Finding unobstructed views of Baroque architecture or an empty patch of beach seems almost impossible in Europe. There's almost nowhere on the continent that hasn't felt the strain of too many tourists. Nevertheless, you still have options that won't leave you wading through crowds. Make the most of your trip with these 18 alternatives to Europe's most chaotic destinations.
Offering all the beauty of Dubrovnik and more, the walled city of Kotor nestled in the mountains is the perfect alternative to its more crowded, stuffy neighbors. This unpretentious delight overlooking a beautiful bay is the perfect place to set up camp while exploring the rest of Montenegro.
Although Kotor features just one small rocky beach outside its walls and the harbor is bad for swimming, it's conveniently located on Montenegro's coast, close to both Bar and Budva where visitors can find beaches galore. Get up early to see the city, then wait for the afternoon rush of tourists from visiting cruise ships to die down. In the evening, hike up to St. John's Fortress above the city for the perfect sunset photo over the bay.
Paris is the capital of France and its biggest city, but it's a world apart from the rest of the country. Visit Bordeaux for a taste of the real France. The largest city in one of France's most renowned wine regions, Bordeaux has experienced something of a renaissance in recent years. Visitors will find green spaces, manicured gardens and shops along the riverbank where once there was only abandoned buildings.
Better yet, if you do just a little bit of research ahead of time, you can't have a bad meal in Bordeaux. Also, the Cite du Vin wine museum is arguably the best of its kind in the world, with modern architecture contrasting with the region's time-honored tradition of winemaking. The International Independent Film Festival and the Bordeaux Metropole International Arts Festivals both take place in October, just to name two of the amazing cultural events hosted by this up-and-coming city.
Sao Miguel, The Azores
Replete with stunning vistas and sandy beaches, you might think you're on the Adriatic coast. But this is Sao Miguel, the jewel of the Atlantic. Just a two hour flight from Lisbon, the lesser-known archipelago of the Azores is part of Portugal, but it'll make you feel like you've left for another world. The Lagoa das Sete Cidades and Boca do Inferno make for amazing hiking, and Praia de Santa Barbara's black sand is sure to wow. If the beach isn't to your liking, try some of the many natural pools around the island. As a bonus, visit Gorreana tea plantation on the island's northern coast for some organic black and green tea, the only farm of its kind in Europe.
Turin is often passed over in favor of Milan and Florence to the east, but the city's homey atmosphere and cozy streets aren't just on account of the alpine weather. It's a delightful town sporting Baroque and contemporary architecture, great culture, and incredible cuisine. With influences from Vienna and Paris, this was the first capital of unified Italy and where the Fiat was first produced.
The city is perfect for those looking to walk along tree-lined streets and among ornate buildings. Its grand piazzas give way to labyrinthine alleys with small cafes pouring shockingly delectable wine from unlabeled carafes. A ride to the top of the Mole Antonelliana offers a view of the city against the dramatic backdrop of the Alps. The Fiat Lingotto Factory on the other side of town has gotten a facelift and is full of shops and even a concert venue. Don't leave without sipping a Bicerin, the drink for which Turin is famous: melted chocolate and espresso topped with whipped cream.
A three-hour bumpy bus ride from Shkoder in northern Albania, Theth is a tourist-friendly village that's rarely full. Its remote location is what keeps visitors away, making it one of the Balkans' best-kept secrets. Although it's become more popular in recent years, the rugged mountain hideaway is the perfect place for seclusion and tranquility. Skip the Switzerland and take the unpaved road into the mountains to Theth for some fresh air, hiking, and camping.