Last updated: October 18th, 2023
From the historic city of Rome to the bustling metropolis of London, Europe is filled with breathtaking places. However, not enough credit is given to the myriad of European towns, villages, and natural wonders that, despite their beauty, are barely frequented by tourists. For those of you who like to travel off the beaten path: this article is for you.
Here are some of the best hidden gems in Europe, from secret waterfalls to medieval towns you’ve probably never even heard of. One thing is for sure: it’s unclear why these places are still relatively undiscovered — they are absolutely remarkable.
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💎 The Best Hidden Gems in Europe
32. Bardejov, Slovakia
🌳 Where? Bardejov is a stunning little medieval town in northeastern Slovakia, located about a 4.5-hour drive from the capital of Bratislava and a 1.5-hour drive from Košice, the second-largest city in Slovakia.
😍 Why: This UNESCO town is one of the oldest and “most Gothic” towns in Slovakia. Bardejov is also very well-preserved from its medieval days, and nothing makes that more apparent than the picturesque Old Town Market Square, which looks straight out of a postcard.
🌸 Highlights: Definitely spend some time in Market Square, where you’ll be surrounded by rows of pastel-colored houses and Gothic buildings, each one more stunning than the other. During your time there, be sure to stop by the Franciscan Monastery and the Town Hall. For the best view of the city, climb up the tower of the Basilica of St. Egidius in the square.
🌟 Don’t miss: Šariš Museum inside Market Square is home to one of the largest and most impressive Carpathian icons galleries in Europe. You’ll also get to see a charming wooden church in the open-air section of the museum!
31. Lake Skadar, Montenegro
Explored by Cassie of Cassie the Hag
🌳 Where? The photogenic Lake Skadar — the largest lake in the Balkans region at between 370 km and 530 km squared (season dependent) — lies over the border across Albania and Montenegro. This lake is a 30-minute drive from the Montenegrin capital Podgorica and makes a great addition to any road trip through Montenegro.
😍 Why: Nature-lovers and those hoping to incorporate some waterside calm and charm into their holidays should definitely consider Lake Skadar as a must-see destination.
🌸 Highlights: Enjoy the lake from various roadside lookout points in Virpazar. This village is also home to many small tour companies running boat tours over the serene lake. Be sure to also check out the Crnojevic River lookout point — it has a sublime vantage point over the horseshoe bend in the river. You can find it on Google Maps as ‘Pavlova Strana Viewpoint’.
🌟 Don’t miss: The lakeside city of Shkodër on the Albanian side. From there, you can also enjoy hiking or cycling. This city’s Old Town is also very picturesque — particularly, the views from Rozafa Castle.
30. Ostuni, Italy
Explored by Maria & Katerina of It’s All Trip To Me
🌳 Where? Gorgeous Puglia in Southern Italy is one of the most authentic regions in the country and, as such, is home to many laid-back towns that manage to remain off the mass tourism radar. One of Puglia’s best hidden gems is Ostuni, a picturesque town with a historic center that seems as though it has sprung straight out of the pages of a storybook.
😍 Why: Ostuni is often called Italy’s White City for a good reason. The Old Town is dazzlingly white and its stunning architecture makes visitors feel as though they’re walking around a Greek island rather than a town in the south of Italy.
🌸 Highlights: There are quite a few quintessentially Italian elements in Ostuni, such as the beautiful Piazzetta Cattedrale and the vibrant Piazza della Libertà. Aside from checking out the charms of the historic center, Ostuni is also the ideal destination for exploring Puglia’s scenic countryside. In fact, this town is built atop a hill surrounded by centuries-old olive groves and vineyards.
29. Mechelen, Belgium — One of the Best Secret Places in Europe
Explored by Caroline of Veggie Wayfarer
😍 Why: The charming city of Mechelen is nestled in the heart of Belgium, a comfortable 20-minute train ride from Brussels. It is often overlooked for its better-known counterparts Brussels, Antwerp, and Brugge. However, missing out on this city would be a true shame; while small, it has a rich history and a wide variety of things to see to keep you busy for at least a day or two.
🌸 Highlights: Stop by Grote Markt, the beautiful central square filled with colorful gabled houses dating back to the 16th and 18th centuries; the St Rumbold’s Tower, which you can ascend for a mere €8 and will provide you with a magnificent view over the city, and last but not least, the very quaint 16th-century Beguinage.
