Malta is an incredible island to explore. Nestled right in the Med, it’s is filled with thousands of years of history, stunning bays and the most incredible cities that are just too beautiful to miss. So, to help you get the most out of your trip, we wanted to share our bumper itinerary to visit Malta on your next holiday.
Now, you might be wondering if Malta is for you?
Well, let me give you a little snippet of why it should be on every traveller hit list!
First up, Malta (and neighbouring Gozo) is basked in that incredible Mediterranean sunshine that’s just so good. Not only that, Malta is totally chilled and a great place to visit if you fancy a bout of downtime on your trip.
That being said, Malta is also a jewel in the Mediterranean if you fancy a gander around historic cities and ancient sights. It’s an island that can (and totally does) fit with the kind of trip you’d like. This is why we keep going back, over and over again!
So, as the island starts to safely open up, we wanted to share some places in Malta that you can’t miss.
And, as always, be sure to travel safely. Check your government’s guidance on travel and official information from the Maltese Government on any restrictions that might be relaxed or in place.
Take a look, below, at our bumper itinerary to visit Malta on holiday. Oh, and with all our itineraries, feel free to add, take out or follow exactly the places we’ve mentioned – it’s your holiday after all!
Have an amazing time.
Day one: Valletta
As far as Mediterranean cities go, Valletta is a gem to visit!
Unlike other large capital cities in Europe, Valletta is not too big to get overwhelmed and not small enough to get bored. In fact, I’d say it’s perfect for a few days exploring.
After arriving, be sure to take a wander to see the Grandmaster’s Palace and the gorgeous Upper (and Lower) Barrakka Gardens. These are stunning first thing in the morning and a great way to stretch your legs before a day head.
For a sugary pick-me-up, head to Amorino (on Republic Street). Here, you’ll get to sample some of the best gelatos in all of Malta. Trust me, you’ll go back for seconds.
In the afternoon, take a gander around the centuries-old Casa Rocca Piccola in the heart of Valletta. Throughout the day, you can join a guide and take a peek into a classic (and affluent) palace that’s too gorgeous to miss.
Before sundown, pop into St. John’s Co-Cathedral which’s stood pride of place in Valletta since the 1500s. It’s so beautiful and a great way to see some of Girolamo Cassar works. After all, he’s one of the islands most famed architects.
Feeling peckish? Head into the gorgeous cobbled streets and pop into Noni (on Republic Street) that fuses Maltese dishes with a modern flare. Their tasting menu is so delicious for an evening treat.
Day two: Valletta
One thing I would say is that you should give Valletta at least one full day to explore (though, we prefer a more chilled two-day trip). That being said, if you’re short on time, you can easily pack in the main sights in Valletta in one day; especially if there are other spots on our itinerary to visit Malta that you just don’t want to miss.
For a morning galavant, head for a stroll around the Grand Harbour area where you’ll get some fantastic views across the bay. Plus, you’ll be easily able to partner up a trip to Fort St. Angelo that has historically protected the city. You’ll need to factor in around 2-hours to fully explore the fort; so plan ahead and arrive nice and early.
For dinner, book a table at Rampila; you won’t be disappointed, especially on their terrace. We had the traditional Maltese Aljotta broth for the first course and loved it!
Day three: Mdina
Nowhere is ever really that far in Malta, which means it’s a great island to traverse and stay at all the Maltese gems. That being said, don’t feel the pressure to keep moving hotels or accommodation each night, you can easily do day trips to all the spots in Malta and stay anchored in one hotel for the whole trip. It’s entirely up to you.
Anyway, where was I… Mdina!
Okay, so Mdina is probably my favourite city in all of Malta and one spot you can’t miss for a day trip. It’s around a 25-minute drive from Valletta and totally easy to visit by car, taxi or tour depending on what you’d like.
Once you’ve headed through the iconic Mdina Gate, be sure to visit the iconic cathedral that overlooks the whole city. It’s stunning and the Baroque architecture dates back years!
That being said, if you fancy going back further in history, get yourself over to Domus Romana; a Roman house that was built around two thousand years ago! It’s a relatively small museum which means it’s a perfect 30-minute visit.
Oh, and don’t forget to grab some of the world-renowned Mdina Glass. It’s so beautiful and you’ll find it all over the city.
Getting hungry? Get yourself over to Grotto Tavern, their gnocchi is so delicious and the restaurant is so unique within a grotto itself.
Day four: Western coastline and beaches
After three days of city-living, it’s time to take in some more of that gorgeous coastline of Malta. So, pack your swimming gear, slap on that sunblock and get ready for a snooze on the sand.
But first, head over to the Blue Grotto, which’s around a 25-minute drive from Valletta (and 15-minutes from Mdina). Once here, you’ll need to get yourself on one of the small boats that’ll whisk you right within the Blue Grotto itself. That being said, if you’re not fancying the boat ride, head to the ‘panorama’ viewing area that’s perfect at sunset.
The views are stunning.
Afterwards, for a little time in the surf, head over to Golden Bay that’s north of the Blue Grotto. It’s a popular spot for sun-seekers and the kind of place that’s great for a morning dip (or evening stroll).
The views are stunning.
