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WHERE TO GO FOR A LESS CROWDED EUROPEAN SUMMER

Summer in Europe is a bucket list staple for many travelers.

I mean, it’s hard to resist slow mornings sipping coffee and nibbling on pasties in Lisbon, exploring historical landmarks in Rome, and winding down with a glass of Aperol spritz in Capri at a rooftop bar.

The only downside?

Everyone else has the same idea.

In between, you’re fighting for your life through heaving streets, struggling to get restaurant reservations, and paying out of your teeth for overpriced Airbnbs.

While these European hotspots are must-visits for a reason, there’s something to be said for ditching the crowds and visiting a lesser-known vacation destination during high season.

Here are some of the best alternative European destinations to try this summer.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Dalmatian coast is gorgeous, but it’s a hot spot in summer. Head further inland to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina and escape the hordes, flocking to Croatia’s shoreline.

Swap the packed beaches for fairytale-like streets, ancient stone bridges, day trips to waterfalls, and lazy days at surrounding vineyards.

Intrigued?

Here are some of the best things to do in Mostar during the summer months:

1. Check out Stari Most: It means “Old Bridge,” and it’s a tourist attraction for good reason. The original bridge was destroyed during the Bosnian War but was rebuilt in 2005 and given UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

2. Go on a day trip to Kravice Waterfalls: A quick drive from Mostar, Kravice Waterfalls boasts a large tufa cascade on the Trebižat River. Spend the day swimming, relaxing, and curling up with a good summer read. 

3. Visit Blagaj Tekija: The small village of Blagaj is a wonderful way to spend a morning. Just 16 minutes from Mostar, it’s home to the spellbinding Dervish monastery from the 16th century. Sitting along some of the bluest water you’ll ever see and contrasted against stunning traditional Ottoman architecture, it’s truly a marvel.

4. Hike to the Hills for a City View: For the more adventurous, a hike up the surrounding hills provides breathtaking views of the whole city, including the Stari Most and the river. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset.

Tallinn, Estonia

Home to a gorgeous coastline and stunning viewpoints, Tallinn is often overlooked because of its proximity to Helsinki. But if you’re looking for a summer destination in Europe that is easy on the wallet, add Tallinn to your itinerary.

And for history buffs? It’s a must-visit.

The city’s medieval Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a treasure trove of historical landmarks, romantic cobblestone streets, and beautiful architecture. Visit Town Hall Square, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and Toompea Castle. 

But Tallin’s intriguing history is only scratching the surface. 

Here are some of the best things to do in Tallinn during the summer months:

1. Enjoy Tallinn Music Week: If you visit in early summer, you might catch Tallinn Music Week, which showcases a range of musical genres from around the world performed at various venues across the city.

2. Relax at Pirita Beach: Just a short drive from the city center, Pirita Beach is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying water sports in the Baltic Sea.

3. Take a Day Trip to Aegna Island: A short ferry ride from Tallinn, Aegna Island is a peaceful getaway with forests, sandy beaches, and marked hiking trails. 

4. Explore Tallinn Creative City: Telliskivi Creative City is the largest creative center in Estonia, filled with art studios, shops, galleries, and some of the city’s most trendy cafés and restaurants. It’s a hotspot for experiencing Tallinn’s contemporary culture.

Belgrade, Serbia

Rome has the Colosseum. Paris has the Eiffel Tower. England has Westminister Abbey.

With so much culture and history, it’s easy to get swept up by the big names in Europe and forget about the gems that lie in the Balkans.

In particular, Belgrade.

It’s a cultural gold mine with cheap accommodation and far fewer summer crowds than Mykonos, Dubrovnik, or Amsterdam.

But don’t let the lack of people spending their vacation here fool you. Belgrade is an incredible European city to visit.

Here are some of the best things to do in Belgrade in the summer:

1. Explore Kalemegdan Fortress: This historic fortress offers panoramic views of the confluence of the River Sava and Danube. It’s also home to the Belgrade Fortress, several museums, and the Belgrade Zoo.

2. Visit the Museum of Yugoslav History: This museum complex includes the House of Flowers, the final resting place of Josip Broz Tito, the former president of Yugoslavia. It provides a deep dive into the complex history of the Yugoslav state.

3. Enjoy the Nightlife in Skadarlija: Skadarlija, Belgrade’s bohemian quarter, is known for its vibrant nightlife, traditional restaurants (kafanas), and live Serbian music.

4. Explore the Nikola Tesla Museum: This museum is dedicated to honoring and understanding the life and work of Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest inventors and scientists of the modern age. The museum holds many of Tesla’s personal belongings and interactive exhibits.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Let me guess.

You probably don’t know how to pronounce Ljubljana, nor is it near the top of your European bucket list.

Well, let’s change that, shall we?

First, it’s lube-lee-ana. Second, it holds the title of the “Greenest Capital City” in Europe and was the first EU capital city to develop a zero-waste strategy.

For these reasons alone, Ljubljana is the perfect summer destination for responsible travelers. The city is full of delicious vegan food, eco-conscious boutiques, and local-led tours.

Here are some of the best things to do in Ljubljana during the summer:

1. Explore Ljubljana Castle: Perched on a hill above the city, this historic castle offers panoramic views of Ljubljana and beyond. You can hike up to the castle or take the funicular. Inside, you’ll find exhibitions, a chapel, and even a restaurant with a view.

2. Stroll Along the Ljubljanica River: In the summer, the riverbanks come alive with cafes, street performers, and artisans. A leisurely walk or a boat ride along the river is a perfect way to enjoy a sunny day.

3. Enjoy the Open Kitchen Food Market: This food market, held every Friday from spring to autumn, showcases Slovenian dishes from different regions alongside international cuisine. It’s a food lover’s paradise and a great place to mingle with locals.

4. Visit Metelkova City: Known for its alternative culture, this autonomously declared cultural center offers an array of bars, art installations, and live music performances.

Which of these lesser-visited European cities are you planning to visit? Let me know in the comments below!