It’s no secret: no one knows the best places to visit in their home country like locals do. There is only so much research tourists can do on their own to uncover the latest hotspots and hangouts only known to the country’s natives.
To help you find a more authentic travel experience this summer, momondo analyzed the following country’s most popular summer destinations* based on hotel searches by its local residents. Excluding the top, overly touristy cities, we reveal the local hidden gems you should start planning your summer escape to.
About three hours from Krakow, Zakopane is a picturesque town situated in the heart of the Tatra Mountains. People come here for its nature and serene atmosphere and stay for the outdoor activities. Scenic hiking trails, challenging mountain bike paths and peaceful picnic areas surrounded by Mother Nature are all equally enjoyed by Zakopane’s visitors.
Zakopane’s main street, Krupówki, is lined with quaint restaurants and bars, with plenty of options to sit outside and people watch. In the summer, you’ll find one of the most unique markets on Krupówki selling specialty crafts, handmade wooden souvenirs and fresh produce, including Oscypek, a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk and exclusive to the Zakopane region. These savory snacks come in all sort of shapes and sizes. If you’re feeling curious, you can even watch them being made in the local stalls.
Often overlooked by tourists longing for a taste of authentic Scandinavia, Helsingborg is one of Sweden’s best kept secrets. A 20-minute ferry ride across the Øresund strait from Denmark, Helsingborg lies directly across from the Danish city of Helsingør. Throughout its history, Denmark has lost Helsingborg to Sweden six times and won it back just as many times, only to finally lose it once and for all to Sweden in 1710. Today, the two modern cities are the oldest twin cities in the world.
Pass away the afternoon on one of the sunbeds or giant beanbags scattered along Helsingborg’s boardwalk. Later, make your way up north to Sofiero Castle, a former mansion belonging to the Swedish Royal Family, which offers daily tours of its inspiring gardens. If you have some extra time to spare, a day trip to the renowned surf town Mölle and its surrounding vineyards are well worth a quick 40-minute drive.
There’s no better way to celebrate summer in Cologne than by sprawling out in the sun along the Rhine River or throwing an impromptu barbecue with friends, ice-cold Kölsch beer in hand. Chill out in one of the many laid-back biergartens in the trendy Belgian Quarter or stroll down the narrow alleyways of the Old Town for window shopping and sightseeing.
For impressive views of the city without the crowds or hundreds of stairs necessary to reach the top of the Cologne Cathedral, head across the Deutzer Brücke bridge to the top of the KölnTriangle for an alternative and free outlook over the city. If you are lucky enough to be in Cologne around mid-July, stick around at night for the Köln-Lichter, an enormous fireworks show coordinated with music, illuminating the Old Town with a sea of vibrant colors.
The world’s happiest country just so happens to be home to Europe’s happiest city, Aalborg. Its beautiful new waterfront was recently renovated and has been transformed into a gathering place for admiring modern architecture and dining on international and Danish cuisine. Every summer, the Aalborg Havnebad outdoor pool reopens to the public, allowing visitors to cool down with a dip in the refreshing waters of the fjord. Year round, visitors can enjoy a concert at the House of Music or learn about the city’s Viking history at the Lindholm Høje Museum.
Just an hour’s drive north from Aalborg is Denmark’s Skagen region, most famous for being the spot where the waves from two different seas meet and crash into each other. Venture out along the sandy Grenen peninsula and stand with one foot in each ocean to best watch the unique spectacle up close. Supposedly, the sun shines longer in Skagen than anywhere else in Denmark so it’s worth spending some time strolling around the town’s charming yellow houses and little cafes.
Norway’s biggest attraction is the Krisitansand Zoo and Amusement Park, known as Dyreparken to the Norwegians. Actually several parks combined, the entire complex is split up into different themed areas and even includes its own aquapark. For those who prefer their water activities to be closer to Mother Nature, the sandy shores of Bystranda beach are situated right in the heart of the city and have ample space for everyone to lounge around in the sun.
