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If you read our piece on Europe’s second cities, you’ll already know we think it’s a great idea to veer a little off the expected tourist trail. But even a second city might not scratch the itch you’ve been clawing at for so long. It’s time to go way off the beaten path.
From countryside villages to major cities somehow flying just under the radar, a wealth of experience is waiting to be discovered for those willing to hop off the tour bus and make their own way. With Europe clamping down on Airbnb, we’ve given you some food for thought with a few off-the-beaten-path European hotels.
Star Castle Hotel – Isles of Scilly
Location: Isles of Scilly
Vibe: Fortified 16th-century getaway
The rundown: You’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere further off the beaten path than the Isles of Scilly in the UK.
The cluster of five inhabited islands is located off the Southeastern coast of England. Despite being the warmest place in the UK (a big deal), only a few thousand people call it home. Things tick along at their own pace in Scilly—you won’t find big brand hotel chains or supermarkets, but you will find stunning beaches, quaint villages, and family-owned cafes, shops, and restaurants, all fostering a unique sense of identity.
For your visit, stay at the Star Castle Hotel. Built into a 16th-century fortification, you’ll sleep safe and sound here. Not that you need to worry about safety here,but it’s cool to sleep in a castle
Auberge du Rempart – Eguisheim
Location: Eguisheim, France
Vibe: Fantastical fairytale town with wine
The rundown: What’s better than a fairytale-looking village? A fairytale-looking village with a fraction of the tourists.
Eguisheim is a startlingly beautiful village near the border of France and Germany. Its German-sounding name owes to its previous location within the borders of Germany—these were redrawn after WWI. While it’s a popular spot for French weekend warriors, travelers from further afar will be treated to its quaintness with none of the malarky that often haunts these places.
Oh, and try the wine.
To stay in the center of the historic area, grab a room at Auberge du Rempart. It’s affordable and very much engrained in its surroundings.
Grand Hotel – Alkmaar
Vibe: Stylish cheese market base camp
The rundown: I’m sorry to say the US is centuries behind in cheese. It’s by no means your fault, but it’s your duty as a citizen of the world to make up for the lost time. For a crash course in Dutch cheese, head to Alkmaar.
It’s a beautiful little town and happens to be home to the oldest cheese market in the Netherlands. It’s been running since 1593 and is a sight to behold. Lines of cheese wheels are laid out along the street, with cheese runners running up and down the aisles to replenish stocks. It runs from March till September.on’t miss it.
The Grand Hotel puts you in the thick of the action. You can practically roll out of bed and into the cheese.
Novotel Mechelen Centrum – Mechelen
Location: Mechelen, Belgium
Vibe: Simple sophistication; sublime city
The rundown: Mechelen is a wonderful city. Perfectly poised between Brussels and Antwerp, the Belgian hotspot is a gorgeous mishmash of historical architecture, wonderful beer, delightful back alleys, and a quiet disposition. But its reputation as a foodie hotspot is the real reason to head there.
Its recent restaurant renaissance fused with the traditional beer culture makes it an exciting place to spend a few days, and there’s no better spot than Novotel Mechelen Centrum. Not only is the hotel sophisticated, but it also houses a restaurant and bar, both promoting local fare to get you acquainted with the taste of the town.
B&B Sud e Magia – Castelmezzano
Location: Castelmezzano, Italy
Vibe: Simplistic mountain retreat
The rundown: Believe it or not, the Dolomites consists of more than that lake and those peaks. It’s an entire mountain range packed with different towns and cities screaming for exploration. One of the jewels of the region is Castelmezzano.
The picturesque mountain village has been around in some form for over two thousand years, nestling amongst the jagged peaks. It’s a little-visited but delightful place to seek some peace and quiet. B&B Sud e Magia is one of the best places to kick back and enjoy the view.
Altstadthotel Molitor – Bamberg
Location: Bamberg, Germany
Vibe: Medieval beauty
The rundown: The medieval German town of Bamber has somehow managed to evade the uglier trappings of the modern world. Centered around the rivers converging amongst its streets, tourists can enjoy wandering its cobbles, sampling its famed smoked beer from one of 10 local breweries, and ogling at its remarkable history.
It can be done as a day trip from Nuremberg, but we’d recommend staying overnight to enjoy the atmospheric lighting of the streets. Alstadthotel Molitor is the perfect place to kip down for the night—historic and beautiful, just like the city.
Hotel Servigroup Montíboli – Villajoyosa
Vibe: Laid-back sunshine away from the crowds
The rundown: Spain is awash with busy resort towns, swarming with tourists, and scarcely recognizable as the same country home to Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. Villajoyosa is the answer.
Its beaches rival its nearby resort towns, but visitors remain startled by their relative emptiness. Even in the throngs of summer, enjoying a slice of pristine sand is rarely an issue. To maximize enjoyment, book a room at Hotel Servigroup Montiboli, a cliffside retreat overlooking the town. Check out the pool dangling on the edge of the cliff.