Monday, August 9, 2010

Top Ten Towns in Europe You've Never Heard Of!

Keszthely, Hungary

Done Venice, Paris and London? Ticked off Prague, Budapest, Berlin and Dubrovnik? It may be time to delve a little deeper on your next European adventure. Here are some of the best under-the-radar towns and cities you should know about, writes David Whitley for The Sydney Morning Herald Traveller.

1. Ohrid 

Where? Macedonia.

Lake Ohrid is sandwiched between Macedonia and Albania, almost forming a bowl in the middle of surrounding mountains. The lake is surrounded by pretty holiday villages and monasteries (noticeably more so on the Macedonian side than the Albanian) but the major town of Ohrid itself is the real treat.

It has always been a popular resort among eastern Europeans but the rest of the world is just cottoning on. It'd be easy enough to just enjoy the boat trips and beaches but head up into the forests and along the cliff tops and you find numerous photogenic forts and churches.


2. Kutna Hora 

Where? Czech Republic.

Often done as a day trip from Prague (it's only an hour away), Kutna Hora is worth a bit more time. It's a lot more laid-back than the Czech capital - and delightful to stroll around when the sun comes out.

You could happily spend a couple of days ambling by the river and through the squares, stopping every few hours for a hearty meal and a giant beer in a pub garden. But it's the quirky attractions that give Kutna Hora an appeal beyond being pretty and having a cool gothic cathedral. The most famous of these is the Sedlec Ossuary - a chapel made almost entirely from the bones and skulls of monks.


Kuressaare, Estonia

3. Kuressaare 

Where? Estonia.

Estonia's Baltic Sea islands have long since been discovered by the Finns and Swedes, who pile over on the ferries, but the rest of the world is yet to catch on.

The biggest island - Saaremaa - mostly feels as though it is stuck in a time warp. It's an island with an independent character, where forests and windmills predominate.

Kuressaare, the main town on Saaremaa, is livelier and with good reason. It's a gloriously picturesque town dominated by a large, well-preserved castle dating from the 13th century. It's possible to hire a row boat and go splashing about in the moat around the castle.


Cetinje, Montenegro

4. Cetinje 

Where? Montenegro.

Montenegro's capital Podgorica doesn't match up to the beauty of the rest of the country. Most visitors stay on the coast but a day trip from there to Montenegro's former capital makes for a fabulous alternative to sunbathing.

Cetinje can be found high in the mountains and the views on the drive through them on the way from coastal Kotor are spellbinding at almost every turn.

Once there, you've got a small town crammed with palaces and mansions. Most of these have been turned into houses, embassies or schools but one particularly grand building houses the National Museum of Montenegro plus an art gallery.


5. Keszthely 

Where? Hungary.

Outside of the Nordic countries, Lake Balaton is Europe's biggest lake. It has always been a popular holiday spot for central European tourists and is known colloquially as the Hungarian Sea.

Balaton is one of Europe's great bargain holiday spots - bed and breakfast accommodation for a family can cost a pittance outside the absolute peak of mid-August - and Keszthely is the best base.

It's the only town around the lake sizeable enough to have a life of its own outside the tourism sector and thus has most life to it. Highlights include the vast Festetics Palace and the Marzipan Museum, depending on your tastes.


1 comment:

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