10 Emerging Places to Visit in Europe For a Crowd-Free Vacation
By Jamie Ditaranto
This article was originally published by Smarter Travel.
As the relentless crowds flock to major tourist sites in cities like Paris and Venice, travelers need to face the truth—we’re wearing each other (and the cities we’re visiting) out. It’s a struggle common across Europe, but that doesn’t mean all of Europe has been overtaken by legions of tourists. There are plenty of exciting destinations that may not be new, but they are emerging as exciting destinations worthy of a visit. Plus, the crowds haven’t gotten to them yet.
Vipava Valley, Slovenia
Just two hours from Venice, the Vipava Valley is a haven for adventurous travelers looking for room to explore. This little corner of Slovenia was recently named by Lonely Planet as one of Europe’s best destinations, and now is the perfect time to visit the valley before the crowds catch on.
Rent a car and drive through this countryside to find plenty of adventurous things to do, from easy-going bike rides through vineyards to stand-up paddle boarding on the Vipava River. And of course, frequent stops at some of the valley’s boutique winemakers like Lepa Vida and the Burja Estate are a must. Pepper your wine tasting with gastronomical stops to try locally produced staples like honey, cherries, and olive oil. For a bit of history, you can stop by the Kostanjavica Monastery and visit the Bourbon crypt, where members of the noble French family were buried following their exile after the French Revolution. Today, the monastery is an art museum and, from the platform outside the church, visitors enjoy clear views of the Italian city of Gorizia.
Where to Stay: In the Vipava Valley, camping and farm-stays are the way to go, but if you prefer a hotel, check out the Majerija. This 300-year old guesthouse has built all its guest rooms underground so as not to disturb the idyllic countryside with new developments.
England’s Great Southwest Peninsula
To get away from the crowds of big cities like London, you can hop on a train or drive two hours south to explore a hidden corner of England—its southwest peninsula. Made up of the regions of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, and the Isles of Scilly, the peninsula offers travelers 700 miles of coastal roads to explore and hundreds of castles and beaches to visit, plus two national parks and four world heritage sites.
There’s plenty of adventure to be had, whether you’re searching for fossils along the Jurassic Coast or hiking in Dartmoor National Park. If you like surfing or music, you can plan your trip around one of the regions famous festivals like Boardmasters, an annual surf festival in Cornwall, or the world-famous Glastonbury Music Festival.
Where to Stay: Lympstone Manor is a boutique hotel in Exmouth that’s worth planning your trip around if you like good food. Its biggest draw is the Michelin-star restaurant of the same name, where you can savor the best of modern British cuisine.
Ireland’s West Coast
Leave the crowds of Dublin behind by extending your trip to Ireland westward on the Atlantic Coast, a.k.a. the Wild Atlantic Way. A road trip down the coast will take you past charming villages and quiet bays. Stop at sights as famous as the Cliffs of Moher or drive the Ring of Kerry, all while discovering fresh landscapes like the Inishowen Peninsula in the north and the Slea Head Drive in the south. Crowd-weary travelers won’t just find solace in Ireland’s remote and lush sceneries; there’s also plenty of culture to be found in small villages like Doolin, famous as Ireland’s music capital, and Dingle, a small but thriving city that’s home to a famous concentration of traditional Irish pubs. With varied landscapes, hundreds of towns and villages, and plenty of charm, a road trip through Western Ireland is the perfect way to feel like you have it all to yourself.
Where to Stay: Set your GPS for the rural village of Cong and check out (or into) one of the best hotels in the whole country. Ashford Castle is an extravagant five-star hotel located inside a 13th-century castle, set on the shore of Lough Corrib, the second largest lake in Ireland.
Over the years, Stuttgart has become a popular Oktoberfest-alternative to beat the crowds in Bavaria, but any time of year is ideal to explore this under-visited city and the surrounding southwestern region of Germany. Stuttgart is a wealthy city, best known as the headquarters of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, and is home to 15 Michelin-starred restaurants and a slew of art museums. Outside Stuttgart, there’s plenty to explore in the German state of Baden-Wurttemburg, from the half-timbered town of Esslingen to the bright blue Lake Constance. The region is flush with castles and is famous for quirky year-round festivals that celebrate everything from white asparagus to plums. You can also stop in Bad-Wildbad, a spa town where you can enjoy a classic Germany-style spa without the crowds of more famous spa towns like Baden-Baden.
Where to Stay: Car enthusiasts shouldn’t leave Stuttgart without visiting both the Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Porche Museum. You can even stay at the V8 Hotel, Stuttgart’s car-themed wonderland.