When you’re traveling somewhere for the first time, of course, you want to hit all the must-see spots, snap Instagram-worthy photos, and be so overjoyed that you actually can say out loud “wow, I’m really here”. Nothing quite beats the achievement of visiting a place full of History, where millions of people before you have left their mark, to be amazed and humbled by the size and diversity of our planet. But, once that rush is gone, we, the offbeat travelers and urban explorers, start craving for those little details and hidden corners that will turn into a great story and even greater memory. And, eventually, we follow those detours that most guidebooks didn’t think were worthy of making the final edit.
Fortunately for me (and for you), Allison, Laia, and Stephanie were willing to share their offbeat findings in Madrid, Tallin, and Paris.
Offbeat Side of Madrid (Spain), by Allison
“Madrid has no shortage of rooftop terraces to take in the night, but one of the best places to watch the sunset – for free! – is the Plaza del Oriente right next to the Palacio Real. As the sun goes down, it ignites the side of the palace in beautiful colors, and you have a completely uninhibited view of the sun from one of the highest natural points in Madrid. As an added bonus? The surrounding area of Puerto Del Sol is full of amazing tapas bars with cheap wine and delicious eats to be had at every corner! Washing down the sunset with some red wine and chorizo – what could be more Spanish than that?”
Offbeat Side of Tallin (Estonia), by Laia
“Tallin, the capital city of Estonia, is well known for its charming Old Town, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most visitors only see this part of the city, but Tallin has more to offer.
I visited several offbeat areas, and I especially enjoyed two of them: Kadriorg and Nõmme.
Kadriorg is a residential area with nice, quiet streets and a big park. What makes it special, though, is the Kadriorg Palace, a beautiful baroque construction from the 18th Century. There is a French style garden around which enhances its architecture. No wonder this garden is used for marriage photos!
Nowadays the palace is part of the Estonian Art Museum. In addition to the paintings, there are three beautifully decorated rooms, two in classical style and one with wooden decoration. While I was visiting the museum there was live piano music in one of the rooms. I don’t know if there’s always music there or it was something exceptional, but it was cool.
Nõmme is a forested district located in the South of Tallin. One thing that I liked from the Estonian cities I visited is that they’re close to nature. They have parks with signaled paths to walk or run. In Tallin, there was a very big park with bog trails in Nõmme. It was so big that from inside the park I didn’t hear the noise of the cars. It was so big that from the viewpoints I could only see the trees. It was a pleasant surprise to find this park in Tallin.”
Offbeat Side of Paris (France), by Stephanie
“When we conjure up images of Paris, icons like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre all spring to mind. But Paris holds so many other gems, away from the banks of the Seine, and the crowds of eager tourists. Some may not realize but Paris is an incredibly green city. Home to over 400 parks and gardens, covering over 7000 acres, Paris has some of the best parks in Europe. Many Parisian parks could be considered off-the-beaten-path as tourists stick to the most popular ones and leave the parks further afield to the locals. For me, three of the best off-the-beaten-path parks in Paris are Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Parc Monceau, and La Promenade-Plantée. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is located in the 19th arrondissement and has a wealth of amazing features. From a lake to waterfalls and grottos to a temple, this park could keep you at occupied all day. La Promenade-Plantée is in the 12th arrondissement and is an elevated park built on an old railway. My favourite, Parc Monceau, in the 8th arrondissement is popular with locals. It’s home to a classical Roman colonnade, an Egyptian pyramid, shaded trails, and a lot more treasures. A day spent in a Parisian park is always a good idea.”
What is the offbeat side of your favorite European city?