How is it possible for such a tiny continent to be packed full of so much culture and history? Europe is an ideal destination for any travel fanatic, adventure seeker, party goer, foodie or even those just looking for a relaxing weekend away.
When thinking of Europe’s top destinations, we instantly conjure images of the greats: Paris, Rome, London, Berlin; and rightly so! The West’s capital cities have their amazing reputations for a reason, as they are constantly buzzing, always on top of the latest trends without a single dull moment.
However, in all this hype, we are overlooking some of the most vibrant locations this colorful continent has to offer. Packed with up-and-coming, quirky destinations, here is a list of cities which are soon going to be huge on the European tourism scene. So, grab your sunglasses, a beach towel and some sturdy walking shoes, as we dive into Europe’s best kept secrets and take a trip through the top ten alternative travel destinations.
10 St Ives, England
One of the most typical UK seaside towns, located in Cornwall and well known for its beauty and quirkiness, St. Ives is perfect for a more relaxing break. The city's streets are full of unique boutiques and a variety of cafes offering homemade cakes, scones and British teas.
Spend a calm day walking along the seafront enjoying some classic Fish & Chips on the beach - providing the seagulls don’t eat them first! If it's art you’re after, take a trip to The Tate to see the most current exhibitions or view some local pieces in one of the many smaller galleries around. Book yourself some tickets to see a play at the stunning Minack, the world famous open air theater.
9 Gdansk, Poland
A trip to Europe wouldn’t be complete without visiting the gorgeous landscapes of Poland. Although the main cities of Krakow and Warsaw are rich with culture, nothing beats the beauty of Gdansk.
Take a walk down the old merchant street, Long Market, to take a look at some traditional Polish architecture and have lunch next to the Neptune Fountain. In the evenings, take some time to visit some of the local bars and restaurants for a classic Polish beer brewing experience alongside Gdansk's delicious cuisine. If the visit is during the months of September and October, an absolute must-see are the local Oktoberfest celebrations.
8 Salzburg, Austria
Austria is a country best known for its art, and Salzburg represents that sentiment perfectly. You would do yourself a favor by booking some opera tickets at the Grosses Festspeilhaus, or by visiting Mozart's birthplace to see if you feel inspired by the Austrian air.
A visit to Salzburg can’t be complete without a trip to St. Peter's Abbey, which plays host to the oldest and most beautiful cemetery in the city. Whilst you’re there, it’s worth paying a visit to St. Peterskeller, the oldest restaurant in Europe, and trying the local delicacy, Salzburg Nockerl.
If you’re visiting during the summer months, you may be lucky enough to attend the Salzburg Festival, celebrating all forms of art, and always displaying exquisite performances of Mozart's compositions.
7 Rothenburg, Germany
Although Rothenburg is beautiful at all times of the year, as with any German town, you will get the best out of your time during the winter season, which is when Germany really comes to life!
Luckily, Rothenburg is home to an all year-round Christmas gift shop, so whenever you visit you will not be too far from the joyous season. See this beautiful medieval city turn into a real life Winter Wonderland as November comes around, with a Christmas tree towering over the town. Be sure to try some typical Lebkuchen (a baked treat), washed down with a mug of German beer to keep you warm.
6 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana, the continent’s rising star, is one of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful cities. On your first night, why not treat yourself to a meal in Neboticnik, one of Ljubljana’s most famous landmarks, and get a beautiful view of the whole city whilst the sun sets?
Another way to see the city is by river cruise down the Ljubjanica, which also makes for a rather relaxing trip (for those who don’t get travel sick). This city is also the heart of Slovenia’s rich culture, homing the National Museum as well as the National Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art.
5 Copenhagen, Denmark
Although Copenhagen is not the cheapest of destinations on the list, it is quickly becoming a European hot spot, so get there before the secret is out!
Make sure you fit in a trip to the Rosenborg Castle - the Danish are very proud of their royal family. If you’d prefer something more action packed, why not visit Tivoli, the famous "never completed" amusement park. If you’re interested in monuments, Copenhagen is home to The Little Mermaid.
Copenhagen also boasts a happening night life. Why not take a trip to The Jane nightclub for a hint of sophistication or see what’s on at The Black Diamond if you’re into live music.
4 Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik is perfect for those looking for a beautiful beach destination. Grab a deckchair, order a cocktail and sunbathe the day away on the sandy beaches. If you’d prefer a little serenity, why not take a half hour boat trip over to the calm island of Kolocep.
Take a stroll through the Old Town, see the famous street of Stradun and if you’re into history, take a look at the old defensive walls of Dubrovnik, a must see for any culture lovers. Locally sourced seafood is top notch and on every restaurant's menu, although it can be pricey. The further away from the seafront you venture, the better the prices!
3 Budapest, Hungary
A gorgeous city if you’re on a low budget, Budapest offers the best of both worlds: Buda, being the commercial city center full of shops and some of Europe’s most famous night life destinations, and Pest, which shows off Hungary’s natural beauty and culture.
Jump on the metro and visit Szechnyi, one of Budapest’s naturally heated thermal spas for a relaxing day or a crazy night, if you’re lucky enough to make it on a Saturday for one of their late night "Sparties".
If night life is what you’re into, you’ve come to the right city! Make sure to check out the Ruin Bars around and grab a shot of Palinka, Hungary’s famous spirit, guaranteed to get you a little merry. Don’t forget to try some Goulash soup whilst you’re there, which is Hungary’s main delicacy.
2 Manchester, England
Manchester, England’s capital of the North, is well known for birthing some of the top bands that Britain has to offer, including Oasis, The Smiths and The 1975. The music scene in Manchester is always creating new and unique sounds, meaning on any given night they’ll have the perfect live gig to suit your musical style.
With every type of food imaginable, from Almost Famous, home to the UK’s best burgers, to Saray, a traditional Turkish restaurant, foodies will fill their tummies with scrumptious meals. Visits to these restaurants are best topped off with a trip to The Alchemist for a cocktail or two.
A trip to Manchester wouldn’t be complete without a day out shopping at the Trafford center, or perhaps you’d prefer a cultural trip to the Imperial War Museum. Regardless of what you’re into, the National Football Museum is a must see, celebrating one of Manchester’s best talents, to be followed up by an iconic ManU game (or Man City, if you swing that way).
1 Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is a hot spot in Europe during the month of December when the Northern Lights hit the town: it is one of the most marveled sights in the world.
Rekjavik, however, has a lot to offer all year around. The geothermal Blue Lagoon, one of the 25 Wonders of the world, offers a day trip designed to melt away all of your stresses. You can also take a walk around the city center where you can see some of the bizarre architecture that has found it’s way into Iceland, such as the Hallgrimskirkja, which is perhaps the oddest looking church in Europe, if not the world.
Rekjavik is buzzing with nightlife, with popular nightclubs such as Litla Gula Haenan, which translates to "Little Yellow Chicken", an interesting name choice. You wanted alternative? You'll definitely find it here.