Top 10 alternative European destinations you must visit

Looking for alternative European holiday destinations? We all love to holiday in Europe but it can get a little crowded, so where are the top alternative European destinations that aren’t full of tourists?! If you’ve ever tried to actually get up the Eiffel Tower, check out the Colosseum or visit Anne Frank’s house you’ll be well aware the queues are absolutely insane. It can be better to visit Europe in winter to avoid the crowds, but the weather can be pretty dismal. There are some fantastic alternative European summer holiday destinations to consider for your next trip. So why not get off the tourist trail and see some quieter parts of Europe that are just as beautiful, if not more so.

What are the best alternative European holiday destinations?

1. Slovenia

Slovenia Lake Bled best alternative European holiday destinations

Some of the best natural wonders to visit in Europe in one relatively unheard of country. There are so many things to do in Slovenia. Stunning national parks, picturesque lakes, epic castles, terracotta roofed towns and a local cuisine to drool over. But it doesn’t have the massive crowds of neighbouring Austria or Italy. Head down to Lake Bled for a picture perfect floating church. Or go west to the seaside town Piran, with it’s Venetian rooftops and hidden alleyways. Slovenia is also the greenest country in Europe.

2. Kiev

Kiev Church Ukraine

Kiev is undoubtedly one of the top alternative cities to visit in Europe. The huge coffee culture and foodie scene mixed with the very cheap Hyrvnia currency make it an extremely liveable city. Kiev’s recent history also provides some very interesting street art and museums with the Soviet influence never too far away. But Kiev is anything but communist bland. It’s vibrant, quirky, friendly and did I mention very cheap!

3. Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki Alexander the Great

All eyes are on this city in northern Greece. As part of the old Macedonian empire, Thessaloniki is full of Roman ruins and odes to Alexander the Great (and is also the birthplace of Attaturk- where you can actually enter Turkish soil while still very much in Greece.). But Thessaloniki isn’t just old ruins and history. It is emerging as one of the best alternative city breaks in Europe. Jam packed with eateries from around the globe and bars to accommodate any kind of alcoholic (from casual drinks to dancing on the tables with one shoe missing). Take a stroll down the promenade at sunset to take in a slice of the local culture and maybe even take a free ride on a pirate ship around the bay because, well, why not?

4. Kutna Hora

Kutna Hora Czech

As obscure Instagram spots go this one’s pretty high on the list. Just outside of the Czech capital Prague, lies a small town called Kutna Hora with a slightly disturbing little secret. The Sedlec Ossuary here is home to over 60000 bodies that have had their bones assorted into various displays, including a bone chandelier. I’m not really one for dark tourism in Europe but this is a pretty unique alternative destination in Europe. Plus these people all chose to be buried here due to ‘holy soil’. So not that disturbing after all.

5. Salzburg

alternative european destinations 2020

You’ve heard of Vienna and the rolling Austrian Alps. But have you thought of visiting the place that the majority of the filming for ‘The Sound Of Music’ was carried out? We’re talking cute Austrian houses. Wide open green hills as far as the eye can see. Visit a schnapps farm and eat vast amounts of Sachet Torte in Salzburg. You can even hop over the border to Germany to visit the Eagles nest; Hitler’s mountain top hideaway complete with Golden lift. This is off the beaten track travel in Europe at its finest.

6. Porto

Porto train station Portugal

If Kiev is the best alternative city to visit in Eastern Europe Porto is it’s hot, Western cousin. History, check; Port literally comes from here! Art, check; the blue and white tiles are world famous. Food, triple check. Portugal has some of the best food from anywhere around the world. Porto Vs Lisbon? The bonus to visiting Porto rather than Lisbon is that eating out is usually about half the price. If you are wondering if Porto is worth visiting the answer is absolutely! Make sure not to miss the Porto indoor food markets when you’re there.

