If you are looking for some beautiful hidden gems of Europe either because you like to go off the beaten path like me or you want to discover the little known places in Europe after having your fill of Rome, Paris, Prague, Budapest, and Amsterdam, well you are in for a treat here.
I have compiled the ultimate list of the best hidden gems in Europe, comprising of 65 destinations across the length and the breadth of the continent – from mysterious medieval towns to spectacular national parks to fairytale villages to stunning coastal towns and cities – this is a complete list of the beautiful European hidden gems.
You can browse the best hidden gems of Europe country-wise if you are looking for secret places in a specific country or also check out region-wise – Or simply get ready to read through all of them – because you will not be disappointed.
BEAUTIFUL HIDDEN GEMS OF EUROPE
While the pretty Bergen or enchanting Tromso and the fjords in between attract thousands of travelers from all over the world for their surreal beauty, there lies a secluded island in Norway, one of the magical hidden gems of Europe.
Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic North, is one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas for starters.
This fascinating archipelago is home to the dramatic, rugged terrain of snow-drowned peaks, intriguing icebergs, glaciers, large fields of ice, and rare wildlife – making it one of the top destinations of raw wilderness.
This place turns into a paradise in the long-harsh winters when you can witness the enchanting Northern Lights – the dance of colors in the sky. You can witness the midnight sun in summer as there is sunlight 24 hours – another unique and spell-bounding phenomenon.
The main center is Longyearbyen, which gives a glimpse of the ethereal beauty you will witness many times multiplied further on your trip.
Svalbard is also the place where you will find more polar bears than people. From longer expeditions on huskies or snowmobiles to boat trips to hiking amidst the glaciers – there are fantastic things to do in Svalbard, which isn’t possible anywhere near the North Pole.
Plus, there are some beautiful Airbnbs in Svalbard that you can book for a perfect trip amidst gorgeous landscapes.
Where to stay in Svalbard?
ST. GILGEN, AUSTRIA
While Salzburg in Austria draws thousands of visitors for many attractions in summer and skiing and Christmas markets in winter, very close to it is one of the hidden gems of Europe, a quaint village at the foot of the magnificent Alps – St. Gilgen.
St. Gilgen or Sankt Gilgen village sits pretty on the northern shore of the beautiful Lake Wolfgangsee, and its splendid location is one of the best things about St. Gilgen. Its history dates back to the 13th-century when it became an important shipping center thanks to its location.
Although you can easily explore the village as a day trip from Salzburg, it is recommended that you spend a day or two if possible as it will allow you to soak in the surreal beauty and the peaceful ambience, enjoying watersports on the lake and hiking.
Odense on the island of Funen in Denmark is one of the beautiful cities in Europe that’s often overlooked by travelers preferring the more popular Aarhus or the capital city Copenhagen.
But Odense is really one of those underrated places in Europe, which is not given even credit or attention. The third-largest city of Denmark is home to beautiful public gardens, enormous and beautiful castles, and manor houses.
Odense is the birthplace of the famous author Hans Christian Andersen. Here you can get to know about his life in one of the museums and on the walking tour, where you can even enjoy the fairytale performances by local artists.
Explore the medieval town encompassing narrow cobbled alleys lined with colorful and adorable wooden houses. Visit the many fabulous gardens – Munke Mose, the Fairytale flower garden on the Eventyrhaven.
Among the colourful cities in Scandinavia is Porvoo’s city in southern Finland, one of the stunning hidden gems of Europe. It is the second oldest town in the country, dating back to the 13th-century, before which it was a prominent trading center.
Porvoo’s most iconic area is its historic old town comprising colourful riverside warehouses and the cobblestone alleys further lined with vibrant wooden houses. It is a treat to the eyes to stroll through these perfect-looking streets.
POČITELJ, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
One of the unique places in Europe is the small village of Počitelj, a historic village and an open-air museum in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Located atop the valley next to the Neretva river surrounded by greenery, it is one of the prettiest hidden gems of Europe to experience something unique.
The village is laid out on a steep rocky amphitheatre at the bottom and the walled fortress at the top, with the uphill stone streets connecting them.
This stepped medieval fortress village takes you back in time as you meander on the hilly cobbled streets passing through stone-roofed houses, bazaars – ancient markets, and public thermal baths.
Check out the tall Ottoman clock tower, one of the landmarks, and further ahead, the huge fortress home to the octagonal Gavrakapetan Tower, the mosques, and the many traditional houses.
You can climb up the tower for panoramic views or, even better, head further to the fortress’s upper sections for magnificent 360-degree views of the valley and the village.
HIDDEN GEMS OF EUROPE – ITALY
There are tons of secret places in Italy which the first time traveler can easily miss – thanks to the immensely popular Rome, Florence, Venice, and Amalfi circuit that overshadows the many other hidden gems of Europe found in this country.
Here are the best Europe hidden gems from Italy for you!
Near the famous Mount Etna on Sicily’s east coast is a gorgeous hilltop town not known to many. Taormina is one of Europe’s beautiful hidden gems known for its historical Greek and Roman ruins, spectacular sea coves, rocky cliff tops overlooking the Mediterranean.
Whether you are a history buff or a beach lover or an adventure seeker, there is something for everyone in this pretty town which receives fewer tourists.
History lovers should take a tour of the ruins, especially a visit to the iconic landmark Teatro Antico di Taormina – the Roman-Greek open theatre.
Meander through the old town’s cobbled alleys, checking out the medieval cathedrals and other monuments adorning the square.
Take a tour of the majestic castle Palazzo Corvaja. Plan a boat trip to the little island of Isola Bella or unwind at one of the splendid white sand beaches with your favorite Italian food and wine. In the evening, take a stroll in the Public Garden of Taormina, one of the lovely ancient gardens.
CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO
One of the prettiest Italian hidden gems is the mountain-top medieval town of Civita di Bagnoregio in Lazio. This well-preserved medieval village home to less than three thousand inhabitants is one of the beautiful hidden gems of Europe.
