We love Europe. Who doesn’t? With centuries of history, picture-perfect towns and tons of popular hotspots, there’s something for everyone, no matter your budget. The only problem is… since everyone loves Europe, the top destinations can get awfully crowded, especially at peak seasons. But we’re here to help! While the mainstays of Paris and Barcelona are great starter cities, here are 4 alternatives that will put you ahead of the travel curve – make your friends jealous and make the most of your trip – before the crowds catch on.
These are the alternative European destinations to go to beat the crowds
It’s easy to compare Barcelona and Valencia: both have equally stunning architecture, incredible food and scenic beaches. But with traveller interest up 63% for summer*, Valencia is clearly becoming the new star of Spain. If you know a few words of Spanish, you’ll be able to get around just fine, but you’ll quickly realize that signs and landmarks are using another language altogether. This is Valenciana, a dialect/language unique to the region. The Spanish ‘mercado’ becomes ‘mercat’ and ‘calle’ becomes ‘carrer’. Another Valencian speciality? Paella. This famous regional dish is served at almost all local restaurants, but we recommend the one at Navarro Restaurant. Be forewarned: Navarro is only open from 1:30pm-4pm and closed on Sundays. If you’re after some beach time, La Malvarrosa is the city’s more popular beach, but if you take the metro out a bit, Port Saplaya gives you all the sand time you want, without the crowds. Otherwise, you can’t miss sights like the futuristic Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (an opera house-science museum-aquarium hybrid) or the infamous Holy Grail at the city’s main cathedral.
Portugal seems to be Europe’s latest hotspot, taking the spotlight from Iceland. And while Lisbon is the first destination on many people’s minds, Porto is also well worth your time. Your first stop should be the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, a beautiful open space built atop a bluff with fresh flowers in bloom all summer long. Continue your tour with a stop at Livraria Lello, generally referred to as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. Claus Porto is a perfect spot to pick up souvenirs and gifts that are as colourful as the city itself. And, of course, no holiday to Porto would be complete without sampling their famous namesake beverage. Take a walk across the Dom Luis I Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia. This area is home to amazing boutiques where you can taste Port wine all evening long. We recommend you visit the Croft Port wine cellar, where you can sip out on the terrace or among the barrels.
While Paris is still the city of light and dreams, Marseille is like its edgy younger sibling that is finally coming into its own. On your next visit to France, don’t just follow the hordes thronging to the capital – take the time to make this Mediterranean city your next stop. Start your day with a pastry at Patisserie Sylvain Depuichaffray. Then, visit the Noailles neighbourhood to get spices, nuts and dried fruits at Saladin World of Spices or a new pair of shoes at Corner Street. For dining and sightseeing, you’ll want to head to Old Port. Get classy at Une Table au Sud — a Michelin-starred restaurant that sources local ingredients for all their dishes. Just be sure to order their bouillabaisse, the chef’s take on the city’s traditional fish soup. Walk La Corniche, a paved trail along the shore. From there, you’ll have a perfect view of Chateau d’If (famous for its portrayal in Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo). You should also make a point to visit the Musee des Beaux Artes, an art museum set inside a stunning castle-like building (go get those Insta-snaps).
Santorini may be the stuff of Instagram-dreams, but it’s also one of Europe’s hottest trends. And while Athens was Australia’s trendiest holiday destination last year, Santorini is your place to escape the city for a perfect beach holiday. Here, you won’t find the non-stop party that you get in other islands like Mykonos and Ios. Use this to your advantage: take time in Santorini to relax and rejuvenate. Get your spa on by chartering a boat off the coast of Fira to the volcanic hot springs and mud bath. Or go to Fish Spa Kangal for a fish pedicure. Find your Atlantis by visiting Akrotiri where, for around $7, you can explore an archaeological excavation site. Take time to unwind at Santo Winery, where even the most amateur oenophiles can take on a tasting of up to 18 wines (!). And no trip to Greece is complete without visiting a traditional taverna and ordering some regional dishes like fava me Koukia (mashed fava beans) or saganaki (fried cheese in filo dough, covered in honey).
Interest is up to several other under-the-radar European cities this year. If you need still more ideas, try out KAYAK Explore to find the best deals from your home airport, laid out for you on the world map!
All data is based on YoY median airfares conducted from KAYAK.com and is intended to be used as a guide. Travel dates are May 25, 2018 – September 3, 2018, and search dates are May 9, 2017 – May 9, 2018. All flights considered are economy, return. Prices and availability subject to change.