A European vacation is the stuff of dreams. Who hasn’t dreamed of Springtime in Paris? London is regal, Berlin has arts and culture and Rome is ideal for everyone from history buffs to foodies, but Europe isn’t cheap. Everyone wants to be here, everyone wants to visit and the law of supply and demand dictates that this means that Europe is expensive for travelers. But it doesn’t have to be.
Sure the main cities are pricey. Hotel room prices in London verge on the preposterous, a meal in a nice restaurant in Moscow can cost about the same as a small car, and don’t get us started about the cost of anything or everything in Switzerland. The Swiss are great but you may have to sell a kidney to afford a coffee in Geneva. It is under this backdrop that we present this guide to Europe’s less expensive but just as fabulous, hidden gems.
1. DELPHI, GREECE — MYTHICAL MOUNTAIN
With deep roots in Greek mythology, Delphi is a vacation spot where you can lose yourself in the history of the Delphi Ruins. Just an hour outside Athens, Delphi is a mix of both ancient and modern, topped with the scenic slopes of Mount Parnassus, making it a ski town year-round — ski in the morning and explore ancient mythology at the Temple of Apollo in the afternoon, even on a glowing summer day.
2. DIJON, FRANCE — MUSING WITH MUSTARD
Escape the crowds in Paris this summer and visit Dijon, mustard capital of the world. Capital of the Burgundy region, Dijon is famous for more than just the yellow spread. Not only is it renowned for its medieval architecture, but it is also the region in which eight of the world’s ten most expensive wines are produced.
3. ROVINJ, CROATIA — BLUE PEARL OF THE ADRIACTIC SEA
This colorful coastal town is relaxed in nature, rich in history and caters to just about any taste. Sun seekers can soak up rays on its expansive beaches, historians can tour the old town and learn the Balkan history, and adventure junkies can rock climb at Zlanti Rt Forest Park.
4. LECCE, ITALY — FLORENCE OF THE SOUTH
Lecce offers a Tuscan-like experience without the crowds often found in the more popular tourist destination of Florence. This quaint Italian town is packed with Baroque-style architecture and a vast collection of artwork, ceramics and classical vases from the region, housed at the “Museo Provinciale. Priding itself on R&R, shops in town close daily from 2:00pm to 5:00pm so locals can rest while visitors also take a snooze or explore the neighbouring seaside town of San Cataldo.
5. SINTRA, PORTUGAL — ROYAL ROOTS WORTH SEEING
Home to historical palaces and ancient estates, Sintra is best known for its royal roots just outside of Lisbon. Be sure to visit the notable Sintra National Palace, a World Heritage Site and the best preserved medieval royal palace in Portugal. But if royal history is not for you, explore the golden Atlantic beaches, mountainous cliffs and panoramic views of this modern day Portuguese city.
6. CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY — CHIMING WITH FAIRY CHIMNEYS
Prepare to be amazed by the spectacular landscape in the prehistoric region of Cappadocia. Ancient rock formations called “Fairy Chimneys” dot the area and offer visitors the opportunity to navigate through old caverns and a vast network of underground cities. Go sightseeing in ancient caves below the city or experience them from above on a sunrise hot-air balloon tour.
7. BRIGHTON, ENGLAND — LONDON’S COTTAGE COUNTRY
Just like Canadians escape to cottage country, Brighton is the seaside sanctuary for Londoners. Enjoy a sunset stroll along the promenade at Brighton Pier or indulge in traditional pub fare after a day of swimming in the English Channel. And when the sun goes down, enjoy the bright nightlife and dazzling displays that Brighton has to offer.
8. SEVILLE, SPAIN — DANCING WITH HISTORY AND TRADITION
Like many other Spanish cities Seville is saturated with rich Spanish art, architecture and culture. But what makes Seville different is its recognition as the birthplace of Flamenco dancing. From cante (singing) and toque (guitar playing) to palmas (handclaps) and baile (dance), Seville is the perfect travel spot for anyone looking to break out their dancing shoes.
9. LISSE, NETHERLANDS — GARDEN OF EUROPE
A quick 30 minute drive from Amsterdam, you won’t want to miss the colorful town of Lisse. Best known as the ‘Garden of Europe,’ Lisse is the home of Keufenhof Park where seven million flower bulbs are planted annually, covering an area of 32 hectares, alongside other budding floral beauties hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises and lilies. But if you want to see the city in full bloom, visit in May during the annual Flower Parade.
10. SYLT, GERMANY — GERMANY’S SURFER’S PARADISE
With more than 40 KM of sandy beaches, Sylt is the largest island in the North Sea and an oasis for water sport enthusiasts who enjoy sailing, swimming and kite surfing. Not only is it Germany’s version of surfer’s paradise, but Sylt is also a culinary wonder featuring everything from Michelin star-rated restaurants to scenic seaside food stops that will satisfy the hunger of any traveler.