If you’re like us, you must have wondered at least once where the massively increased volume of tourism is going to take us. Are the best non touristy places to visit in Europe going to take precedence as number one destinations? Is tourism ever going to wane?
While it undoubtedly emphasizes the importance of investing in infrastructure that can withstand all these newcomers and benefits they introduce to local economies, it’s important to be aware of all the potential shortcomings of such large influxes of people.
Besides the obvious argument for the preservation of the local ecosystem, there is another one, a more personal reason. Huge numbers of tourists are going to hamper each other’s experience and understanding of the place they’re visiting. Throngs of people with their cameras and smartphones out at all times can be downright discouraging, their murmuring dissonating and disorienting. It’s nigh impossible to fully grasp local culture that you came to learn more about when there are so many people indirectly preventing you from doing so. Of course, different people react in different ways, and there are absolutely those whose visit is never ruined by such nuisances.
After much deliberation, travellers who find this debilitation of experience to be unbearable usually opt for less-known destinations. They don’t necessarily have to be some lowland villages that no one has even heard of. However, there are plenty of cities in Europe whose importance has been largely overshadowed by that of endless megalopolises. These are the cities and places whose sights and attractions are less visited, seen and photographed, but not less worthy!
One of the richest provinces in Italy, and probably among the wealthiest in entire Europe, Lombardy houses many great destinations. It also has a perfect example of touristy versus non touristy places conflict.
Milan is by far the best-known city in the entire region. As such, it attracts unending swaths of tourists that come to visit this truly breathtaking city. Very few of them though take an excursion east of Milan, to an equally beautiful province called Bergamo. Tourists do come and go, but their numbers don’t even scratch what Milan gets.
The seat of the province is the city of Bergamo, divided into two different areas. The first one is the walled heart called The Upper Town, or Citta Alta. The so-called Venetian Walls around it are on UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, stretching for six kilometres around the core. Four gates disturb these otherwise perfect walls, great examples of impressive masonry work. The second, lower part of the city is Bassa, a more modernised residential area with shopping malls. If you’re up for the challenge, there are hiking trails leading from Bassa to Alta, the latter being in foothills of Alps. Otherwise, you can always just get there by funicular railway.
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Cobbled streets of Alta are matched in charm by few other places in Europe, and the same goes for its Piazza Vecchia. The old town is filled with historical landmarks that need seeing, such as Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and Bergamo Cathedral!
Outside of Bergamo, you can visit a lovely village called Lovere and Lake Iseo, both equally charming on their own.
Many tourists that come to Poland don’t concern themselves with any places other than Warsaw or Krakow. Surely, Gdańsk deserves more attention considering it’s one of the largest cities in Poland and its biggest seaport.
Of course, Gdańsk didn’t make it here by just being big. History of this city is long and arduous, with many museums and landmarks dedicated to its glorious past. It was an important medieval port town, whose wealth increased thanks to amber exports, a resource bountiful in the region.
Today, the city’s museums reflect its rich history, including its horrible fate in World War II. You should definitely visit Oliwa Cathedral and the enormous Gothic church called Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or St. Mary’s Church for short. It is one of the largest brick churches in the entire world! From here, you can walk down St. Mary’s Street, a charming, cobbled road that leads to Motlawa River.
Museum of the Second World War is a must-see modernistic experience that will leave you speechless. Much like Los Angeles, Gdańsk also has its own Golden Gate but it’s not a bridge. It is an actual large gate at one end of Long Street with Ionic columns, replacing the previous Gothic gate.
Even though Amsterdam is a relatively popular city with a decent number of visitors, the Netherlands still doesn’t see as many tourists as it could. If you want to avoid the ever-increasing prominence of Amsterdam as a tourist destination, try visiting Maastricht instead.
From museums to forts and walls, the city of Maastricht commemorates its long and harrowing story. Besieged so many times over the course of its history, it still managed to survive and pull through. Its strategic position on the river Maas was always a lucrative prospect. Today, many remnants of the time long gone decorate the gorgeous city. Places such as the Old City Walls and Fort Sint Pieter serve as formidable reminders of Maastricht’s defensive capabilities.