One of the prettiest Italian hidden gems is the mountain-top medieval town of Civita di Bagnoregio in Lazio. This well-preserved medieval village home to less than three thousand inhabitants is one of Europe’s beautiful hidden gems.
If you are looking to go off the touristy radar truly, you should certainly add this town of fewer than 50 inhabitants to your list, surrounded by the mountainous valleys’ sweeping views.
The only way to reach the mystic Civita di Bagnoregio on the hilltop is over the dramatic-looking 7th-century bridge Porta Santa Maria gateway built by the Etruscans.
This small town is best enjoyed on foot, and you can spend your time leisurely taking in all the views without being rushed.
Wander the uphill old town’s winding streets to go back in time, exploring the stone church, ancient buildings, and squares. Enjoy the panoramic sunset views from the top to sign off.
Wine lovers will know the name Bolgheri wine, a super Tuscan, deep red wine known for its excellent flavor. But not many know about the place where it is made. In Italy’s beautiful Tuscany region is a little sleep village of Bolgheri, home to less than 500 people.
Surrounded by rolling hills, olive groves, and vineyards, Bolgheri is one of the gorgeous hidden gems of Europe where you can experience the stunning beauty of the valleys of Tuscany, delicious food, and explore the vineyards to know about the traditional wine-making, storage in cellars in stone basements along with tasting this tasty, super Tuscan wine at its birthplace.
It is the best stopover while exploring the Tuscany region and if you are looking for a secluded holiday in a beautiful location Bolgheri is the perfect place.
Straddling the Lente River in southern Tuscany, perched on a hill, is the pretty town of Sorano, nicknamed the city of rocks because this city was covered out of rocks hundreds of years ago and is known for its elegant medieval town encompassing large towers, castles, gardens, and little wineshops along the winding cobbled alleys.
Sorano is one of the prettiest hidden places in Europe where you can experience everything about Tuscany – from its gorgeous landscapes from the top of the towers to excellent wine and food, apart from admiring its monuments, history, and architecture.
Take a walk on the city walls, reach the splendid Orsini Fortress home to the beautiful Masso Leopoldino – the medieval terrace before heading out to explore the caves and finally relaxing at the thermal baths.
Italy is home to many hilltop cities and towns, but not all are popular in the tourist circuit, which is a good thing for those wanting to go offbeat. Ragusa in Sicily is one of Europe’s hidden gems in Italy that will enchant you instantly with the views from the hilltop, rich history, architecture, and art.
You should check out the amazing old town Ragusa Ibla comprising many baroque monuments, the most notable being the beautiful cathedral Duomo di San Giorgio known for its colorful windows and frescoes. Visit the magnificent fortress Donafugata and also the panoramic views.
In the modern part of the city, visit the many museums housing a brilliant collection of medieval art. Spend an evening in the awesome public park Giardino Ibleo, home to viewpoints, churches, and fountains.
Did you know? Ragusa is known for its special cheese, vegetables, and wine, so don’t come back without joining a food and wine tour.
Just 2 hours away from Rome lies the beautiful coastal town of Gaeta overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Known for its protected Roman ruins, rugged rocky cliffs, caves, beaches, olives, and wine, Gaeta is one of the most beautiful hidden gems of Europe you shouldn’t miss.
The most popular attraction is the conversed Monte Orlando Park, home to Roman ruins, Mediterranean vegetation, and amazing dives sites. Stop by the split rock Montagna Spaccata at the mouth of the sea.
For some adventure, plan a trip to Grotta del Turco marine cave, or even better, climb the 300 stairs for stunning views of the beach shores.
Don’t miss the magnificent walled castle-fortress Castello Angioino-Aragonese from where you can see splendid views of the city’s skyline and the coast and another Roman archaeological site Villa di Tiberio.
HIDDEN GEMS OF EUROPE – FRANCE
In southern France lies the port town of Cassis, one of the gorgeous hidden gems of Europe. Overlooking a grand centuries château, Cassis is known for its stunning Calanques or narrow inlets, amazing white sand pebble beaches, rocky limestone clifftops, colorful waterfront promenade, wine, and splendid views of the Mediterranean coast.
If you are looking for a fantastic French vacation, you should check out Cassis. The top attraction in Cassis is the magnificent Calanques National Park, home to three big inlets, Cosquer Cave, and beautiful beaches. You can spend a few days enjoying several activities.
Take boat trips through the three beautiful Calanques in the park – Calanque de Port Pin, Calanque d’En-Vau and the Calanque de Port-Miou.
Hike to the top of Cap Canaille for spectacular 360-degree views of the coast and the skyline. Admire the pastel-colored buildings, cute cafes, and restaurants as you stroll along the promenades. Don’t forget to try the local special Cassis white wine for a perfect finish.
How does a French village on a hilltop, surrounded by dense forests full of incredible wildlife, hiking trails, viewpoints, and limestone caves sound? If you nod your head for a big yes, then head to this little hidden gem of Europe in south-central France, to Rocamadour.
Here, you can catch up with the wild macaques roaming free at La Forêt des Singes Park or Monkey Forest as more famously it is known as, on your hiking. If you love birds, you should visit the Rocher des Aigles bird park, home to fantastic rare bird species.
History lovers should check the old quarter home to the Cité Réligieuse complex of religious buildings, including the Chapelle Notre-Dame, with its Black Madonna statue, and the Romanesque-Gothic Basilica of St-Sauveur passing through the Grand Escalier staircase.
And don’t forget to plan a trip to the spectacular limestone caves – Lacava and the prehistoric Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles.
Did you know? Archaeologists found many remains of some species of Dinosaurs in Rocamadour that you can find out all about at the Prehisto Dino Park.
One of the hidden places you must visit in Europe is the quaint village of Conques in southern France, perched atop a hill, surrounded by lush valleys, lakes, and castles.
Secluded amidst the forests, Conques is home to many centuries-old chateaus, hiking trails leading to amazing viewpoints, and also a few interesting museums.
