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The Best Lesser Known Holiday Destinations in Europe

Does stepping outside your comfort zone to visit a lesser-known destination fill you with excitement? A free spirit should always have a selection of lesser-known holiday destinations on their bucket list.

If you’re conscious of your holiday budget you’ll also save by staying somewhere quieter. All you need to do is find a place that fills you with excitement!

Let us guide you off the beaten path. Discover a quaint coastal town, city, or suburb that catches your eye. Each one is very different so you can take the plunge! Explore a lesser-known destination and gain a fresh insight into a country’s culture. You can enjoy its landscape, its authentic cuisine, and its rich unique experiences only this place can offer. On your return, you’ll have lots of unique stories and photos to share.

Which lesser-known destination below will you venture to? Here are our favourites…

1. Saxony

Saxony is a mountainous state in eastern Germany, directly South of Berlin. It’s home to the scenic Elbe River and the Ore Mountains that run for 100 miles along the German-Czech border. With such a dramatic backdrop it’s no surprise that it has been an inspirational place for artists and musicians for hundreds of years. It also boasts a selection of accessible tourist attractions as well.

For instance, start in Dresden. Dubbed the ‘Florence on the Elbe’, due to its stunning buildings and art collections, see Dresden’s finest at the Baroque Zwinger Palace. These include the Porcelain Collection and Old Masters Picture Gallery. The Palace itself is also a fine example of baroque architecture. To purchase some art for yourself visit the artisan shops and arcades in Dresden’s 18th century Neuständer baroque district.

To watch live music operas, and contemporary theatre visit the city of music – Leipzig which is home to the grand Gewandhaus concert hall. Music lovers will also enjoy visiting the former homes of classical composers Schumann, Bach, and Mendelssohn on Leipzig’s Music Trail. Return to commemorate Bach and Mendelssohn at their respective festivals each year.

To appreciate more culture, visit Saxony’s European Capital of Culture for 2025 – Chemnitz carries the motto “C the Unseen’. Therefore, keep an eye out for mini-galleries, industrial museums and theatres. Plus, art and culture outside the mainstream while exploring this industrious city during a cultural tour.

leipzig the lesser known music destination

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2. Valkenburg

Valkenburg is a unique destination in the Dutch province of Limburg. Not only is it one of the few areas of the Netherlands that has hills,it also boasts the only hilltop castle (Valkenburg Castle) in the country. The castle is now ruins.

Although small, Valkenburg is full of stories about the castle, secret passageways and caves that are attached, and what they’ve been used for since. For instance, the Gemeentegrot (Municipal Cave) was once a WWII hiding place. In contrast, the Fluweelengrot (Velvet Cave) is a labyrinth of secret passageways that lead people out of the castle during the Middle Ages. You can follow these passageways and learn more about their journey during a guided tour.

To admire this historical town from higher ground, board the Valkenburg chairlift (GoGo Valkenburg), which is a rare sight in an otherwise very flat country. Then try some of Limburg’s traditional dishes such as zuurvlees (a meat stew) followed by vlaai (a sweet pie). Supping some of Limburg’s famous local beers is optional.

One of the best times to venture to Valkenburg is early November. This is due to its award-winning Christmas markets within the Velvet Cave. If you’re looking for a Christmas Market to escape the cold, Valkenburg could be the destination. Book a Christmas shopping trip here where the cave will be cosy, full of gifts, and the spirit of Christmas.


3. Rimini

Rimini Rimini is an unknown destination to most of us Brits. However, it’s a popular bucket and spade holiday destination for many Italians. Rub shoulders with them during a beach holiday at this beach city after adding it to your Italian holiday destinations list.

Visit Rimini Beach with family and/or friends to top up your tan and build some sand castles. Also, there are other activities to enjoy. Try a new water sport such as paddle boarding, windsurfing, or diving. Then as the sun dips attend an open-air cinema or stroll along this 10-mile beach (divided into hundreds of private beaches).

The city of Rimini may appeal to you if you’re looking for a beach holiday. However, there are also areas where ancient Roman ruins remain. Some beautiful Renaissance architecture may catch your attention, like Augustus’ Arch which honours Caesar Augustus. Move from the beach to walk along the ancient street of Corso D’Augusto, which is near this ancient Arch. Also, discover a Roman Amphitheatre built by Hadrian that once had room for up to 12,000 spectators.