Afterwards, for a little time in the surf, head over to Golden Bay that’s north of the Blue Grotto. It’s a popular spot for sun-seekers and the kind of place that’s great for a morning dip (or evening stroll).
If it’s a dip you’re after, pop over to St. Peter’s Pool that’s on the coastline near Marsaxlokk. Here, you’ll get to have a little paddle in the gorgeous Mediterranean waters and bask in those views across southern Malta. Just be sure to watch out for choppy waters and only go for a swim if it’s safe to do so.
Now, we found it best to rent a car for coastal days. Though, if you don’t drive, fret not; there are oodles of different touring companies that you can book and include on your itinerary to visit Malta.
Day five: Hiking around near Popeye Village
It’s not every day that you can say you’ve rambled across an island, but it’s quite achievable in Malta, especially from Għadira Bay to Popeye Village.
After a morning dip at Għadira, pop on your hiking shoes and head off for a ramble around the area.
The walk itself won’t take you long at all (though, you can take in some detours). We checked out the Red Tower that’s just shy of the bay itself (around a 40-minute hike). It dates back to 1649 and is lovely to see, especially for views.
After heading to the west coast, get yourself over to the totally quaint and picturesque Popeye Village. It’s the historic film set for Popeye’s film that was shot back in the 1980s.
It’s well worth a gander for an hour or so and totally worth including on your itinerary to visit Malta; even if you haven’t seen the film.
Finally, for a great view of Popeye Village, head along the coastline road opposite the bay. The views across the cove is gorgeous from here and you’ll get a great view of Popeye Village itself.
Day 6: Gozo
Just shy of the northern shores of Malta, Gozo is a smaller island that’s totally worth the short ferry ride to explore! In fact, it’s a perfect day trip when visiting Malta.
Departing from Cirkewwa, you’ll get across to Mgarr Harbour in no time at all. From here, you’ll get to explore all across Gozo and take in some key spots along the way!
One spot you have to visit is Il-Madonna ta’ Pinu, a basilica and shrine that’s as beautiful as they come. Although the basilica isn’t as old as some other sites across Malta and Gozo, it’s still just as iconic.
Afterwards, pull out your swimming gear and drive over to the Blue Hole for a dip! It’s a natural swimming pool that sits just shy of the collapsed Azure Window and is well worth seeing as you follow our itinerary to visit Malta.
Oh, and don’t forget to grab a bite at The Boathouse in Xlendi Bay.
This is the kinda spot that’ll satisfy any seafood craving; especially with their mouth-watering fresh lobster!!!
Day 7: Mosta
Before departing Malta, there’s one final (and totally lovely) spot to visit. Mosta!
Only around 20-minutes from central Valletta, Mosta is perfect to see on your final day along your itinerary to visit Malta. Even if you’ve only got a few hours before your flight, be sure to take a gander.
Now, one of the things that make this city so special is the Rotunda of Mosta; a massive basilica that’s actually based on the Pantheon in Italy.
Once you arrive, you’ll soon see why it’s such a special spot, especially with it housing one of the largest, unsupported domes in the whole world!
If you’ve still got time, take a wander over to the Ta’ Bistra Catacombs that’s just shy of the city centre. You’ll get to see a heap of historic catacombs that are pretty unique to visit.
England is an incredible country to explore. We’ve got some stunning history, beautiful villages and gorgeous national parks that dotted all across the lands. That being said, sometimes, the best places in the north of England are forgotten in lieu of amazing cities like London or the pretty spots in the south of England.
That being said, the north of England is pretty vast, with a whole heap of beautiful places to explore. This is exactly why I wanted to share some of my favorite and best places in the north of England to visit on your next trip.
Now, for clarity, there’s no real defining line of what constitutes, north and south England, it seems like everyone has their own cutoffs of where this border exists. To make things simpler, I’m going on the notion that anything lower than the Peak District National Park is south.
With that in mind, take a look below at the best places in the north of England to see. Have the best trip around England, we really have a beautiful country.
1.) The Lake District
One of the UNESCO protected national parks, the Lake District is one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you love the countryside. Consisting of around sixteen lakes, the Lake District is filled with stunning mountains, rolling hills and a heap of lakes that are nestled within the countryside.
Now, with the Lake District, you do have ‘popular’ lakes and some that are much quieter. For me, I prefer the quiet ones like Ullswater Lake that is totally pristine.
Here, you can head out paddle boarding, hiking and even take the historic Ullswater Steamer that crosses the lake itself.
That being said, don’t forget Windermere Lake, too. It’s probably the most famous lake in the Lake District with plenty of little places to explore around the shores.
Perched on the north-east coast of England, Whitby is a pretty historic fishing town to visit.
The town’s skyline is overlooked by the historical ruins of Whitby Abbey, a gothic structure which inspired Bram Stoker to write his classic horror masterpiece, Dracula. They’re incredible to see and easily one of the best places in the north of England to see if you love history.
Afterwards, pop over some classic fish and chips from the Magpie Cafe. For dinner, don’t forget the Star Inn (the harbour) for some yummy fresh seafood and local treats.
Finally, if you fancy a little jaunt from the town itself, head over to Robin Hood’s Bay, it’s a stunning little smugglers village that is so beautiful to see.
