Picture your favorite places in Europe: the fortified medieval towns, the sun-drenched vineyards, the rolling hills. Now picture those same places in peak season without all the tourists. Impossible? Not at these 10 undiscovered spots in Europe that are still delightfully crowd-free. For now, anyway.
Paris, Marseille, Nice—and Carcassonne? This UNESCO World Heritage city doesn't make it onto most travelers' must-visit lists for France, but it should. Located about 500 miles south of Paris, Carcassonne is a historic medieval fortified town where you can still see the inner and outer walls that once protected the city from invaders. The beautiful Gothic Basilica of St. Nazaire, with its stained-glass windows and 16th-century organ, still stands today.
Thought to be Germany's oldest city, Trier was once an ancient Roman capital. And evidence of Roman life is still on display here, including a 25,000-seat amphitheater and a city gate. For more modern history, you can visit famous (or infamous, depending on your political bent) communist Karl Marx's house. You won't miss out on the German nightlife scene by hitting Trier instead of the bigger cities—there are plenty of clubs, beer gardens, and bars here as well.
Naxos isn't on the popular Greek isle cruise route, and that's a good thing. Think empty beaches and green groves of olives and fruit trees rather than crowds, souvenir stores, and exorbitant prices. Don't worry, Naxos is still relatively easy to get to—there's an airport on the island as well as ferry service.
Porto Palermo, Albania
When you think of European vacations, odds are you're not thinking of Albania. But you should be, and Porto Palermo should be at the top of your list. This village has an 18th-century castle, a crystal-blue bay, and barely any tourists. Visitors are allowed to freely explore the inside of the castle.
Never even heard of Montenegro? That could be because it only became an independent nation in 2006. Kotor, located on the coast, is one of the best places in the country to visit—the town is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its natural beauty and cultural history. Kotor has seen its share of turbulence (it was, at certain points throughout history, controlled by Venetians, Hungarians, and Romans), but nowadays, all of its former rulers are most evident in the city's unique architecture.
Visiting Appenzell can feel a bit like stepping back in time. Residents of this historic district sometimes wear folk costumes, and many of the houses are painted in colorful ways that are unique to Appenzell. Need another reason to visit? It's the yodeling capital of Switzerland.
(Photo: Bolgheri, Italy via flickr/CC Attribution)
If you're coming to Italy for the wine, then Bolgheri is a worthy stop. Just about 40 miles from Pisa, Bolgheri's vineyards are world famous but not heavily visited. If you're not into wine, the region's cypress trees and rolling hills are entertainment enough for most.
Croatian cities Dubrovnik and Split have exploded in popularity over the last few years. Korcula, Southern Damaltia's largest island, however, remains largely overlooked—for now. On this secluded islet, you'll find medieval stone fortresses, deserted beaches, sword-dancing performances, and lush green hills.
Kosice, Slovakia, was the European Capital of Culture in 2013 (it shared the honor with Marseille). The reason for this nomination will be evident if you take in a drama, opera, or ballet performance at the historic State Theatre. There's plenty of history here, including heritage-protected buildings like the fortified castle of Spis, one of the biggest in Central Europe. And Kosice's natural beauty is remarkable, especially at the Slovak Paradise National Park, home to the Dobsinka Ice Cave.
Sibiu has been called "Prague without the tourists," and it's easy to see why. This Romanian town has large medieval squares, the remains of 39 ancient watchtowers, cobblestone streets, and restored Saxon churches. For entertainment, Sibiu has three theaters and a lively restaurant and bar scene.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 European Gems That Tourists Haven't Discovered (Yet).
(Lead Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)