The old city center, Posebyen, is steeped in history. It has the largest collection of remaining old, white wooden houses in Northern Europe after a fire nearly destroyed the area in 1892. When the sun is shining, you’ll find everyone hanging out nearby at the old fishing port, Fiskebrygga. The buildings have been repurposed into restaurants and shops, where friends gather to sip on cocktails, socialise on each other’s boats and listen to free concerts during the summer.
Situated on a thin strip of beach along the Black Sea, Mamaia is one of the most popular weekend retreats for Romanians, especially those in nearby Constanta. If you’re passing though Constanta on your way down to Mamaia, check out the abandoned Constanta Casino. Once a Monte Carlo of its day, this massive art nouveau palace was permanently closed in 1980, but its eerie remains provide a rare glimpse of the glamorous cliffside casino that attracted Europe’s royal and elite.
Known for its fine sand, elegant seafront hotels and luxurious clubs, Mamaia’s nightlife could rival Ibiza’s. High-end clubs, casual bars and pubs can all be found within walking distance of the coastline. While its plethora of lounges and chairs are perfect for getting your tan on, if you prefer something a little more active, Mamaia also offers plenty of water sports like wind surfing, paragliding and waterskiing.
Finland’s third largest city is surrounded by almost 2000 lakes within reach from the city center. It’s no wonder Tampere is a popular summer destination for swimming, kayaking and other outdoor activities. Its relatively small city center is lined with eclectic vintage shops and red brick houses, and is perfect for walking around in one day.
Every morning, the famous Pyynikki Café doughnuts are served up hot and fresh at the top of the Pyynikki Observation Tower, a 85-foot-tall building that has been around since Tampere’s early industrial days. From here, visitors can admire the city and its surrounding nature from its high-up vantage point. The Market Hall is a great option for lunch, dishing out plenty of helpings of Tampere’s regional black sausage served with signature with lingonberry jam, of course.
Although the seaside French town is best known for its glamorous reputation and the famous Cannes Film Festival, Cannes’ family-owned shops and little boutiques give it a laid-back beach vibe typical to Mediterranean cities. You don’t have to be a celebrity or a socialite to feel like a star in Cannes, simply window shopping down the legendary Boulevard de la Croisette and admiring the yacht-lined harbor will have you feeling like you’re in a movie.
The Cannes shoreline is one of the most frequented shorelines along the Cote d’Azur thanks in part to its more than five miles of sandy shores and its two small islands. The idyllic Lérins Islands are surrounded by reefs and crystal blue water, and can be reached via a quick 15-minute boat trip from the tip of la Croisette.
Windsurfing lessons, beach tennis and slacklining are all within reach in Bournemouth. A 30-minute walk along the shore towards Boscombe Pier, the Coastal Activity Park has over 30 different activities ranging from bouldering to volleyball. If you’re looking for an Instagramable place to chill out for the day, you can rent a colourful seafront beach pod designed by the much-hyped Wayne Hemingway. Each pod comes with essential furniture to help you feel at home for the day such as a sofa, fold out chairs and a little cooking area with a cupboard and cooking utensils.
The adventurous can fly over the waves from the Bournemouth Pier with PierZip, an adrenaline-pumping zipline that hurls you all the way to shore from the top of the pier’s tower. Just in front of the pier, the Oceanarium is an interactive aquarium where guests can be immersed in a virtual dive tank to come face to face with great whites and dolphins, without actually having to get in the water.
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly beach or a booming party scene, Rimini has the best of both worlds. Cocorico, Italy’s largest and most renowned dance club frequently hosts famous DJs from all over the world playing under its iconic glass pyramid ceiling into the early hours of the morning. A short drive away, the Italia in Miniatura theme park is an entertaining stop for visitors of all ages. As its name suggests, the park is famous for its mini replicas of Italian monuments like the Colosseum and Leaning Tower of Pisa, as well as international attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Acropolis.
Once characterized as the rough, fisherman’s neighbourhood, Borgo San Giuliano is a favorite among locals and tourists. Painted murals line the walls of its cobblestone streets and its piazzas are littered with people eating, drinking and simply having a good time. You cannot leave without trying an authentic piadina, a filled flatbread which originates from Rimini. Fill it as you like with ham, arugula, mozzarella or squaccherone – a fresh, soft cheese.
