Europe might be the most diverse continent of all, filled with rich culture, unique nature, charming cities and famous highlights. As we live in the Netherlands ourselves, we’ve already seen a lot of Europe, though each country and city keeps surprising us with new hidden gems. If you’ve visited European destinations once or twice as we did, you might want to look for more off-the-beaten-track places to go. That’s why we teamed up with other travel bloggers to create this bucket list of 25 must-visit hidden gems in Europe.
Save this pin for later:
Hidden gems in Europe: 25 off the beaten track destinations
#1 Pristina in Kosovo
By Matt from No Hassle Travel
Found in the heart of the Balkans, Pristina is the capital city of Kosovo and officially the youngest capital in Europe. Although considered an off-the-beaten-path destination, Pristina offers plenty of things to see and do to make it a worthwhile stop. We decided to give Pristina a chance during our trip around the Balkans. We spent three days in the center, which was enough to make the most of our time there. Pristina is small for a capital city, so it’s easy to get around on foot and see the sights.
What makes this small capital city so unique is that you can spend all day exploring the center and not see a single tourist. Being low on tourism and much quieter than other capital cities, Pristina is the perfect place to escape the crowds. The most notable landmark is the symbolic Newborn Monument, representing Kosovo’s freedom from Serbia in 2008. Also found in the center of town is the National Library of Kosovo, which is infamously known as one of the world’s ugliest buildings. We wouldn’t say it’s that bad, but it does have an unusual-looking design! During the summertime, the bear sanctuary Pristina is open to visitors, which shelters brown bears rescued from captivity. After being kept in tiny cages and mistreated in the past, they now have space to freely roam the sanctuary grounds and are undoubtedly happier!
Pristina is excellent for budget travelers too, being considerably cheaper than most other capital cities in Europe. A traditional main meal can cost as little as 6 euros and an entire apartment on Airbnb or Booking.com for just 35 euros a night.
Pristina offers more than enough to enjoy a short visit and should be included in any Europe itinerary! It is a hidden gem just waiting to be explored!
#2 Donaueschingen in Germany
By Iris from Mind of a Hitchhiker
When you hear the words ‘the coldest region of Germany’, you might not be very inclined to come and check it out. Donaueschingen in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg can be reached by a beautiful train journey on the Schwarzwaldbahn—the Black Forest railroad. The surrounding areas are a bit upland and mountainous. You wouldn’t guess that Europe’s second-longest river and one of the world’s most international rivers has its origins in this cute town. You might have heard about it before: the Danube River (German: Donau).
At the confluence of the Breg and Brigach rivers in the southern parts of Donaueschingen starts this majestic river, which is still very shallow and humble. Walk back into the center and you’ll find a bubbly spring called the Donauquelle next to the St. Johan’s church, which is the unofficial source of the river. If you’ve never seen water coming up from the ground, it’s quite a spectacular sight surrounded by allegorical statues. Just imagine if you keep following the Danube downstream from Donaueschingen, you’ll pass through four European capital cities and end up on the shores of the Black Sea.
Donaueschingen has a handful of B&B’s and four hotels in its center, including the huge Wyndham Garden with a lovely view of the Brigach. For beer lovers, drink a wheat beer (Hefeweizen) at the local Fürstenberg Brewery or anywhere in town. The best time to visit Donaueschingen is in late spring when the weather is warm enough. For the outdoorsy, Donaueschingen is also the start of the Danube Cycleway (EV6)—at 3653 kilometers one of the longest cycling routes in the world. There are also some companies that organize kayaking tours when the water is deep enough.
#3 Nazaré in Portugal
By Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Located a quick 1,5-hour drive north of Lisbon, Nazaré is a little beach town known for its beautiful beaches and active surf scene. Nazaré is actually home to the world’s largest measurable waves which are formed by the unique conditions of an underwater canyon. World-famous surfers gather here every year for the championships which are impressive to see even if you’re not usually interested in surfing. This usually takes palace during the colder months and Nazaré’s waves tend to be much smaller during the summer.
The town also has a more protected beach which is great for swimming and relaxing. No need to surf if you don’t want to. Nazaré’s beaches have plenty of shallow spots for the less experienced. There is also a great little beach promenade with lots of little shops, bars and cafes. This is the perfect way to spend an afternoon and enjoy the lively atmosphere. Afterwards, you can take the funicular up to the steep cliffs. This slanted tram/elevator hybrid takes tourists to a popular lookout point where the surf championships are usually held. For a small fee, you can visit a small museum to learn all about the popular surf scene here.
