Europe is a traveller’s treasure chest. Historic and chock-full of gems with endless appeal, the Old World is one of the most popular hubs on the planet – particularly during the summer months. And while you’ve got tried-and-tested options, there’s always something fresh to stumble upon in Europe.
If you’re keen on a little European summer action with a difference, dig in to this rundown of up-and-coming jewels in the European treasure chest.[related_articles]26369[/related_articles]
#1 Utrecht, Netherlands
With its concentric canals and sultry vibe, Amsterdam is a European rite of passage. Yet, for those keen to check out a less racy (and perhaps more quintessentially Dutch) slice of Dutch life, university city Utrecht is the ideal alternative.
An hour from Amsterdam by train, Utrecht’s canals, bars, café terraces, galleries, museums and architecture – to say nothing of its sheer beauty – give more than enough reason for a few days off the beaten path.
#2 Porto, Portugal
If you haven’t yet indulged in the glories of the Iberian Peninsula, there’s a gaping hole on your must-see summer travel list. Though capital Lisbon lulls with its stunning hills and vistas, second city Porto is the Portuguese coast’s gem in the rough.
Hugging the raging Atlantic, the city of bridges delivers an invigorating yet modest fusion of old and new, dotted with stunning 18th Century architecture, hipster bars and cafes, an incredible river-lined centre, and excellent wine.
If Italy is the Mediterranean’s emerald, Montenegro is the pearl. Home to rugged mountains, medieval villages and Adriatic beachside wonders, the former Yugoslav stretch has carved out an admirable reputation in recent decades as one of the most beautiful, if not uncluttered, tourist destinations in Europe.
New flight and cruise routes signal a rising tourist tide, but for the time being, Montenegro’s bare beaches are as good as yours.
#4 Tallin, Estonia
Perched on the Baltic, Estonia’s Tallin has transformed dramatically since its soviet past. Its UNESCO-protected Old Town is one of the most treasured and beautiful in Europe, with its new generation continuing to revitalise the medieval hub with a cluster of tech start-ups, boutique stores, bars, cafes and culture.
#5 Vilnius, Lithuania
Kin to Estonia’s Tallin, former Soviet Vilnius has crept its way into numerous underdog lists recently. Replete with a gorgeous 13th-century baroque old town, a vibrant café, bar and cultural scene, the charm of Lithuania’s capital, and its warmth and character, make it a much sought after Euro weekender – one of Europe’s freshest buzz capitals.
#6 Krakow, Poland
Proximate to the Czech border, Krakow is ringed by remnants of medieval walls, the stunning gothic old town spires, fresh verve, and vibrant café, bar and food scene, making it one of the most invigorating and alluring hubs in Central Europe.[related_articles]54882[/related_articles]
#7 Crete, Greek Islands
Zeus’s backyard, the birthplace of myth. As the largest and most populated of the Greek Islands, Crete is also one of Europe’s best spends: dripping with culture, incredible food, and indelible Cretian hospitality, this ancient rock is a summertime beachside adventure as intoxicating as it is affordable.
Mysterious, magical, and friendly on the wallet, Romania is still one of Eastern Europe’s best-kept secrets. From Brasov to Bucharest, Dracula’s Bran Castle and the majestic Carpathians, a summer road trip through Romania’s medieval villages and stunning landscapes makes for an obvious, and unique, high-season choice.
#9 Aarhus, Denmark
Chilling on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula, second-fiddle Aarhus might not have a rep for excellent food, nightlife, culture, beaches and architecture, but it ought to, because you’ll find all that and more here. Big bro Copenhagen might have the name, but Aarhus keeps up just fine.
#10 Northern Dalmatia, Croatia
While the throngs christened coastal cities Split and Dubrovnik as key Croatian getaways some time ago, the less-travelled region of Northern Dalmatia is fast becoming a go-to substitute, with equally mesmerising coastline, incredible culture, and a refreshing lack of summertime congestion.
#11 Montpellier, France
The French Riviera is nothing but an enduring gem, but when the glitz and glam of Nice, Cannes and St Tropez gets a little stuffy, gentle respite can be found a little further down the shimmering coast. Ten kilometres inland, two hours from Marseille, Montpellier’s cosy gothic-medieval core dishes up a stunning summertime scene: a city of culture, grace, accessibility, and beauty.
European? Close enough. An effortless leap from the southern coast of Spain, Morocco lures the budding wanderluster across the Strait of Gibralter with its otherworldly North African pulse. Take a night train from Tangier to Marrakech, check out the tanneries and souks of Fez, and laze on a budget by the bejewelled coast of port city Essaouira.[related_articles]50464[/related_articles]
Cam Hassard is an international penman, sax-wielder and rogue wayfarer who writes for Junkee, Carryology, Huckberry, Caddie, Fairfax Media, Carryology, Intrepid, Peregrine Adventures and Europe Up Close. He’s eaten ant salad in Laos, hauled trucks from NYC to Vegas, and destroyed himself on the Camino de Santiago. Originally from Melbourne, he currently calls Berlin home.