3.)The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Nestled on a small tidal island off the coast of Northumberland, the holy island of Lindisfarne is beautiful to see.
First off, to get here, you have to pay attention to the tides, each day, the island gets cut off from the mainland when the sea washes over the road. Only ever attempt to travel this road when it is safe to do so as your car can get washed away.
Once you’ve got over to the island, make sure to spend some time exploring the historic abbey, head to the Lindisfarne Castle and have a tipple of Lindisfarne Mead that has been made on the island for centuries. The island itself is steeped in history and is considered the starting point for the Viking Age in northern Europe.
It really is one of the best places in the north of England to explore ancient beauty and history.
York is one of the oldest cities in England and easily one of the best places in the north of England to visit whilst you’re here. Honestly, York itself is absolutely teeming with history and dates way back over a thousand years.
Once you arrive, make sure to visit and explore York Minster, a cathedral that dates back to the 13th century. Here, you can even climb the stairs to the roof, with a lovely view across York itself.
Also, don’t forget Clifford’s Tower and the Castle museum nearby. Afterwards, rent your own little red boat and charter the river that runs through the city. Afterwards, take a little road down the medieval street called the Shambles and explore the totally quaint side of York.
Finally, for some amazing food, head over to Skosh or Roots that both have some of the tastiest grub in the city. You won’t be disappointed with either of them.
Oh yeah, and if you fancy a little jaunt from the city, head across to Castle Howard that is about 25-minutes in the car from the center. It’s huge and totally magnificent to see.
Nestled on the pristine coastline of Northumberland, Bamburgh is a tiny little place that has some of the best coastline and castle around. Only about 60-minutes from the Holy Island, it’s quite easy to partner a trip to Bamburgh with a wider trip across Northumberland.
As soon as you arrive, make sure to wander around the little town and make reservations for dinner at the Potted Lobster. It’s so yummy and they serve the best local seafood. Afterwards, head on over to Bamburgh Castle itself and explore the ancient history of this gorgeous place. Finally, take some time to enjoy the stunning beaches around the castle, too. They’re totally pristine and offer some gorgeous views over the castle itself.
Finally, if you fancy going on a little adventure, pop over to the uninhabited Farne Islands on a boat. You might even see whales or puffins during your trip.
Honestly, if you love castles, you’ll easily find Bamburgh one of the best places in the north of England to visit.
6.) Peak District
The Peak District National Park is the oldest national park in the UK and one of the best places in the north of England to explore.
Once here, make sure to explore Winnats Pass and discover the underground river on a tiny boat. Afterwards, head across to the plague village of Eyam and learn about this isolated community during the plague.
Afterwards, check into your own safari-style lodge that is just so cozy with the wood burner roaring.
Nestled on the coast of the North Sea, Scarborough is a gorgeous town to visit for a weekend trip.
Once here, head on through Peasholm Park and also explore the historic harbour that makes this spot so picturesque. Also, make sure to explore Scarborough Castle and visit St Mary’s Church where you can also see Anne Bronte’s final resting place.
Finally, for a good spot of lunch, head over to the Green Room Brasserie which has some of the freshest dishes around. If it’s a traditional fish and chips you’re after, pop into the Lifeboat Fishbar – they serve some of the best on all the east coast. Scarborough really is one of the best places in the north of England to visit.
Leeds is a pretty cool city to visit in the north of England and an easy spot to explore when heading further north.
Once here, make sure to explore the city Centre and head to explore the Corn Exchange with all their little eateries and shops. Afterwards, head across to the arcades which are totally beautiful and really gorgeous to see.
If that’s not your thing, head to Kirkstall Abbey (one of the largest in England) or even Harewood House (out of the Centre) that was built in the 1700s. Finally, for some tasty grub, head across to The Swine That Dines for a gorgeous dinner.
That being said, if you want something quick and easy, pop into the Station House Café for some of the best Italian food in the city. It really is one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you like a little city break.
The Market town of Malton is not too far from York and pretty easy to visit on your trip around this area.
Now, one of the things that makes Malton so special is its foodie heritage. It might be a relatively small town but it’s got some of the best independent food spots in Yorkshire. Once here, head over to Roost for some of the best coffee in town and find McMillans for a tasty bottle to take home.
Afterwards, head to Florian Poirot (near Roost) for an incredible french bakery. They make the most delicious sweet treats. Malton is certainly one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you’re a foodie.
10.) Hebden Bridge
A whimsical little market town, Hebden Bridge’s Rochdale Canal is nothing a totally gorgeous spot to visit.
While, like most of northern England, the weather can be a little unpredictable (take your umbrella), Hebden Bridge is easily one of the best places in the north of England to explore.
Once here, head out on the 15-miles of footpaths and walkways around the Hardcastle Crags. That being said, if you’re feeling a little lazier, head to the Heptonstall Museum which has far less walking.
After strolling the canal, pop over to Sowerby Bridge and gorge at Engine. The tapas-style plates are just so yummy.
Being one of the larger cities in England, there’s a whole heap of amazing things to see and do whilst in Manchester. Plus, it’s one of the best places in the north of England to explore if you want a vibrant city.
