This story was created in partnership with: Insight Vacations
Got your sights on Europe for 2021? If you’re hoping for an up-close and personal encounter with this continent but aren’t sure where to begin, we’ve teamed up with Insight Vacations to compile a list of 2021’s hottest European countries.
Travel is making a significant shift this year towards more sustainable practices, and combating overtourism is a big part of the effort – which is why we’re shining the spotlight on some of Europe’s up and coming destinations. As one of the co-founders of TreadRight – a foundation that has supported sustainable travel practices for over a decade – Insight Vacations believes strongly in making travel a force for good. They do this by working with local guides, reducing the impact of their offices and shunning single-use plastics.
With their in-depth traveller knowledge, not only will you discover the following places in comfort and style, but you’ll also be treated to unique and unexpected adventures with plenty of local colour. Here are the best places to visit in Europe in 2021.
Travel to: Europe with Insight Vacations
For too long now we’ve left our proverbial dreams of the United Kingdom’s landscape and whimsical delights to England and Scotland. Meanwhile, Wales can channel epic coastlines, castle walls that can speak, and hospitality in one breath. Combine this powerful trifecta with unique accommodation, some of Europe’s best beaches, effortlessly beautiful cities and towns, and you’ve got one heck of a place to visit.
And visit, you must, for there are few things greater in life than witnessing firsthand the intoxicating spirit of the Welsh people as they welcome you with open arms. The beauty of exploring Wales with Insight Vacations is they will take straight into you into the arms of the locals through experiences that are often not available to independent travellers.
With their curated experiences, you can create rare memories of Wales. In Brecon Beacons National Park, enjoy two custom activities – start by exploring flora and fauna with a ranger and then tuck into a delicious farm-to-table pub lunch. Even when you’re doing something as simple as having a meal or going for a stroll, it will feel more personable with a dedicated Insight Vacations’ Travel Director.
- Capital: Cardiff
- Best time to visit: April-May
- Highlight: Castles
- Recommended trip: Country Roads of Wales, Devon and Cornwall
Located in the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe, this small landlocked country is abundant with wonders that will make you catch your breath more than once or twice. North Macedonia is well on its way to becoming one of those destinations that everyone will be talking about visiting as soon as possible.
Dramatic mountain scenery and walking trails can be found all over the world, but in this country, they are offset by lakes that sparkle below a golden Balkan sun. With Insight Vacations, not only will you explore this country’s untamed natural beauty, but you’ll also come face to face with old-world architecture that reflects the country’s tangled history, and cultural heritage at every turn. You’ll get a chance to experience this especially while sightseeing with a Local Expert in Skopje, who will reveal the fascinating past of this modern capital and its ancient bazaar.
- Capital: Skopje
- Best time to visit: June-September
- Highlight: Old Bazaar in the capital of Skopje
- Recommended trip: Treasures of the Balkans
Another landlocked country, there’s more to Austria than schnitzel and imperial beauty – although both are definitely among its attributes. Few places in Europe can hold a candle to Austria’s assortment of palaces, musical legends, alpine summits, fine art, and cuisine.
From exploring the architectural splendour of Vienna to fairytale-like pursuits in Salzburg and the misty natural wonder that is Hallstatt, there’s plenty of awe to be had in this country. In fact, picturesque culture comes easily to Austria. You’ll find decadent concert halls reverberating with the sound of classical notes and opera, urban foraging at local markets, and much to toast with a pint of beer against a mountain backdrop.
In a place as vibrant as Austria, it can be hard to know where to begin. You’ll want to explore as much as is possible and maybe even discover some of its hidden gems. With Insight Vacations you’ll get access to unique experiences like joining one of their Local Experts in the formal gardens of Mirabell Palace and Residenplatz and visiting Mozart’s family home. Or you could enjoy a private tour of Schönbrunn Palace, where Mozart performed as a child. A Local Expert will guide you through the maze of corridors below frescoed ceilings, crystal chandeliers and gilded Rococo frames.
- Capital: Vienna
- Best time to visit: April-May, September-October, and December
- Highlight: Palaces
- Recommended Trip: Country Roads of Bavaria, Switzerland and Austria
Not everyone knows what to picture when it comes to Germany, but what you need to imagine is a country that’s stepped off the pages of a storybook. Think medieval architecture rising out from melancholy pine trees and cobblestoned cityscapes. In towns almost as old as time, it’s easy to see that Germany is a place that carries the vestiges of history but sure enough, signals to the future with cutting-edge culture.
There’s no shortage of cities you’ll want to explore – Berlin, Frankfurt, and Cologne to name a few – all of them brimming with bars, restaurants, clubs, and museums that pulsate alongside glorious historic buildings. Go beyond these urban hubs, and you’ll gain access to peaks in the Alps and trails that wind through romantic forests. Not to mention that you can lace your German adventure with the spoils of vineyards and breweries, cured sausages and freshly-baked pretzels.
In Germany, Insight Vacations will take you one step further with cultural experiences. You can visit the artisans of the Black Forest who know the ancient techniques of clock-making and foodies can learn how to make the traditional Schneeballen pastry from local bakers.
- Capital: Berlin
- Best time to visit: May-September
- Highlight: Museums
- Recommended Trip: Best of Germany
If your heart is set on Italy for 2021 (which we completely understand), but you don’t want to contribute to their overtourism problem – how about travelling during the shoulder months or off-season to southern Italy? You’ll get to experience everything great about this country: delicious food, coastal beauty, UNESCO World Heritage sites, cultural gems, and historic architecture and art – but you’ll also avoid those overwhelming crowds.
Insight Vacations will take you to alternate destinations. In Alberobello learn how to make orecchiette pasta from Nonna; in Matera – a lesser-known Puglian city you can explore the renowned Sassi cave dwellings, and in Agrigento – you can discover the Valley in the Temples first-hand with a Local Expert.
- Major city: Naples
- Best time to visit: October-November and January-March
- Highlight: Coastal towns
- Recommended Trip: Country Roads of Southern Italy and Sicily
To explore central Europe’s folksy cultural character, head for Hungary. Just kick it all off by tucking into a bowl of goulash, because you’ll need your energy to experience this treasure of a country fully. It’s too simplistic to say Hungary that has a little bit of everything – but it couldn’t be more eclectic. Thanks to Travel Directors and Local Experts that are in the know, Insight Vacations can help you navigate Hungary’s attractions.
For example, take the country’s cuisine. According to Lonely Planet, the locals say they have three styles of cooking: French, Chinese and their own. Once you wrap your head around that, you can ponder over the Turkish and Roman influence on Hungarian culture – which is best experienced by indulging in thermal waters.
While the cities are packed with buildings that hark back to days gone by, the country’s prevailing folk traditions very much keep its history alive. Visit a concert where they play with instruments like the hurdy-gurdy or a local crafts market where you can browse and buy art, embroidery and ceramics.
- Capital: Budapest
- Best time to visit: March-May and September-November
- Highlight: Thermal baths
- Recommended trip: Easy Pace Budapest, Vienna and Prague
Ready to get a little off-the-beaten-path in Europe? You couldn’t be in better hands than with Insight Vacations in these destinations. Make your travels in 2021 count by exploring countries that don’t suffer from overtourism, and you’ll continue to find valuable and transformative experiences in our fantastic world.