Another beach holiday destination that has a Mediterranean climate is Albania.

Rimini a lesser known beach holiday destination

4. Albania

If you’re looking to escape the crowds and enjoy some sun, consider Albania. Situated in South Eastern Europe, Albania is a mountainous country, with a blissful coastline, which backs onto the Adriatic Sea. Although it’s been conquered by several Empires (from the Romans to Europe’s great powers), today it’s happy to celebrate its identity and character during different events that focus on its cultural character.

These include pagan events, religious holidays, agricultural fairs, and folkloric festivals. Learn about Albania’s culture by watching traditional folk dances at the Gjirokastër National Festival of Folklore at Gjirokastër Castle (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site). This colourful festival takes place from the end of June to early July, every five years. However, if you’re looking for picturesque beaches to lounge upon stay in the Albanian Riviera.

One of the Riviera’s best beaches is Dhërmi. To focus on your well-being on holiday, book a trip to Dhërmi in mid-September for the Inner State Festival. This festival will provide you with seven days of wellness, music, and great food. You can also get away from it all by staying in a mountain village within The North Albanian Alps or Accursed Mountains.

Albania the lesser known holiday destination

5.  Tyrol

Tyrol is an attractive Alpine region in Austria, where a range of traditional festivals still take place throughout the year. For instance, in June, people gather at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise and welcome summer. However, within the Nordkette Mountains above Innsbruck (the capital of Tyrol), clubs meet to light over 10,000 mighty bonfires. This event is called the “Mountains in Flames”. Altogether, the bonfires glow to create a mystical and magical mountain scene throughout the weekend of the summer solstice

Some bonfires rise tall above the ground. Others sit side by side to form different Christian motifs. Alongside the bonfires, the festivities include feasting upon traditional delicacies like Käseknödel (dumplings) and dancing to live music. Attend the festival for yourself by taking a ride on the Nordkette Gondola for spectacular views up to Hafelekar Mountain Station.

Visit Tyrol’s mountains in winter for a ski holiday. Then return in spring, summer, or autumn to follow one of many walking and hiking trails. Tyrol is also where you’ll find the highest mountain pass road. Plus, the highest point that you can reach by road bike. So, it’s no surprise that many mountain bike events take place throughout the year.

Whether you choose to explore Tyrol’s mountains, valleys, and Alpine regions by foot or bike stop to rest at a welcoming traditional mountaineering village, where sustainable tourism efforts are practiced.


6.    Extremadura

Looking for a lesser-known Spanish holiday destination that’s away from the usual crowd of English tourists? Explore the surprising region of Extremadura. Extremadura sits to the west of Madrid. There might not be any coastal beaches but there are plenty of freshwater bathing spots and natural pools. Also, you can explore three UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the Old Town of Cáceres.

Under an hour’s drive from Cáceres find the Monfragüe National Park. This unspoiled ecosystem is full of mountains, different evergreen trees, and a mighty rockface dubbed Peña Falcon. This environment is a peaceful place where thousands of magnificent birds live. Grab your binoculars and reach the top of the park’s 9th-century castle (Castillo de Monfragüe), to spot the black vulture and Spanish Imperial Eagle.

To observe more wildlife and nature, visit the Jerte Valley from the end of March to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival. Stay in one of 11 friendly villages and walk among two million cheerful cherry trees that flower and turn the landscape white.

The Jerte Valley (Spain’s Pantry) is a foodie’s paradise! Its cherries create an array of sweet dishes. The pastures of pigs who graze there are reared from field to fork to provide world-renowned cured ham. Plus, the valley’s thistles are used to craft rich and creamy dairy products.

cherry blossom

Travel insurance for lesser-known holiday destinations

Which of these lesser-known holiday destinations sounds most exciting? There should be one for each season. Plus, something refreshing to learn about a country. Whether you travel during the shoulder seasons, in summer or winter we hope yo’re set for a new adventure off the beaten path.

To always give yourself the freedom to travel, with confidence secure suitable travel insurance from Free Spirit.

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