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The very best of Europe: travel like a local

January 1st 2017 will mark 15 years since the Euro currency was implemented. To mark this milestone, Booking.com is publishing a series of articles highlighting the very best of Europe.

Since everyone wants to feel like a local in their travel destination these days, Booking.com decided to present a local’s guide to Europe.

For three key travel topics: food, culture and history, the data analysts at Booking.com used review data to find out where domestic travellers were recommending within their own country. And then applied this data to the first wave of countries to join the EU.*

Malmesbury is the epitome of a historic English town

Malmesbury is the epitome of a historic English town

History

Malmesbury, UK – according to British travellers

Malmesbury is the epitome of a historic town. An Iron Age fort was once built here, it later became a stronghold against Viking invaders and is the burial site of Æthelstan, the first King of England. Its 7th-century Abbey is still standing, having withstood the dissolution of the monasteries despite being a major European centre of learning and containing the second largest library in Europe by the 11th century. An infatuating place to walk down winding, leafy lanes dotted with wonky stone cottages.

La Mota, Medina del Campo, Spain

La Mota, Medina del Campo, Spain

Medina del Campo, Spain – according to Spanish travellers

A market town that grew to prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries, Medina del Campo is a proud testament to Spanish history. Its name often calls to mind the eponymous treaty of 1489 that kept peace between Spain and Tudor England for 96 years (quite a feat for the era). But its history goes far deeper and there are plenty of historic treasures to see. Notably, La Mota, a magnificent 15th-century castle whose silhouette dominates the skyline of the town and the Renaissance-Plateresque palace of the Dueñas family.

Colombey-les-deux-Églises, France, was the home of General Charles de Gaulle

Colombey-les-deux-Églises, France, was the home of General Charles de Gaulle

Colombey-les-deux-Églises, France – according to French travellers

Though it may not be internationally well-known, the village Colombey-les-deux-Églises is highly-regarded among French travellers for history. This is because it was the home of the storied French general and statesman, Charles de Gaulle. As well as de Gaulle’s humble gravestone, worth visiting is the Croix de Lorraine (Lorraine Cross). Erected high on a hill above the village, this was supposed to commemorate the D-Day landings but has since been adopted as a symbol of The French Resistance.

Bad Ischl, Austria, was home to Strauss, Freud and Bruckner

Bad Ischl, Austria, was home to Strauss, Freud and Bruckner

Culture

Bad Ischl, Austria – according to Austrian travellers

Bad Ischl was the favourite summer destination of the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph. In addition to outstanding scenery and thermal baths, its appeal lies in its powerful cultural claim. Johann Strauss, Sigmund Freud and Anton Bruckner were all residents or regular visitors and their artistic legacy can still be felt wandering Bad Ischl’s streets. Petite church spires, decorative wrought iron balconies, and pale yellow houses painted make it splendidly pretty. In terms of sightseeing, visit the Kaiservilla, the Bad Ischl Museum and the Salzkammergut Thermal Spa.

Bayreuth, Germany, hosts the annual Richard Wagner Festival

Bayreuth, Germany, hosts the annual Richard Wagner Festival

Bayreuth, Germany – according to German travellers

Bayreuth is a celebrated cultural destination for Germans thanks to the annual Richard Wagner Festival during July and August. But even if you can’t fit in a summer visit, it boasts a cornucopia of cultural attractions year-round. Amongst its baroque and rococo architecture and pretty beer gardens, you’ll find the Richard Wagner Museum as well as the composer’s former home, Villa Wahnfried. Also worth a visit are the Hermitage Gardens and the Altes Schloss Palace, and try to catch a performance of a Wagner Opera while you’re in town.

The humble, sacred village of Fontevraud L'Abbaye, France

The humble, sacred village of Fontevraud L'Abbaye, France

Fontevraud-L'Abbaye, France – according to French travellers

For French travellers, this small, sacred village in the Loire Valley is the foremost French destination for culture. It is home to a complex of religious buildings dating back to the 11th century, plus a museum and a cultural centre. Explore the Romanesque abbey church containing royal tombs, the stunning Renaissance cloister and the 12th-century double octagonal kitchen.

'Pulpo a la Gallega' in Melide, Spain

'Pulpo a la Gallega' in Melide, Spain

Food

Melide, Spain – according to Spanish travellers

Melide is a popular pit stop on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route to the sacred city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. The town is famed for its ‘Pulpo a la Gallega’, octopus carefully boiled to a firm but smooth texture then sprinkled with sea salt and paprika and drizzled with fine olive oil. The restaurants along the Camino are creative with their culinary traditions, so expect to find local tapas with a twist.

Irresistible pastry 'siropiastá' in Thessaloniki, Greece

Irresistible pastry 'siropiastá' in Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki, Greece – according to Greek travellers

Greece’s second largest city has found favour with Greek travellers when it comes to food. Thessaloniki is known for its pastries, both savoury and sweet, and is brimming with bakeries as well as markets and food stands selling Mediterranean specialities. The spinach and feta-filled oily and flaky filo pastries are a substantial snack but the local desserts are irresistible. Don’t leave without eating some 'siropiastá', worryingly moreish layers of nuts and pastry, dripping in honey.

Recco's most famous dish, 'Focaccia col formaggio'

Recco's most famous dish, 'Focaccia col formaggio'

Recco, Italy – according to Italian travellers

According to Italians, Recco has far more to offer than its famous, indigenous dish – Focaccia col formaggio (cheese-stuffed focaccia). Over the centuries, the residents of Recco and the surrounding Liguria region have crafted a cuisine that revolves around fish and vegetables, alongside classic Italian ingredients such as pesto, artichoke and zucchini. Here, many national dishes have developed differently; ravioli is called pansoti and instead of being stuffed with meat, it contains a mixture of cheese and greens, and is covered with a walnut sauce.

*The data analysts segmented travellers based on their nationality and then calculated the highest-endorsed destinations within the original EU member states when it came to food, culture and history.

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