Europe is home to many top-tier travel destinations. You can spend a lot of time exploring some of the bigger names on most travelers’ lists, such as France, Germany, Spain or Italy. But you will not be alone while you take in the sights waiting for you at Paris or Berlin. Get away from the crowds by visiting some of these lesser-known locations that you can find in these three underrated European Union countries.
A small central European country, Slovenia is often overlooked. However, people don’t realize that the country boasts beautiful vineyards, lovely towns, and even some beach access that you can enjoy. One of the best places to see in Slovenia is Lake Bled. The pristine mountain lake houses a small island in the center, on which sits the Assumption of Mary, a 17th-century church decorated with beautiful frescos.
You can also visit Piran, a small city on the Adriatic Sea. Colorful architecture reminiscent of nearby Venice overlooks the Portoz Beach. A trip to the capital city of Ljubljana will prove rewarding as well. A medieval castle overlooks the city, which features buildings in a range of styles, such as Mediterranean, German, and Slovenian.
Another Central European country often overlooked by its more famous neighbors, Austria offers stunning landscapes, fascinating history, and plenty of adventure. While the capital city of Vienna receives a good deal of attention, you can head away from the city to really see the best of what Austria has to offer.
Innsbruck is nestled in the Alps, surrounded by snow-topped mountains and world-class ski resorts. After all, Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics twice, in 1964 and 1976. Despite that, the resorts often cost about half as much as the more well-known resorts in Switzerland do.
If you are more interested in history, put Salzburg on your itinerary. The fourth biggest city in Austria was the birthplace of Mozart, and you can still visit his home. You will also find the Festung Hohensalzburg, the largest undamaged castle in Central Europe. These sights and many more are found in between a sprawling city filled with historic churches and buildings with architectural diversity that spans centuries.
Iceland has received a lot of attention lately as the filming location for some big-name television shows and films. However, if you really want to visit a place that deserves more attention, head instead to Finland, whose capital city of Helsinki was named the World Design Capital of 2012. All around the city you can see modernist structures such as the Kamppi Chapel of Silence, completed in 2012, alongside classic structures like the domed Lutheran Cathedral, built in 1852.
Finland offers some very different types of experience based on the time of year you visit. The country’s northern latitude means that the summer days are longer, letting you maximize the time you spend there, while in the winter you have a chance to see the Aurora Borealis.
You may have to leave the city to see the arctic lights, however. Head north to the Land of a Thousand Lakes to see a striking glacial-carved landscape with thousands upon thousands of sparkling lakes lying between dense Finnish forest.