The European Hidden Gems To Explore Before Everyone Else Does

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From Turkey’s glacial lakes to a medieval Italian city, these three overlooked European destinations are currently winning the battle with over-tourism. So be sure to get there fast…

Pamukkale, Türkiye

Translating to ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, you might recognise Pamukkale from pictures of gleaming white calcite travertines (terraces) overrunning with warm, mineral-rich waters on the mountain above the village. We highly recommend you do more than admire it on Instagram, though, and hop on a flight to Cardak, which is just a short one-hour drive away. Once a Roman and Byzantine spa city, it’s now full to the brim with considerable ruins and an impressive museum which is definitely worth a wander.

Bruges, Belgium

Picture a quintessential fairytale medieval town and you won’t get much closer than Bruges. Less touristy — and therefore less crowded — than its neighbouring city of Brussels, Bruges, or Brugge in Dutch, is one of Europe’s best-preserved cities. Defined by picturesque cobbled lanes and dreamy canals, its photogenic market squares are lined with soaring towers, historical churches and lane after lane of old whitewashed houses.

Matera, Italy

After 10,000 years, this ancient city in Basilicata is finally having its moment. A short one-hour drive from the Pugliese capital of Bari, Italy’s hidden treasure is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, and is made up of rock-cut caves in which its citizens have traditionally lived. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in the ’90s, and one of the most cultural cities in Europe, you could spend days wandering through its natural caves in the tufa limestone.

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  • Words by Naomi Chadderton