Think you know Europe?
There are very popular destinations in Europe known worldwide such as Paris and its museums, Amsterdam and its canals, London for its shopping, and atmosphere. However, Europe is still full of under-the-radar gems like Provdiv in Bulgaria or Palanga, Lithuania in Eastern Europe.
Consider Europe’s lesser-known destinations and you will discover stunning hidden paradises.
The jewel of the Italian Riviera is the sumptuous fishing village of Portofino, east of Genoa. Amazingly little has changed from the Sixties when Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra were among those holidaying there. It sits on a rocky promontory, its cluster of ochre and pink buildings backed by hills clad in pines, palms, azaleas and cypresses.
Filled with summer yachts and the odd fishing boat and fringed with cafes and restaurants, the harbour is the little hub of village life. You can even see dolphins, who frequently romp in the clear waters just beyond the village.
Located along one of Wold’s most beautiful bays is Kotor, a city of traders and famous sailors, with many stories to tell.
The Old City of Kotor is a well preserved urbanization typical of the middle Ages, built between the 12th and 14th century. Medieval architecture and numerous monuments of cultural heritage have made Kotor a UNESCO listed “World Natural and Historical Heritage Site”.
Palanga is found in western Lithuania on the Baltic coast and while it was originally a fisherman’s village, today it moonlights as Lithuania’s most popular beach resort. The main attraction of Palanga is the beach. With over 15 kilometers of sandy beach, you can be certain of finding your own patch of sand to plant a sun umbrella. The beach is fringed by dunes that are a nice place for sunbathing without the wind, and you won’t be put off by beachside hotels towering over you as you sunbathe – there aren’t any, just pine trees. Palanga may be a bustling seaside destination during warmer months, but there are plenty of nearby destinations to discover.
With an easy grace, Plovdiv mingles invigorating nightlife among millennia-old ruins. Like Rome, Plovdiv straddles seven hills; but as Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city, it’s far more ancient. It is best loved for its romantic old town, packed with colourful and creaky 19th-century mansions that house-museums, galleries and guesthouses.
Pristine in Kosovo is hidden gem of the balkans, a vibrant city with international restaurants, hotels, and nightlife spots. There are some lovely narrow streets and traditional Turkic neighbourhoods to explore. But this city is more about the exuberance and energy of a brand new country finding its feet. Coffee is great – Pristina claims the best macchiato in the world – and the cuisine is heavily Albanian-influenced. It is definitely worth a visit for a taste of Kosovar culture.
Tirana, the Republic of Albania’s largest city, is blessed with a mild Mediterranean climate, a plethora of beautiful churches and lush parks. Founded in 1614, some striking Mussolini-era architecture dots the city centre. Having undergone a transformation of extraordinary proportions since it awoke from its communist slumber in the early 1990s, Tirana’s centre is now unrecognisable, with its buildings painted in primary colours, and public squares and pedestrianised streets a pleasure to wander.
The soaraway success of low-cost airline Norwegian has opened up a lot of new routes into the country, arguably none more interesting than this town in prime fjord country about 260 miles north of Bergen. Not only is the location great – on a narrow peninsula – but the town has renowned art nouveau architecture having burned to the ground in 1904 then rebuilt in the fashionable style of the times.