Plan a visit to the gorgeous Castle of Bournazel and Château de Vieillevie. Explore the old quarter in the village dominated by the Gothic Conques church. Take a boat trip in Bateau l’Olt to witness the amazing birds. And wine lovers should definitely take a wine tour at Domaine du Cros vineyard.
In eastern France, on the famous Alsace Wine Route lies one of the hidden gems of Europe – the enchanting town of Riquewihr. Lovely half-timbered houses, wine shops, churches, and cafes decorate the winding cobbled alleys of this pretty town, set amidst the rolling hills, olive groves, and vineyards, all forming a perfect backdrop.
Get lost on these streets admiring these timbered homes in the old town. Get glimpses of the medieval torture weapons and instruments at the 14th-century Tour des Voleurs, a former prison.
Take a tour of the 16th-century Maison de Vigneron to learn about the medieval period’s traditional wine-making process. Visit the pretty 1291 Dolder Tower houses the Musée du Dolder, featuring centuries-old weapons.
Plan a trip to the most famous attraction of Riquewihr – The Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, a gorgeous medieval castle in the Vosges mountains, on a rocky spur overlooking the Upper Rhine.
Home to some of the most powerful empires from the middle ages to the German Kaiser family in the 20th century – this castle is a must-visit from where you can also enjoy stunning panoramic views.
While the city of Nice, one of the beautiful places in France, beckons travelers regularly, just 20-minutes away is one of the enchanting hidden gems of Europe, Eze – a small village atop a steep rocky mountain in the French Riveria.
Historic Roman ruins, botanical gardens, hiking trails offering magnificent views of the Mediterranean, stone houses, beaches, and lakes – Eze are a total package for a small village.
Although you can pretty much explore all of these in one day, I’d highly recommend spending a few days in this sleepy village. Explore the winding cobbled streets of the village’s old quarter home to stone buildings adorned with flowers.
Visit the botanical garden Jardin d’Èze nestling atop a steep terrain offering splendid panoramic views of the coast. This garden has an impressive collection of cactus and succulents.
Following the winding, steep, narrow trails along the rocks that open up to the coast’s gorgeous views, walk the Nietzsche path. Rent a mountain bike or drive through the Col d’Èze mountain pass or spend your day at the lovely beach of Plage de la Mala.
MOUSTIERS SAINTE MARIE
Considered as one of France’s most beautiful villages is Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, famous as Moustiers in the Provence region in the Southeastern part of the country. Home to less than 2000 inhabitants, Moustiers is one of the beautiful unexplored places in Europe.
Moustiers is located within the UNESCO world heritage Bio reserve Verdon natural regional park, which straddles the Var and Alpes de Haute Provence.
Nestling at the base of soaring cliffs, Moustiers is home to the turquoise lake and canyon -Pont du Galetas. Enjoy the stunning views of the Lake of Sainte-Croix, or better, join a boat trip through the canyons.
Check out the famous Chapelle Notre Dame de Beauvoir, a 14th-century chapel located precariously on the edge of a steep canyon, which can be reached by climbing a winding staircase. Hike to the Trevans Gorge or visit the nearby lake.
HIDDEN GEMS OF EUROPE – SPAIN
Huge rocky mountains tower over this little village of Agüero in Spain in the Aragon region. It is one of the beautiful European hidden gems located at the foot of the Pyrenees.
The imposing red limestone rock formations, known as the Mallos de Riglo, rise over 300 meters, forming a splendid, mystic backdrop to Agüero village, which itself looks like a place from a bygone era, with its medieval church, quiet cobbled alleys, and a few shops, dominated by the 12th-century church.
There are many things to enjoy at Agüero, including climbing the rocks of Riglo, or exploring the surrounding trails, witnessing the dramatic views of the valley from the Mirador de Los Buitres observation deck.
CAMINITO DEL REY
While the adventure seekers or seasoned hikers may know about the thrilling hike to Caminito del Rey, it remains unknown to many other travelers, which is why it can be regarded as one of the beautiful hidden gems of Europe.
A day trip from Malaga in Spain is El Caminito del Rey; a walkway famously called The King’s Little Path, pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro.
Running for over 3km at 100 meters above a steep, rocky valley and just 1 foot wide, Caminito del Rey is considered one of the world’s dangerous walkways, which was originally built as the walkway between the two waterfalls Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls.
Although not for the faint-hearted, if you are an adventure seeker, there is nothing better than challenging yourself for a walk on this path, the reward being stunning views of the vista.
If you are looking for some beautiful hidden gem cities in Europe, Salamanca should be one of them in northwestern Spain. One of the most important university cities in Spain, is home to the Universidad de Salamanca or Salamanca University, a 12th-century piece of medieval architectural wonder.
The city is known for many things, but the central attraction is the magnificent Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising historical monuments dating back to the Celtic period, characterized by sandstone architecture and ornate decorations.
Explore the heritage site of Salamanca Cathedral, comprising of two – the ancient and the new one, both built of sandstone and known for their intricate designs, frescoes, and high ceiling. Enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the city from the bell towers of the church.
Wander around the 18th-century Baroque style Plaza Mayor square, check out the unique shell-covered palace Casa de las Conchas, the intricately decorated monastery Convento de San Esteban.
Capture the views of the city on one of its iconic landmarks – The Roman bridge of Salamanca. In the evening, don’t forget to take a stroll in the beautiful public garden Huerto de Calixto y Melibea.
Cuenca in Spain is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Europe. The historic walled town of Cuenca, a UNESCO world heritage site founded by the Moors, sits on the top of a limestone hill above the Júcar and Huécar rivers, overlooking the valley rocky mountains in central Spain. It is one of the few hidden gems of Europe best for history and nature lovers.
Cuenca is famous for the well-preserved hanging houses – Casas Colgadas that sit on the cliff’s edge at the mouth of the Huécar gorge.