You see, Manchester has a long history, which makes for some totally gorgeous places to explore. Once here, make sure to explore the Science and Industry Museum, see Old Trafford (if you’re a footie fan), or check out the Manchester Art Gallery. The latter is totally stunning and a great thing to do if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Oh yeah, and if you fancy some nightlife, Canal Street is famous for being one of the oldest LGBT+ neighbourhoods in Europe, while the Northern Quarter has loads of trendy bars to explore. Also, for a tasty and juicy steak, pop into Fazenda Rodizio Bar which is totally gorge-worthy. You’ll leave stuffed.
Also, for a great place to stay, check into Hotel Gotham that is totally unique.
An absolute must-visit for any literary lover, Haworth is home to the longtime home of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Ann.
While the girls worked under pen names, they released some tremendous successes which continue to resonate with readers today, including the classics Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. You can visit the gravesite of the majority of the Bronte family at the Haworth Parish Church as well.
Although Haworth is pretty small, it’s a great place to spend a pit stop on your way further north (or south) for an hour or two.
Of course, most people know Liverpool as the hometown of the Beatles, right? Liverpool is certainly one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you love the Beatles! That being said, there’s so much more to this city to experience.
After arriving, make sure to explore the waterfront (marked by a trio of buildings popularly known as the Three Graces). If that doesn’t float your boat, the Liverpool Cathedral is worth visiting for its stunning Gothic architecture, too. Finally, head across to the Royal Albert Dock, visit the Beatles Story and visit the Walker Art Gallery, too.
Oh yeah, there’s also a shed load of yummy spots to grab a bite to eat, too! From high-end spots to a pint and some fish and chips at the local pub, Liverpool has a spot for everyone.
Now, for a tasty dinner, head across to the London Carriage Works. Once you arrive, make sure to try their incredible cocktails and seasonal menu. Their salted cod with clams is so good.
Originally constructed as a Roman fortress (almost two-thousand years ago), Chester still maintains some of its Roman past in what remains of the city’s walls. Now, with a city that’s so steeped in history, it’s easily become of the best places in the north of England to see. Plus, it’s really easy to get to from the likes of Manchester or Liverpool.
Once here, make sure to explore Chester’s gothic cathedral and stroll along the Groves that are totally lovely. Oh yeah, the Old Town is worth a visit to gaze upon the black and white Tudor-style homes that line the streets too.
Afterwards, head across to visit the Grovesnor Museum or walk the city walls themselves. It’s the perfect thing to do before gorging at The Yard for their tasty seabass.
Based just west of Newcastle, Durham is pretty easy to get to from most places in the UK, especially by train. Now, although Durham is a relatively small city (as cities go), it’s still got a shed load of history and gorgeous things to do.
After stepping off the train, head across to explore Durham Cathedral in all its glory. It’s so imposing and can’t be missed when visiting the city. Afterwards, stop over to Durham Castle and learn more about the ancient history of this place. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the quaint Palace Green and see Finchale Priory (that sits outside the centre).
There’s plenty to recommend Italy already: The rolling hills of Tuscany, the canals of Venice, the charm of Cinque Terre, the wine and food of…well, everywhere. After all, there’s a reason it’s consistently ranked among the most-visited countries in the world, with tourism revenue well into the twelve figures. But add the incredible number and variety of beaches to the equation, and suddenly the country becomes a mandatory item on every traveler’s to-do list.
Ready to traverse the boot? Read on to start plotting the perfect itinerary. And if beach-hopping across Italy isn’t in your future, this list is still worth a look: these places are beautiful enough to cure even the most severe cases of Monday blues, mean reds, or winter doldrums. And after a few glimpses, you may find yourself tallying up your vacation days, scoping out your savings, and planning your next Italian excursion.
1) Acquafredda di Maratea Beach, Basilicata
Six miles outside of the hamlet of Maratea, this rugged stretch of shoreline has the same blue water and dark gray sand of the Amalfi Coast, but it’s further north with none of the accompanying throngs of tourists. It’s a prime place for beachgoers in search of rustic beauty: In spite of neatly arranged sun loungers and beach umbrellas placed by local hotels, the rocky shoreline and cliffs jutting up on either side of the cove preserve the untamed feel of the area
2) Marina Grande Beach, Positano
As if the views of deep greenish-blue seas weren’t enough, the stacks of pastel houses hugging the cliffs make Positano’s main beach feel like something plucked from a midcentury postcard. With over 300 yards of dark sand—large swathes of it dedicated to tidily arranged rows of beach umbrellas and lounge chairs in Technicolor shades of orange and blue—this spot always feels open and roomy in spite of summer crowds. Start in town with a leisurely outdoor lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, then sleep off the limoncello buzz with a snooze on the sand.
3) Camogli Beach, Liguria
Northwest Italy’s coastal towns tend to live in the shadow of the neighboring French Riviera, but that means beaches like Camogli’s have all the Mediterranean beauty with a fraction of the crowds you’ll find in Nice or St. Tropez.
The beach in this little fishing village is pebbly but picturesque—the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is perched on a promontory at the harbor’s northern end, with mountains rising up behind it. This spot has something for every traveler: swimming lessons to keep the kids busy, beachside drink service for the laid-back crowd, and rowboats, canoe rentals, and diving lessons for the adventure-seekers.
