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Europe's Hidden Gems: All the Beauty Without the Crowds

Many famous cities and destinations across Europe are at the top of dream travel lists, but are typically filled with other tourists shuffling to snap the same photos.  The crowds combined with the ‘tourist tax’ of everything being more expensive can make some of these gorgeous places a little less appealing.  The good news is there are an abundance of equally charming locations to visit without the mobs of tourists and high prices.  Here are a list of some of the top destinations and their lesser known alternatives that are worth exploring!

Castles

Internationally recognized as the “Disney Castle” Neuschwanstein is one of the most famous castles in the world.  Located in Southern Bavaria, the castle gleams on the side of the hill looming over the village of Hohenschwangau below.  Because of the high traffic flow of the tours, the tickets are usually sold out by lunchtime and even if you order tickets online ahead of time the wait can last several hours. 


Conversely, the castles guarding the edge of Monte Titano in San Marino is often virtually empty allowing guests to freely explore the long connecting pathways that resemble the Great Wall of China. This UNESCO world heritage site overlooks the Italian Apennines, rivaling the beauty of Tuscany. San Marino is also the oldest surviving sovereign state in the world and it's known as the Serene Republic.



Mediterranean Islands


Located near the center of the Mediterranean, Greece is well known for its popular destinations including Zakynthos, Santorini, Mykonos and more.  While each of these islands offer unique and stunning views, they are often overflowing with crowds which can quickly detract from the overall experience. In fact as many as 33 million tourists visit Greece annually! 


The neighboring Mediterranean island of Malta has a fraction of the visitors with just over 1 million tourists per year.  The old city of Valletta looks like a movie set with it's rich Baroque architecture overlooking the narrow cobblestoned streets that are lined by small restaurants offering a variety of cheap delicious cuisine. One of the best attractions may be the stunning azure blue Lagoon in Gozo, which is an easy day trip by boat!

The Balkans


After Game of Thrones became an international sensation, tourism spiked in Dubrovnik (the filming location for King’s Landing) virtually overnight.  The once sleepy town became booked out months in advance for accommodations and tours. Dubrovnik has recently been so overwhelmed by tourists that the mayor has considered placing measures to limit tourists and UNESCO warned that the Old Town, a World Heritage site, can’t handle the number of people who flock to it every day. 


Just a few hours further south down the Balkan coastline is a small seaside city reminiscent of quieter times in Croatia. Budva is a lesser known destination in Montenegro that is also nestled on the coast. Similar to Dubrovnik, it also features massive stone walls in the medieval old town of Stari Grad that were built by the Venetians and overlooks the water. The brightly colored red-tiled roofs provide a bright contrast to the turquoise waters.  Buddha also offers sandy beaches with fun nightlife and has beautiful coastal walks along the cliffs skirting the Adriatic Sea.

Capital Cities


Paris, Rome, and London maintain their dominance in European tourism, consistently filled with people throughout the year.  However even the less popular spots have skyrocketed in tourism over the last decade as more people traveled than ever before in history.  Prague has recently become a hot-spot with an influx of over 8 million crowding through Old Town to cross the Charles Bridge, catch a glimpse of the Astronomical Clock, and explore the Castle Hill.