8 hidden gems in Europe
There are some spots in Europe that everyone goes to - and for good reason, the top sights and attractions are definitely fantastic. But if you want to escape the crowds for a while, where should you head?
The best - and less crowded - spots in Europe
If you're looking for tranquillity rather than a hectic day out, why not head to some of these hidden gems, a little way off the beaten track?
1. Marken, the Netherlands
Located in North-Holland in the Netherlands, Marken is a beautiful little peninsula with a population of just under 2.000, famous for its picture-perfect wooden houses, white drawbridges and busy harbour. Join a walking tour, led by guides in traditional Dutch clothes, sample the local grain wine, or even pop into the old wooden shoe factory. The village is easily accessible via public transportation from Amsterdam.
2. Alcala del Jucar, Spain
Looking to soak up some history, incredible architecture, breathtaking natural beauty and fantastic Spanish food away from the city hotspots? Why not head to the village of Alcala del Jucar in Spain? Perching dramatically on a steep hillside, overlooking the Jucar River, this village is home to the Alcala del Jucar Castle, a medieval Arab fortress that has an unbelievable view of the countryside, the Church of San Andreas, that dates from the 15th century, and the Cuevas del Diablo, a series of caves carved into the face of the cliff.
3. The Ore Mountains, Germany
Some of Germany's other mountain ranges might be more famous, but the Ore Mountains offer something very special. This natural region lies along the Czech-German border, dividing the historical regions of Bohemia in Czechia and Saxony in Germany. The mountains extend for over 160 kilometres and have an average width of 40 kilometres. The highest peak is the Fichtelberg Mountain with an elevation of 1.250 metres. In the summer, people come to hike in the breathtaking scenery, while in winter it is a location for skiing, snowboarding and bobsledding.
4. Baleal, Portugal
Baleal, a pretty island in western Portugal, is the perfect place to enjoy the country's culture and traditions in a more secluded fashion. It is separated from mainland Portugal, about an hour away from Lisbon, and is easily accessible by bus or car. It’s known to be a surfer’s heaven with amazing weather year-round and great swells. If you're not into surfing, it's a great place to just kick back and relax at the beach.
5. Bachalpsee, Switzerland
More and more people are discovering the joy of this gem, so head there soon to beat the crowds! Known to the Swiss as the “blue jewel”, Bachalpsee is a beautiful lake in the Bernese Oberland, surrounded by rolling green pastures, blankets of wildflowers and gorgeous views of the mountains. It's a short hike from First or Grindelwald, making it perfect for families and casual hikers. The glacial waters reflecting the sensational mountains look like something straight out of a painting and are something every nature lover must see.
6. Monemvasia, Greece
Famous for its impressive medieval castles that were carved straight into the rock, Monemvasia is a town located on a small island off the coast of Peloponnese. It was originally only accessible by boat to ward off enemies, but there is now a single pathway that connects the castle to the mainland. Wandering around this interesting town lets you travel back in time while taking in unforgettable views of the pristine sea.
7. Rye, England
Around an hour and a half from London, near the coast of East Sussex, is the pretty old town of Rye. It is known for its cobblestone pathways and half-timbered houses, and other buildings that pay testament to the town's varied history, including the Ypres Tower, St. Mary’s Church, and Mermaid Street. Relax and have a drink at a local pub or stop for a lunch of fresh seafood. Soak up the sunshine at Camber Sands, one of the best beaches in England, and watch seals pop their heads out of the waves.
8. Mdina, Malta
Once the capital of Malta, Mdina is a regal fortified city in the northern half of the country. The influence of Maltese nobility and religious authorities still remains here, with grand architecture and intricate designs present throughout the city. A cool place to visit in Mdina are the Fontanella Tearooms which offer incredible views of the city and a relaxing cup of tea and homemade cakes. Visit the many cathedrals, museums, and catacombs that retell the ancient stories of this unique city.
Europe, but not as you know it
Step away from the big cities in Europe and you'll discover a whole ream of history, culture and beauty like you've never seen before! Have we missed any hidden gems in Europe? Let us know in the comments below!
This article originally appeared on IamExpat in Switzerland.
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