We all want to travel to those bucket list European destinations like Barcelona, Venice, Paris, and Amsterdam. But sometimes the mere amount of people you have to deal with in these cities can be cause for headache. For a little more space to breathe, consider these alternative destinations.
1. Bergen, Norway
You’ve probably heard of Oslo, but what about Bergen? The second largest city in Norway, Bergen is the perfect blend of urban life and the outdoors.
There’s plenty of art museums, shopping, and places to eat downtown. Then you’re just minutes from mountain trails and amazing views of the fjords and city below. For some more ideas of what Norway has to offer, check out this article by Culture Trip.
2. Hamburg, Germany
Hamburg is an underrated destination and I can’t emphasize it enough. It has so much to offer, and taking the rail between neighborhoods can be like switching from night and day.
With a historic city center, an incredible warehouse district, upscale shopping districts, and plenty of alternative neighborhoods, you won’t get bored here. When you visit, be sure to take time in Speicherstadt, Sternschanze, and Eppendorf.
3. Les Calanques, France
Les Calanques is a national park filled with a series of spectacular beaches and rocky cliffs on the southern coast of France. The villages of Les Goudes and Cassis are the bookends of the park. I stayed in Montredon, a beautiful small town in between Marseille and Les Goudes. I really enjoyed it here and loved that I could walk from my Airbnb to Les Calanques.
If you only want to go on a day trip without trekking too far into the park, make Les Goudes your destination. The small fishing village is about a 30 minute drive from Marseille and essentially the last access point into the park by vehicle. You can spend the whole day enjoying the too-good-to-be-true views before heading back to your home base.
5. Lake Como, Italy
Tucked into the mountains in the northern region of Italy, Lake Como, or Lago di Como, is one of the most breathtaking and peaceful places I’ve ever seen. While the lake itself is far from “off the beaten path” (it’s famously known as a vacation hub for celebrities), there’s still plenty of room to relax.
Lake Como is surrounded by little towns. Instead of the tourist-heavy Bellagio, Varenna, or Como, stay in a smaller village. I stayed in Bellano, and loved the slow pace and the small community feel. Ferries run between the towns, so it’s easy to visit the other towns for a few hours, then leave the crowds behind again and return to the quaint neighborhood café or small pebble beach in Bellano.
5. Porto, Portugal
Porto is like Lisbon’s little sister. Edgy and historic, Porto carries much of the same charm as Lisbon with its tile-covered buildings and delicious pastel de nata, just with a few less tourists. Since Porto has been further behind Lisbon in the tourism game, your experience with the city may be less sparkly but more authentic.
To turn your city trip into a beach vacation, take a 15 minute drive up the coast to Matoshinos beach—the largest stretch of beach in the Porto district.
What’s your favorite “alternative” destination that I should include next time? I’d love to know!