4) Scalo Maestro, Marettimo
Just off the western tip of Sicily, the island of Marettimo (population: 700) has the kind of wild beauty that gives every moment here a dreamlike quality. The tiny beach of Scalo Maestro is one of the few you can access from the shore, and its gentle slope and clear, calm waters are particularly swimmer- and snorkeler-friendly. Once you’ve had your fill of beach time, charter a boat for a tour of the island: it’s the only way to access Marettimo’s hidden sea caves. You can’t truly appreciate the magic of the Aegadian Islands until you’ve gone swimming in a sun-dappled Mediterranean grotto.
5) Porto Campana, Sardinia
Three miles of golden sand make up the Campana beachfront, and within that expanse you’ll find something to suit every type of beachgoer. Look for rental kiosks to try your hand at surfing, kiteboarding, or paddleboarding; kick back on a rented lounger with a cocktail; sign up for a scuba session with a local outfitter; or admire Campana’s dunes—some as high as 65 feet.
6) Otranto Beach, Otranto
This bay in the center of Italy’s easternmost town is all soft white sand and shallow turquoise water—a tiny sliver of the Caribbean perched on the Adriatic. And while the beach itself is as all-purpose as they come (great for swimming, sunning, snorkeling…), the best way to enjoy this place also happens to be the easiest: Stop in town to pick up a crisp white wine, a hunk of fresh bread, and a ball of Puglia’s creamy, buttery burrata, then while away a few hours sipping and snacking on this little seaside slice of heaven.
7) Poglinano a Mare Beach, Puglia
Nestled in an inlet bound by steep limestone cliffs, this spot is off the beaten path for most tourists, but it’s well worth the detour. Bring a beach chair for comfort—there’s no sand here, only smooth, salt-worn pebbles—and a pack a pair of water shoes if you’re the adventurous type. Then follow the lead of the locals: Climb a few feet up the cliffs, shimmy out until you’re over deep water, and take the leap. Toast your courage in a cliffside cove above the Adriatic at nearby Grotta Palazzese, possibly the most romantic restaurant in the world.
8) Spiaggia di Tuerredda, Sardinia
Even in the off-season, this island idyll is a must-see: The sea here is such a perfect shade of pale blue it doesn’t seem real, and since it’s sheltered from the bracing Mistral winds, the water is warm enough for swimming well into fall. There’s a scattering of casual beachfront restaurants and amenities if you’re interested in paddleboarding or kayaking, but be sure to find time for a languid stroll along the shore. Between the pristine setting, the sound of the waves, and the occasional whiff of Sardinia’s juniper trees on the breeze, your blood pressure will be dropping in no time.
9) Marina del Cantone Beach, Massa Lubrense
This beach is the place to go if you want authenticity: Despite its proximity to the Amalfi Coast’s tourist hotspots, Marina del Cantone is free of the overdevelopment (and accompanying sky-high prices) you’ll find in neighboring coastal towns, and you’re likely to be surrounded by locals. Be sure to wear sturdy sandals to shield your soles from the rocky beach, and if you’re feeling ambitious, hike the nearby footpaths for unbeatable views of the bay and the town from neighboring cliffs. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head into town for lunch with a view at Lo Scoglio. Their spaghetti con ricci di mare—pasta tossed with a sauce of sea urchin, olive oil, and garlic—is creamy, salty-sweet, and the perfect capstone to an Amalfi afternoon.
10) Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa
It takes a bit of determination to make your way to this secluded spot—the tiny island of Lampedusa is just over 100 miles off the coast of mainland Italy, closer to Tunisia than Europe—but the effort pays off. The water is shallow and perfectly clear even at the edges of the bay, and cliffs flanking the beach keep it sheltered from strong winds and waves. The visibility and abundant sea life (turtles includes) make snorkeling a must, but the remote location means you won’t find much in the way of facilities and amenities, so pack gear and provisions before you go.
11) Spiaggia di Chiaia di Luna, Ponza
This is Italy’s answer to the white cliffs of Dover. Sheer golden bluffs plummet over 300 feet down to sea level, where they’re bordered by a thin crescent of sand. It’s a must-see destination year round: If it’s too chilly for swimming, Instagram-worthy tableaux abound if you take a stroll along the beach or atop the coastal cliffs. And though the beach is the main draw, be sure to carve out enough time for inland exploring. Ponza has been settled since the Neolithic era, so the island is scattered with Roman and Etruscan ruins that archaeology buffs will love. For bonus points, pack The Odyssey for beach reading: Ponza is rumored to be Homer’s inspiration for the isle of Aeaea, where Odysseus meets the enchantress Circe.
12) La Cattedrale, Palmarola
From Ponza, charter a boat to the neighboring island of Palmarola for even more jaw-dropping scenery. The harbor beach on this uninhabited isle is beautiful enough, but for the real showstopper, head to La Cattedrale, a series of rocky arches jutting into the sea, so named for their resemblance to the vaulted naves of medieval churches. An afternoon spent swimming in the grottos, dozing in the shade of the cliffs, and spotting the dolphins that play offshore is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience you don’t want to miss.