Perhaps Valencia’s most iconic attraction, and one of the 12 treasures of Spain is the City of Arts and Sciences complex, featuring six futuristic buildings designed by Valencian architect Santiago de Calatrava. This city within a city boasts one of the largest aquariums in the world, a huge open-air garden (which transforms into an outdoor nightclub during the summer nights) and the interactive Principe Felipe Science Museum, whose motto is “It is prohibited not to touch, not to feel.”
If the sweltering summer heat is too much to bear, take refuge underground in Valencia’s Archaeological Museum, which is entirely below street level. You won’t find any boring exhibits simply displaying ancient relics behind glass here, instead you will be face to face with the old city’s ruins. After, find your way to the Central Market for a quick snack or a lazy lunch. The market’s art nouveau façade is decorated with stained glass windows and mosaic adorned walls and inside thousands of stalls sell fresh produce and local Spanish goods.
The chic bars and modern atmosphere of Side’s pristine beaches stand in contrast against the second century ruins of an ancient city, namely the Hellenistic Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Athena. Pronounced “see deh,” this ancient Greek metropolis lies on the Southern coast of Turkey in the province of Antalya.
Its sunny shores are split roughly into two beaches, with the west side being the livelier of the two, lined with hotels and holiday resorts. The east beach on the other hand gives off a quiet, beach village vibe and remains relatively untouched thanks to its archaeological sites. Whether you prefer your beach to be rowdy or tranquil, there is no better way to cool off than by indulging in the favorite local treat known as mara, a typical sticky ice cream that cannot be licked, it has to be bitten or cut up with a fork and knife.
Technically a micro district within the Adlersky City District of Sochi, Adler is one of the most popular resorts along Russia’s southern Black Sea Coast. Unknown to the untrained tourist eye, its calm waters and pebbly black beach are the perfect setting for a casual swim and some relaxation under the sun. A short distance away, Sochi’s famed boardwalk is buzzing with bars and cafes should you find yourself in need of a cold beer at the Irish pub or a hearty meal from one of the local restaurants.
Considered to be Russia’s very own Disneyland, Adler’s Sochi Park is a treat for both adults and children alike. Visitors can experience a world of five themed zones with games and amusement rides revolving around traditional Russian fairy tales and folklore. For those looking for a calmer and scenic day activity, Dendrariy Park offers vast gardens and ample pathways where you can take a leisurely stroll and admire thousands of colorful flowers in full bloom.
Its history and contrasting cultural mix of inhabitants from nations including Ukraine, Russia, Moldovia, and Germany make Odessa unlike any other place in Ukraine. Odessa’s sunny Mediterranean climate and sandy beaches are paired alongside quaint streets and European boulevards. During the summer, the Arcadia district is the place to be due to its world-famous nightlife. Its massive clubs and endless bars are packed with the finest dressed night owls, eager to dance the night away.
Since its foundation in 1794, Odessa has been long admired by artists, writers and poets who have helped influence its distinct architecture and diverse museums and galleries. The opulent Odessa National Theatre of Opera and Ballet is often thought of as Odessa’s greatest treasure. The grandeur of the interior, with its antique columns, intricate moldings and dark red velvet armchairs add a romantic feeling to the beauty of its world-class performances.
Considered one of Europe’s most vital trading hubs during the 15th and 16th centuries, today Funchal is known for its picturesque seaside cliffs, black sandy beaches and, of course, its most famous export, football legend Cristiano Ronaldo. Funchal’s lush, tropical landscape and warm temperatures draw in cruise ships year round filled with passengers eager to explore the rare, exotic flora of the Madeira Botanical Garden and to sip fragrant glasses of golden Madeira wine.
Along the old city’s Rua de Santa Maria, local artists have painted the doors of old buildings and abandoned shops with colorful frescoes and striking designs, transforming this narrow street into a work of art. If you’re looking to bring a little piece of Funchal’s blossoming art scene back home, you can buy originals and prints from local and national artists at the Clube dos Poetas e Artistas, an impressive indoor art center.