By Barbara Woolsey / Thrillist
October 15, 2015
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Finland
Credit: Visit Finland

Let me just come out and say it: I hate tourist attractions. Or rather, I hate touristy tourist attractions. Don’t get me wrong, the Mona Lisa’s got a lovely smile and all, but there’s something soul-crushing about the scenario of how she is displayed: stowed away in glass and surrounded day in, day out with hordes of sightseers throwing up “gang symbols” and cheesy smiles for their selfie sticks.

The good thing about Europe, though, is that it's easy to escape getting irked by the masses if you just know where to look. Every country’s still got at least a few sights that are unique, interesting, and best of all, tucked away from the mainstream. Here are the coolest tourist attractions (that you’ve probably never heard of) across the EU’s borders:

Finland: Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi, Lapland

Lapland is about as close as it gets to the North Pole. The village of Rovaniemi even has a Santa’s workshop and snow village, where guests can take a reindeer ride or dogsled through the wilderness. Imagine all that with the aurora borealis throwing open the sky -- the only downside is just a few hours of sunlight every day.

Czech Republic: Thermal springs, Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary’s not as famous as Prague, but it used to be all the rage back in the day -- like in the late 1700s when Beethoven, Chopin, and Goethe were regulars at the thermal springs. The mineral-rich water is supposedly a miracle cure for everything from metabolic to gastric problems.

Czech Republic
Credit: Donald Judge/ Flickr

Croatia: Old Town, Korcula

Yes, we know Game of Thrones was filmed in Dubrovnik, but you should really head off the Dalmatian Coast to the teeny island of Korcula instead. It’s believed to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, who was captured here in 1298 and wrote about his adventures in prison shortly thereafter. The Old Town’s rich history and epic Venetian Renaissance architecture make Korcula feel totally untouched by time.

croatia
Credit: Pero Kvrzica/ Flickr

Austria: Lake Faak, Carinthia

Lake Faak is faaking amazing. Otherwise known as Faaker See in German (no really, we can’t make this stuff up), it’s only the country’s fifth-largest body of water. What Faak may lack in size, it makes up for in calm, blue waves and 300 days of sunshine a year.

Austria
Credit: Westend61 / Ulrich Hagemann

For more of the most underrated tourist attractions in Europe, head over to Thrillist.