Last updated: 09:30 AM ET, Mon August 29 2016

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  • Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone | August 29, 2016 9:30 AM ET

    7 Underrated, Astounding European Destinations for 2017: Part 3

    7 Underrated, Astounding European Destinations for 2017: Part 3

    PHOTO: Sidewalk cafes are charming in Paris, but they’re joyous in Galway. (photo by Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone)

    People often say they want to go to Greece and Ireland, but unlike Italy, they never have a particular city in mind. Generally, they have an idea of what they want to see and icons they picture in their head, but they might not even know how far one attraction is from another. Ireland is such a popular road-tripping destination that the places start to blend together, and Greece is known for its amazing island-hopping. And because both multi-destination countries are often covered on whirlwind tours, it seems easier by far to go for the headliners and skip towns with a wee bit less buzz.

    But note that I said “seems.” Today’s feature cities, Galway and Chania, are still prominent touristic destinations, just not as frequently seen on itineraries as some of their contemporaries like Dublin or Oia in Santorini. Make it a point to visit less crowded, more authentic and definitely charming sister cities like these, and you’ll be well rewarded in memories.

    3. Galway, Ireland

    Everybody goes to Dublin and the Ring of Kerry, and I can’t say I blame them. The capital city of the Republic of Ireland is delightful with the rollicking fun of Temple Bar, stately parks like St. Stephen’s Green, amazing works like the “Book of Kells” and the Trinity College it rests in, and so, so much more. The Ring of Kerry is lovely beyond words; it’s one of the most stunning drives I’ve ever taken in my entire life, and as magical as it’s reputed to be. But because it’s easy to lose oneself in these two destinations, going northwest can become just a quick stopover for the rightfully famous Cliffs of Moher, rather than a destination in itself. 

    However, Galway is so much more than just a place to rest one’s head between day trips. A lovely coastal city, it’s full of pedestrian charm. Sidewalk cafes on Quay Street, where overhead banners flutter in the sea breeze; small children feeding swans at the docks by the Spanish Arch; people reading, sunning and even stealing kisses on the lawn in Eyre Square…you get a different feel in Galway than in the popular south.

    READ MORE: 7 Underrated, Astounding European Destinations for 2017: Part 2

    For one of the largest cities in Ireland, it retains a resort town jocularity and small-city friendliness that has always stuck with me. Plus, now is the time to go: once Galway hits the international spotlight in an even bigger way as 2020’s European Capital of Culture, it won’t be a sleeper destination any longer.

    Pro Tip: Forget everything you ever heard about “bad” food in Ireland and embrace the hearty classics and with-a-twist renditions of favorite dishes in the culinary capital of western Ireland. Take advantage of the exceptional seafood; the oysters are so good, they’re celebrated in September with an international festival, and the ubiquitous cod and halibut are often fresh off the boats of brave Atlantic fishermen. Baked goods are also exceptional here with so many cute tea shops, and a locavore culture means you’ll be dining on the best ingredients the region has to offer.

    2. Chania, Crete, Greece

    First things first: the Greek Isles are every bit as enchanting as the pictures make them seem. Mykonos is full of sexy beaches and swanky clubs, straw-topped windmills and white-washed alleys and buildings. The cheekily colored buildings in Oia and Fira in Santorini do seem to tumble down impossibly steep cliffs over improbably blue seas. But then again, everyone knows this, which is why I was surprised to find myself most enchanted by Chania, Crete.

    Of course, it has atmospheric and architectural similarities to the touted islands of the Cyclades, but what struck me was its soul. There is an age, depth and maturity about this port city that is more grounding than the fun-focused vibe in its better-known sisters.

    The largest island of them all, it has a history that traces back to the Macedonian Empire, and these long roots are something you can truly feel. In the horseshoe Venetian harbor, there is a lovely mosque that nods gracefully to its Ottoman heritage, while design obviously influenced by the merchant state of Venice fortifies the Old Town’s harbor wall.

    The White Mountains, capped by snow even in the middle of spring, stand majestically above it all, dwarfing the restaurants, walkways and ancient lighthouse that curve around brilliant turquoise waters. Narrow streets in bright colors and festooned with greenery and balconies lead you to delectable, authentic local food.

    Obviously, you should absolutely visit the effervescent and popular Santorini and Mykonos! But while there, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not stopping by Chania, Crete.

    Pro Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes to climb the old Venetian wall, and hold your camera securely while doing it! The view of the harborfront is spectacular from the rocks at the base of the lighthouse, where you can get a full panorama plus the might of the mountains in one splendid photo. In fact, the photo op is so perfect, it’s been the screensaver on my computer for months.


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Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone Making Lasting Impressions

Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone With experience in both advertising/marketing copywriting and editorial journalism, multiple-award-winning writer Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone’s passion for words is exceeded only by her love of travel. As communications manager for Travel Impressions, she uses that diverse background to create a unique bridge between marketing and storytelling, whether it’s used to share her excitement for Travel Impressions’ latest deals and agent-oriented programs and incentives or for new destinations and suppliers that inspire.
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