13) Lido Beach, Lido di Venezia
14) Lago di Braies, South Tyrol
It may not be on the ocean, but this gem nestled in the Dolomites is guaranteed to satisfy beachgoers in search of beautiful scenery and a refreshing dip. The lake boasts clear, blue-green waters and white sand—a striking visual contrast to the dense pine forest and snow-dusted peaks that surround it. A day hike is the best way to see everything Lago di Braies has to offer: Pack your swimsuit, a towel, and a lunch, then venture out on the beginner-friendly footpath that circles the perimeter, pausing to picnic and swim at the first beach that suits your fancy. Be sure to stop at the Braies bungalow—built on stilts over the lake, it’s a cross between an alpine ski lodge and a Tahitian overwater cabana—for photo ops and rowboat rentals.
15) Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
One of the most visually striking beaches in the world, Sicily’s Turkish Steps are a must-visit for aesthetic reasons alone. The bright white marlstone has been slowly eroded, creating a sloping staircase that leads right into the sea. Go at low tide for the best views, and wear sturdy shoes for the journey—the climb is not for the faint of heart. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, pack a flashlight and stay until the sun sets. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better visual than that of the cliffs awash in gold and silhouetted against a fiery sky.
As one of the most accessible and beloved parts of the world, Europe is home to plenty bucket list–worthy places. History will draw you to ancient cities like Rome, Athens, and Lisbon, while culinary feats on nearly every corner call from Paris and London. And we can’t forget the rolling, robust lands of Ireland and Scotland. It could take a lifetime to fully immerse yourself in every destination.
While these iconic stops are definitely worth your attention, there are others that might not have as much search traffic, but can give you a whole new perspective on a place and its people. These little-known wonders — most of which are not-so-far from larger metropolitan areas — will add depth and dimension to your getaway, offering a unique opportunity to see and experience something beyond the usual circuit.
Below, seven underappreciated European gems you need to know about.
Scotland’s Outer Hebrides
Scotland’s Skye and the Hebrides snagged the seventh spot in this year’s World’s Best Islands in Europe ranking, but the former is arguably the most popular with travelers. Take a ferry ride beyond the Isle of Skye to explore what’s considered to be one of Europe’s last natural habits, the Outer Hebrides. This collection of islands — the largest being the Isles of Lewis, Harris, and North and South Uist — offers a full immersion into Celtic history, heritage, and charm.
You can hear locals speaking or singing in Gaelic, marvel at medieval churches, and see Neolithic standing stones up close. On Harris, where tweed fabric was originally woven, local artisans continue to craft capes, bags, and more traditional goods with the makings of an excellent souvenir. To visit, carve out your own schedule or book one of the many the tours that explore this region. This 11-day, 10-night optionthis link opens in a new tab from CIE Tours International includes whiskey tasting, beach hopping, and more. Depending on the season, you’ll want to pack layers, as summers can be ideal beach weather, but winters are often unforgiving.
The expansive island of Sardinia is just an hour-long flight away from Rome. If you’ve ever been to the Algarve on Portugal’s southern coast, you might recognize the jagged — and breathtaking — landscape that defines Sardinia’s 1,200 miles of coastline, blending beaches into mountains. There are two special qualities that set this destination apart from others: its Bronze Age stone ruins that look like beehives and its microclimate. Thanks to the headland behind Santa Margherita di Pula, which shields the coast from cold north winds, this region has 300 days of sunshine. Though it’s lovely to visit from March through December, June and July will give you the warmest ocean temperatures. For a luxe, beachfront stay, book the Forte Village Resortthis link opens in a new tab in Santa Margherita di Pula.
On your next trip to Greece, hop on an hour-long flight from Athens to spend a few days in the country’s “second city,” Thessaloniki. This Northern port offers plenty for history lovers, but it’s also got a modern liveliness to it. You can wander through ruins from the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans — thanks to its numerous occupations — and then make your way to Valaoritou Street for stylish cocktail bars and plenty of music. Since the heart of the city was entirely rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1917, the 20th-century architecture of this area will feel far away from the traditional Greek vibe. The city is also popular with locals because the beaches are also less crowded than on the islands. Don’t miss White Tower, Roman Forum, and the cobblestone streets of the historic quarter, Ano Polithis link opens in a new tab.
If you’ve already experienced the bath scene in Budapest, danced ’til dawn at the infamous five-story club in Prague, and ordered just-one-more cocktail while admiring the moonlit sea in Dubrovnik, set your sights on a lesser-known party destination: Belgrade. The capital of Serbia is becoming quite the watering hole for young travelers who, thanks to its many teeming bars and restaurants (and coffee shops to wake you up when morning comes). Here, you can experience splavovi — splav, for short — floating lounges anchored along the Danube and Sava rivers, each featuring a different musical genre. These tend to rage every night of the week, but if you need a break, make sure to see Beogradska Tvrđava, the historical fortress representing the city’s part in the Ottoman, Serbian, Austrian, Byzantine and Roman empires.
