From Lugano to Tromso to Matera, Five Essential European Emerging + Trending Destinations

Above image: Lugano, Switzerland

Even before the travel shutdowns of the coronavirus crisis, Europe had been seeing diminishing numbers of American visitors, as long-haul flight routes were added and more and more exotic destinations beckoned. Indeed, the Conde Nast Traveler 2019 top recommends list included places like Papua New Guinea, Uganda, the Ecuadorian Amazon and Sulawesi, Indonesia. And, well…Berlin just didn’t seem as cool as it once did.

But having been denied access to The Continent these last seventeen months, the wisdom of the old expression “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” certainly proved correct. We found ourselves very much missing the museums of Paris and Vienna, the fashion and design shopping of Copenhagen and Antwerp, the historic charms of small Eastern European cities like Tallinn and Ljubljana, and pretty much everything about Bella Italia.

But as we were all forced to face down our mortality during this deadly pandemic, a sense of urgency to travel to not-yet-visited destinations noticeably kicked in. And we must admit that the second and third tier cities of Europe – for practical purposes we’ll still include the UK – constantly surprise with their wealth of culture, cuisine and architectural wonders. So we asked our friends at TripAdvisor to choose five of their less-touristed favorites, and they returned with picks that would take us from breathtaking fjords to medieval cathedrals to UNESCO protected cave dwellings.

Matera, Italy

The venerable travel site – exhibiting a remarkably good sense of timing – actually launched TripAdvisor Plus in June, and each chosen destination here benefits in some way from the dividends of membership. The program costs just $99 a year, and includes discounts and perks at thousands of hotels around the world, savings on nearly 400,000 experiences worldwide, elite rental car status from Hertz, and personalized travel advice from Trip insiders via Tripadvisor Text. The annual fee is obviously easily made up on your first getaway.

“These European destination recommendations are based on the 2021 Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards for Emerging and Trending Destinations,” explains Chief Experience and Brand Officer Lindsay Nelson, “[the former] places where you can ditch the crowds, explore, and connect, and [the latter] which were on the upswing even during this topsy-turvy year. We also included highly-rated hotels and experiences in each destination where Tripadvisor Plus members can unlock member-only rewards.”

So just keeping in mind that Papua New Guinea is actually a more than 18 hour flight away from New York, here are five much, much closer places, to ease you stylishly back into post-COVID travel.

Emerging Destination #11

Annecy, France

Romance is the lifeblood of Annecy, a town in the Rhone-Alpes region of southeast France that’s replete with castles and cathedrals and softly curving architecture. Stroll hand in hand with your paramour across Pont des Amours (the lover’s bridge) before taking in the Imperial Palace and the baroque Cathedral of Saint-Pierre. A walk down the Rue Royale will be rewarded with prime shopping, dining and people-watching, especially at the fountain of Saint Jean.

Plus hotel: Les Tresoms Lake and Spa Resort
Plus experience: Annecy Segway Tour

Trending Destination #22

York, UK

Just two hours north of London by rail, the city of York holds 1900 years’ worth of history in its ancient walls. The Romans built the city in 71 AD, and the Vikings captured it in 866 AD. Stop by the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens for a look at what those Romans and Vikings left behind (they must have packed light when they left). From there, move on to the York Castle Museum for a not-so-quick overview of the most recent 400 years.

Plus hotel: Staycity Aparthotels York Barbican Centre
Plus experience: The Bloody Tour of York

Emerging Destination #19

Lugano, Switzerland

Perfectly positioned on a lake with the Alps at its back, lucky Lugano has a little bit of everything. Ride a cable car up Monte San Salvatore or Monte Bre for sunny panoramas of lakes, rivers, mountains and red-roofed buildings. Explore the town’s churches, cathedrals and the expressive and colorful Piazza della Riforma. Sample some slow-cooked Ticinese cuisine, explore the lake on a boat or spend the day at the lido with its Olympic-sized pool.

Plus hotel: Hotel Splendide Royal
Plus experience: Italy and Switzerland in One Day: Lake Como, Bellagio & Lugano from Milan

Trending Destination #17

Matera, Italy

Get to Matera quickly, because it’s still relatively undiscovered by foreign tourists. In town, visit the Domenico Ridola National Museum. Matera’s real claim to fame, though, and the reason it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the extensive series of cave dwellings (“i sassi”) southeast of town, first inhabited by Benedictine and Basilian monks. You’ll see individual cells, chapels, and even some churches, many adorned with Byzantine decorations and frescoes.

Plus hotel: Palazzo Gattini Luxury Hotel or Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & Spa
Plus experience: Discovering Matera

Emerging Destination #13

Tromso, Norway

The fjords and mountain ranges of Tromso are simply magical. Here, the northern lights sparkle across the same navy blue sky that’s illuminated by the midnight sun. You’ll be spellbound by Tromso’s enchanting fishing villages, fragrant botanical gardens and crystalline waterfalls. Music is a major part of the Tromso culture, particularly techno and electronic music, which adds some thumping thunder to the city once a year during the annual Insomnia Festival.

Plus hotel: Thon Hotel Polar
Plus experience: Northern Lights Adventure with Greenlander

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