5 under-the-radar destinations in Europe

  The streets of Siena decorated in house colours ready for the Palio horse race.

The streets of Siena decorated in house colours ready for the Palio horse race.

Europe is a hotbed of destinations that are perfect for tourists. You can see the Eiffel Tower come to life in glistening light in Paris, sample some of the world’s finest cuisine on the old, cobbled streets of Rome, take a canal boat tour and sail past the unique architecture of Amsterdam and explore the fascinating history of Berlin.

But the continent is not all about these headline destinations, because while sprawling metropolises are headline acts, there are plenty of smaller destinations which pack a big punch without the crowds. Here are five undiscovered destinations in Europe that you need to visit.

Siena, Italy

  Siena dressed for the Palio.

Siena dressed for the Palio.

  On the racetrack at the Piazza del Campo.

On the racetrack at the Piazza del Campo.

Envisioning Tuscany will likely evoke thoughts of rolling hills and vineyards, but Siena is often overshadowed by neighbours Florence, Pisa and the Tuscan countryside. However, don’t discount this pint-sized city, as it is one of Italy’s most beautiful and is home to beautiful honey-coloured streets, amazing restaurants serving world-class cuisine and Instagrammable spots aplenty.

If you head there on either 2 July or 16 August, you’ll see the grand Piazza del Campo transformed into the arena for the famous bi-annual Palio horse race and have the chance to take in the pageantry of this sporting spectacle.

Delft, The Netherlands

  Canals are one of Delft’s most beautiful features. Image credit:    whitecat sg   /   Creative Commons

Canals are one of Delft’s most beautiful features. Image credit: whitecat sg/Creative Commons

Just six miles south of The Hague is the canal-ringed city of Delft. A ‘mini-Amsterdam’ of sorts, Delft is the ultimate Cutch day trip destination and gets its reputation from being the hometown of Golden Age artist Johannes Vermeer, the Royal House and white and blue Delft earthenware.

Visitors can still tour the workshops where this hand-painted pottery has been made since the 16th century. But there’s much more you can do, so make sure to have a wander to explore this serene, timeless town and stop for a canalside coffee and watch the world go by if you have time.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

  Walking through Rothebnurg ob der Tauber’s streets will make you feel as though you’ve gone back in time. Image credit:    Stefan   /   Creative Commons

Walking through Rothebnurg ob der Tauber’s streets will make you feel as though you’ve gone back in time. Image credit: Stefan/Creative Commons

Located within a short drive from Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of Germany’s most charming destinations. Spend a day just wandering through its well-preserved medieval old town, which still has its 14th-century walls intact.

You can overlook the town from the top of Town Hall Tower, take a walk along the tops of its walls, visit Little Square, which is where you can find Rothenburg’s iconic photo opportunity (as seen above) or learn all about the city’s history on a Night Watchman’s Tour, where you’ll hear captivating stories about local life during the Middle Ages and wartime.

Krujë, Albania

Krujë is one of Albania’s most important destinations, even if it doesn’t have the clout of nearby capital Tirana or coastal resorts Durrës and Ksamil. That’s because it was the birthplace of Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, who in the 15th century ruled over the region and made the town one of the most important centres in the resistance of the Ottoman Empire.

Today it is a popular day trip spot for tourists, who can visit the Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg Museum, housed inside Krujë Castle, and learn about Albania’s history and the significance of the town, or wander around the Old Bazaar of Krujë and pick up some souvenirs.

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

  Cesky Krumlov is often referred to as ‘Mini Prague.’ Image credit:    Avisionn Photo   /   Creative Commons

Cesky Krumlov is often referred to as ‘Mini Prague.’ Image credit: Avisionn Photo/Creative Commons

While the southwestern Czech town of Cesky Krumlov has been discovered by tourists, it remains unspoiled. This medieval marvel has a UNESCO-listed Old Town lined with a mix of Renaissance and Baroque homes and is a maze of twisting alleys built around the extensive Cesky Krumlov Castle complex, which is open for public visits.

Make sure to stop by the Gypsy Pub. As one of the town’s liveliest places, it has live music and a vast selection of beer – appropriate for a watering hole located inside the nation with the world’s highest beer consumption per capita.