The steep cobbled streets with this walled town are home to many stunning medieval monuments – some of which is a beautiful blend of the Renaissance-Moorish architecture.
Check out the beautiful Cuenca cathedral and historic bell tower in the old town.
FUENTE DE PIEDRA
In southern Spain, the Andalusian region is known for its surreal beauty – whitewashed buildings adorning the little fishing villages and towns overlooking the coast, rocky cliffs offering panoramas, hilltop castles, and the beautiful adorned cobbled streets of enchanting old towns.
In this splendid region lies Fuente de Piedra village near Malaga, one of the beautiful hidden gems of Europe. Apart from the typical Andalusian settings, this tiny hamlet sits close to the stunning national park Laguna de Fuente de Piedra.
The park is home to the beautiful Fuente de Piedra Lagoon, a saltwater lake that draws pretty wild flamingos that flock here during the breeding season. There are many trails in the park, around the lagoon, and beyond for bird-watching and enjoying the landscapes’ sweeping views.
Among the splendid provinces in Spain is the Aragon, which is home to mountainous terrain, rocky valleys, and forests comprising limestone formations – a unique combination giving a distinctly mystic appearance.
In this mountain region is the town of Teruel, one of the beautiful hidden gems of Europe. This high-altitude town is famous for its architecture – from prehistoric to medieval to the Moorish periods, and Dinopolis – a park and museum comprising prehistoric fossils.
These different kingdoms’ influence is evident in Teruel’s monuments, exhibiting the classicMudéjar architecture, a style combining Gothic and Islamic elements characterized by ornate wooden ceilings, glazed tiles, and terracotta bricks.
Visit the stunning 12th-century Santa María de Mediavilla Cathedral, known for its colorful elaborately painted ceiling. Check out the UNESCO listed The Torre de El Salvador, a 14th-century Mudéjar tower renowned for its intricate facade and stairs to the top from where you can witness beautiful views.
HIDDEN GEMS OF EUROPE – GERMANY
The Alps’ gorgeous snow-capped peaks form the perfect backdrop for a post-card perfect town, many of them tucked away from the world. One such hidden gem of Europe is Mittenwald, a sleepy village straddling the Isar River at the Karwendel Mountains foot in Germany.
Home to less than 10,000 people, Mittenwald is known to the world as the center for making violins. But there is more to Mittenwald than the violins. Glacial lakes, waterfalls, and hiking trails offering incredible views of the gorgeous Alps colorful houses are all the reasons why you should visit Mittenwald.
In the town center, visit the medieval churches of St.Peter and St. Paul and the beautiful colorful houses lining the streets.
Check out the pretty Alpine lakes Lautersee, Barmsee, Geroldsee, and Ferchensee – all set amidst the pine forests and the Alps’ view. Hike the trails to reach the beautiful Leutasch-Klamm waterfalls. You can also plan a visit to Laintal waterfall or hike in Hoher Kranzberg’s paths.
Freiburg im Breisgau, located in southwest Germany in the Black Forest region, might not be a secret place to many Europeans or seasoned travelers. Still, it certainly is a kind of a hidden gem for those traveling around the continent for the first time, which is why it makes this list of hidden gems of Europe.
Known for its splendid Europa-Park, the largest theme park in Germany, and the second most popular in Europe, after Disneyland Paris, there is more to this lovely city of Freiburg even if you are not a fan of theme parks.
Freiburg is known for its beautiful medieval town, which was reconstructed following heavy destruction during WWII. The beautiful cobbled streets of the old quarter is home to splendid medieval buildings built in Renaissance and Gothic styles, dominated by the magnificent Freiburg Cathedral at the central square Münsterplatz, the lovely city gates Martin and Schwabentor.
In winter, the surrounding mountains become a winter wonderland, the most famous being Schlossberg hill, which you can reach through a funicular, Schauinsland, and Tuniberg.
One of the most beautiful hidden gems to visit in Europe is the second smallest city in Germany, Cochem’s town on the banks of The Moselle River in Rhineland.
Cochem’s magnificent castle dominates the city’s skyline atop a rocky hill, a colorful waterfront, and series of winding cobbled alleys leading to a beautiful medieval town.
If you want to experience a truly enchanting, typical German-style town, you should head to Freudenberg, which is one of the magical hidden gems in Europe.
Located on the German-Dutch holiday road Orange Route, the city is known for its old town Alter Flecken, a historical landmark comprising fifty wooden houses all of the same size and white-colored it a lovely outlook.
Nature lovers can hike in the nature park and also, don’t miss the mystic Hohenhainer Tunnel.
One of the best places to visit in Europe in winter is Germany, home to many ski destinations. One of the hidden gems in Europe for a winter getaway is Schliersee, a pretty town around Lake Schliersee, a glacial lake surrounded by mountains that are blanketed in snow in the winter.
Unlike the other expensive ski resorts, you can enjoy skiing and other snow sports without many crowds, explore a few medieval monuments, witness the stunning views from mountain tops and stroll around the lake, or maybe take a boat trip in summer in the lake and go hiking.
HIDDEN GEMS IN EUROPE – THE UK
You can find many places off the beaten path in Scotland, with one of the prettiest among them being Crovie, a small village in Aberdeenshire. It is one of Scotland’s oldest towns, which functioned as an important place for ships before initially being a fishing village.
This beautiful village on the North Aberdeenshire coast comprises rows of houses amidst a narrow ledge in the cliffs. Its mystic, remote location and gorgeous ambience are enough reasons you should visit this tiny hamlet.
CAIRNGORMS NATIONAL PARK, SCOTLAND
Cairngorms National Park, located in Scotland, is not exactly a hidden gem, considering that it is the largest national park in the UK. But it deserves to be on the list as the park is one of the best places in Europe to visit if you love the outdoors and hiking.
This massive park is home to many surreal lakes, streams, seemingly endless valleys embellished with mountains and woody forests. Depending on when you visit, you can enjoy a wide range of activities, from skiing and snowboarding in winter to cycling, swimming, kayaking, and hiking in summer.
Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel is one of the hidden gems of Europe known for its dramatic coastal cliffs, beach resorts, and the magnificent 13th-century Castle Cornet, also housing a museum and the sprawling Victor Hugo’s house.
Guernsey is one of the best day trips from the UK and Normandy, and if you are looking for a quiet English holiday in one of the most beautiful places in Europe, you should pick Guernsey.
ISLES OF SCILLY, ENGLAND
The Isles of Scilly or Scillies, off the Cornish coast, in southwest England, is one of the beautiful hidden gems of Europe, home to just over 2000 people inhabiting five islands.
Exploring Scillies feels like going back in time, thanks to its secluded location away from the urbanized cities.
The islands are known for the sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs overlooking the coast, and colorful houses.
One of the inhabited islands Tresco, is home to a splendid 17th-century Cromwell’s Castle, the stunning Abbey gardens, and the Valhalla collection of 30 ships’ figureheads.
BEAUTIFUL HIDDEN GEMS OF EUROPE
Akureyri, a pretty city, located in northern Iceland at the base of Eyjafjörður Fjord, the longest in the country, is one of the ultimate hidden gems of Europe.
The city is home to just 20,000 people and even fewer tourists, making it one of the best non-touristy places to visit in Europe. Its fascinating landscapes around its beautiful location adds to the charm of the city.
If Iceland isn’t already aloof enough, Akureyri is more mystic yet captivating for its first-time visitors. There are plenty of things to enjoy in Akureyri no matter the year’s time, from cute cafes to art galleries to public gardens and skiing spots.
You will get sneak-peeks of the country’s enchanting rugged landscapes as you explore the neighborhood comprising of stunning fjords and snow-capped mountain peaks.
You can enjoy hiking in these mountains in summer, while the winter snow turns them into skiing hot spots with the skiing resorts turning the best place for a winter holiday. There are also unique winter festivals and expeditions to the Arctic circle you can sign up for if you feel adventurous.
Cruise lovers should definitely join a trip or two to enjoy travelling through some stunning landscapes. Check out the beautiful Botanical Gardens in the south of the city, the Akureyri Art Museum for contemporary art, and the beautiful Akureyri Church, home to brightly painted glass windows.
OHRID, NORTH MACEDONIA
One of the beautiful hidden gems of Europe sits on the pretty Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia. Ohrid, nicknamed Macedonia’s crown jewel, is a stunning city off the beaten path known for its gorgeous lakeside, historic old town, many ancient cathedrals, cute cafes and restaurants, and castles.
If you are a fan of smaller cities, you will love the compact city of Ohrid instantly.
Meander through the lovely old town home to cobblestone streets lined with amazing churches and medieval buildings, with the castle at the center. You can take boat trips in the lake, hike around the hills and take a boardwalk – Ohrid is the best place for a relaxing holiday in Europe.
How does a dense canopy carpet with bright blue flowers sound? If you feel the fairytale vibes, you can experience this in Hallerbos or the Blue Forest in Belgium, one of the enchanting hidden gems of Europe.
Every spring, in late April, thousands and thousands of the wildflower Blue Hyacinth bloom under the lush canopy of forests, transforming the landscape into a magical fairyland, which is visited by hikers, nature and wildlife lovers, and photography enthusiasts that flock to capture this dramatic field of flowers.
Hallerbos is one place you should add to your Belgium itinerary if you are here in spring.
Transylvania in central Romania is one of the magical hidden gems in Europe, known for its magnificent landscapes encompassing mountains, beautiful medieval towns, fairytale castles, and fortresses, making you feel transported back in time, tucked away from the modern world.
Did you know? Transylvania is home to the gorgeous Bran Castle, a Gothic fortress associated with Dracula’s legend, one of the region’s top attractions.
You can easily spend a few days admiring the towns’ cobbled alleys, including the pretty Brasov town home to Gothic churches and baroque buildings. In winter, Romania’s Transylvania turns into a perfect spot for all winter sports, the most famous ski resort Poiana near Brasov.
One of the fascinating hidden gems of Europe is Lviv in western Ukraine, neighboring Poland. Exploring this beautiful city is experiencing a European city minus the commercialization or crowds – you get slices of the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire, Polish, Russian and Venetian influences – an almost impossible-to-imagine combination but stunning nevertheless in its architecture, culture, and food.
No wonder Lviv is a UNESCO world heritage listed city. Its charming medieval town home to beautiful buildings where these different parts of history blend in these monuments on the neatly-kept cobbled streets.
Adorable cafes with pretty rooftops overlooking the skyline exist beside the medieval era of green domes. For splendid bord views of the city and the valleys, head to the magnificent 14th-century castle High Castle Park.
Maastricht is a little city in the south of the Netherlands on the Maas River banks that divides the city into two. This young city is one of the best European cities to visit, especially as one of the city breaks if you are thinking of veering away from Amsterdam, the country’s star city.
This university city is characterized by its medieval-era architecture, tunnel-caves, historical buildings, and vibrant cultural scenes.
In the lovely old town laid with pretty cobbled alleys, you can witness parts of the Roman history along with the Renaissance architectural influences as you admire the Gothic-style church SintJanskerk and the Romanesque Basilica of St. Servatius.
The waterfront promenades, the cruises on the Maas River, many food markets, and museums are the other things you shouldn’t miss enjoying when in Maastricht.
Maribor might be the second-largest city in Slovenia. Still, less than one-third of the population, Maribor is more of a small town straddling the Drava River amidst the splendid hills home to vineyards.
Its fantastic location is one of the first reasons it is one of the charming hidden places of Europe, the others being fewer crowds and splendid old town and castles.
Stroll the beautiful Glavni Trg, the old town’s main square, home to the imposing 16th-century Renaissance-style Town Hall. Admire the gorgeous 15th-century Maribor Castle, also home to the Regional Museum of Maribor further, in Grajski Trg square.