Nazaré is a great spot to add to a road trip through Portugal, especially if you’re camping. The little town has plenty of affordable campsites or you could stay in one of the neighbouring towns as well which are just as beautiful. Life in Nazaré tends to be quiet outside of the surf season so it’s the perfect hidden gem to spend your summer.
#4 Herceg Novi in Montenegro
By Luda from Adventures with Luda
Although the Balkans are gaining popularity as an up-and-coming travel destination, there are still plenty of fantastic hidden gems to be found — and Herceg Novi, the westernmost city in Montenegro, is a perfect example! Situated just a one hour drive from Kotor (Montenegro’s most popular city) or a 1.5-hour drive from Dubrovnik (Croatia), Herceg Novi is easily reachable by bus or car.
Herceg Novi is unique in many ways – let’s look at a few examples. For starters, it’s often referred to as the city of forts and castles because there are at least half a dozen of these architectural masterpieces scattered around the city. It’s even in the name: the words Herceg Novi translates to ‘new castle’! Get acquainted with the city’s claim to fame by visiting the most famous fort, Forte Mare, or take a boat trip to the mysterious Mamula Fortress.
Next up, Herceg Novi is famous for being one of the sunniest cities in all of Montenegro and averages around 200 sunny days a year — which means travelers can enjoy all of the surrounding beaches! Herceg Novi has a beachside promenade that’s 7 kilometers long and goes from the neighboring city of Igalo (also worth checking out) to the southern tip of the city. Speaking of the sun… The best time to travel to Herceg Novi is in the summertime, although you can expect lovely weather and less crowds during the spring too. Herceg Novi also hosts an annual Mimosa Festival in February, so be sure to mark your calendars and celebrate the start of spring!
I’m sure that you’ll want to spend at least a few days enjoying Herceg Novi, and to do so, you’ll need a home base! Guesthouse Villa Stari Grad is a fantastic choice if you want to stay close to the center, or, if you’re looking for something super luxurious, Lazure Hotel & Marina is calling your name.
#5 Gozo in Malta
By Tara from Tara’s Travels
Malta is a tiny archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean sea with 3 main islands, two of which are inhabited, Malta and Gozo. Gozo is the smaller island and requires a ferry to get there, which better preserves its natural environment and historical culture. The island of Gozo is a Mediterranean gem that has stunning beaches, rocky cliffs, ancient architecture, delicious cuisine and a laid back attitude perfect for anyone craving a relaxing holiday.
Gozo comes from the Catalan word for “Joy” and it’s 30,000 population is centered around a hilltop citadel where you can see the Mediterranean from all sides. Besides the capital city of Victoria, the Gozitan coastline has many little fishing villages that are tucked into sandy coves between the seaside cliffs ready to explore. As Malta was always a stopover in historical seafaring, the influence of European and North African cultures is apparent in it’s language, cuisine and architecture.
The island also hosts some of the world’s oldest megalithic structures, with temples older than the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge. Among other sites are baroque and renaissance style architecture, summer festivals and amazing seafood. It is also easy to rent a boat to explore the caves, or try scuba diving to one of the many shipwrecks. But most of all, Gozo is a quiet place to relax, surrounded by walking trails and crystal clear turquoise waters.
Gozo is warm all year round, with the summer months reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius. July and August are the busiest as many Maltese families take refuge from the heat on the smaller, more lush and quiet island. The best time to visit is in the spring and autumn, with May, June and September, October still feeling like summer, and November, December being the perfect time for hiking.
If you want to get off the beaten tourist path, the island of Gozo is the perfect spot. You can enjoy fresh cuisine, ancient history, architecture and the magnificent natural beauty of the Mediterranean.
#6 Canillas de Aceituno in Spain
By Linn from Andalucia Hiking
The little village of Canillas de Aceituno is truly overlooked by travelers. Yet it’s the gateway to the Sierra de Tejada mountain range in Sierra de Tejada, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park in Malaga Province in southern Spain. Truly a perfect local destination for any outdoor enthusiast. The charming main square is perfect to have a coffee and Spanish tostada for breakfast as well as a drink and some tapas after a hike. Locals are friendly and there are incredible views from the tiny whitewashed village.