🥘 Explore by tasting: Mechelen is slowly reinventing itself on a culinary level, with many different restaurants popping up every week catering to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Be sure to visit the food market (De vleeshallen) for a taste of the city’s finest delicacies or a good cold glass of the local beer, Manenblusser.
28. Cartagena, Spain
Explored by Paulina of Paulina on the Road
🌳 Where? Cartagena is a gorgeous city located in the Murcia region of southeast Spain. Although its harbor is the main gateway for cruise ships to southern Spain, there are very few tourists who actually plan their trips to this pretty little town. Why? It’s really hard to say because the city is absolutely gorgeous!
🌸 Highlights: Some of the best things to do in Cartagena include visiting Casa Cervantes, the Capitanía General (a former naval headquarters which dates back to 1738), and the Gran Hotel, the city’s most important Modernista monument. There are also plenty of neo-baroque buildings around town that are considered some of the most beautiful in Spain.
🗿 Dive into history: Cartagena was founded by none other than Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who defeated the Romans. Strolling around today, you’ll still see countless monuments from Ancient Roman times. The Roman Theatre, for example, is a must-see attraction.
27. Plockton, Scotland
🌳 Where? Plockton is a gorgeous lakeside village located in the Scottish Highlands, about 5 hours northwest of Edinburgh and less than an hour east of the famous Isle of Skye. This village borders the beautiful Loch Carron and has a population of merely 468 people.
😍 Why: This quiet little village is the perfect getaway from the busy city life. Whether you’re spending half a day or two weeks here, you’ll be completely charmed by the gorgeous mountain views it offers, the friendly vibes around town, and the delicious seafood in the village restaurants.
🌸 Highlights: Some of the best things to do in Plockton include exploring Duncraig Castle through a gorgeous woodland trail, spotting Highland cows, and taking a boat trip to see seals. There are also plenty of breathtaking viewpoints scattered around the village, and each offers a unique perspective.
🌟 Don’t miss: The stunning Coral Beach in Plockton is the perfect place to go for a soothing stroll or to enjoy a delicious picnic.
26. Tapolca, Hungary
Explored by Giulia of Travelling Sunglasses
🌳 Where? The town of Tapolca in Hungary is one of the cutest hidden gems in Europe. It’s also a great day trip from Budapest — just 2 hours away by car and 3 hours away by train. Located around 15 km (9.3 miles) north of Lake Balaton and surrounded by hills and vineyards, it’s absolutely perfect for an enjoyable day outside the crowded capital.
🌸 Highlights: The main square and pretty Malom Lake are the heart of the small city center. A watermill and colorful buildings surround the lake, providing plenty of great photo spots. You can also find a beautiful fish-themed mural on one of the stairs leading to the lake.
⛵️ Explore underground: The Tavasbarlang underground lake cave is without a doubt one of the main attractions of the city. After a very interesting exhibition about the local geology, you’ll enter a circular cave of crystal clear water. Jump on a boat and slowly row around this marvel of nature — it’s simply mesmerizing!
25. Shaki Waterfall, Armenia
Explored by Vaibhav of The Wandering Vegetable
🌳 Where? A 3.5-hour scenic drive from Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan gets you to Shaki Waterfall, and it’s a good idea to visit it on your way to the Tatev Monastery. This waterfall is located just 6 km (3.7 miles) from the town of Sisian, and it’s not only a natural wonder but also a lovely picnic spot to relax in.
🔮 Legend has it that… This waterfall was interestingly named after a gorgeous woman named Shaki. According to a famous legend, when she escaped from conquerors and jumped from a cliff, her dress opened up and turned into this waterfall.
🥾 Prepare to hike: Shaki Waterfall is hidden in the Vorotan River’s gorge, and there’s a small hike you have to do in order to reach the site. At a height of 18 meters (59 ft), this waterfall makes for an incredible sight. The stream flowing from the top crashes onto cliff rocks on its way down and breaks into innumerable shards of spray.
🚗 Explore nearby: Some of the best places to see near Shaki Waterfall are Karahundj (Armenia’s Stonehenge), Tanahati Karmir Monastery, Sisavank St. John Church, Aghitu Memorial, Tonir Wedding Village, and Sisian History Museum.
24. Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria
Explored by Kamila of Kami & The Rest of the World
🌳 Where? The pretty little town of Koprivshtitsa is situated in the central part of Bulgaria, about 110 km east of Sofia (the capital). Nestled in a valley surrounded by green mountains, this town is set in a very picturesque location and is definitely one of the prettiest hidden gems of Europe.