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You’ve heard of Venice and Verona, but a short 30- to 40-minute train ride from either of these known Italian destinations is Vicenza. Within the country’s northeastern Veneto region, you’ll be amazed by how little foot traffic this beautiful town hosts. It’s most known for its unique buildings, specifically those of 16th-century architect Palladio. If you enjoy spending hours winding through halls of art, you’ll find yourself sipping cappuccinos in between visits to the Basilica Palladiana and the Palazzo Chiericati. You might even catch a movie at the Teatro Olimpico, an outdoor theater that’s indoors. As a bonus? You can add “wandered through a UNESCO World Heritage Site” to your checklist, since the longstanding value and importance of the architecture in this town earned it a nod. If your budget allows, consider staying for a long weekend where you can talk about the beauty you’ve witnessed over wine al fresco at the Villa Valmarana Ai Nanithis link opens in a new tab.
It’s hard not to fall for the refined charisma of France — from the quaint, streetside cafes of Paris to the glittering grape vines of Bordeaux. But if you want to go off the grid? Head 45 minutes east of Cannes to find Vence, a small commune in the hills of the Alpes Maritimes. You might want to speak French, or at least attempt, when you pull into to this town, which is known for its landscape and the luxury destination spa at the Chateau Saint-Martin & Spathis link opens in a new tab. You may also want to pack your watercolor palette, as inspiration struck for many an artist — Picasso and Matisse, namely — in this idyllic Côte D’Azur perch.
Every year, America’s small towns draw tourists—and new residents—to their streets in droves. They are, after all, reminders of a simpler way of life, where mom-and-pop shops are the norm, everybody knows your name, and the pace is slower than the speed of tweets. To help you get away from the breakneck tempo of your daily routine, we rounded up nine of the cutest small towns for an easy weekend escape, from a picturesque New England coastal haven to a romantic Southern getaway that feels untouched by time.
1 – Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
With its local wineries and Pacific Coast Highway views, the Northern California town of Carmel-by-the-Sea is as idyllic as its name suggests. Come for the beach, a mile-long swath of white sand from which you can view dolphins and sea lions, then wander around town to shop quirky independent boutiques and see whimsical cottages that look like they came straight out of a fairytale. The atmospheric gardens and chapels at Spanish-colonial Carmel Mission, founded in 1770 and designated a National Historic Landmark, offer worthy spots for reflection, though you’ll find just as much tranquility after a stay in one of the intimate suites at L’Auberge Carmel. For dinner, nab a table at Cultura Comida y Bebida, where chef Michelle Estigoy serves standout chicken tinga tacos and epazote quesadillas inspired by her family’s Mexican heritage.
2 – Sitka, AK
Accessible only by air and sea, the fishing village of Sitka is a remote beauty that anyone who has watched the 2009 Sandra Bullock film The Proposal is sure to recognize (filming took place in Rockport, Massachusetts, but sets were built to resemble this port town). Here, you can indulge in the natural pursuits Alaska is known for, from whale watching and kayaking to hiking up a dormant volcano or strolling through towering spruce trees—spotting bald eagles and totem poles along the way—at Sitka National Historic Park.
3 – Taos, NM
It’s easy to see why this high-desert town in the Sangre de Christo Mountains has become a haven for artists, writers, and other creative types. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a feast for the senses thanks to its striking adobe architecture, red-rock canyons, and snow-tipped peaks. Feeling inspired? View works by the likes of Agnes Martin and other local painters at the Harwood Museum of Art and more than 80 other galleries. There are also plenty of activities to keep adrenaline junkies engaged year ‘round. Summer brings hiking and hot air ballooning, while winter offers some of the best skiing in the country.
4 – Marfa, TX
As art meccas go, Marfa is an unlikely one. Founded in 1883, the tiny Texas town—population under 2,000—has served as a railway headquarters and military training base, but it wasn’t until the 1970s, when artist Donald Judd moved there, that it became a cultural destination for the aesthetically informed. View some of his most iconic concrete sculptures on a sunrise tour of the Chinati Foundation, or make like the Insta glitterati and take a selfie in front of Elmgreen and Dragset’s now-famous Prada Marfa installation, off Highway 90.
5 – Beaufort, SC
If this Lowcountry fishing village looks straight out of a movie set, that’s because it is: Beaufort was the backdrop for such films as Forrest Gump and The Big Chillthanks to its sprawling antebellum mansions, moss-draped oaks, and picturesque downtown streets. Located on Port Royal Island in South Carolina’s Sea Island chain, the town makes an ideal base for enjoying simple pleasures and all manner of aquatic diversions, including paddle boarding, kayaking, dolphin watching, and crabbing.
6 – Galena, IL
The romantic ideal of Main Street is alive and well in this mining town on Illinois’s northwestern border—think of it as the Midwest’s version of Stars Hollow. Trolley cars still cruise down the historic lane, which is lined with 19th-century brick buildings and cute galleries, boutiques, and craft shops that give it a distinctly small-town feel. American history fanatics, however, will be more impressed with Galena’s status as the home of Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant, a fact illuminated at the U.S. president’s namesake museum.
7 –Edgartown, MA
On the southeast tip of Martha’s Vineyard, Edgartown is the quintessential New England seaside getaway with classic shingle-style buildings, windswept dunes, and a scenic lighthouse. Though the beaches are the draw, the onetime whaling port brims with storybook charm. Tour the 18th-century homes of whaling captains on foot or bike, then try your hand at sailing like a local. All it takes is a short ferry rideto explore neighboring Chappaquiddick Island, where, during the summer, you can play a round of night golf by the light of the full moon.