7. Grindelwald

Grindelwald Mountain alternative destinations in Europe

Now price is never in Switzerland’s favour when it comes to travel here. The Swiss trains, food and accommodation is going to coast an arm and a leg no matter how budget savvy a traveller you are. But the stunning Swiss Alps make it all worthwhile. Nowhere else in Europe can you find such stunning peaks surrounding pristine wooden chalets interspersed with the most adorable cows you’ve ever set eyes on. Nestled between Interlaken and Jungfrau (the highest point in Europe you can get to without hiking) is the perfect town of Grindelwald. I challenge anyone not to immediately fall in love with this place. There are many things to do in Grindelwald if you get bored of walking around. From summer tobogganing, clifftop adventure courses and mountain carts. Visit nearby Lauterbrunnen for the best brownie of your life or Murren for a quick Via Ferratta to work it all off.

8. Bath and the Cotswolds

Bath Roman Baths

It’s hard to explain to people that London may as well be a different country to the rest of the UK. London has in fact petitioned for independence in the past. The rest of England and the UK has so much to offer but barely gets a look in on the main tourist trail in Europe. One of the best day trips from London is Bath. A Roman town with ancient, well, baths obviously, and a pretty impressive cathedral on the borders of the Cotswolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A great base for exploring the quintessential English countryside and not a bad place for a pasty and afternoon tea either. Check out the top 5 villages to visit in the Cotswolds here.

9. Mljet

Croatia Mljet Lake

Ok so Croatian islands are no longer a secret. But this one’s a far cry from the party vibes of Hvar and well off the radar of the sail Croatia vessels. Not far from Dubrovnik, Mljet is 1/3 national park making it a nature lovers paradise. It’s home to the first marine protected area in Europe and some pretty epic swim spots and hikes for those long Croatian summer days. It’s one of the best alternative beach holidays in Europe and just a short ferry hop from Dubrovnik, the walled city that captured the viewers of Game of Thrones as Kings Landing.

10. Tallinn

Tallinn Fridge Magnet

Tallinn, Estonia’s beautiful capital city, has encapsulated the best that Europe has to offer in one easy to explore package. What is there to do in Tallinn? Cobblestone streets, colourful houses, a fascinating history and culture. It is the place to go if you’re looking to get off the beaten path in Eastern Europe. Hipster areas full of street art, delicious cuisine and yes, there is Gelato! Head to the nearby beach in summer or the Christmas markets in winter. Tallin’s small population means there’s lots of room to explore. So why not get out in to the beautiful Estonian countryside with this guide to taking a road trip through the Baltics. Who knows you may even spot a bear!

So there we have it 10 off the beaten path vacations in Europe. Take the road less travelled. Alternative European city breaks that aren’t Paris, Amsterdam or London. Why not get out there and see something that’s not on 20 of your friends Instagram feed? These alternative European destinations have so much to offer no matter what kind of holiday you are after.

How to travel better for less

Skyscanner – For flights at the best prices this is my go to site. I have also started using them for car hire and they can’t be beat!

Booking.com – I always book with this site if looking for cheap accommodation as the filters are so easy to use. Become a genius member after five bookings and get great discounts too!

Air BnB – Sometimes you can find great local places to stay on Air BnB. In some countries, like Cuba, it’s the only way to book!

Transferwise – A debit card you can use all over the world and get great exchange rates with no hidden fees. This bank has saved me £100’s in bank fees!

Monzo – A similar travel card to the above with additional features like joint accounts and bill splitting.

World Nomads – Travel insurance is one of the most important things you can have while travelling. Don’t leave home without it! World Nomads provide the very best cover.

Ethical Superstore – My go to site for cleaning products, eco clothing and even groceries. All ethically tagged and delivered free from plastic packaging. Plus eco friendly alternatives to your toiletries.

Omio – The place to go for all of your public transport needs in Europe. Save a bundle!

G Adventures – A sustainable, fun, responsible travel company. I’ve travelled with them many times and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of their amazing trips.

Contiki – The day job. Group travel for 18/35 year olds and memories to last a lifetime.

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Jo Williams

A Brit that got fed up of the 9 to 5 corporate life, I sold everything to become a full time wanderer. Having travelled to over 70 countries so far, I share my money-saving tips and secrets from inside the travel industry. Hoping to inspire you to work less and travel more.