🗿 Dive into history: Koprivshtitsa showcases one of the best examples of the so-called Bulgarian Revival, a beautiful 19th-century architectural style. Strolling around, you’ll find numerous old houses dated back to that period. Today, many of them house museums of well-known Bulgarians.
🌸 Highlights: The museums are definitely worth visiting for their interesting interiors, but admiring them from the outside is good enough too — their vivid colors, rich decorations, and distinctive shapes are truly something else.
🌈 At the end of the day… The best thing to do in Koprivshtitsa is to simply wander around and get lost in its narrow streets and alleys — you’re bound to fall in love with all the charming corners and stunning houses.
23. Conques, France — One of the Best Hidden Gems in Europe
Explored by Mark of Mount Adventure Club
🌳 Where? Tucked away on the side of a valley where two rivers meet sits small, original Conques. Most discover it by chance while walking the Le Puy Camino hiking route in southern France, but it is also easily accessible by driving from Lyon, Montpellier, or Toulouse.
😍 Why: Conques sits almost as a modern museum, utterly charming and French to its core. The roads are still narrow cobblestone lanes and the buildings are all, by and large, original medieval stone structures. The roads are too small for trucks and buses to pass through (most are nearly too small for cars) so the town remains almost as it was centuries ago.
🗿 Dive into history: Walking into Conques feels engaging and genuine as you wind your way around the tight alleys and past low timber beamed homes. The settlement here was founded in the 8th century and steadily grew as a religious community. Eventually, the town lost its central role and was, in a way, forgotten about.
🌸 Highlights: The beautiful Abbey Church remains the overwhelming heart of the medieval town and is an unmissable visit. Its massive towers are visible from the entire town and the intricate carvings demand your attention. From its looming edifice, it’s a small wander across the square to a number of restaurants and cafes.
22. Trollpikken, Norway
Explored by Aga of Worldering Around
🌳 Where? Trollpikken is an interesting rock formation located in southern Norway, not too far from the village of Stavanger. You can find it in the Geomagma park near Egersund, in the Eigersund municipality of Norway.
😍 Why: The uniqueness of Trollpikken lies in its shape. It has a characteristical form, one reminiscent of an elephant trunk or a banana, sticking out of the face of the cliff for a length of 12 meters (39 ft). In fact, the name “Trollpikken” literally means “Troll’s Spike”.
🗿 Dive into history: Trollpikken was formed by ice during the last ice age, which happened over 10,000 years ago. It’s made of a magmatic rock called anorthosite, which can also be found on the moon. This rock became famous in local media when its tip was destroyed by vandalism. Later on, locals collected money and reerected the broken formation.
🥾 Prepare to hike: The hike to Trollpikken is quick and simple; the trail is 1.9 km (1.2 miles) one way. You can leave your car in the nearby car park and follow the route through a gravel road, a grassy area, and some smooth boulders. Make sure to take some good hiking gear with you!
21. Lviv, Ukraine
Explored by Inessa & Natalie of Through a Travel Lens
🌳 Where? Located in western Ukraine, Lviv is one of the most interesting secret places in Europe. Everyone who visits falls in love with its Old Town and the 100+ temples scattered around town. This hip city is also thriving with themed cafes and artisan shops.
☕️ A city that loves coffee: A good place to start exploring Lviv is Ploshcha Rynok, the main square in the Old Town. From late spring to early fall, lots of cafes set terraces there so people can sit down with a cup of coffee. Yes — in Lviv, time stops for coffee. There’s even a coffee mine inside Lvivska Kopalnya Kavy, a shop inside the square.
🌸 Highlights: Don’t miss the majestic Dominican Cathedral (which is more than 270 years old) and the City Hall Tower — it’s well worth climbing the 306 steps to the top to enjoy a gorgeous panorama! Be sure to also stop by the Pharmacy Museum, which has counters and cabinets made out of dark wood and shelves filled with countless mysterious vials.
🚗 Beyond Lviv: After exploring the city’s cute cobbled streets, take some day trips to the legendary castles in the Golden Horseshoe of the Lviv area.
20. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Explored by Jackson of Journey Era
🌳 Where? Lauterbrunnen is one of the most stunning regions in Switzerland with a picturesque valley and a quintessential Swiss-style village. Surrounded by the Swiss Alps and nestled down in the valley between the famous towns of Mürren and Wengen, it’s truly one of the most remarkable places in all of Switzerland.
