Most of the times, especially when it comes to traveling through Europe, the main stops are in the big urban areas. Obviously, you can’t put a price on the feelings you get from a traditional city-break: visiting all those great museums, historical locations, the stories, the parks, the architecture, the entire atmosphere of those big European cities, all of these are the things that offer you a unique experience.
It’s no wonder why cities such as London and Paris are ranked some of the most visited cities in the world, with millions of tourists that choose to spend their holidays there. What is less known is the fact that outside of or near these cities there are some of the most spectacular natural attractions in Europe.
You don’t need to drive for hundreds of km or to spend several hours in a bus or a train in order to reach those places, as most of them are less than two hours away from the big, crowded cities. You can easily go to the beach if you’re in London or Brussels, and if you’re in Rome or Madrid, you have the chance to see small, cliff-side towns. If you want to visit Mont Blanc, you can get there in a few hours from either Lyon or Torino and if you want to be mesmerized by the most beautiful sunset view, all you have to do is go to Seven Sisters or Cliffs of Moher.
Discover some of the of the most impressive natural attractions you can easily reach from the big urban areas:
Bordeaux: Dune du Pilat – approx. 1h, Bassin d’Arcachon – approx. 1h
One hour driving from Bordeaux there is a place with clear, blue waters and white sand – Bassin d’Arcachon. If you’re looking for an ideal place to spend your day at the beach or to enjoy a bike ride, this is the place to be, not to mention that you can also try various seafood-based recipes, as the bay is renowned for its gourmet culture. Dune du Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe, is located nearby and worth visiting.
London: Seven Sisters – approx. 2h30, Camber Sands Beaches – approx. 2h30, West Wittering – approx. 2h30, Cuckmere Haven – approx. 2h30, Cotswolds – approx. 2h
From London, you can go to numerous natural attractions, including Seven Sisters, a long array of white cliffs covered in greenery, located close to the English Channel. If you’re interested in spending a few hours in nature, far from the madding crowd in the urban area, two-hour driving from London you will discover numerous beaches, such as Camber Sands in Sussex, West Wittering nearby Chichester or Cuckmere Haven in Seaford. Cotswolds should not be skipped either, especially since it was designated “an area of extraordinary natural beauty”. To enjoy a unique natural spectacle right in the middle of the city, you should plan your London holiday during spring, when wisteria trees are in bloom, a purple plant, similar in aspect to the black locust. The traditional English houses, the parks and gardens, everything is covered in purple.
Madrid: Cuenca – approx. 2h, La Ciudad Encantada – approx. 2h30, Peñalara – approx. 1h30
Peñalara located in Sierra de Guadarrama is one of the best hiking places. Less than two hours away from Madrid, there is Cuenca, a city included in UNESCO world heritage. In Cuenca, houses have a spectacular architecture, and they are suspended on steep cliff areas. Close to this city, there is La Ciudad Encantada, where you can see various geological formations.
Napoli: Amalfi Coast – approx.1h30, Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii – approx. 30 min.
When it comes to location, Napoli is hard to beat because from here you can easily reach and visit some stunning places in Italy. Amalfi Coast is one of them, located at approximately one hour and a half from Napoli. Two of the towns located in this area – Positano and Ravello – have inspired numerous artists over time. Pompeii is also a must-see, especially because it was included in UNESCO world heritage. You will be amazed by the ruins of the city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 B.C.
Dublin: Cliffs of Moher – approx. 3h30, Killarney National Park – approx. 3h30
Cliffs of Moher are among some of the most popular natural sceneries in Ireland and they are a few hours driving from Dublin. The spectacular cliffs on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean offer marvelous landscapes with steep chasms and greenery, and the views are incredible regardless of your angle of view. Nothing compares to watching the sunset while on the Cliffs of Moher. If you head south from Dublin, you’ll get to Killarney National Park, a place famous for its lake sceneries, waterfalls, dense forests and meadows.
Roma: Calcata – approx. 1h15, Santa Marinella beaches – approx. 1h30, Santa Severa – approx. 1h15 or Anzio – approx. 1h30
Close to Rome, there is a small village named Calcata, an incredibly beautiful place located on a cliff and surrounded by forests. If you already miss going to the beach while in Rome, you can take the train to Santa Marinella beach, Santa Severa beach or Anzio beach and you’ll be there in just an hour. In Rome, you can also enjoy nature, as there are numerous parks, including Villa Borghese gardens, Villa Doria Pamphili and Vatican gardens. Also, Giardino degli Aranci offers a panoramic view of the city.
Lyon: Chamonix Mont Blanc – 2h30
If you’re into mountain expeditions, ski, or just want to explore one of the most beautiful mountain regions in Europe, you just have to visit the Mont Blanc area (4810 m) in the Alps. Chamonix resort is at about two hours and a half away from Lyon and from here, you can take the cable car to go up to 3842 m above sea level. Enjoy a unique experience and stay in a glass cube above the chasm Le Pas Dans le Vide.
Milan: Como Lake – approx. 1h30
Northwards from Milan you can discover the well-known region of Como Lake, the place that many Hollywood celebrities prefer as their holiday destination. Bellagio, Menaggio or Varenna are also places that will offer you wonderful landscapes of mountains covered in greenery, crystal-clear water and chic buildings.
Glasgow: Loch Lomond – approx. 1h
One hour away from Glasgow you’ll find a spectacular natural area where you can enjoy boat rides or go climbing. While in Glasgow, you can visit Pollok Country Park, which won the title of the best park in Europe in 2008 and which hosts the Burrell Collection.
Copenhagen: Møns Klint – 2h, Jægersborg Dyrehave the Deer Park – 30 min
At about two hours away from Copenhagen, on the Møn island, you will find Møns Klint, an area with white cliffs rising right next to the sea and spreading over 6 km. This area is part of the UNESCO biosphere. The sky here is clear most of the time, which gives you a marvelous landscape that truly recharges your batteries. 15 km away from the Danish capital you’ll find Jægersborg Dyrehave the Deer Park, one of the most visited natural areas in the country and, at the same time, the home for over 2000 deer. During the hot season, the Amager beach is the place to be, where you can enjoy clear waters, fine sand and various water sports.