By Robin Silver
Europe has been a favourite of travellers for its unique landscapes, beautiful architecture, and delicious and diverse cuisine. But while the main stops on traditional tourist routes still have much to offer, Paris has become passe, and Tuscany is tired.
Check out these five up-and-coming regions and cities in 2020, while they are still relatively unknown to the average tourist, and enjoy the authenticity of the trip. As well as giving you future bragging rights, when someone five years from now asks if you’ve ever heard of so-and-so, and you get to say, “Oh, yes, I visited there years ago.”
The Hungarian capital offers fun and excitement for all kinds of travellers, whether you prefer to soak up the history around the Danube or dive into the party culture at one of the many ruin bars—yes, those are bars built inside formerly abandoned or ruined buildings. Szimpla Kert is one of the best known, and one of the most atmospheric, with its large courtyard, contemporary artwork, and communist memorabilia. Try some Unicum, a Hungarian herbal liquor, while you are there.
Visit Gellert Spa for a fun and relaxing day at one of the most famous thermal baths in all of Europe. Located in a beautiful Art Nouveau building, there is a multitude of pools to dip in and out of, but aside from the thermal baths themselves, you can arrange for a variety of spa treatments at an additional cost. Don’t miss the Great Market Hall to sample local food and pick up some handicrafts to bring back home.
Malaga is the largest city in the Andalucia region of Spain, with a population of just over half a million. It is located on the Costa del Sol, which translates to “sun coast” in English. The name belies the typically Mediterranean climate, and visitors can soak up the sun on the beach or at one of the numerous beach bars. If you are more into eating than drinking, tapas bar hopping is just as easy and even more delicious.
Malaga is most famous for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. Fans of the artist can view hundreds of his works donated by members of the Picasso family at the Picasso Museum, housed in a converted 16th-century palace. While the collection is much smaller than the Picasso Museums in Paris and Barcelona, the design of the building and connection with the Picasso family makes it a hidden treasure for museum lovers.
Vampires may be the first thing you think of when you hear Transylvania, but there is so much more to explore. Of course, you can and should visit Dracula’s Castle, officially known as Bran Castle. If the visit only whets your appetite for Mary Shelley’s spooky story, visit The Dracula Investigation in nearby Sighișoara for the true story of Vlad the Impaler, who inspired the character, and five rooms of exhibits that combine art, history, and technology.
If you need to calm your nerves from all that horror, get out into the beautiful landscape of Transylvania. The Retezat National Park is Romania’s first national park and a UNESCO Reserve of the Biosphere. With the vast variety of flora, fauna and untouched nature, you are stepping into history as much as you would at a castle. The options for hiking trails are numerous, so you are bound to find one that suits your fitness level.
Located to the northeast of Porto in the Minho region, Braga is one of the oldest cities in all of Portugal. It has been known as the religious capital of the country since the 12th century and is home to the oldest church in Portugal, dating back to the late 11th century.
While they do still hold mass there, they also have a Treasure Museum with over nine centuries’ worth of well-preserved relics. By far the most popular time of year to visit Braga is during Holy Week, or Samana Santa in Portuguese, attracting Christians from all around Portugal and the world.
On the banks of the Danube River and spitting distance to both the Austrian and Hungarian borders, the Slovakian capital is steeped in history. The Old Town is excellent for a stroll, gazing at all the unique buildings and indulging in the pub culture.
One of the most famous symbols of Slovakia, the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary is not to be missed. Better known as the Blue Church for obvious reasons, the inside is as charming as the exterior, but has limited opening hours, so be sure to check before you go. After admiring the architecture of the city, rest your eyes and your legs in Horsky Park, which has a charming cafe amidst the natural beauty, and there are concerts and other cultural happenings regularly during the summer.
Europe is changing, and 2020 is going to be an exciting year in all five of these cities. These relatively unknown places have much to offer the intrepid traveller. Visit now, while the authenticity and excitement of these off-the-beaten-paths are still alive and well.