The idea of Interrailing at first can seem incredibly appealing. Travelling through Europe from one famous city to the next, taking holiday snaps in front of every famous landmark you pass and only needing a month to do it all. Great! You can tick off all the classic “must see” cities of Europe in the space of a few weeks. However, this may also be the fundamental flaw of Interailing. The fast paced whistle-stop tour ethos means that you can travel across Europe, and only allow yourself a day or two in each city before moving on. With so little time in each, the majority of visitors will settle with seeing only the “most important” sites. In reality, each of the main cities in Europe deserve their own trip and a couple of days is hardly sufficient to even begin to understand a new city and experience a new culture.
However, if you take a moment and ignore the urge to visit the most obvious attractions in Europe, you can use your Interrail pass to great effect. It is possibly, by largely avoiding the main cities, to see a collection of the most beautiful spots and hidden gems dotted around Europe that, unlike entire cities, may only need a day or two to visit. By basing your trip on visiting sights off the heavily-trodden tourist routes you can enjoy an alternative and far less stressful Interrailing experience. Here are a few examples of essential, but often forgotten, places to visit during your European travels.
Lake Garda + Verona – Italy
Fine I’ll admit, I have started off with a relatively famous location, but it is incredible how many travellers feel compelled to avoid these sites as their itinerary only allows for a couple of days in Venice. It is worth staying a bit longer to explore the incredible sites nearby of Verona and Lake Garda that all too often get left out of plans. Get up early and make the hour-long train journey over to Verona for a trip round the city whose reputation alone was sufficient to inspire some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. From there, make sure you travel to Lake Garda. Whilst not exactly a secret, it is still one of the most spectacular locations in Europe with a blend of steep mountains, olive groves and quaint streets that all lead down to the impossibly blue water of the lake.
Provins – France
If you are planning on visiting Paris during your trip, you should consider booking an apartment as a base from which you can explore not only the romantic “City of Light” but other less visited locations such as Provins. This UNESCO world heritage site has, unlike many other old market towns, managed to beautifully preserve its medieval feel throughout the centuries. Just a short train ride from Gare de l’Est, you will leave the bustling crowds of Paris behind and be transported back to the Middle Ages. Famed for its castle, jousting tournaments and impressive medieval market, Provins is an absolute must if you want to get away from the hectic lifestyle of capital.
Bamberg – Germany
Think of Germany and your thoughts have probably already moved towards German beer. Yes, Germany or more specifically Bavaria is arguably the beer capital of the world and the ever popular Munich, synonymous with Oktoberfest, is commonly thought of as the main place to head for the best brew. However, there is another relatively unknown beer paradise in Bavaria. Not only is the picturesque city of Bamberg a UNESCO World Heritage site, it also boasts the highest concentration of breweries anywhere in the world with 10 located within the city itself and around 300 in the surrounding area of Franconia. Once again, despite its beautiful architecture and famous beer, Bamberg is a location often missed out by tourists in favour of the lure of Munich. But if beer is your poison, then drinking a smoked beer with the locals in Bamberg is an absolute must during your European travels.
Sighişoara – Romania
Another common mistake while Interrailing is to try and cram as much as possible into one day. However, there are some places where the main attraction is simply the slow pace of life. Take time out from a hectic itinerary and walk round the heart-achingly beautiful streets of Sighişoara. There aren’t too many attractions for tourists which naturally means that it is overlooked by the vast majority of visitors to the region. But spending a day slowly ambling around its winding cobbled alleyways along which every house seems to be painted a different colour is impossible to resist. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, the medieval town of Sighişoara was also the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, and you can visit the busk of Dracula located near the 13th century Clock Tower.
Lake Bohinj – Slovenia
For most travellers, Lake Bled is an integral part of any trip through Slovenia and for good reason; the lake itself is absolutely spectacular. However the experience of pure tranquillity can be somewhat marred when you are surrounded by endless backpackers clambering for the perfect picture. It also appears that the beauty of the surrounding area is starting to suffer the effects of commercialization. However, close to Lake Bled is the lesser known Lake Bohinj which is far less built-up but equally as stunning, with snow capped mountains overlooking crystal clear waters. Spending a day walking around Lake Bohinj is the perfect way to wind down after a hectic trip and the breathtaking view is most definitely worth the long journey to get there.