Even the Basilica of Our Lady looks like a fortress! This Romanesque structure has been upgraded over the years after its initial construction somewhere in the 11th century. Visit its crypts for quite an eerie experience!
Many museums dot this fine city, such as the Natural History Museum, Bonnefanten Museum and Museum Derlon. They’re all worth the visit, especially the Bonnefantent Museum which looks like a bullet and contains a rich selection of medieval arts and sculptures. It occupies a prominent position on the river Maas, dominating the surrounding structures with its unique shape.
Viseu is a small town in central Portugal that captures the hearts of its visitors and never lets them go. Yet, you won’t see piles of tourists there, waiting to take a photo of every granite rock Viseu sits on.
A city of exquisite wines and enchanting architecture, Viseu’s roots stretch all the way to the ages of Romans. Just like Maastricht, Viseu also served as a fort, situated at the intersection of several trade routes. Thanks to its originally defensive nature, we can visit Porta de Soar even today. This medieval gate leads to the charming, Baroque Viseu Cathedral. It was renovated in the 17th century after a terrible storm, but it still holds on to its charm. You might also want to visit Casa de Ribeira in the northern part of town. It allows you to take a peek into the lives of Viseu’s ancestors, letting you study their society and culture.
Across the street from Viseu Cathedral, you will spot a picturesque church that combines several different styles and looks as if it came out of a fairy tale. It is called Igreja da Misericórdia, and it is enough of a reason to visit Viseu on its own merit.
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Among other hidden Europe gems, Graz stands out in part due to its relevance as one of the greatest education centres on the continent. For some reason, it always falls out of grace when compared to Vienne, which is not reasonable considering how majestic and developed Graz is.
Any custom travel plans to central Europe should include Graz in them, and here are a couple of details why. To incentivise you to visit the gorgeous city, we’ll let you in on a couple of unimaginable places to start you off.
If you plan to see Graz on some sort of pilgrimage, you won’t be disappointed. Neo-Gothic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or Herz Jesu Kirche, is an awe-inspiring sight worthy of spending several days there. Seeing how impractical that is, you’ll have to visit some other imposing places as well, such as Eggenberg Palace or the Styrian Armoury. The former is a lovely, well-kept palace that’s worth a couple of photos, while the latter is an armoury full of renaissance weapon and armour sets.
Kunsthaus Graz is also worth visiting, especially since it’s so weird on the outside. Depending on who you ask, you’ll either hear it called a ‘friendly alien’ or an eyesore. Inside, you’ll find many contemporary works of art and some fantastic exhibits.
Montenegro is still a relatively low-key place, a completely off-the-beaten path for many a ravenous tourist. Its sharp, winding seaside is the perfect place to get lost in a holiday adventure with few people to bother you.
Bay of Kotor is among the most beautiful locations next to the Adriatic Sea. The inner core of this location is Kotor Old Town, a place of steep climbs, rustic buildings and a great number of churches and cathedrals. Religious buildings gather both Catholic and Orthodox flock to their doors. Places such as St. Nicholas’ Church, St. Luke’s Church and St. Typhon’s Cathedral are solemn monuments of old, well-maintained and breathtaking. Kotor Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a living, breathing entity from a time long forgotten.
When you’re ready to climb even higher, try and conquer San Giovanni’s Fortress that overlooks Bay of Kotor from its mighty vantage point. Trust us, it’s worth the hike!
Some honourable mentions include the village of Perast and two gorgeous islets across the way from it. Of course, no good list can exist without cats on it so check out Cat Museum in Kotor. There are even some exhibits walking and purring to get your attention.
Perhaps it is Bristol that best describes what less touristy destinations in Europe are all about. It is an amazing city where you can do all the things you would do in overcrowded tourist havens, but without all the fuss.
Bristol is a cool, laidback city where young people really have everything they need. If you ask them to be your guide, you will most likely be taken for a sharp, stomach-churning cider so be ready. One of the most recognisable landmarks of Bristol is the legendary Clifton Suspension Bridge. It crosses Avon Gorge, leading to the mysterious Leigh Woods.