🏞 Valley of waterfalls: What makes Lauterbrunnen so unique is that it has a plentitude of waterfalls. In fact, it’s commonly known as ‘Valley of 72 Waterfalls’. While you’re in Lauterbrunnen, you can enjoy the short trails to several of the waterfalls or tackle longer hikes up into the Swiss Alps.
🚠 The perfect place to relax: If hiking isn’t your chosen activity, take the cable car up to Schilthorn ‘007’ viewpoint, where you’ll be mesmerized by the snow-capped mountains… without having to work for the view!
🧗🏻 For adrenaline junkies: You can paraglide from the cliff-tops down into Lauterbrunnen Valley or try the exhilarating Via Ferrata, a cliff-side climb where you’re attached by a harness as you traverse above Lauterbrunnen.
19. Ohrid, North Macedonia
Explored by Odette of Omnivagant
🌳 Where? Situated on the shores of Lake Ohrid, you will find the picturesque city of Ohrid, a destination that is not only cultural but also a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site.
😍 Why: Ohrid is filled with history and stunning views, and there’s one place in particular where the two of them are perfectly combined: the Church of St. John at Kaneo. This church is believed to date all the way back to the 13th century and is located on a cliff overlooking Lake Ohrid, a postcard-like view that is undoubtedly one of Ohrid’s most iconic sights.
🏰 Stroll the Old Town: There are also many more attractions worth discovering, especially in Ohrid’s Old Town. Visit the Church of Saint Sophia or head all the way up to the top of the hill to Tsar Samuel’s Fortress, a 10th-century fortress that offers a 360-degree view over the lake.
🥘 Enjoy a meal with a view: Wind down at one of the many lakefront restaurants to enjoy a drink with incredible views, or take a dip in the refreshing waters of the lake, even. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or simply feel like tasting the local cuisine, there’s truly something to do for everyone in Ohrid!
18. Sighisoara, Romania
Explored by Arnav of Eat | Travel | Live | Repeat
🌳 Where? In the historic region of Transylvania, Romania lies one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns — Sighisoara. The main attraction of Sighisoara, apart from the pastel-colored houses and cobblestone streets, is the well-preserved Old Town, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
🌈 Wander the colorful streets: One of the best things to do in Sighisoara, which is indeed one of the most beautiful and well-preserved hidden gems of Europe, is to wander through the cobblestone streets. They’re lined with pastel-colored buildings, most of which have been refurbished into boutique homestays and B&Bs.
🧛🏻♂️ The birthplace of Dracula: Sighisoara is the birthplace of Vlad The Impaler, AKA Count Dracula, and the birthplace is open to visitors as it’s been renovated into a museum/restaurant. The huge sign on the building is hard to miss.
🔥 Insider Tips: While the city does get busy in the summer months, it’s in the summer when you’ll find flowers in full bloom everywhere, be it on window silts or lining the buildings. Be sure to also try out the local pálinka in the inhouse distilleries, such as the one at La Teo.
17. Kangerlussuaq, Greenland — One of the Best Secret Travel Destinations in Europe
Explored by Kristen of Yonderlust Ramblings
🌳 Where? One of the most magical hidden gems in Europe is the island of Greenland. The best way to glimpse its unique culture and otherworldly sights is to visit the quaint Greenlandic town of Kangerlussuaq, located on the southwestern coast.
⛵️ Discover ancient traditions: Kangerlussuaq is a multi-faceted town, one that is brimming with distinctive experiences for every type of traveler. An active traditional culture is very much alive there, evidenced by travel still conducted by dog sled, boat, and snowshoeing, and residents bundled in musk oxen wool, still habitating local bodies of water to ice fish.
🌸 Highlights: Be sure to visit the local city museum, take a dog sledding tour, and sample Greenlandic dishes including reindeer, musk oxen, and seafood. And of course, don’t miss one of the best locations on the planet for Northern Lights viewing! For something relaxing, pick up one of the many books set in Greenland to read during your time there.
⛰ For outdoor enthusiasts: There are plenty of stunning sights to see, like the pristine Russell Glacier, the local peak Mount Hassell, and the world’s second-largest ice sheet — the breathtaking Greenland Ice Cap.
16. Cortona, Italy
🌳 Where? Cortona is a charming little hilltop town in the province of Arezzo in Tuscany, Italy. It’s around 2.5 hours north of Rome (by car) and 1.5 hours south of Florence. In fact, it’s a great day trip to take from Florence.
