For many young people, the notion of traveling to Europe is rather passé. Between the insanely high numbers of tourists swarming Europe's hot spots and the fact that we hate doing anything that our parents did before us, it seems only natural that many backpackers and twenty-somethings are instead plumping for a vacation to South America or Asia.
Luckily Europe is a massive continent and there are tons of alternatives to the usual Paris-Rome-Amsterdam type-of-trip. Yes, as hard to believe as it may be, not every area is extremely popular and swarmed by tourists. Whether you are looking for less popular European vacation to avoid the crowds, save some money, or just because you are a contrarian and can't do anything that isn't 'against the grain' there are plenty of phenomenal destinations left in Europe that are on the up.
1) Porto, Portugal.
Although not only known as the birthplace of fortified wines, that is enough reason for me to visit any city. Situated along the Douro river estuary, Porto has long lived in the shadow of Portugal's capital city of Lisbon. In recent years the city has emerged as a cultural Mecca and boasts one of the oldest city centres in all of Europe, which was declared a UNESCO Heritage site in 1996. If you are a Port fan, winery tours and tasting can be found here for extremely cheap... at least it is until the rest of the world catches onto this stunning city.
2) Marseille, France
Ten years ago the people of France had a lot of words for the city of Marseille, cultured definitely wasn’t one of them. However the title of ‘European Capital of Culture’ given to them this year really defines the rate of change this city has undergone. Previously known for its urban decay and high criminality, Marseille has become one of Europe’s greatest comeback cities. This boost in image is mainly due to the massive investment in revitalizing the transportation system, port and art institutions. For the time being, tourists haven’t caught onto the ‘new’ Marseille but that certainly won’t last.
3) Dubrovnik, Croatia
Following the homeland war and dissolution of Yugoslavia, the countries created in the downfall have largely been off limits due to their shady history. However in the past few years the coastal nation of Croatia has risen up as a veritable paradise on the Adriatic Sea. One the most stunning area in Croatia is the southern city of Dubrovnik, whose old city is one of best-preserved examples of medieval walled cities in the world. Certified a UNESCO heritage site in the 1970’s, the Old City of Dubrovnik is a dream come true for history and architecture nerds alike. What it lacks in arts and culture, Dubrovnik more than makes up in ancient buildings, crystal waters and nude beaches. After joining the European Union in the summer of 2013 Croatia is becoming increasingly popular amongst tourists, so a trip is better made sooner than later.
4) Tallinn, Estonia
Despite the fact that the Iron Curtain fell almost twenty-five years ago, many tourists are only beginning to make their way into the eastern-bloc now. Estonia changed hands several times in the 20th century before gaining independence in 1988. Its capital city of Tallinn lays on the Gulf of Finland and is also a UNESCO heritage site, something that is not common for cities formerly of the eastern-bloc. Besides the stunning cobblestone streets and medieval buildings Tallinn is renowned as one of the top digital cities in the world, mainly due to their extensive public Wi-Fi network.
5) Reykjavík, Iceland
Situated at the top of the world, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean it is understandable why Iceland has been ignored by the world for so many years. The exception for this up and coming destination is that it is not cheap… like at all. Because the country has virtually no natural resources everything has to be imported and the cost of living is impossibly high. That being said if you are looking for alone time, Iceland is for you. You can drive for miles without seeing another person and experience the joy of feeling all alone on another planet.