Travel can be exhilarating, but exhausting too. Especially in tourist-heavy European capitals where it seems every activity involves crowds of people and long line-ups. Happily, quieter gem-like destinations are tucked away all over Europe. And they're waiting to be discovered by travelers who love fewer people and extraordinary discoveries.

01Bruges, Belgium

Tourist holds in hand popular street food - Belgium tasty waffle with chocolate sauce on the background of city tourist streets of Bruges, Belgium, Europe. Traditional Belgian dessert, pastry. NataliaDeriabina / Getty Images

Walk-able and atmospheric, the historic city of Bruges has much to offer in the way of sights and cuisine – without the roving crowds of tourists in Brussels. Moules frites, excellent chocolate, and craft beer taste even better after immersion in the Flemish masters on display at the Groeninge Museum or a history lesson at the Gruuthumuseum. Shop for exquisite hand-made lace, attend a traditional winter market, or wander the canals and ancient neighborhoods dating from medieval times. This is a human-scale UNESCO World Heritage Site made for strolling and getting lost.