The most popular hike from here is to the highest peak in Malaga, La Maroma, that towers 2066 meters above sea level. Doing the hike from Canillas de Aceituno is the longest way to reach the top and will easily take 8-10 hours and only recommended for seasoned hikers. But the trail is incredible with astounding views the whole way and a big chance of meeting wild mountain goats.
The other popular hike from the village is El Saltillo which got extended with a 54 meter long hanging bridge hanging 79 meters above the gorge floor. This makes it the 3rd longest hanging bridge in Spain. It also includes suspension bridges pinned to the vertical cliff wall which resembles El Caminito del Rey. Just that this is for free and not world famous which makes it a much better experience. This is only a 4-5 hours hike unless you turn around after the hanging bridge to avoid the last bit of elevation. Another beautiful walk is Ruta Cueva De La Fájara and the Bermuza river.
There is no doubt Canillas de Aceituno has amazing jewels just around the corner. Like many other hidden gems in Spain, it’s hard to get there by public transport, so you should get a rental car and it’s only an hour from Malaga. Stay at Olive and Ivy Guesthouse in the heart of this charming white village.
#7 Peak District in the United Kingdom
By Jenny from Peak District Kids
When people think of England they perhaps think of Buckingham Palace, red phone boxes, historical towns like Bath or Cambridge, or fish n chips at a traditional seaside town like Blackpool or Brighton. But for me, it’s the green, rolling countryside that’s the true England, and overlooked by so many travellers is the Peak District, nestled in the heart of the country with it’s stunning landscapes, dramatic escarpments and quaint villages.
The Peak District is an outdoor lovers paradise and people visit the area to spend their days either hiking in the hills, or cycling along the miles upon miles of disused railway tracks. However, there are also some fantastic Peak District days out to be had for those less energetic, including underground caverns to explore, marvelling the grand estate of Chatsworth House, or perhaps take the cable car up to The Heights of Abraham.
Though the best thing to do after a long walk across the dales is to warm up in front of a fire at one of the many old and characterful pubs with a pint of Peak Ale and a home cooked roast. And as this is the Peak District, muddy boots and muddy paws are always welcome!
It’s a popular weekend destination for those living in the UK, but a lovely way to experience the area is to hire a holiday cottage on one of the many farms. And whilst parts of the Peak District are accessible for the TransPennine Express train that runs between Manchester and Sheffield, you really need a car to get around this hidden gem.
#8 The Sault Plateau Lavender Fields in France
By Nadine from Le Long Weekend
While most people have heard of the beautiful lavender fields of Provence, France, there’s no doubt that the majority of visitors flock to the famous Valensole plateau and the Luberon Valley to get their flower fix. But there’s another area, tucked away from the limelight, that’s home to many stunning lavender fields and farms.
The Sault plateau is an area north of the Luberon, that’s known by the locals but remains somewhat of a hidden gem to outsiders. At its centre, the charming village of Sault is a fabulous place to partake in the weekly farmer’s markets, a spot of shopping in the colourful boutiques, or to enjoy lunch with a view. And in August, don’t miss the annual lavender festival that celebrates the season’s crop. The lavender in and around Sault flowers later than most in Provence, due to being grown at a higher altitude, so it’s best to visit in late July or early August when it’s in full bloom. Although exactly when the lavender flowers every year is subject to many variables, including rainfall and number of sunshine hours.
To visit the Sault lavender fields, I’d recommend first walking or biking the Chemin des Lavandes – a scenic trail right through the lavender laced plateau. Later, you can jump in your car to explore the fields around Aurel (another tiny but gorgeous little hilltop village), and those around Ferrassières that are punctuated with ancient stone huts. Stay in Sault for a more authentic taste of Provence, and village life. La Bastide des Bourguets is a wonderful little B&B situated right on a lavender farm, that makes a wonderful base for exploring.
#9 Lake Bled in Slovenia
By Erki from GENEM Travels
Bled is located in northwestern Slovenia. The exact destination is more recognizable by its Lake Bled. The country overall isn’t very touristic, because the neighboring countries (Italy, Austria, Croatia) take all the attention and tourists. However year after year Slovenia is gaining more attention due to its magnificent nature.
Lake Bled is probably the second most visited place in Slovenia after the capital. It’s an ideal day trip from Ljubljana, which takes only one hour. Crystal clear greenish Lake Bled is surrounded by the mountainous Julian Alps and close-by are several tourist attractions.