Bristol Harbour is no less interesting, especially with organized ferry cruises along the Avon River.
St. Mary Redcliffe is a stunning Gothic church and quite a great representative of this terrifying style. Its stained glass windows are among the most beautiful you’ll ever see! You have no doubt wondered how life looked like in 18th century Bristol. Who hasn’t? Drop by the Georgian House, entry is free of charge, and take a look at what life used to be for the inhabitants. Well-preserved rooms are almost identical to the original ones!
When all else fails, enjoy Bristol as the locals do – grab a couple of drinks, see a play, or go dancing at one of the many festivals that take place right here, in one of the best non touristy places to visit in Europe.
One of the last bastions of tourist-free Germany, Trier has recently come under the radar of many visitors. If you plan on visiting one of the most picturesque European cities in peace, you ought to hurry up!
Best described as Rome of the North, Trier does truly resemble Rome in many aspects. Walking down its streets is like walking down the cobbled roads of central Italy, there is even a complex of imperial baths. Trier Baths date back to the 4th century and are one of the most grandiose structures of its kind outside of Italy. It won’t come as a surprise then that Trier also has an amphitheatre similar to those found in Rome.
Trier is a place of contradictions, boasting the oldest cathedral in the entire country, while also being the birthplace of Karl Marx. Trier Cathedral mixes several different styles, resulting in a structure architecturally sound, and beautiful to behold. Basilica of St. Paulinus is a Romanesque church, whose interior resembles heaven itself – it should be a must-see on all Europe trips heading through Trier. When you’re tired of sightseeing, enjoy delicacies native to Trier and Germany. Trier Riesling is such an elegant wine, its vineyards stretching the length of Mosel River.
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A city unknown to many travellers outside the European continent, Gothenburg in Sweden is an actual work of art. It’s probably among the best non touristy places to visit in Europe, yet rich in culture and teeming with life.
For a city of such high culture, it’s natural to expect great exhibitions in museums and art galleries, extravagant theatre plays and unusual festivals. You won’t lack any of these things in Gothenburg, especially if you visit Gothenburg City Museum. Universeum has so much in store for anyone who loves science and technology. Gothenburg Museum of Art will open a window into the dark mind of Edvard Munch and introduce you to some other artists as well.
Haga district will reveal an old town of cobbled streets and wooden houses, a great place to take a couple of photographs.
Done discovering? Try some local seafood, especially clams and oysters – they’re such a delicious treat in Gothenburg. Seafood might not be right up your alley, but don’t worry. With so many streets crowded with cosy cafes and bakeries, you’ll find something to your liking.
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For the last entry for today, we’ll present you with Greece’s hidden gem – Meteora. This unexplainable rock formation in central Greece really is a beautiful, otherworldly place, but it hides even more little gems.
Of twenty-four monasteries that existed atop these wild rocks, six remain today. Very few visitors head this way, maintaining Meteora’s original purpose. During Ottoman occupation of Greece, monks retreated to the top of these rocks and made their homes there. More and more people needed sanctuary from the invaders, and monasteries sprung to life. Poets, philosophers and people of various different persuasions came here to take shelter and protect Hellenic legacy and history.
Back in the day, a rope was the only way of climbing these high, unreachable points. Today, you can follow a path up these rock formations to get to monasteries, but it’s no less daunting than it used to be. Reaching the top is a truly humbling experience, not just because of the presence of these perched monasteries, but also because of realisation that this is where Hellenic culture fought for its life – and won.
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Places that aren’t teeming with tourists are slowly going extinct. The world is everybody’s oyster now, and we have to learn to share. It’s understandable to be unable to come to terms with that.
So, if you have any problems enjoying your visits due to overcrowdedness, hurry up and see as much as you can. To answer our question from the very first paragraph – no, tourism will not wane. Crowds are just going to get bigger as people from all over the world come to visit places unknown to them. Most individuals will want to discover new lands on their own, and it’s a trend that we do not expect to end soon. With so many wondrous places to visit in our fine world, it would be a shame for you not to experience them just because other people are doing the same thing as you are!