😍 Why: Situated on top of a hill, Cortona is one of the prettiest places to enjoy views of the Tuscan countryside. This town is filled with medieval buildings, churches, museums, and villas. Its stunning atmosphere even caught the attention of filmmakers — it’s where the film “Under the Tuscan Sun” was shot.
🌸 Highlights: The beating heart of Cortona is the historic Piazza della Repubblica, which is home to many shops, cafes, and the eye-catching Palazzo Comunale. Next to this square, there’s another one worth visiting: Piazza Signorelli, which contains more historical gems.
🌟 Don’t miss: There are plenty of museums in town, but one of the most interesting ones is the MAEC Museum, which houses artifacts from the Etruscan civilization of ancient Italy.
15. Durdle Door, United Kingdom
🌳 Where? Around a 2.5-hour drive southwest of London is an incredible beach and stone arch called Durdle Door. This stone arch formed around 10,000 years ago when the sea pierced through a hard limestone that stood vertically out of the water.
😍 Why: Durdle Door definitely deserves more attention. The stone arch looks straight out of a postcard and the view from the beach is simply breathtaking. It is also a perfect London weekend trip, especially if you’ve already hit all the most picturesque places in town and are ready to explore something different.
🌸 Highlights: Aside from admiring the gorgeous view and relaxing on the beach, you can also go rock-pooling and coasteering nearby. There’s also plenty of nature walks in the area as well as several camping spots.
🚗 Beyond Durdle Door: A trip to Durdle Door is best done on a road trip through the Jurassic Coast, stopping by the splendid Lulworth Cove, the charming Corfe Castle, and the secluded Mupe Bay — just to name a few.
14. Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain
Explored by Joanna of Andalucia in My Pocket
🌳 Where? Setenil de las Bodegas is one of Andalucia’s best hidden gems; a white village you shouldn’t miss during a trip to the south of Spain. Located in the Cadiz province, this village is easy to reach from Malaga, Cadiz, and Seville; the driving time is around 1.5 hours from each of those cities.
😍 Why: This unique village was built inside a canyon, and many of the houses there are in fact caves, with façades that resemble regular buildings. Some of the streets in the village are also covered with large boulders, and it’s intriguing and scary at the same time to walk underneath them.
🌸 Highlights: Head over to Mirador del Carmen for one of the best viewpoints in the village. Be sure to also visit the last remaining tower of the once-mighty Nazari Castle. For a unique experience, enjoy traditional Spanish tapas at La Tasca, a cave restaurant. While the village can get popular around lunchtime (when the locals go out to eat), it’s very quiet otherwise.
13. Telč, Czech Republic
Explored by Adriana of Czech the World
🌳 Where? Telč is a small fairytale-like town surrounded by ponds, fields, and forests in the Vysočina Region of the Czech Republic. It’s an ideal destination for anyone who wants to escape the rush of a big city and explore a picturesque historical town.
😍 Why: Telč’s main square is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and is one of the most romantic places to visit in the Czech Republic. Imagine colorful historic houses with high gables and arcades built in Renaissance and Baroque styles, with lovely cafes, galleries, and little shops surrounding them. It’s truly a magical place.
🌸 Enjoy art & history: Visit the 17th-century Telč Chateau, which has an English-style park. The chateau’s facade is decorated with the beautiful sgraffito technique, which can also be found in other buildings around town. In general, houses and buildings in Telč are characterized by a myriad of decorative elements.
🏇 Other activities: Besides romantic walks in the historic center, there are many other activities you can do in Telč, including cycling, horseback riding, swimming, taking rope courses, and visiting the nearby steam mill.
12. Aran Islands, Ireland
Explored by Pam of The Directionally Challenged Traveler
🌳 Where? The Aran Islands are a group of Irish islands located next to Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. The islands are Inis Mór (Big Island), Inis Meáin (Middle Island), and Inir Oírr (East Island), and they’re located about 20 km (12.4 mi) from the famous Cliffs of Moher.
🏝 A unique cultural experience: Few people call the Aran Islands home, which makes it a great place to escape the crowds of larger tourist destinations. Since the islands are so remote, they’ve also fostered a rich culture that is different than the rest of Ireland. In fact, the people who live on the Aran Islands speak a particular dialect of Irish and have their own homemade items such as the Aran Knitwear.
🚴🏻♀️ For outdoor enthusiasts: Enjoy bike riding among the rock walls and past farms. Spot a wide array of wildflowers along the ride! Be sure to also visit the steep cliffs — there’s no fence or railing stopping you from getting up close, though, so be careful.
