Holidays & Tours

5 less-travelled European cities to put on your travel bucket list

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By BTYB APT
Tallinn

There's a new list of European holiday hotspots that has us seriously reconsidering our Amalfi-Coast daydreams.

Don't get us wrong, we'd never turn down a spritz-sipping getaway, but there's a certain magic that comes with exploring a yet-to-be-discovered city. Free from overcrowded transport, overpriced restaurants and an imposing throng of selfie sticks, less-travelled holiday destinations provide a more authentic style of travel.

Here, five enchanting cities to add to your travel bucket list (before everyone else does).

Mariehamn, Åland Islands

Mariehamn is the capital of the Åland Islands, a group of more than 6,000 islands situated between Finland and Sweden. In its past Mariehamn belonged to Russia but today it's an autonomous part of Finland (despite most of its population speaking Swedish).

Mariehamn is an excellent place to get active. Spend all day exploring the city's pink streets (the red asphalt found around the islands is to blame for this pretty phenomenon) and stop-off at cafés along the way. Visit the island's 18th century wooden houses and open-air Jan Karlsgarden Museum. With a population of only 11,000 people, Mariehamn provides a truly interesting (and peaceful) escape.

Visby, Sweden

Ask any in-the-know Swede and they'll tell you: Gotland is the place to be come summer. Located 90km east of the mainland, the island is a throwback to Sweden's Viking heritage and medieval past, the town Visby one of its stunning highlights.

A Unesco World Heritage Site since 1995, Visby's city walls were built in the 13th and 14th century. Today, the town is a mash-up of laid-back island life and alluring history, its winding laneways home to 12th century theatre ruins and merchant trading houses, the Burmeister House its most iconic.

If you're looking for a truly authentic and hassle-free Visby visit, check out APT's Best of the Baltics tour where you can partake in walking tours of Visby's Kruttornet Tower and Botanic Gardens. Offering guests exclusive experiences in some of Europe's most beautiful and lesser-known holiday spots, the cruise is a unique way to do a European summer.

Tallinn, Estonia

If you've ever wanted to feel like a princess in a fairy tale, Tallinn is your chance.

One of Europe's most underrated travel destinations, Estonia's capital is home to impressive Gothic architecture. Take in the city's terracotta roofs from above at St. Olav's Lutheran Church, where a 258-stair ascend will treat you to 360 degree views. Other sight-see must-dos include the onion-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and breathtaking Kadriorg Palace (Dreamstime) gardens.

Good news if you're craving a good cuppa, Tallinn takes its coffee just as seriously as Australia (or close to it anyway), with an edgy cafe scene offering all kinds of specialty brews. Despite its historic aesthetic, Tallinn has a soaring entrepreneurial spirit, which shows in its growing list of foodie haunts and business start-ups.

Rīga, Latvia

There are many reasons to add Rīga, the Latvian capital, to your travel bucket list. Firstly, it's home to the largest food markets in Europe: Occupying five WW1 Zeppelin hangers, Rīga's Central Markets sell a huge range of local produce with more than 3000 vendors. Spend a morning trying Latvian delicacies such as beetroot soup, kvass (Eastern European drink made from rye bread) and potato pancakes.

Wander through the city's historic centre and take a tour of the Gothic St Peter's Church where you can view the region from its observatory. The city has a stunning network of canals and parks making it the perfect setting for a picnic. The Rīga Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site and it isn't hard to see why: Colourful squares, narrow meandering laneways, incredible Art Nouveau architecture, an exciting food scene and a booming creative quarter. Added it to your list yet? We certainly have.

Gdańsk, Poland

Forget Kraków and Warsaw — Poland's true treasure is its seaside city, Gdańsk. Thanks to its rich and complex history Gdańsk is full of architectural gems; the Old Town's quaint brick homes with triangular roofs an Instagram backdrop waiting to happen. Make sure you check out the old quarter and Solidarity Square, and for those after a little more action, a Gdansk guided kayak tour.

Apart from its old-world charm Gdańsk has a lot to offer culture buffs. Hans Memling's 'The Last Judgement' is on display at the National Museum and design fans will love learning about the interior scene of eras past at the Free City of Danzig Historical Zone museum. Stop by in summertime and enjoy a swim at Stogi beach (free Wi-Fi and sunbeds included) and sample the fresh seafood on offer at one of the many ocean-view eateries. Don't mind if we do...

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