3 Off-the-Radar European Getaways

Discover these lesser-known wonders.

By Jessen O’Brien

Looking for a European holiday that isn’t overrun with tourists? These destinations offer beautiful scenery and breathing room.

The Swiss Alps

Each year the resorts of Zermatt, St. Moritz, and Gstaad receive crowds eager to ski the Swiss Alps. Arosa, in the eastern canton of Graubünden, gives travelers a chance to have the experience with fewer tourists. Getting there is part of the fun: the train ride from Zurich only requires one transfer and will have you glued to the window to take in fairytale views of mountains covered in snowy firs. Between ski runs, you can recover with a massage at Tschuggen Bergoase (1 Tschuggentorweg; 011-41-81-378-99-99; one-hour massage, $150), a spa that offers a range of treatments as well as a heated outdoor swimming area with mountain views. End your day at Twist (2 Oberseepromenade, Arosa; 011-41-81-378-6363; dinner for two, $48), a restaurant and bar that plays movies each Wednesday.

The Slovene Riviera

The lovely little European town of Piran, Slovenia, is one of Europe’s best off the radar getaways.
The lovely little town of Piran, Slovenia.

Tourists have long flocked to Italy’s Adriatic coast to enjoy the area’s gorgeous seaside and historic towns. But the deep blue waters of the Adriatic Sea don’t just border Italy. Slovenia has its own Adriatic coastline, a 30-mile stretch known as the Slovene Riviera. Although there are several pretty towns here, consider basing yourself in Piran, a small city that was part of the Venetian Republic in the 15th century. (In fact, today you can take a ferry between Piran and Venice.) As a result, Piran is known for the wonderfully preserved Venetian Gothic architecture of its pretty Old Town. Start your visit in Tartini Square, a central plaza named for composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini, who was born here. From the square, you can make your way to St. George’s Parish Church (18a Via Primož Trubar; 011-386-5-673-34-40), whose hilltop setting affords some of the best views of the red-roofed buildings that crowd along the shore.

Hungary’s Great Lake

The glistening waters of Lake Como and Lake Geneva are understandably popular with travelers. But Hungary has its own expanse of blue: Lake Balaton. This freshwater lake in the western half of the country is relatively unknown outside of central Europe. While you’re there, consider exploring the vineyards that look out on the lake. Laposa Birtok (8621 Badacsonytomaj, Bogyai Lajos u. 1; 011-36-20-7777-133; six-glass wine tasting, $10 a person*) welcomes travelers year-round and offers tastings of its Riesling, pinot gris, and varietals unique to the region, such as Furmint, a white grape that’s a favorite in Hungary. Another must? The Herend Porcelain Factory (Kossuth Lajos u.140; 011-88-523-100, Herend; tours, $8 a person) has produced delicate, hand-painted china for nearly 200 years and is open for tours.

  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: December 2019