Elias Pelcastre

Three hidden gems of Western Europe to visit this summer

This summer both visitors from Europe and further afield will flock to the continent in order to immerse themselves in just a few of the many different experiences it has to offer. Paris. Rome. Amsterdam. Everybody has heard of these cities and they’re normally at the top of tourists ‘to conquer’ lists and don’t get me wrong now, they are super fun. I was however surprised to see how the costs of hostels and activities has risen unrecognisably high and it seems as though those of us who want to maximise our time away and don’t want to scrimp out on doing everything are going to have to explore a little further afield from the classic Western Europe locations. Wandering where to go this summer? Maybe check out one of these these;

Wrocław, Poland

This city is an understated highlight of this country. As with most European cities, everything is based around the main square and sitting in one of the many restaurants which outline this alone provides enough entertainment for lazy afternoon and evenings. In addition, this seemingly non stop indulgence of polish beer and vodka mixed with wonderful food will not break the bank. Pints of beer are around £1.50 and a decent sized meal about £5 with the famous pierogi (meat filled dumplings) not likely to set you back more than £2. There is also plenty to do in this city, probably the most popular activity is searching for the gnome statues which emerged as a form of protest in the communist era. They now have a modern twist, with many of them having occupations or doing obscure things such as eating ice creams or robbing banks! As well as this, taking a boat tour down the river towards the old town is pleasant, visiting the local market and going to the stunning cathedrals are all popular tourist activities.

Alcohlic gnomes
Ljubljana, Slovenia

Often passed through en route to the beautiful Lake Bled and just missing out featuring on the majority of Euro trips this city is truly a hidden gem; relatively undiscovered the costs of being a tourist here have not kept up with the majority of other cities nearby. The main hub of life is focussed around the River Ljublanica which has been redeveloped and contains multiple bars and restaurants. This has created a chilled atmosphere from early morning, with locals and tourists alike relaxing with friends developing into a more lively atmosphere in the evening. The city centre is pedestrianised and it’s relative small size means that bikes are a popular way to get around, you can hire one for €1 per week! The narrow cobbled streets are outlined with boutique shops and flowers making it truly picturesque. There are many things for tourists to do here, the Sunday market sells all sorts of trinkets and there are also daily markets selling fresh fruit. The Cathedral of St Nicholas, the Roman Walls, Tivoli Park and the Triple and Dragon Bridges are all worth spending time appreciating and exploring. My personal favourite area is Metelkova Mesta, a squat area which has been developed into a quirky art district.

View from Ljubljana Castle
Tallinn, Estonia

Like its Baltic counterparts, tourists are starting to discover this city and appreciate the real beauty and history it contains. The old town has quaint, cobblestoned streets lined with craftsmen’s shops and medieval buildings. Walk up Toompea Hill to discover where the Alex Nevsky Cathedral and St Mary’s Cathedral are located and offer stunning views overlooking the city and the Baltic Sea. One of my favourite elements of this city is how there is still a real Soviet feeling, but blended with both old and new European. A cool place to hang out is the Raekoja plats, this town square is filled with restaurants and cafes and from open air festivals in the summer to the annual Christmas market, this square adapts and provides people with what they want. If you plan to spend a while here, also head out to Kadriorg Park where is where the Kadriog Palace is situated and well worth a visit, but make sure you take some time to wander around and chill out in the park itself.

Happy summer travels!

Photos by Kitty Busz