In winter, you can plan a short trip to the lovely hilly ski resort Mariborsko Pohorje. Check out the Slovenske Gorice wine-growing regions to the north and east best explored on wine tasting tours.
Not many know about this little land-locked country of Liechtenstein bordering Swizterland in Europe, leaving alone its tiny capital Vaduz on the Rhine River banks.
With a post-pard perfect backdrop of the snow-capped peaks and forested mountains, the bustling river, a magnificent castle and the old and modern neighbourds are all the reasons making Vaduz, one of the best hidden gems of Europe, worth adding to your bucket list.
You can explore the best of Vaduz easily on foot. Visit the enchanting 12th-century Vaduz Castle, the royal family residence atop a hill overlooking the town, where the valley’s panoramic views are astounding.
Explore the Städtle, the pedestrianized town center close to the castle, home to many medieval and modern buildings, including the sleek, modern art Museum Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein and the National Museum.
Don’t miss the quaint village not far away from the centre, worth visiting for its vineyards and the Alps’ views.
Mtskheta, a small city in Georgia at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, is one of the oldest cities in Europe and was the capital of the country for many centuries, going back to the early 3rd century BC.
Mtskheta is considered the centre of spirituality and religion for Christians ever since Christianity was established in this town in 327.
Although Mtskheta is located just 20km away from Tbilisi’s current capital city, it is still one of the unexplored hidden gems of Europe.
Check out the beautiful Svetitskhoveli Cathedral rich in history and architecture, wander through the old town, and the streets along the rivers home to many restaurants and cafes.
While most people traveling to Poland don’t miss the bustling Krakow or Warsaw, many don’t know about this hidden gem of Europe, Toruń, a historical city on the Vistula River north-central Poland.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises a magnificent walled Gothic town filled with cobbled alleys bejeweled with many medieval monuments, Gothic Cathedrals, colourful houses lining the squares, and many museums.
You can easily spend a quick weekend getting lost in this well-preserved historic site, which was one of the few places untouched by the bombings of WWII, making the visit more special.
HIDDEN GEMS OF EUROPE – NORTH & CENTRAL
GREAT SKELLIG, IRELAND
The Great Skellig comprises two islands, Skellig Michael and Little Skellig, close to Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry in Ireland. This UNESCO world heritage site is known for the high rock formations, with the bigger Skellig Michael or Michael’s Rock at 21 meters high, and the smaller Skellig or Splinter of Stone in Irish, being the smaller one and inaccessible.
One of the rugged hidden gems of Europe, these uniquely shaped rock formations were the sanctuary for the early Christian monks that founded a community and survived here from the 6th to 12th-century until the invasion of the Vikings.
In medieval times, the island was a popular wedding destination, and later in the 18th-century, the two houses were constructed when the island became a watchpoint for traders.
Take a tour of the stunning 6th-century monastic buildings sitting on a saddle in the rock 150m above sea level. You are rewarded with excellent panorama and unique architecture of the buildings as you reach the top by climbing 618 steep steps carved out of the rock face.
You can see the rectangular oratory, vegetable garden, and cistern for collecting rainwater among the notable features.
GLENVEAGH NATIONAL PARK, IRELAND
Glenveagh National Park is the second-largest park in Ireland and one of the gorgeous hidden gems of Europe, home to a fairytale castle and lakes.
The National Park is known for its remote location, rugged wilderness encompassing mountains, lakes, beautiful waterfalls, and oak woodland in the Derryveagh Mountains.
You can go on several hikes within the national park, depending on your preference. Among the most popular stops is the 19th-century mansion Glenveagh Castle on the edge of Lough Veagh where you can also stay overnight if you like.
INIS MOR, IRELAND
Ireland is full of rugged and dramatic landscapes comprising unusual things that you wouldn’t imagine. One such island is Inismore in the western part of the country, one of the offbeat places in Europe.
The island is home to many prehistoric sites, including the intriguing Fort Dún Aonghasa at the cliff’s top, the unique stone monument Clochán Na Carraige, and the medieval ruins of churches.
Other places you shouldn’t miss exploring are Worm Hole, a lovely natural pool, and the stunning Kilmurvey Beach, home to a seal colony.
Bordering Spain in the Alentejo lies the medieval village of Marvão on a rocky hill surrounded by lush countryside.
Tucked away in the mountains, this beautiful Europe hidden gem dating back to the 16th-century is home to post-card perfect whitewashed houses with tiled roofs and patios with flowers decorating the narrow cobblestone streets.
With only a few thousand inhabitants and a handful of tourists, there is no better place than Marvao to experience the warmth, beauty, and food in Portugal.
Don’t forget to get to the splendid castle for amazing views. And when you want to relax, many cute restaurants and cafes serve the best cuisines and wine.
Guimarães in northern Portugal is one of the beautiful European destinations that may not be on the itinerary of many first-time visitors. But it is one of the splendid hidden gems in Europe that you should certainly visit for many reasons.
The old town, which is over 1000 years, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Navigating through the winding cobblestone streets make you transported back in time as your jaw drops at the sight of the magnificent palaces, Churches, medieval-style plazas, ancient houses, and museums.
The hilltop, 10th-century Guimarães Castle, is the show stopper for its brilliant architecture and splendour and the sweeping city views.
Check out another medieval marvel, the French-style Dukes of Bragança Palace, which also houses a beautiful museum. Also, don’t miss the 13th century Romanesque São Miguel do Castelo Church close to the palace.
If you are a lover of cheese, you will be familiar with the name Gruyères, and yes, you are right, this cheese comes from this quaint town of Gruyères in Switzerland.
Luxurious mansions, fairytale villages, and beautiful landscapes are the reasons Gruyères is one of the best places to visit in Europe off the beaten path, apart from your love for cheese.
Check out the three main villages Broc, Bulle, and Gruyères, around which most of the attractions are worth visiting, all surrounded by stunning Swiss countryside.
You will be swept off your feet in Gruyères as you walk through the cobbled streets lined with medieval houses running through the hill.
