Everyone has that bucket list of the ultimate vacation destinations. Traveling, especially internationally, is not something enough people take advantage of. Even when they do, they often overlook some of the most amazing places for some of the more “basic” destinations.
I have absolutely nothing against Paris or London (I’ve lived in both cities) because they’re both beautiful, fun and full of history.
But when was the last time someone told you they were going to Europe, and they WEREN’T going to England or France?
In case any of you were curious about what other gems await in Europe, I’ve helped you out and made a convenient list of must-visit countries.
1. Bretagne, France
I know I said OUTSIDE England and France. But, if you have your heart set on France (and I don’t blame you in the slightest), then you should feel free to go! Just make sure you leave a little time to visit a few of the less popular cities after you’ve finished traipsing around the City of Love.
Bretagne is technically not a city. It’s the entire North-Western part of the country. However, they have an entirely unique culture there; it’s a stark difference from Paris. I would recommend either Cain or Dinard. Both are close to the beach (Dinard actually IS a beach town). Buy freshly baked baguettes for breakfast, visit a local creperie for lunch, and have a picnic on the beach for dinner. The magic of a small town in France is that you can instantly smell crepes and pastries the moment you walk outside. You have a similar smell in Paris, but it’s mixed in with cigarette smoke and other city smells. You won’t get that authentic smell until you escape the city for a while.
Must-see sites: Mont St. Michel, Pointe Saint Mathieu, and Cathedrale St-Corentin.
2. The Lake District, UK
Okay, I included one in France, it’s only fair to include one in England, for when you inevitably go to London.
London is in the Southern part of the UK, whereas The Lake District is in the Northern. It’s definitely worth the train ride up though, because the landscape, the smell of the air, the rolling hills and mountains will be MORE than worth it.
Must-see sites for this oasis are The Beatrix Potter Museum, Lowther Castle and Gardens, and Holker Hall and Gardens.
NOW we’re getting into a few new countries. I have never heard anyone say “Ya know, I really want to go visit Croatia.” And that is one of the biggest shames. When you see it, you may never want to leave. Some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen have been in Croatia.
But I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Must-see sites: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Dubrovnik, and Zlatni Rat beach.
Everybody wants to go to Spain (for good reason), but they seem to just skip over Portugal. Portugal is rich with history and beautiful beaches, it should be high on your summer travel hit list!
Must-see sites: Pena National Palace, Bom Jesus de Monte, and Ria Formosa.
I have a really good friend who lived in Estonia for about 6 months, and when he talks about it, his eyes get a light that I never see otherwise. He can go on for hours about the castles and the rustic streets. His desire to go back to visit and the way he talks about that country makes me want to go see for myself.
Must-see sites: Kadriorg Palace, Estonian Maritime Museum, and Hermann Castle.
Growing up, I had a nanny who was Albanian. She had the sweetest accent, and she made the best spinach pie I’ve ever had. I’d probably go visit just so I could eat mounds of the spiced potatoes and tomatoes she used to make for me. I suppose the landscape and museums make a convincing argument as well.
Must-see sites: Albanian riveria, Lekuresi castle, and Mount Dajt.
While these locations are fabulous getaways from the more mainstream or cliche spots, I feel like you can’t really go wrong traveling to Europe. Open your eyes, and get ready to explore this whole new world.