⛵️ Beyond the Aran Islands: You can see the Aran Islands on an extended Wild Atlantic Way road trip and stop by the famous Ring of Kerry and the Causeway Coast.
11. The Cotswolds, United Kingdom — One of the Best European Hidden Gems
🌳 Where? The Cotswolds is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the UK and is situated in Southern England, about 2 hours northwest of London and 1.5 hours south of Birmingham.
😍 Why: From quintessential English villages to stunning countryside views, the Cotswolds is the perfect getaway from the busy city life. This area is also home to some of the most photographed streets in England, and its fairytale-like setting was featured in many films such as Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice.
🌸 Highlights: Wander down the iconic Arlington Row in Bibury, one of the prettiest Cotswolds villages. Take a picturesque riverside stroll in charming Bourton-on-the-Water, which is filled with bridges and postcard-worthy views. Lastly, don’t miss the famous stone cottages of Castle Combe — they’re some of the most photographed houses in England!
🚗 Beyond the Cotswolds: About an hour by car from the Cotswolds lies another hidden gem in the UK — the Malvern Hills AONB. There are tons of incredible walking trails there that offer fantastic views of rolling green hills.
10. Eibsee, Germany
Explored by Diana of The Globetrotting Detective
🌳 Where? Eibsee Lake is one of the most spectacular lakes in Bavaria, Southern Germany. It’s situated at the foot of Zugspitze, about 100 km (62 miles) from Munich. Often overlooked by tourists, this lake is one of the best hidden places to visit in Europe thanks to the fantastic landscape around it.
🥾 Prepare to hike: Go on an easy 2-hour hike around the lake, whose diverse beauty will take your breath away. After the hike, unwind on the terrace of Eibsee Hotel’s restaurant and treat yourself to a Bavarian meal. From the terrace, you can admire the sparkling emerald green water and the surrounding mountains.
🏞 Take a longer route: If you really enjoy hiking, consider spending a whole day at Eibsee Lake. You can ride the famous Zugspitze Railway to Hammersbach or Grainau, and then hike to Eibsee Lake via Badersee Lake, another little hidden gem. During your hike to Eibsee, you’d witness diverse landscapes, traditional Bavarian houses, and farms with local animals such as sheep, cows, and if you’re lucky — even alpacas.
9. Luxembourg’s Hiking Trails
Explored by Inma of A World to Travel
🌳 Where? Luxembourg is a tiny country in northwestern Europe bordering Belgium, France, and Germany. The fact that it’s one of the smallest countries in Europe — and the world, for that matter — doesn’t exempt it from having unprecedented natural wealth, though.
🌸 Highlights: Establishing your base in the capital for a few days, it’s possible to discover the country through many hiking trails scattered around. Well-signposted and with many more amenities than one might expect, some of the best hikes in Luxembourg are the Escapardenne Trail and Mullerthal Trail, which take you through gorgeous woodlands.
🏙 Explore the city: If you only have a day or half a day in Luxembourg City, you may be interested in walking the Wenzel Circular Walk, a beautiful route that takes you through some of the best views and key landmarks of the city.
8. Baku, Azerbaijan
🌳 Where? Baku is the stunning capital of Azerbaijan, a country situated in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia, straddling Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
😍 Why: This city appeals to every kind of traveler, whether you’re into history, architecture, or nature. Also, walking around town, you’ll find a very captivating blend of ancient and futuristic architecture coexisting next to each other.
🌸 Highlights: Some of the most interesting places in Baku include the mysterious Maiden Tower (whose reason of existence is still being debated), the iconic Flame Towers (which look like the definition of ‘futuristic’), Upland Park (where you can get a magnificent view of the whole city), and Heydar Aliyev Centre (where you can learn about the history of Azerbaijan).
🌋 See mud volcanoes: After exploring the city, be sure to take a day trip to see the intriguing mud volcanoes of Gobustan, an experience not to miss given that half of the world’s mud volcanoes are in Azerbaijan! Not too far from there is the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape Reserve, home to over 6,000 petroglyphs dating back to 20,000 years ago.
Read more: 27 Best Places to Visit in Baku, Azerbaijan
7. Naxos, Greece
Explored by Tiffany of A Girl and Her Passport
🌳 Where? Naxos is a Cycladic island in the Aegean Sea. It’s about 3 hours by ferry from Athens and 1.5 hours by ferry from Santorini. It’s a great alternative to the latter as well.