What to see and do around Lake Bled? Visit Bled island with a wooden boat pletna. On the island is the 52-meter tall Church of the Assumption. Right next to the lake on the 130-meter hill is Bled Castle, which is the oldest in Slovenia. To have the best view over Lake Bled and surrounding mountains hike up to the Ojstrica viewpoint.
Also 5km away from Bled centrum is Vintgar Gorge. It’s a 1.9km hike trail that winds along with a mountain river. At the end of the trail is the beautiful Waterfall Šum.
About one hour from the one-way road is another remarkable lake – Bohinj lake. It’s the biggest in Slovenia in the valley of Bohinj. This is also a starting point for several hiking and trekking trails. There is also Slovenia’s most visited waterfall – Slap Savica.
Lake Bled is a famous vacation destination spot for locals and close-by neighbors. So this place is fed mostly by tourism. There isn’t a shortage of accommodation, but I recommend Čarman Guest House, which is next to the lake with views.
The best time to visit Lake Bled is during the high season. Starting from April till the end of September. The busiest months are during the summer from June to August.
#10 North-West Scotland
By Kat from Wandering Bird
One of the best places to visit in Europe is the North-West of Scotland. This incredible area is a breathtaking blend of mountains, wildlife and some of the most incredible beaches you’ll find anywhere in Europe.
You can see most of the best places by renting a car and driving a route called the North Coast 500. This circular loop is just over 500 miles long (hence the name) and can be covered in about 7 days. It’s fairly well signposted, although some of it is single track and very narrow. Be careful where you stop- you don’t want to block the road!
Some of the highlights include Inverness, the most northerly city in the UK, the award-winning Clachtoll Beach, Smoo Cave and the famous John o’Groats. Along the route you’ll find castles, hidden coves, gorges, waterfalls and some of the most iconic wildlife in Scotland.
If you’re touring the North Coast 500 in a motorhome or campervan, you’ll find plenty of campsites and places to stop- some right by the beach, but even if you’re in a car there are some wonderful hotel and BnB options.
Scotland is wonderful at any time of the year, although it can be cold and wet in winter. (To be fair, it can be cold and wet in summer too.) The best time is probably May/ June (before the tourists and the midges come out in force) or September/ October- when the crowds have gone home and yet the days are still long enough to enjoy the stunning scenery.
#11 Tblisi in Georgia
By Ophelie from Limitless Secrets
Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia is a hidden gem in Europe! The country of Georgia is located in the Caucasus region and used to be on the Great Silk Road that connected China with the Mediterranean world. Tbilisi is not well-known yet in the tourism world, so it’s a great time to visit it! This city is worth the visit for many reasons. First of all, the architecture is very rich and influenced by many cultures: The Middle East, Russia, Asia and Europe! There are many stunning landmarks to see in Tbilisi! Also, the local cuisine is delicious, and Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Tbilisi is the kind of city that will surprise you in a very pleasant way!
Here are some of the best things to do in Tbilisi. One of the most beautiful places in Tbilisi is the façade of Orbeliani Bath in the district of Abanotubani. The Persian style blue tiles are gorgeous! Take the time to wander in the Old Town. You will see some pretty 19th century pastel houses with wooden carved balconies. You shouldn’t miss the stunning Sameba Cathedral. This Eastern Orthodox cathedral is actually the third tallest in the world! Last but not least you will be surprised at the futuristic side in Tbilisi. Have a look at the Bridge of Peace for example. You can stay in the Moxy Hotel by Marriott. This 3-Star Hotel is design, comfortable, and welcoming. Also, its location is central so it’s ideal for sightseeing!
If you want to enjoy Tbilisi at its best, come in spring or in September. The temperatures are not too cold or too hot and the ambiance is nice!
#12 The Goeree-Overflakkee tulip fields in The Netherlands
Anyone visiting the Netherlands in spring, will make a daytrip to the famous tulips of Keukenhof. This big tourist attraction shows more tulips than you’ve ever seen in wonderful gardens, but it’s quite touristy and pricy. Locals know better than to visit Keukenhof, as you can actually find tulips all of the the country in spring. If you know where to find the tulip farms, you can visit those famous colorful flower fields for free.
