Beyond the Eiffel Tower: 10 Best Travel Destinations in Europe (Part 2)

This is the second of our two-part series. You can find the first part of Best Travel destinations in Europe.

We, at Tripoto, are not fans of the familiar. And there’s something awfully familiar about best travel destinations in Europe, even to those who haven’t been there yet. The continent has been a muse for many and a dream for most. Its famous buildings and romantic waterways have had the world coming to it since time unknown. But, it is not defined by just the metallic opulence of Paris and the architectural genius in Rome. It is defined by the small, unknown stops that are missed when rushing from one must-see to the other. The tiny, reclusive places that don’t end up in most lists. That is the Europe we like experiencing at Tripoto.
So, if you feel that the Eiffel Tower is nothing more than a pretentious pile of scrap and the Big Ben is a waste of time, then we think you might like Tripoto’s alternative guide to experiencing Europe. Read on.

Brest, Belarus

Brest Fortress  (Image Source: PhotoPin)

Brest Fortress (Image Source: PhotoPin)

The eastern European nation of Belarus isn’t on most travelers’ radar owing to its stressed political environment, and long and complex history, but trust us when we say it’s probably the most surprising travel destination in all of Europe. While Minsk, the capital, might be the most heard of city in the country, the border town of Brest offers an exquisite mixture of history, architecture and nature.

Established by the Slavs, Brest went through several invasions during the course of its history and was under the Soviet Union till as late as 1991 before it finally fell under Belarus’s territory. The Brest Fortress, a World War II memorial, is the most important attraction in the city. Just walk the grounds and spend some time at the museum to try and understand this memorial’s complicated history. Brest is also home to some interesting museums like the Museum of Confiscated Arts and the Museum of Railway Technology. After the cultural and historical initiation spend time wandering around Nabierežnaja and Hohalia St. and enjoy the town’s laid back vibe.

Kosice, Slovakia – Europe

Kosice, Slovakia Image by Jozef Kadela, Source: Flickr)

Kosice, Slovakia Image by Jozef Kadela, Source: Flickr)

Tucked away in the valley of River Hornad, Košice is Slovakia’s second-largest city and served as the European Capital of Culture in 2013. The city is close to the Hungarian, Ukrainian and Polish borders and is easily accessible by a good network of roads and rail. It is also an artistic hotbed with several theatres holding performances all through the year.

Košice has the highest number of palaces in Slovakia and is a cultural cauldron in terms of architecture with a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau. The main attractions are the Gothic St. Elisabeth Cathedral and Immaculata Statue. Most of the town’s sites are present around the well-preserved historical center and the main street (Hlavná ulica) and can be leisurely covered on foot in a day.

Oulu, Finland – Europe

Oulu by Night (Image by Daniele Zanni, Source: Flickr)

Oulu by Night (Image by Daniele Zanni, Source: Flickr)

If there’s one reason to visit Oulu, apart from the spectacular beach and the enticing walkways, it’s the locals. The Finns are a warm and enthusiastic lot and they’ll welcome you into their homes just like they welcome the first speck of summer sunlight. The city, named after the river Oulujoki, lies on Finland’s western banks, opening up into the Gulf of Botnia.

Summer is the best time to visit as the city collectively breathes a sigh of relief and prepares to let the sunny warmth enter their lives. The waterfront Kauppatori (marketplace) springs into action with several food stalls and restaurants dishing out eclectic fare. Follow up an afternoon spent ambling around the market with an easy jaunt to Pikisaari, a former industrial region transformed into a close-knit artistic community. We recommend a short visit to the Sailor’s Home Museum, Oulo’s oldest house, to get a glimpse of life in the 18th century. Spend the next morning admiring the restrained flamboyance of Oulu Tuomiokirkko (the main church) and then dive into the many museums describing Oulu’s every facet from being a shipping town to the modern, high-tech metropolis that it is now.

Giethoorn, Netherlands – Europe

Giethoorn  (Image by Xavi, Source: Flickr)

Giethoorn (Image by Xavi, Source: Flickr)

Give the term ‘on the road’ a miss for this one. Giethoorn, 120 km from Amsterdam, is a village with no roads. Arguably the most famous spot on our list, there is something about this tiny village, also called the Dutch Venice, that kept floating around in our heads. With over 150 wooden bridges, 4 miles of canals, and some spectacular farmhouses, this town merits a halt during your trip through Holland. It is truly one of the best travel destinations in Europe.

Established in AD 1230 by fugitives from the Mediterranean, Giethoorn became famous after being used as a setting in Bert Haanstra’s 1958 comedy, Fanfare. The summers bring in a throng of tourists in boats and gondolas, changing this hamlet, home to 3000 people, into a thriving circus affair. Although, the thought of rowing along the canals on a warm summer afternoon is very enticing, we recommend visiting Giethoorn in the winter, when the canals are frozen over. Ice skate your way through the village, stopping only to enjoy the outstanding views.

Leiria, Portugal

(Image by Anselmo Sousa, Source: Flickr)

(Image by Anselmo Sousa, Source: Flickr)

Cradled between Castle Hill and Rio Lis and surrounded by Portugal’s biggest cities (Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra), Leiria is a medieval town flirting with modernity in measured steps. The town lies in Portugal’s Centro Region and is a necessary stopover while you gallivant through this southern European nation.

The Castle of Leiria presides over the entire town and is an important historical and cultural venue. It also hosts some cultural events like Leiria’s annual music festival during the summer months along with the Church of Saint Peter. M|i|mo (Portugal’s only museum for the moving image) has an elaborate collection of cameras and video equipment with an exciting interactive section replete with optical illusions and the works. Couple these sojourns with unplanned walks around town, or with a trip to the nearby areas of Batalha and Pombal.

Explore best of Europe and share your off-beat travel stories about these destinations.

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