😍 Why: When selecting a Greek island, most people want great beaches, a rich culture, and that island vibe. Naxos offers all of those things minus the tourist crowds, making it hands down one of the best hidden gems in Europe for a relaxing holiday.
🏖 Fun in the sun: Naxos’ beaches are sandy and very clean. Not only are they stunningly beautiful, but they’re plentiful as well. One of the beaches is located right in town, making it walkable from the ferry. Other beaches are reachable by public buses that run frequently during the summer.
🚶🏻♀️ Wander the Old Town: Naxos Old Town (also known as Chora) allows you to experience the history and culture of the city. At the top of the Chora is the Kastro area, which is home to a Venetian Castle. Within the Kastro district, you can also visit the Catholic Church, an archeological museum, and have a rooftop drink.
6. Costa Nova, Portugal
🌳 Where? Costa Nova is undoubtedly one of Portugal’s best-kept secrets. Located just a 20-minute drive from the vibrant city of Aveiro (which is an hour by train from Porto), this charming fishermen’s village is right by the beach.
🐠 An old fishing village: Costa Nova is characterized by its distinct rows of colorful striped houses, which used to be haystacks back in the days; they were built by fishermen in the 19th century to store their fishing materials. As time went by, the fishermen turned these haystacks into beach houses and sold them as summer homes.
🌈 A colorful hidden gem: Today, strolling around Costa Nova, the rows of vibrant houses truly stand out. Painted in vertical stripes of red, blue, green, and yellow, it’s hard to not feel happy when looking at them. Sandwiching the houses is a lagoon and the Costa Nova Beach, which offers a great range of water activities such as surfing, sailing, water skiing, and rowing.
🥘 Experience the local taste: If you’re a fan of seafood, be sure to stop by the Mercado do Peixe (fish market). Better yet — grab a meal at one of the small seafood restaurants in town!
5. Gdańsk, Poland — One of the Best Secret Destinations in Europe
Explored by Loredana of Destguides
🌳 Where? Gdańsk is a small coastal town situated on Poland’s Baltic Coast. It’s about 4 hours by car northwest of Warsaw.
😍 Why: Gdańsk is worthy of your dollar and time for several simple reasons. To begin with, your dollar goes further there than other more expensive and popular European cities. Moreover, the city is easily walkable and the food is absolutely delicious.
🌸 Highlights: Walk down the picturesque Royal Way and stop by the captivating Main Town Hall. Then, enjoy some waterfront views while strolling alongside Motlawa River. Immerse yourself in history at the Museum of the Second World War, and don’t leave without enjoying some pierogies at one of Pierogarnia Mandu‘s locations.
☀️ A year-round destination: Considering its proximity to the neighboring beaches, most people assume that Gdańsk is only a good place to visit in the summer. However, it’s actually a great destination at any time of the year — yes, even in the cold winter months! A long weekend in Gdansk is time well-spent no matter the season.
4. South Styria (Südsteiermark), Austria
Explored by Lori of Travlinmad
🌳 Where? South Styria (Südsteiermark) in Southern Austria is still a well-kept secret. Known as the ‘Green Heart of Austria’, the area has beautiful green rolling hills covered by orchards and vineyards, all very reminiscent of Tuscany — yet just an hour’s drive from the city of Graz.
😍 Why: Dotted with colorful farms, wineries, historic castles, and boutique wineries, South Styria is popular with Europeans who flock there in the fall when the grape harvest is underway. Most importantly, this area is known for producing the crisp white wines for which Austria is famous.
🍷 Drive the Wine Road: While hiking and biking are popular in South Styria, one of the best things to do for food and wine lovers is driving the 44-mile South Styrian Wine Road. The country roads are well-marked and scenic every stretch of the way. You’ll pass through small towns like Gamlitz and Eckberg, so stop to browse the shops before getting back on the road.
🔥 Insider Tip: Book an overnight at a country inn, or büschenschank, to have dinner. These small social places by law can only serve their own wine and cold foods like smoked meats and homemade cheeses. To stay in a buschenschank, Gamlitz has many options.
3. Zadar, Croatia
Explored by Diana of Travels in Poland
🌳 Where? Nestled on the northern coast of Croatia is Zadar, a beautiful hidden gem of Europe that offers a wide variety of things to do and see. As one of Croatia’s main cities, it gets much less traffic than the larger Dubrovnik and Split, which are a lot more popular due to the filming of Game of Thrones.
