The vertiginous houses of Positano, the white settlements of Santorini and the poetic villages of Cinque Terre might still be some of the most beautiful coastal locations in Europe, but who wants to watch the sunset while being accidentally hit by someone else’s selfie stick?

For a holiday with a bit of surprise and originality here are some under the radar coastal towns of Europe which still have plenty of local character and culture to offer. These underrated towns boast festivals from wine to art to jazz, prehistoric caves, modern art museums, and everything you’d want from Europe without the crowds. At least, for now — there’s a big chance these towns will be blowing up in popularity soon, so get to them before the tour buses roll in.

1. Furore, Italy

It’s astonishing that there is still a place on the Amalfi Coast which isn’t overrun with tourists, but it might have something to do with the fact that the driver of the bus service that winds sickeningly fast along the coastal road merely shouts out “Furore” once without stopping or letting passengers glimpse the enticing little bay beneath the road.

Furore is formed, almost inversely to Amalfi or Positano, by a fjord. The inlet of water flanked by high cliffs leads to a little sheltered beach and a few unassuming colored houses. In many other ways, it’s also an inverse of the popular Amalfi Coast tourist towns — Furore is quiet, the houses are sparsely dotted around the cliff face, and bougainvillea doesn’t frame every photograph taken.

Where to eat:

Furore’s feet may be in the water but its head is high in the cliffs meaning two of its most important products are tomatoes and grapes for making the DOC Costa d’Amalfi. Traditional dishes found in restaurants like the Fico d’India include land-sea fusions such as totani e patate (fish and potatoes).

Where to stay:

Photo: Airbnb

Those willing to climb get rewarded with accommodation like this Airbnb apartment with a sea view.

What to do:

Aside from swimming and sunbathing, for the adventurous you move vertically in this town: trekking, free climbing, or mountain biking are popular sports. Alternatively, you can just spectate while others exert themselves, such as at the Coppa del Mediterraneo, a world cup for diving held on the first Saturday of July. In September there is a week festival where mural painters converge on Furore and decorate the town.

2. Antibes, France

You can leave the binoculars at home, there’s no celeb spotting in this Côte d’Azur town. Instead, there is a local market, flower-filled lanes for walks, and several beach options. The old town is enclosed by 16th-century ramparts that allow for panoramic sea vistas and nearby there is the dramatic star-shaped Fort Carré.

Where to eat:

Go to the Marché provençal in Cours Masséna and make up a picnic from fresh produce — bread, red pepper paste, goats’ cheese, tomatoes, olives and ripe peaches to finish. Take it to the beach 5 minutes’ walk away.

Where to stay:

Photo: Airbnb

Airbnb apartments are, on the whole, cheap and cheerful in Antibes. There are many options to choose from but these elegant rooms with a shared kitchen located right in the old town provide wine on arrival, a nice added bonus.

What to do:

The Museé Picasso housed inside the Château Grimaldi where the artist once stayed contains a large collection of Picasso’s work and has an impressive terrace from which you can watch luxurious yachts sailing around the coast. Along with the beach in the town center, you can walk or take the bus across to Juan-les-Pins to another couple of beaches. After a hard day’s sunbathing try the Absinthe Bar for a bit of Parisian bohemia. In July there is a jazz festival in Juan-les-Pins.

3. Korcula, Croatia

Located on one of the less touristy islands, and certainly not one of Croatia’s party islands, Korcula is a fortified town with many buildings dating from the period of Venetian rule. Its characteristic herringbone pattern of streets means that air can circulate while the town is protected from strong winds.

Where to eat:

As a highly recommended day trip, rent bikes in Korcula and cycle around the coast road to Lumbarda. Here you can find Feral Restoran right on the sea edge, serving fresh seafood (ditch the knives and forks and use your hands!) and their own production Grk wine. White shirts are not advised.

Where to stay:

Photo: Airbnb

Old town accommodation is all about exposed stone walls and arches — this apartment has an outside terrace where you can enjoy morning coffee, homemade treats from the host or an evening glass of wine.

What to do:

Seek out the traces of Venice in Korcula — the Venetian-Gothic cloister in the 15th-century Franciscan monastery, Venetian artist Jacopo Tintoretto’s altarpiece in the Cathedral of St Mark, and the house of explorer Marco Polo.

4. Chioggia, Italy

Chioggia’s epithet of “Little Venice” is relatively inappropriate — yes, it is built on canals with a few lion carvings dotted around, but Chioggia is a hardy lagoon fishing town with characteristics more akin to raucous Naples than haughty, tourist-ridden Venice. The people are expansive, the traffic is terrifying, and the fish is worlds away from frozen seafood alla Veneziana. The only thing that does bear similarity to Venice is Chioggia’s architectural beauty.

Where to eat:

In summer head to Sottomarina beach and eat at one of the beach restaurants where you’ll find fresh seafood like spaghetti alle vongole (clams) while digging your toes into the sand.

Where to stay:

During sunny months go all out on your beach holiday and try glamping at Camping Grande Italia. This campsite offers little colored wooden huts to stay in, bar and pool facilities, and a private beach.