The village’s jewel is the majestic hilltop fortress, the 13th-century Château de Gruyères, which has a great museum.
Take a tour at the cheese house to know how the world-famous cheese is manufactured and, of course, taste all the types as you enjoy the tour.
Switzerland has no shortage of adorable villages tucked away at the foot of the mountains and valleys.
Among its off the beaten ones that are some of the hidden gems in Europe is the village of Pontresina nestling amidst the group of mountains of the Bernina in the eastern part.
Very close to St. Moritz, the more well-known neighbor, this quaint village is the place to go if you can’t afford the expensive Moritz town.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you will instantly like Pontresina because it is a stone-throw away from the beautiful ski slopes and winter sports center in winter.
At the same time, summer leaves you with many spectacular trails open for hiking and cycling, especially in Val Roseg. Even if you are not a sports lover, you can enjoy the mountainous valleys’ fantastic views by taking a funicular ride to Punt Muragl.
Wander through the traditional, vibrant stone houses, the medieval church known for its frescoes, and the Geology Museum.
KARLOVY VARY, CZECH REPUBLIC
Very close to the capital city Prague, a lovely spa town, is visited by a few day-trippers looking for offbeat places.
Karlovy Vary in the west Bohemia region of the Czech Republic is one of the hidden gems of Europe known for its awesome spas or its many thermal springs that once attracted the European elite in the 19th-century. have made it a popular resort since the 19th century.
You can spend many days pampering yourself with the healthy, mineral-rich hot springs across fantastic several colonnades with columned walkways.
The most famous of them is the beautiful Mill Hot Spring Colonnade that houses the Pramen Vřídlo geyser up to 12 meters high.
Apart from the thermal baths, the old town of Karlovy Vary deserves a visit for its colorful houses and medieval buildings, including Gothic cathedrals.
SUMAVA NATIONAL PARK, CZECH REPUBLIC
One of the beautiful European hidden gems that outdoor lovers and nature enthusiasts will love is the stunning Šumava National Park or Bohemian Forest National Park in the South Bohemian regions of the Czech Republic bordering Germany and Austria.
Fantastic valleys are filled with forested mountains, canyons, waterfalls, and lakes, all of which can be explored on the many hiking and biking trails.
Depending on your preferences, you can easily spend a day or more exploring the corners of this enormous national park, a protected area for wildlife.
HIDDEN GEMS IN EUROPE – SOUTH & EAST
Alonnisos is one of the stunning offbeat islands in Greece, located in the Aegean Sea. Unlike the other Greek islands filled with party-goers and beach lovers, you will find the whitewashed fishing villages lining the coast, the white sand beaches, and bars with only a handful of tourists, making Alonnisos one of the beautiful hidden gems of Europe.
The main town Patitiri, which will be your first stop, is one of the best places to base to explore the island.
You can go on hikes, take boat trips, enjoy snorkeling, swimming, and diving on the beaches, apart from enjoying strolling through the traditional Greek villages.
Among the beautiful and unique places to visit in Greece is Zagori in northwestern Greece. It is located amidst the mountains, including two national parks and 46 unique villages called Zagori villages that are in the shape of an inverted equilateral triangle and connected with stone bridges from medieval times.
What makes Zagori special is the dramatic, sprawling, unique landscape comprising of gorges like Vikos Gorge from the Astrakas Mountain, lakes, stone bridges, including the famous Kalogeriko, hot springs, the beautiful Viodomatis River, and many ancient monasteries.
You can take up several trails to cover some of these or drive through exploring these attractions between one to a few days, which is definitely worth experiencing.
Located just 20km from Dubrovnik’s popular city is the beautiful resort town Cavtat on the Adriatic Coast, one of the stunning hidden gems of Europe.
Close to Montenegro as well, most people skip Cavtat or take a day trip, which is a shame as it is one of the underrated places in Europe.
The city sits on a little peninsula in between two harbors; White-sand pebble beaches, a colorful waterfront promenade lined with amazing restaurants and cafes, castles, and gothic churches are the best things about this pretty town. Don’t miss the Renaissance splendor of Rector’s Palace.
Although it doesn’t like it, Cavtat was established in the 6th-century by Romans who later founded Dubrovnik’s walled city – so yes, Cavtat is older among the two.
If you find Dubrovnik to be mainstream, you can base yourself in Cavtat and explore instead as the cities are well-connected by boats.
Another walled city on the Adriatic coast in Croatia is the lovely town of Trogir, known for its splendid old town, a UNESCO world heritage site, nestling amidst a high-walled medieval fortress on a small island, which is connected by ancient bridges – a post-card perfect medieval setting on the sea.
The coast’s promenade is vibrant and bustling come summer, with bars and cafes filled with travelers and locals.
Meander through the cobbled alleys of the old town that boasts of majestic buildings that are a unique blend of Renaissance, Baroque, and Roman-style buildings, including the 13th-century Cathedral of St. Lawrence, where you can witness sweeping views from its bell tower.
While the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro may be one of the most beautiful cities and a famous one, not many know about this tiny town of Perast located close to the northwest.
Perast is a surprise addition to the list of hidden gem towns in Europe, giving its proximity to a famous city, and it is also true that you will notice fewer tourists in Perast. During the medieval time, Perast was the home to European Elite, including wealthy nobles and merchants.
The most famous landmarks on the mainland’s tiny islets – St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks, both home to medieval cathedrals. Explore the main street of the old town which contains more churches, with the most famous being St Nicholas’ Church at the square.
Enjoy delicious food and drinks, admiring the colorful waterfront offering amazing views of the harbor.
SKADAR NATIONAL PARK, MONTENEGRO
Skadar Lake national park, known by many names – Lake Scutari, Lake Shkodër, and Lake Shkodra — is a Karst lake in Montenegro, bordering Albania.
Named after the city of Shkodër in northern Albania and resembling the shape of a dolphin, this is one of the beautiful hidden gems in Europe and the largest in the Balkans and southern Europe, with most of it in Montenegro and a chunk lying in Albania.
