The upwards trend in European tourism shows a definitive increase in Western European tourism—the less visited half of the continent. Throughout the west, particularly the UK, France, Germany, and Spain, there have been more visitors over the last five years than ever before. It’s no wonder really, with the many amazing historical towns and villages, ancient castles, palaces, and forts, thriving backcountry, natural wonders, and so many other attractions. From Scotland’s islands to Portugal’s architecture and Italy’s renowned Riviera, Western Europe is rich with things to do and see.
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region is calculated by magnificent mountains, endless outdoor pursuits, and some of the most interesting resort towns on this side of Liechtenstein. Just an hour and a half south of Zurich and 45 minutes from Bern, Jungfrau is where intrepid travelers head for enterprising vacations. Area attractions include the Kleine Scheidegg watershed at the Eiger North Face foothills. It offers an out-of-this-world cable ride soaring from Grindelwald-First, spanning more than 2,600 feet to Schynige Platte, an area reached by 19th century cog wheel train from Interlaken, the starting point for hiking along the mountain pass. This isn’t a destination for idleness, or even half-hearted exploration. Jungfrau demands a lot from visitors who can move at a relatively quick pace—it’s not a place to stay still. It begs to be explored with enthusiasm and key attractions require some ambition, but it all pays off in spades.
Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
The ebony-hued, interlocking basalt columns spanning the Causeway Coast in Ireland gave credence to legendary tales of a centuries-old route trekked by giants between Scotland and Ireland. Though the tales still run rampant between Irish generations, we can all acknowledge it’s one intensely cool natural marvel. More than 40,000 columns are located in this rich, seafront Northern Irish area which most agree was caused by a volcanic eruption centuries ago. Arriving to the coast is pretty exciting in itself, with a long, curving drive along the highway dotted with residential homes, shops, pubs, and striking natural sights—if you can take your eyes off the water and the road ahead. The vivid drives, cozy, small-town feel, extra friendly locals, and incredible hikes along the extensive cliff-top paths are endearing traits that make this area of Northern Ireland one-of-a-kind.
Travel styles vary from person to person but most get on board with marveling at architectural wonders, relishing savory food, delving into old bodegas, and enjoying easy tours of interesting places. Cordoba is magnified by Mezquita, an example of seasoned and worldly Islamic culture, and a site overlooking the city’s heart and drawing onlookers into its fabulously embowed interior. Arteries running throughout the Jewish Quarter (Juderia) reach away from the Mosque like central nerves but with finales upon extremely pleasant plazas. The center of town is the heart and soul of Cordoba, and where almost everyone will wander around, whether for a few hours or every day. Restaurants, bars, and shops are the center of social life here, where the strident vibe is magnetic. In fascinating contrast, west of town is Medinat al-Zahra, an Islamic ruin that piques the imagination with its gravity.
The medieval city of Bruges is a nostalgic reminder of Venice with long, narrow canals, awarding it the moniker “Venice of the North.” Exploring is akin to life in a fairytale—not only are the canals lovely but the buildings that compliment waterways are just as sublime, creating a picture-perfect scene you won’t want to step out of. Paint in some cobblestone lanes, historic churches, buzzing market squares, and whitewashed houses and you might never want to venture out of town. This loveliness doesn’t come without a price; the floodgates open for tourists each year—word has been out for some time about the beauty of Bruges. With that in mind, most trek in during daylight hours and leave by sundown. To get your piece of Bruges, stay overnight and you’re privy to the emptiness and beautiful floodlights at dusk, giving an unequivocal air to the area.
These are some of the most underrated destinations in Western Europe.