Inspiration - 5 min read

Lesser known European destinations to visit in 2022

By Ella Perryman

We’ve always enjoyed seeking out under-the-radar destinations: tasting local delicacies, wandering through quiet streets and living like a local. We asked our resident experts based in France and Italy for their favourite lesser-known destinations to help you make some exciting new discoveries in 2022.

 

 

 

1. Poitiers, France

Poitiers is a classic French provincial city, which has conserved much of its old world charm. It is on the World Heritage list as part of the French network of cities on the Camino de Santiago, boasting a great Romanesque heritage as well as over 80 different monuments. The Romanesque Church of Notre-Dame la Grande is a great artistic jewel that stands in the main square of the city’s historic centre. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by its 12th-century façade and the great beauty of the murals and interiors.

It’s not just the beautiful history that makes the city worth visiting. It’s a place of art, architecture, wine, great markets and museums and is surrounded by peaceful countryside. There are a number of fine art museums hosting interesting exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing everything from medieval artwork to contemporary pieces – the Musée Sainte-Croix is one of our favourites! For shopping, make sure you head to the weekly market on Tuesday and Thursday at the Notre-Dame to pick up fresh, local produce or bric-a-brac. A tasting of the local goat’s cheese Chabichou is a must and other local favourites are eels, mojettes (white beans) and snails. Just outside of Poitiers you’ll discover the Grottes de la Norée, a set of caves full of stalagmites and stunning waterfalls.

View places to stay near Poitiers >

2. Parma, Italy

Named as last year’s Culture Capital of Italy, Parma remains an authentic destination with limited tourism and ample cultural and gastronomic highlights. It is most renowned for its production of Parmigiano cheese and Prosciutto ham, both of which are specific to this area and under strict regulations. The city is also home to the Slow Food certified products of Culatello di Zibello (salami), Felino salami, or Spalla di San Secondo and, when in season, the porcini mushrooms from Val Taro and black truffles from Fragno. Top these off with a glass of Colli di Parma Rosso DOC wine and you are in foodie heaven! Restaurants and food shops with enticing displays line the cobblestone streets of the pedestrian-only historic centre, and it’s very easy to get around either by foot or bike. No other region has a greater culinary heritage than that of the Emilia-Romagna.

With so much to see, you could easily spend a long weekend or even a week wandering through the city. Discover the preserved Romanesque architecture, listen to classical music in the Teatro Regio or browse through the picture gallery in the imposing Palazzo della Pilotta. In the same building is the 17th century Teatro Farnese theatre made entirely of wood and the most renowned of its kind.

View places to stay in Parma >

3. Ronda, Spain

Ronda is the perfect spot for a weekend break or as a day trip from Seville and Malaga. It’s built into the Andalucian mountains and carved out by the Río Guadalevín, boasting one of the most extraordinary locations in the country. El Tajo gorge is one of the main highlights, but its status as the largest of Andalucía’s white towns is another of the many reasons to visit.

There are plenty of things to do in the town itself: visit the Jardines de Cuenca, Palacio de Mondragón or Baños Arabes for a whistle-stop tour of the Moorish history. There’s also brilliant walking to enjoy too; a dramatic path takes you from the town right down to the bottom of El Tajo, to the foot of the mighty “New Bridge” that spans the canyon. The city and its rugged scenery has been used for wine-making for centuries and it continues to make world renowned red wines to this day. Head off on a day-long wine tour or sample some of the local delicacies in one of the restaurants.

View places to stay near Ronda >

4. Azenhas do Mar, Portugal

When most people think of a beach holiday in Portugal they imagine the glistening coast of the Algarve. Over the last few years, however, we’ve had the joy of discovering some of the country’s other coastal gems and Azenhas do Mar certainly left us with a brilliant first impression. The clifftop fishing village is located in the Sintra-Cascais National Park, around 50-minutes drive from the bustling city of Lisbon.

With just over 800 inhabitants, the village makes for a relaxing day trip or extension to your city break. Spend your days relaxing on the small beach taking in views of the Atlantic Ocean, or swimming lengths in the natural bathing pool – we’d recommend swimming here at low tide. You’ll find a handful of local restaurants with fresh seafood on offer, plus you’re smack bang on the Fisherman’s Trail walking route, which runs right down to the Alentejo.

View places to stay near Azenhas do Mar >

5. Avignon, France

Recognized for its architectural beauty and historic importance, the centre of Avignon was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1995. It is also remembered for being the city where The Pope moved from Rome back in the 1300s. As well as having a rich history, the Provencal city is also loved for its beautiful architecture and peaceful, village feel. It’s a brilliant place to visit for those who want to ditch the plane, as the Eurostar will take you from London to Avignon in just under six hours.

Every summer, the entire city comes alive for 4 weeks for the annual Festival d’Avignon – where makeshift theatres pop up everywhere, from unused garages to schoolrooms. Troupes in costume act out snippets of their plays to entice you to catch the next show as you sip your coffee at a café terrace – it’s incredibly entertaining! Day trips are also highly recommended from the city: head to the Luberon’s hilltop villages, the antique fair at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, all are under 30 mins away.

View places to stay in Avignon >

6. Lecce, Italy

Lecce is often referred to as ‘The Florence of the South’ due to its rich Baroque architectural monuments and deep roots in Greek culture. A walk around the city will leave you mesmerised by its beauty, and we’d recommend heading to the Basilica Santa Croce, the city gates Porta di Napoli and the 17th century cathedral to view the best examples of ornately sculpted facades. The city’s vibrant history has been integrated into the lives of the Pugliese, especially so in the most southerly area called Salento. In one weekend, you may hear a concert in the Roman amphitheatre in the heart of the historic centre or see a wedding ceremony in one of the 30 churches. All the while, residents and visitors stroll down the Via Vittorio Emanuele hopping in and out of the many outdoor cafés, bars and restaurants.

The city and everything in it is often referred to as “lecesse”: from Pietra Lecesse, the cream-coloured stone of the buildings and pavements to the signature Caffé’ Leccese, a cool summer beverage with espresso. Being on the smaller side of a city, you can spend all day wandering through the pretty streets and finding hidden corners at every turn. Just take your time to soak it all up, stopping in one of the wine bars for a lazy lunch. This is the home of slow living.

View places to stay in Lecce >

More inspiration…

Six of the best European villas with pools

Six of the best European villas with pools

We select five of our favourite European villas: from one-of-a-kind château stays, to renovated barns and stylish fincas.

Take me there >

Five French places to book for 2022

Five French places to book for 2022

Stay in a quintessential gîte, wake up to freshly-baked croissants in the village, and explore idyllic vineyards and châteaux.

Take me there >

Best places to stay in Italy for epic views

Best places to stay in Italy for epic views

We choose five of the best places to stay in our Italian collection with views so mesmerising you will never want to leave.

Take me there >