The lake within Montenegro is a national park, surrounded by a stunning backdrop made of mountains, forests, and monasteries. The park home to some rare and endangered bird species that flock in large numbers during the migration season.
Nature lovers can take a boat trip, join several short and longer hikes, go bird-watching, or kayaking on the lake. Also, stop by Virpazar and Vranjina, the quiet yet pretty towns around the lake.
Sibiu, in central Romania, is one of the cool places in Europe known for its splendid history, architecture, palaces, and Bohemian vibes. A part of Transylvania, Sibiu is one of the perfect European hidden gems if you want to explore a city in Europe that’s typical, minus the crowds.
Not many know that Sibiu is also one of the famous cities among musicians – from Jazz to Rock lovers, hosting many international music festivals and concerts.
Admire the gorgeous 12th-century Germanic architecture in the old town, encompassing remains of elegant medieval walls, Gothic-Baroque cathedrals, and towers. Being Romania’s oldest city, you can find many firsts here – the first hospital, pharmacy, and even a library.
Take a tour of the magnificent Brukenthal Palace, also home to Brukenthal National Museum.
You can also stroll through the squares for glimpsing Bohemian influences in cafes, bars, and the modern upper town’s alleys, which is unique to Romania, making Sibiu the official cultural capital of the country.
Located on the banks of Târnava Mare River in Romania is the lovely city of Sighișoara, in the historical region of Transylvania. The city is renowned for its UNESCO world heritage site – the medieval old town.
Sighisoara is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful hidden gems of Europe. Exploring the old town walking inside the walls, which is the best part of the city, you will feel transported back in time as the beautiful pastel-colored buildings, including mansions and churches on the cobblestone streets, welcome you.
For majestic panoramic views of the town and the valleys, head to the church on the hilltop. You can easily spend a weekend in Sighisoara, ending up falling in love with this gem.
How do hilltop castles, Turkish mansions, medieval old town, museums, and amazing food for a European city getaway sound? Well, especially if it is one of the gorgeous hidden gems in Europe, you cannot turn down.
And Berat on the Osum River, surrounded by rugged mountains and valleys in central Albania, fits the above descriptions. Berat is known for the whitewashed Ottoman houses that go all the way uphill to the magnificent Berat Castle atop the hill, and on a clear day, you can witness the snow-capped peaks of Mt Tomorri lurking behind.
Berat Palace is more than a castle. It comprises churches, mosques, museums, and a medieval bazaar, all listed under UNESCO heritage.
LAKE KOMANI, ALBANIA
If you plan to visit Montenegro, particularly Lake Skadar, it is worth adding Lake Komani on your route, which borders it, although located in Albania.
A reservoir built across the Drin River in northern Albania, Lake Komani is one of the fascinating hidden gems of Europe.
From hiking to taking boat trips to mountain biking, you can enjoy many things, especially if you are an outdoor lover, when at Lake Komani. Its spectacular backdrop encompasses densely forested hills, deep canyons, and a valley. Don’t miss hiking to the viewpoint for 360-degree views of the Lake and the valleys.
Varna is a pretty coastal city in Bulgaria overlooking the Black Sea. It is a port city and also a resort town home to many luxurious seaside retreats.
Varna is one of the underrated cities in Europe because despite being one of Bulgaria’s largest and beautiful cities, not many are aware of its colorful promenades, old town, thermal baths, and excellent nightlife.
Don’t miss the Archaeological Museum, which houses the famous 6,000-year-old Thracian jewelry discovered in a necropolis.
Koprivshtitsa, straddling the Topolnitsa River at the foot of the Sredna Gora mountains, is a lovely town in central Bulgaria. This historic town is one of Europe’s best places to visit if you want to chase the offbeat places in Europe.
Enjoy the old quarter’s laidback atmosphere, home to historic homes, colorful patios, museums, and other medieval buildings overlooking the river bank. Get to know about the historic revolution through these well-preserved monuments.
THE CENTRAL BALKAN NATIONAL PARK, BULGARIA
The Central Balkan National Park in Bulgaria’s heart is one of the best hidden gems of Europe if you love national parks.
One of the largest in the country, the park is home to the Balkan Mountains central and higher portions, including the highest summit in the mountain range, Botev Peak.
The park has many trails for exploring the canyons, waterfalls, lakes, woodlands, and spotting Europe’s rare wildlife species. You can easily spend a few days in the park in Bulgaria.
That’s it about the fascinating hidden gems of Europe you should visit off the beaten path. If you have other recommendations for European hidden gems, do let us know.
MORE EUROPE TRAVEL INSPIRATION
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TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Jet Radar, Kiwi, or 12go.Asia (for Asia planning). Book and fly mid-week, taking red-eyes flights or those in the early mornings for better deals and lower prices. Avoid check-in bags on a budget airline.
Booking Trains: The best websites for booking trains anywhere in Europe are Rail Europe and TrainLine. Both are easy to manage online and track your journeys.
Booking Cars: For the best prices and easy handling of renting a car for road trips and day trips, I’d recommend Discover Cars or Rental Cars, available throughout the world.
Accommodations: I typically use HotelsCombined or Booking.com to book hotels. There are special getaway deals with amazing discounts(over 50%!) for this year on Booking.com, and you can find them here.
I use Hostelworld and Agoda to book hostels as the deposit is low, easy change/cancellation is available and reviews are excellent on both. Depending on the destination, I love staying in VRBOs/homestays.
Travel Insurance: No matter whether it is a short trip or longer trips abroad, I strongly recommend buying travel insurance for international trips. I recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance.
Tours: Being a solo traveler, one of the best ways to optimize my time, budget, and super importantly, meet amazing people from all over the world is by joining tours, especially food tours, walking tours, day trips, culture, and history tours.
You will get a local’s perspective, the best opportunities to experience places and people closely. I book using GetYourGuide, Klook, Viator, and Voyagin.
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