gothenburg into a hipster mecca. One of Europe’s best music festivals (Way Out West) is held right in the city centre, with past headliners including Kanye, Blur and Robyn. There are also film festivals and gourmet restaurants while the city’s dirty little secret is its intense love for pick and mix lollies – entire shops are dedicated to this sugary obsession.
#2 Belgrade, Serbia
If you’ve ever wanted to dance the night away on a series of floating barges, here’s your chance. In summer, Belgrade’s corner of the Danube River is lined with huge rickety barges that each play a specific genre of music and shake with the dancing of hundreds of revellers. Incredibly cheap food and drinks make it easy to club ’til dawn on a techno or house barge with the locals. Add in Belgrade’s zoo with its strangely lax attitude towards fencing (you can actually reach out and pat some of the exhibits), an ancient fortress and some of Europe’s original and best “Escape Room” challenge parlours and you’re in for a wild time in a city that doesn’t sleep.
#3 Seville, Spain
A city that revels in its own rich cultural history, Seville is one of the last places on earth you can still see a bullfight. While the fights themselves may not be everyone’s cup of tea, a tour of one of the city’s bullfighting rings is a spectacular experience, often with former matadors providing incredible insights into their sport. You can also take in a traditional Spanish flamenco show over tapas and drinks. The city’s Spanish Inquisition museum is a fairly gruesome look at the past with torture instruments aplenty. At night party like a Spaniard by having a siesta, a very late dinner and then hit up the outdoor bars around Alfalfa and Alameda until well past dawn.
#4 Plovdiv, Bulgaria
It’s extraordinary that Bulgaria’s second largest city isn’t overrun with visitors. As well as cobbled streets, a pedestrian-only “old town” centre and gorgeous boutique shops, Plovdiv features a rare 2nd Century Roman Amphitheatre. Beautifully restored (after an earthquake magically uncovered the hidden ruins in the ’70s) it’s used for formal performances in the summer nights, however it’s also open during the day to tourists who are free to climb and explore the stage and maybe just pretend they’re starring in a Bulgarian soap opera – often with no one else in sight. Plovdiv is also just a train ride to Bulgaria’s other hidden gem – the ancient fortress city of Veliko Tărnovo.
#5 Reykjavik, Iceland
Becoming more and more popular with tourists, but still a ways off being a gap year staple, Iceland’s capital is getting as well-known for its music scene as it is for its ethereal beauty. In summer, it’s light until after 11pm and all the venues are a short walk from one another – perfect if you’re tired from a standard Icelandic day of climbing glaciers and riding horses up volcanoes. The locals are incredibly friendly, cover charges are virtually unheard of and you’ll sometimes spot Asgeir, Bjork or members of Sigur Ros in the crowd. If you’re looking for something a little more odd, the city also has a Penis Museum (seriously).
#6 Brasov, Romania
Nestled in the misty, green hills of Transylvania (yes, really) but with ‘Brasov’ spelled out in big Hollywood-style white letters above the main square, Brasov is a city of weird contradictions. It’s a wonderful mix of modern bars and restaurants, yet still has the dark vibe of a medieval city. It also remains the one of few places in Europe where being chased by a garbage-hunting bear at night remains a very real possibility – do actually take note of the streets marked in red on city maps. Brasov is the perfect base for anyone into weird and wonderful Vampire tourism –Bran ‘Dracula’s’ Castle is nearby and Brasov itself has some pretty hilarious themed restaurants that often include “spooky” stage shows with your meal.
#7 Galway, Ireland
Ireland’s music capital Galway is on the Emerald Isle’s rugged western coast, ensuring good views as well as good times. Music and socialising are deeply connected in this port city, and almost every rowdy pub will also have a quality band or singer playing after dark – many performing traditional Irish music. There are fantastic seafood restaurants, but for an authentic experience go find some late-night taco fries to wolf down while watching the scores of evening buskers – trust me, it will help your stomach settle. A day trip to the nearby Aran Islands is also recommended for spectacular windswept cliff vistas.
#8 St Petersburg, Russia
Visually a cross between Paris and Amsterdam, Russia’s city of canals is picturesque and perfect to explore on a bike. Sure, the language barrier is tough, but the incredible mosaic-covered Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, Hermitage Museum or the gold-plated St Isaac’s Cathedral more than make up for it. St Petersburg’s nightlife is insane – everything from smoky jazz haunts and student bars to opulent ‘90s style nightclubs and hilarious public karaoke. If you want something really weird go visit the Kunstkamera Museum’s collection of 17th and 18th century “curiosities’”– lots of freaky two-headed human and animal foetuses.
#9 Monschau, Germany
A small mountain village, tucked in right next to Belgium, Monschau is perfect for someone looking for a really outdoorsy European experience. Surrounded by some of the Germany’s best hiking and biking trails, there are also fantastic opportunities for keen horse riders, river rafters skydivers and anglers. Traditional wooden buildings make the town itself look like a postcard, and at night restaurants offer incredible German cuisine – pork knuckle with dumplings anyone?
#10 Poros, Greece
If a relaxed beach holiday is more your vibe, stop in at Poros. Miles away (literally and figuratively) from the insanity that can be Mykonos and Santorini, this island has the crystal-clear water that made its neighbours famous but without the British bucks nights. The beaches and port are surrounded by ice-cream coloured homes and several sun-lit squares are lined with tavernas that are just perfect for a late-afternoon cider. You can rent bikes to explore nearby ruins or just lie back and soak in the sunshine. The island’s close proximity to Athens means young Greeks flock to party in Poros on weekends when clubs lining Askeli Beach spring to life.
(Lead image: Jeff Sheldon/Unsplash)
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Bonnie Sutherland is a children's puppeteer whose show takes her around the world. She lives for food, new and weird experiences and giggles.