One of the lesser-known areas with tulip fields is Goeree-Overflakkee. This island in the south of Holland is home to 10% of all Dutch tulips. You don’t even really need to look for the fields, as from Mid-April to Mid-May they’re actually hard to miss. This spectacle is one of the best-kept secrets of the locals. Dutch photographers and locals have been able to find the beauty of nature at this Dutch island for some time, while tourists head off to Keukenhof in large numbers every year. We’d choose Goeree Overflakkee over Keukenhof anytime.
You can stop just anywhere at a tulip farm and marvel at this stunning sight. Make a photo – or more – but remember not to touch and damage the tulips, as this is the main income for the local farmers.
There are two great ways to visit the Goeree-Overflakkee tulip farms: rent a bike and drive around the town of Middelharnis or make a small road trip around the island, visiting both the tulip fields and the other highlights of the area. You can find the exact itinerary for this road trip ánd two more tulip routes by car in our tulip route blog.
#13 Piedmont in Italy
By Katy from Untold Italy
Hidden between Switzerland and France in the north of Italy, Piedmont is a region that flies under the radar and which has many hidden treasures. A landlocked region, the landscape varies from rolling green hills and picturesque lakes to alpine pastures and peaks dotted with castles. To the east of this region you’ll find some of Italy’s celebrated lakes and mountain ranges. But Piedmont has equally charming attractions, villages and towns much less visited by tourists.
Head to Lake Orta, a delightful small lake close to Milan. Here you can wander the cobbled streets of Orta San Giulio, draped in vines and wisteria. As you reach the lake shore you’ll notice a mysterious island in the centre of the lake that has been home to a community of nuns for centuries. In autumn the hills beyond turn flaming red, orange and yellow as the leaves change.
The town of Alba makes a useful base for exploring the hill towns and Nebbiolo vineyards famous for producing Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco wine. Alba is also home to the white truffle festival each October. This delicacy is found in the nearby hills and is added to tajarin pasta – thick egg noodles – and pairs perfectly with the local wine.
For a faster pace, Piedmont’s capital Turin is an elegant city with covered arcades, sweeping piazzas, a royal palace and of course the famous Shroud of Turin, said to be the fabric Jesus was buried in. Here you can also visit the Lingotto FIAT factory if you like classic cars or get your take in the views from the city’s iconic Mole Antonelliana tower. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop at one of the city’s historic cafes to try bicerin – a decadent hot chocolate drink topped with whipped cream.
Piedmont is a delightful region full of surprises and contrasts and well worth adding to your northern Italian itinerary.
#14 Gammelstad in Sweden
By Ellis from Backpack Adventures
Gammelstad church town lies in the far north of Sweden in one of the least populated areas of Europe. This fact has influenced why it has become a UNESCO World Heritage site, but also why it is little known among travellers to Sweden. Gammelstad church town is home to one of the largest medieval churches in Sweden. The 15th century Nederlulea church was built from the profits made in the trade of fur and salmon and this allowed for thick stone walls and a beautiful interior.
It was during this time that church towns developed. The area was so sparsely populated and there were so few churches that people had to travel from far away to attend service on sunday. It was impossible for them to return home on the same day and therefore they built simple cottages around the church where they could sleep the night. Therefore church towns were empty and abandoned during the week, but a lively affair during the weekends and on religious holidays. Soon people did not only come to the church towns to attend church, but also to meet other people. People came to trade, negotiate, meet friends and even tried to find a partner for marriage.
Gammelstad is one of the best preserved church towns left in Sweden. The cute little red cabins that surround the church almost make it feel like an open air museum. It isn’t, because the homes are still private property and the owners still return on religious holidays like Easter and Christmas.
Gammelstad is also surrounded by beautiful nature with the Gammelstadsviken nature reserve on its doorstep. In summer it is a great place to go hiking and birdwatching. In winter Gammelstad church town or nearby Lulea is a great base for winter activities like dog sledding or watching the northern lights.
