Some locations dominate our Instagram feeds. They’re beautiful, but often overlooked since we see them all the time and naively believe we already know everything about them.
Photographer Mary Quincy (@maryquincy) shares her take on these 11 Instagram hot spots around Europe, and we tell you what the photos won’t.
“This little island is definitely at the top of my favorite places, especially because I’m addicted to photographing colorful architecture and buildings. The fact that every house on this island has a different bright color and looks so quaint and unique only adds to the special nature of Venice. It is definitely a touristy place, but worth the trip from mainland Venice since it’s the most colorful part of the city.”
Burano is actually an archipelago, since it is four separate islands connected by bridges. While it may be known visually for its multi-hued houses (the color of which must be approved by the government before they are painted), tourists flock here to buy lace goods. The lace industry flourished in the late 1880s, when a lacemaking school was opened on the island. Though it is Burano’s top industry, few make their laced goods in the traditional way, as it’s both time-consuming and expensive.
“The light, the colors, the sights … everything made Santorini feel like a dream. From the white caves to the blue of the ocean, this island is truly magical. Wander around in the morning, as you’ll have the island to yourself while everyone else is still in bed. It makes you forget how crowded it can be during the day.”
Though oft-used to mistakenly refer to the most-photographed town on the island, “Santorini” is the island itself. Oia (shown here, and pronounced, “i-a”) is only one of many towns on the island, which was actually once much larger. An enormous volcanic eruption destroyed the majority of the island, leaving it to its half-moon-like shape around a huge caldera. A popular theory poses that the “Thera Eruption” is the source of the legend of the lost city of Atlantis, which some believe is below the sea in the caldera.
“This small town in Austria is an exception to the rule: visiting on a cloudy or snowy day makes it even more special. Weather that would otherwise be inclimate gives a certain mystical vibe to this adorable village that would be unremarkable if it was simply a sunny day. This town deserves to be explored from top to bottom — along the water, through the quaint streets, and into the surrounding hills.”
The overwhelming visual that comes to mind when thinking of Hallstatt is the photo shown here, but this town is actually known for its salt production. It has a population of less than 1,000, can be toured on foot in only 10 minutes, and is directly below the world’s first salt-mine. It’s possible to tour that mine, called “Salzwelten” when you’re not exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is downtown Hallstatt.
“The Dolomites, or more precisely South Tyrol, is a region of Italy that is unlike any other. From gorgeous lakes to incredible mountains, this region is not what you’d usually expect of Italian landscapes. Though you can always expect more tourists during summertime, winter is actually the best time to visit as snow turns everything into a white wonderland.”
The South Tyrol area, though part of Italy, has been heavily influenced by Germany. Many of the inhabitants still speak German (and Italian), and a German architectural influence can be observed in many of the buildings. The church shown here, on the “Ranuihof” farmstead near the village of Santa Maddalena, is called St. Johann Church. Its construction was sponsored by Michael von Jenner in 1744, making it over 270 years old.
“I only spent a day in Florence, and it wasn’t enough to see everything. Nonetheless, I got a good sense of the romantic and cultural atmosphere of this city. As touristy as it may seem, one place in town is worth the hike just for the spectacular view of the city from above: Piazzale Michelangelo, where this photo was taken.”
This city in Tuscany is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. In fact, according to UNESCO, nearly one third of the world’s artistic treasures still reside in Florence. The famous Michelangelo statue, David, can be found at the Accademia Gallery, though two other exact copies of David can be found around the city (in the Piazza della Signoria and in the Piazzale Michelangelo). The Florence Cathedral (seen here, and more commonly known as the Duomo) is a feat of engineering designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, who won a competition proving he could solve the problem of how to construct such a huge dome.
SHAKESPEARE & CO. BOOKSTORE, PARIS
“There are many bookshops in Paris but none can compare to the incredible history of Shakespeare & Co. Mentioned in one of Ernest Hemingway’s books, this bookstore is one of the most iconic places to visit in Paris. Featured in movies like “Before Sunset,” “Midnight in Paris,” and “Julie & Julia,” everybody wants to stand in front of this bookshop to take a photo. But, when you actually go inside, you enter a completely different world. A world filled with thousands of books and a story to rival those in the pages on its shelves. In my opinion, this place is must-see in Paris and I always advise anyone who has a soft spot for literature to go there, after exploring nearby Notre-Dame, of course.”