8 – Stowe, VT
This impossibly quaint Green Mountain town has all the makings of a Norman Rockwell painting—right down to the general store. But there’s more to Stowe than simple pleasures. Not only does Stowe have Vermont’s tallest peak, making it one of the East Coast’s most popular (and powder-friendly) ski destinations, it’s also home to the Trapp Family Lodge, an Austrian-style chalet owned by the family immortalized in The Sound of Music, as well as a stellar culinary scene. Don’t miss the grilled cauliflower steak with quinoa at our favorite dinner spot, Plate. Have a sweet tooth? The Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory is nearby in Waterbury.
9 – St. Augustine, FL
The cobblestone streets of St. Augustine are steeped in history. Founded in 1565 by Spanish conquistadors, the northern Atlantic coast town is studded with colonial architecture, from the 17th-century Castillo de San Marcos fortress to the Victorian antiques–filled Lightner Museum, housed in an 1887 Spanish Renaissance Revival building commissioned by Rockefeller business associate and Florida real estate magnate Henry Flagler. If sun and sand is what you seek, there’s plenty of that, too:Anastasia State Park comprises four miles of wildlife-dotted beach and maritime forests.
From the Alps to the Mediterranean, these frozen-in-time European villages will make you appreciate the beauty of taking it slow. Reaching some of these European beauties requires extra effort, yet the rewards are dazzling. Your eyes will thank you.
The storybook town of Hallstatt in central Austria enjoys a gorgeous setting on the bank of the Hallstätter See, between the pristine lake and a lush mountain that rises dramatically from the water’s edge. A history of salt mining dating back thousands of years has translated into enduring prosperity for the town, which is most evident in the beautiful square ringed with ivy-covered buildings.
Manarola is a small town, a frazione of the comune (municipality) of Riomaggiore, in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northern Italy. It is the second smallest of the famous Cinque Terre towns frequented by tourists.
The hilly Cotswold region is a designated “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” in southwestern England, and one of its loveliest villages is Bibury, where verdant meadows abut ancient stone cottages with steep pitched roofs. The River Coln, which bisects the village, teems with trout, but the most scenic area is Arlington Row, a lane of sepia-hued cottages built in the 17th century to house weavers from the nearby Arlington Mill.
French and German influences commingle in this well-preserved Alsatian village, where local bakeries sell both croissants and kugelhopf, and restaurants specialize in foie gras and sauerkraut (or choucroute). A range of architectural styles, from German Gothic to French Neo-Baroque, can be spotted in the old town, which was spared destruction during World War II—thanks in part to the historical beauty of its cobblestoned lanes, quiet canals, and half-timbered houses.
North of the Arctic Circle, Reine is a pretty fishing village in the Lofoten archipelago, an area of starkly beautiful Nordic wilderness, where sapphire bays punctuate fjords and mountains. Many of the bright red fishermen’s cabins (called rorbuer) have been converted into comfortable cottages for visitors that offer direct access to the Norwegian Sea. Settle in for a front-row view of the night sky and its mesmerizing entertainment, from summer’s midnight sun to winter’s northern lights.
The buses and cruises that stop along Croatia’s sunny Dalmatian coast unleash tourists eager to experience the charms of Dubrovnik and the ancient island village of Hvar. Fewer visitors find their way to Pučiśća on the island of Brač. The reward is a seaside village with outsize appeal: white-stone villas with terracotta roofs, narrow cobblestoned alleys, and a stone-paved square. Bask in its relative solitude and the many prime spots for swimming in the turquoise Adriatic Sea.
Telč, Czech Republic
Residents of Telč, a small town in south Moravia, were once quite competitive about the beauty of their homes, as is evident today on the elongated main square, where one building is lovelier than the next. The Baroque- and Renaissance-style façades, featuring high gables painted in pale pastels, now support small shops and cafés. A grand Renaissance-era château and large fish-filled ponds surround the square.
Encircled by streams, the picturesque village of Cong straddles the border between County Mayo and Galway—a region of lakes and vibrantly green meadows dotted with grazing sheep. Cong counts numerous stone bridges, the ruins of a medieval abbey, the occasional thatched-roof cottage, and Ashford Castle, a grand Victorian estate that has been converted into a romantic luxury hotel.
Gruyères is famous for its namesake cheese, whose mild, nutty flavor melts so well in fondue. But few are familiar with the town itself, a medieval hamlet in the upper valley of the Saane River in western Switzerland. A wide, stone-paved street leads up to the magnificent 13th-century Gruyères Castle, with its imposing fortifications and expansive views of the surrounding Alpine foothills.
This small Alpine town in northwestern Slovenia rings the shore of Lake Bled, whose glacial blue waters surround a tiny island and its small Baroque church. After a two-hour stroll around the lake, hike to the medieval hilltop castle for panoramic views or recharge with a slice of the local specialty: kremšnita, a sugar-topped pastry filled with cream and custard that has been served for decades at the Hotel Park.