#15 Peneda Geres National Park in Portugal
By Jorge & Cláudia from Portugal Things
Peneda-Geres national park is a luscious green forest with lagoons, rivers, waterfalls, and beautiful landscapes. It is truly a hidden gem in the north of Portugal and the only national park in the country. The park has plenty of activities like hiking, E-biking, canyoning, and horse riding. There are several trails, short ones that you can hike in a few hours or longer to hike for several days. There are also cute villages inside the park like Castro de Laboreiro, Fafião, Soajo, Pintões de Júnias, and others. These small villages are very typical, with small communities and the ideal places to stay in Peneda Geres National Park. Besides, the park also has important historical sites like remains of castles and even an old military Roman road (the Geira). Some of the most famous attractions in the National Park that you can’t miss include Pedra Bela Lookout (one of the most beautiful lookouts in Portugal), Albergaria Forest (beautiful ancient forest), Tahiti waterfalls (possibly the most beautiful of the many falls in Geres), and Misarela Bridge (incredible bridge hidden in a canyon).
The best time to visit the park is during Summer or Spring to fully enjoy the park, as it has plenty of water activities to do with hot weather. To thoroughly know the park, you need several days to explore it. We recommend at least 3, but it can also be done as a day trip. As it is fairly close to Porto, the 2nd largest city in Portugal, it takes only 1 hour to reach the park. Peneda Geres national park is definitely a place you should go if you love nature, adventures, and cute typical villages. We simply love it.
#16 Isle of Mull in Scotland
By Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
Isle of Mull is one of the most beautiful islands located in the west coast of Scotland. It is the fourth largest island in the country and second largest of the Inner Hebrides next to Isle of Skye.
Isle of Mull is a downright paradise when it comes to what it offers. Surprisingly for such a small island, there are plethora of things to do on the Isle of Mull. With beautiful stretch of beaches, hidden coves, lochs and abundant wildlife, you are in for an absolute adventure in Isle of Mull.
Explore the buzzing capital town Tobermory, watching the colourful facades along the waterfront. For additional adventure, walk the Rubha nan Gall hike – a 3mile hike that takes you to Tobermory lighthouse. Plenty of wildlife watching tours begin in Tobermory, so be sure to book your adventures. These tours come with guides who are experienced and who where to look for animals. Don’t forget to grab your binoculars to spot the golden eagles, ospreys, otters, and puffins to name a few.
Dip your feet in the pristine Calgary Bay, or walk around one of the many lochs in Mull. For hikers, climb Ben More, the only Munro (Scottish mountains that are 3000 feet high) in Isle of Mull. At Isle of Mull, you will discover slow paced life, a life away from the buzz of people and technology, and a chance to stay close to nature. The mobile reception may be poor in the isle, but the euphony of myriad birds and animals fill the ears.
Spring and Summer are perfect season to visit Isle of Mull, when the weather is perfect for outdoor adventures. Easiest way to reach Isle of Mull is by taking a 45 minute ferry service from Oban. The isle of Mull Hotel and Spa, located in Craignure, is only five minutes drive from the ferry terminal. For a romantic hideout, stay in the Kittiwake Camping Hut, a humble and eco friendly hut close to Calgary Bay.
#17 Budapest in Hungary
By Nathalie from Bolet Worldwide
One of the most beautiful hidden gems of Budapest, Hungary is the Philosopher’s Garden or The Garden of Philosophy. It’s located on the Buda side, on Gellért’s Hill. Most tourists don’t know about this place. It’s a sculpture that symbolizes the continuing development of human nature.
It was designed by the Hungarian sculptor Nándor Wagner and this precise sculpture was created in the same year of his death, 1997. Wagenr wanted to promote understanding among religions. The sculpture is a circle with five figures, representing, according to Wagner, the five founders of the world’s major religions: Abraham, Jesus, Buddha, Laozi and Akhenaten. In the middle of the circle there’s an orb, which would represent the similarities among these religions.
The garden offers a beautiful view of the Buda hill, the Buda Castle and the Danube river. It’s a perfect place for enjoying a good day in the sun, a picnic and having a good walk in nature after visiting all the tourist spots on the Buda side.
As long as you’re on the Buda Hill, a second hidden gem in Budapest is the Castle Garden, or as in Hungarian, Várkert Bazár. It’s the below garden of the Buda Castle. The architecture of the place is fantastic. It feels like it brings you right into a romance novel or movie, especially if you during spring when it’s full of flowers, mainly beautiful roses. It also gives a beautiful view of the famous Chaing Bridge. The Garden is a second way to go into the Castle, but definitely a more breathtaking one. There are automatic staircases and an elevator if you don’t feel like walking. If not, then you should really walk the way up and enjoy the different views of the Castle and the Danube river.