Shakespeare & Co. is actually the name of two separate Parisian bookstores. The first was opened by Sylvia Beach in 1919 and was the gathering place for aspiring writers of the lost-generation during the 1920s. Beach’s shop closed during the German occupation during WWII and never reopened. The second bookstore — the one we all know and love — was opened in 1951 by George Whitman, an American, and was originally named “Le Mistral.” Later, on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and in memory of Beach’s bookstore, Whitman renamed his shop to “Shakespeare & Co.” The shop provides housing to artists and writers in exchange for their help, and since it opened 66 years ago, more than 30,000 “Tumbleweeds” have slept in the beds tucked between bookshelves.
“With its gorgeous architecture, ornate bridges, and charming cafés, I never tire of exploring every little bit of Budapest. I love that it’s possible to explore without the crowds of tourists, too. Whether you traverse this city in wintertime (when it’s snowing and even more magical) or in the summertime (when everyone is sitting at cafés outside), you will never be disappointed.”
The seven towers of Halászbástya (try saying that five times fast), or the Fisherman’s Bastion, represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the area now known as Budapest in 896. The neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque style viewing terrace is situated on the Buda side of the city, and was once protected by the fisherman’s guild, where it gets its name.
“To me, Lisbon is the most vibrant city in Europe. The colors of the architecture make it unique and its hidden gems push you to explore every corner of this town. It’s the perfect place for a break from the rest of the world, and the most stunning views can be found if you climb the narrow streets to see the city from above. Don’t forget to admire the terracotta rooftops!”
Though many think of Rome or Paris as being the oldest city in Western Europe, it is actually Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. The city itself was largely destroyed in 1755, when a huge earthquake razed many buildings and triggered a subsequent tsunami that destroyed the downtown area. When the city was rebuilt, many of the remaining ancient buildings were torn down to make way for new, modern ones, which included an entirely updated, rectangular urban design.
“People always raved about Venice, which, for some reason, made me wary. So I went to Venice without expectations. The second I got to the city, I was shocked. I felt like a child in a toystore. I ran around the city and couldn’t believe that every little corner and street was so photogenic. This city must be visited at least once in your life, because you have to see it in person to really believe how quaint, gorgeous, and unique it is.”
Like Burano, Venice is actually made up of many islands connected by bridges — 118 islands to be exact. Those 118 small islands are connected by around 409 bridges — the entire area is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The series of canals are the only mode of transportation, which led to the development of the classic Venetian boat: the gondola. No cars are allowed on Venice, as there are no traditional streets, but you can drive to the island, park your car, and continue via boat.
“Cologne is a lovely town in Germany, which was mostly destroyed during WWII and rebuilt afterward. A small part of the Old Town still remains, which, in my opinion, is the most charming part of the city. The colorful buildings located by the Rhine river and shown in this photo are referred to as Fischmarkt, and I could sit in the grassy area nearby and stare at it for hours.”
The German city of Cologne was founded in the first century AD, and flourished as a stop on the major trade routes through Europe. Though Cologne survived several occupations before WWII, it became one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany in the 1940s. Nearly the entire area of the city was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt, but Cologne Cathedral and the Fischmarkt buildings remained standing. Once you’ve finished marveling at the Cathedral, head to the Museum of Chocolate.
“The colors of the gorgeous St Basil’s Cathedral give any photographer hundreds of possible shots and angles. It is certainly a touristy spot, but, being there early in the morning, I managed to walk around with only a handful of other people. I visited in the wintertime — the Christmas Market with all its lights and colors made this square even prettier.”
The sight of the colorful spires of St. Basil’s Cathedral is known around the world, and rightly so. The church (now a museum) is one of a kind — likely because Ivan the Terrible, who commissioned its construction, is said to have blinded the architect so the design could never be copied. The cathedral was also once devoid of color to match the Kremlin nearby, with gold domes. The colors were added in the 17th century and, oddly enough, there is an exact replica of St. Basil’s on the Russian/Chinese border. Apparently Ivan the Terrible’s plan wasn’t successful after all.