What to do:

Chioggia old town has several churches to visit, one with a Carpaccio painting (Chiesa di San Domenico), and is home to the oldest clock tower in the world, Torre dell’Orologio di Sant’Andrea. The fish market in Via Poli Giovanni has a staggering array of produce, and the process of selling is an event in itself.

You can also take a boat trip to other islands in the lagoon, such as Pellestrina or Ca’ Roman. These islands are not on the standard Venice Burano-Murano tour, and in fact, they’re places with a pace of life that’s so rarely found now in our modern world.

5. Cadiz, Spain

This is being pegged as Spain’s new coastal destination of choice because of its typical white houses bright with patterned tiles in its old quarters, and the well-preserved landmark buildings. It also happens to have exceptional red tuna.

Where to eat:

Along the street Calle Zorrilla, most bars offer great fish-based tapas, so treat yourself to a tapas crawl! Order anything with red tuna in it.

Where to stay:

Photo: Airbnb

This comfortable penthouse has 360º views of the Old Cadiz Town and is a 5 minute walk to La Caleta Beach. You can see the sea from the terrace.

What to do:

Cadiz is considered one of the oldest continuously-inhabited towns in Europe and here you can visit the second largest Roman Theatre in the world dating from 1st century BC. The cathedral is a Baroque extravaganza of art and architecture. You can also take a short train ride to Jerez for an afternoon tasting sherry.

6. Pittenweem, Scotland

The whitewashed cottages set around a little rugged bay feel like an artist’s haven, and in fact, Pittenweem is home to dozens. In 1982, several resident artists set up an arts festival which takes place each year and is blossoming in popularity.

Where to eat:

A chilly walk on the beach can only be made better by some takeaway fish and chips from Pittenweem Fish and Chip Bar. Alternatively, take a brisk half-hour coastal walk to neighboring Anstruther and visit the award-winning Anstruther Fish Bar. Here the blackboard outside not only tells you what’s on the menu but also who caught it.

Where to stay:

Photo: Airbnb

Delve into fishing village life by staying in this cottage built in 1749. Looking over the harbor of Pittenweem, it’s perfect for settling into the local art scene.

What to do:

Held in August, the Pittenweem Arts Festival consumes the whole town, with exhibits inside houses, studios, galleries, and other public spaces. In addition, there are workshops, children’s events, and opportunities to meet the artists. Aside from the flourishing festival, there is far more ancient art to be seen, in the form of St Fillian’s Cave and Holy Well, one of the most important religious sites in Scotland.

7. Giglio Porto, Italy

Located on the Tuscan island of Giglio, this is a pretty port village of pastel-colored houses stretching along the seafront. The small island is ideally traversed by scooter (lots of narrow streets and steep climbs) with which you can zip up to the peak and, on a clear day, see right over to Isola d’Elba and even Corsica.

Where to eat:

La Margherita is a beach-side restaurant with a local feel. Ask for whatever is fresh or recommended, or just peek at what everyone else is having, which is generally all the same thing.

Where to stay:

This collection of apartments offers 4- and 2-person suites, all with private sea-view terraces. There is an infinity pool and a lookout point with sun loungers. Each apartment comes with either a free car or scooter to use. Collection from the ferry can also be arranged.

What to do:

Visit the historic village of Giglio Castello crowning the island. Here, the local church displays two pistols left by Tunisian pirates attacking in 1799, which attest to a less tranquil past. During the last weekend of September, there is a wine festival for the robust white Ansonaco wine that is only produced on this island.

8. Kotor, Montenegro

The fortified old town of Kotor, which sits in a natural harbor, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 12th to 14th-century architecture and historic monuments. It is backed by mountains rising rapidly to 1500m and looks out onto the fjord-like scenery of the bay.

Where to eat:

Here you can find a fusion of Balkan and Mediterranean cuisines, with local specialties ranging from stews and grilled meat to octopus salad. For excellent grilled meat head to Tanjga just out of the old town.

Where to stay:

Photo: Airbnb

This villa sleeps nine — so although it’s a little more expensive than the other options in the area, it balances out to be reasonable. The property has views of the old town, mountains, and the ocean.

What to do:

In the Old Town, visit the landmark architecture, such as the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon or the church of Saint Mary’s Collegiate in pretty Wood Square (Pjaca od Drva). Walk the 4.5km long walls and, if you’re feeling energetic, climb up to the San Giovanni fortress to appreciate a stunning panorama.

9. Marsaxlokk, Malta

Marsaxlokk is a traditional fishing village of brightly colored houses and even brighter colored boats. It’s the most important fishing harbor in Malta, and the Sunday market where fish is sold directly to restaurateurs and other customers has become a popular spectacle.

Where to eat:

Try a harbor-side restaurant for real sea-to-table food, such as La Capanna. Alternatively, buy straight from the famous fish market and cook up a seafood feast!

Where to stay:

Choose self-catering so you can cook your market-bought fish. These Quayside apartments are right near the bay and originate from a 19th house with lots of character, brightly painted doors and attractive outdoor seating.

What to do:

Go on a harbor walk and admire the traditional Maltese colored fishing boats called luzzu. Try snorkeling in St Peter’s Pool, one of the most beautiful of the naturally formed pools on the coast of Malta. Delve back in time and visit Għar Dalam, a prehistoric cul-de-sac, which contains bone remains of now extinct animals.