5 Underrated European Destinations
Imagine a vacation with all the appeal of Rome or Paris without the crowds and high prices. We’ve compiled the most underrated European countries to visit, complete with dramatic coastlines, stunning architecture and fantastic cuisine. From Alpine skiing in Slovenia to scuba diving in Malta, there’s more of Europe to enjoy than standing in line at the Louvre.
Here are five underrated European destinations you need to visit before everyone else catches on.
Mountainous Georgia sits between Turkey and Russia and has vineyards as far as the eye can see. Anthony Bourdain calls the cuisine “excellent,” and the local liquor, chacha, is strong — friendly locals are always willing to share a glass. Spend a beach day along the Black Sea; wander the vibrant city streets of Tbilisi and marvel at Persian architecture, ancient churches, and ultra-modern glass buildings; or ski Shkhara, the second-highest slope in the world, beating Mont Blanc by about 1,200 feet.
As an archipelago nation in the Mediterranean, Malta has all the appeal of neighboring Italy and Greece but with a lower price tag and fewer crowds. One of the five smallest countries in Europe, it has centuries of influence from all over the continent, and the second official language is English, making it easy to communicate with locals. Explore ancient churches and sip limoncello in the palazzos of the capital, Valletta; scuba dive in turquoise seas off the rugged coast; and devour Sicilian-style seafood in Scoglitti.
The capital city of Riga is a major port of call for Baltic Sea cruises, with great restaurants and art nouveau architecture; outside Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, there’s even more to discover. Latvia is full of, picturesque medieval towns, centuries-old castles and untouched, natural beauty. Explore the Rundale Palace gardens, modeled after Versailles; spend the day swimming in stunningly blue Baltic waters after a night on the town in Liepaja; and visit a Cold War era radio telescope at Irbene Radio Astronomy Centre.
Sitting along the Adriatic coast, Montenegro is a less crowded and cheaper alternative to Croatia’s beaches. Its nearly 200 miles of coastline make sailing and hiking popular pasttimes, including the awe-inspiring trails of Durmitor National Park. From coastal medieval villages to great seafood and a thriving nightlife in Kotor (hello, castle-top cocktails), this tiny country packs in a lot of fun.
This Central European country, snuggled between Croatia and Austria, gets the best of both worlds — skiing in the Alps and sunbathing along its short strip of Adriatic coast — without the crowds. The natural beauty of this country is worth the trip alone, along with its historically beautiful yet modern capital, Ljubljana. Because of Slovenia’s neighboring countries, the cuisine is diverse (think Italian meets Eastern European), but the prices are affordable. The gorgeous Lake Bled and surrounding caves and hiking trails are a must-do.
Gabby Peyton is a writer based in Toronto. A photographer, dabbling archaeologist, and Champagne aficionado, Gabby’s travel is dictated by food; her favourite places are Istanbul, Bologna and St. John’s, Newfoundland.