How about making your next trip to Europe fresh and exciting? Instead of hitting the standard spots on your getaway, why not get well and truly off the beaten track with Atlas Obscura?
What is Atlas Obscura?
Atlas Obscura is a website created to pique your curiosity and inspire you to seek out the weird and wonderful places, food, and festivities around the world. Curated by explorers, writers and the community of readers themselves, the lists have become renowned for their bizarre themes. They include everything from shipwrecks and spy houses to quirky museums, monuments and more.
Not only does the site list places to visit but it also showcases interesting stories of obscure traditions, cultures and events.
How is Atlas Obscura different to other sites?
Rather than focusing on the tourist hotspots of any given destination, Atlas Obscura lets you discover some more unusual attractions that boast a wealth of history or even hilarity.
While you won’t get pages of personal reviews, as you would with sites like TripAdvisor, each attraction has been described by someone who has experienced the site for themselves and has chosen it for a good reason.
How to use Atlas Obscura
You can choose to browse the attractions using the destination lists or the map, or download one of the Weekend Guides for a full plan of action.
There is even a random place generator which comes up with a unique destination with every click!
If you decide you love using Atlas Obscura, you can create an account where you can add wish lists, sign up for the newsletter, and check off the places you have visited. The team at Atlas Obscura even organises trips and excursions for those who want the research and planning done for them, so that might be something to take a look at.
Top European Picks
It seems there are endless sights, sounds, and smells to discover on any trip to Europe, but we’ve chosen a few of our favourites from Atlas Obscura as a bit of inspiration for you:
Kastania Cave: This stunning cave on the southern tip of Greece’s mainland is filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and unique rock formations that have taken three million years to form! Walk through the cave’s staircase walkway to witness this incredible site. (Editor’s note: I visited a cavern in Derbyshire many years ago, and the guide told me that the way to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites is that “Tights fall down!”.)
Playa de las Catedrales: A natural wonder on Spain’s north-western coast, only visible during low tide when the sea retreats to reveal arches along the shore. The huge arches and pillars resemble a natural cathedral which completely disappears when the tide returns.
Pena National Palace: This 19th-century castle, about an hour’s drive west of Lisbon in Portugal, is a hotchpotch of colours and creations built by King Ferdinand II as a royal summer palace. Designed to cater to the king’s every whim, the architecture is a blend of styles, and features opulent interiors and spectacular views thanks to its hilltop location.
For those seeking an unusual foodie adventure, Gastro Obscura serves up stories, savouries, and sweets of all kinds to tempt any food lover to head to a new destination. Discover one-of-a-kind restaurants, traditional dishes, and cultural delicacies that will be sure to tickle your taste buds.
So whether you choose to visit one of these weird and wonderful locations, or simply want to daydream about bizarre far-flung destinations, Atlas Obscura is a great website for discovering new places away from the crowds.