😍 Why: Zadar has several islands off the coast that can be reached by boat. This is one of the best-kept secrets of the city; being able to take a boat out to an island for a fraction of the price of the southern coast. Zadar is also known for its beautiful Ancient Roman architecture sprinkled throughout town.
🌸 Highlights: Stop by the Monument to the Sun, whose tiles are created directly according to the direction of the sun. In the evenings, a brilliant light display occurs there. Thanks to its prime location, Zadar also has a fantastic array of hidden restaurants and great seafood.
🎵 A musical landmark: Be sure to stop by the Sea Organ, a series of steps carved into a stone along the coast. The hollowed-out parts of these steps create beautiful organ sounds when the waves lap into the side. The natural sounds reverberate through the stone, and visitors can sit atop and listen to the peaceful melodies.
2. Taormina, Italy
Explored by Veronika of Travel Geekery
🌳 Where? Taormina is a small town in northeastern Sicily, one of Italy’s best islands. While it might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of Italy, it definitely deserves more attention for its rich historical, cultural, and artistic heritage.
😍 Why: Many people visit Taormina for its amazingly preserved Ancient Greek Theatre. The amphitheater overlooks the sea and thus, apart from its historical value, also provides magnificent views. However, there are also many other things to do in Taormina.
🌸 Highlights: The historical heart of the city is alive and kicking, and you can stroll the Corso Umberto to see that for yourself. Don’t leave out the wonderful churches lining it, such as Santa Caterina Church. To cool down, go for a granita (the famous Sicilian dessert) at Bam Bar. This icy sorbet-like treat is eaten with brioche and can even substitute a light meal.
🏖 Explore the beaches: A short cable car ride will take you downhill to Taormina’s beaches. Though usually quite packed, the small Mazzarò beach is very picturesque. Just a 5-minute walk from there is the much larger Isola Bella beach, with a tiny islet of the same name. You can even cross over to the islet itself and for a small fee, discover its abandoned house and all of its hidden nooks.
1. Verdon Gorge, France
🌳 Where? Nestled in the heart of Provence in southeastern France is Verdon Gorge, Europe’s most ravishing river canyon and the deepest gorge in France. With its limestone cliffs reaching an impressive height of 700 meters (2,296 ft), Verdon Gorge was created by erosion caused by the turquoise Verdon River.
😍 Why: Although most tourists come to France to visit the popular Paris, Nice, or Alsace region, the lesser-known Verdon Gorge and its surroundings are the perfect outdoor getaway. You can enjoy a wide range of activities here — from bird-watching and fishing to hiking, paragliding, and rock climbing.
🌊 Enjoy the outdoors: There are over 1,500 incredible climbing routes at the gorge, encompassing tons of pillars, cracks, and smooth walls — a truly thrilling experience. If you enjoy white-water sports, you’re at the right place too. There are lots of water activities to enjoy here, from canoeing and kayaking to rafting.
📸 Chase the best views: Verdon Gorge can be explored through a road trip from one of the prettiest villages in France, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. You can get beautiful views of the gorge along the way, especially when crossing Pont de Sainte Croix, where the Verdon flows into Lake of Sainte-Croix. Bordering the lake is the medieval village of Bauduen, which offers more stunning viewpoints and charming beaches.
🗺️ Planning Your Trip to the Hidden Gems of Europe
- ✈️ Find the best flights to these hidden places in Europe with Skyscanner
- 📑 Get your visa through iVisa if you don’t want to fill out the forms yourself
- 💸 Get reliable travel insurance from World Nomads
- 🚖 Book your private transfer from the airport Expedia or Get Your Guide
- 🏨 Find the best accommodations on Booking.com, Expedia, or Airbnb
- 🧔🏻 Get the best tour guides via Get Your Guide, Tiqets, or Viator
- 🚗 To rent a car to visit Europe’s hidden gems, get great deals on Rentalcars.com
- 🎒 Pack an anti-theft backpack, a universal adapter, and a power bank
- 📚 Read Lonely Planet’s guide on Europe and Rick Steves Best of Europe
- 📸 Bring the best photography gear (including these must-have Sony lenses!)
🔮 Travel Insurance for Europe
Having travel insurance gives me peace of mind, and I highly recommend getting it because let’s be real — the last thing we want on any trip is for accidents and mishaps to get in the way. I use a service called World Nomads and can highly recommend them — they offer affordable prices, great coverage, and a reliable 24/7 on-call service.