#18 Turku in Finland
By Katja from Globe Totting
Helsinki might be the most well-known city in Finland but Turku is the one with the most soul. This is the oldest city in Finland and the original capital, but it feels very young at heart. There’s a vibrant creative scene, lively cafes and restaurants and plenty of sights and activities.
The main attraction is the 700-year-old Turku Castle, originally built for the local Swedish governor when Finland was ruled by Sweden. Today it’s a fun place to explore and evidence of its colourful history is on display throughout. Discover tales of daring escapes and treasonous families as you wander around.
Don’t miss the Turku Market Hall while here. Dating back to 1896, this market is filled with food stalls, restaurants and shops selling fresh local produce. It’s a great place to come at lunch time in particular. Don’t miss the display that shows what shops looked like in the market hall when they opened over 100-years-ago.
Sunny days are best spent on the River Aura, which runs through the city centre. One option is to hire an electric boat and cruise along the river. For a fun day trip, take a ride on the SS Ukkopekka, an old steamship that links Turku to Naantali, a pretty seaside town and the gateway to Moominworld.
Turku is home to some excellent independent shops including Kui Design, which stocks local designers as well as their own creations. Treasure Map Turku has a detailed map of the best places to shop.
Other things to do in Turku include the excellent Aboa Vetus Ars Nova Museum, which showcases Turku’s medieval history. In the ‘Aboa Vetus’ (Old Turku) part of the museum you can see the remains of six medieval houses as well as one of the medieval streets that once stood in the heart of Turku.
#19 Spiez in Switzerland
By Carolyn from Holidays to Switzerland
The beautiful town of Spiez in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland truly is one of Europe’s hidden gems. This delightful town sits on the shores of Lake Thun in what is regarded as the most beautiful bay in Europe.
Spiez’s location in central Switzerland makes it an ideal place to base yourself with the many attractions of the Jungfrau region close by. It can be easily reached by either train or rental car and is less than one hour from Bern.
There are numerous things to see and do in Spiez and Spiez Castle should be your first destination. The castle dates back to 700 AD and has been lovingly restored to its former Middle Ages self. Interactive displays and informative timelines provide visitors with an interesting history lesson. Be sure to visit the tower which offers a 360° panoramic view of Lake Thun and the surrounding landscape.
Watersports enthusiasts can enjoy a number of different water activities, and lake cruises operate between the nearby towns of Interlaken and Thun, stopping at Spiez en-route. The surrounding vineyards provide an opportunity to taste the local wines, and there are numerous mountain excursions to enjoy nearby and the many popular things to do in Interlaken are just 20 minutes away.
For a delicious but reasonably-priced lunch, head to the Migros Supermarket opposite the Spiez train station, where superb views are included with your meal for free. You can also enjoy great views from Strandhotel Belvedere, which offers 56 rooms, a lakeside lido deck and infinity pool and a terrace restaurant where you can relax and watch the sunset over the bay.
Spiez is worth visiting any time of year but the summer months are most popular. Whatever time of year you visit, you will agree that Spiez is a real hidden gem.
#20 The Alsace in France
By Mark from Wyld Family Travel
The Alsace is located in the Grand Est region of France. The Alsace is famous for its wine route, Christmas markets, medieval villages and artisan foods. The Alsace region has a strong German feel even though it is in France. Throughout history, the Alsace has been both French and German. The capital of the Alsace, Strasbourg is must-visit with its giant cathedral, the La Petite France area featuring tradition wooden house on the canals of the city and its medieval old town.
You can easily get to the larger more well-known Alsace towns like Strasbourg and Colmar to see what the Alsace is about. You can sample the wines, see the Churches, visit Palaces, ride a boat down the canals, eat all the most amazing food or you can venture out to the smaller towns that surround the region and really see what it is like. Small towns like Molsheim have hidden gems such as the Bugatti Museum and Riqweir with its world-famous Christmas shop.
Towns like Ribeauville, Eguisheim, Kayserburg and Bergheim are on the Alsace Wine Route. The medieval villages are surrounded by vines, free-flowing rivers, old walls or open spaces. The food is not a mass-produced, ‘made for tourists’ menu, it is good old home-style cooking that makes you want more. Regional specialties include Flamkussen and Charcoute Garnie. Many places will have a play area for the kids and they are more than welcome to play in the vines if you are eating outside in the warm Alsatian sun. In charming towns like these, you can see where the ideas that inspired tales like Beauty and the Beast came from.
Amazing sites in the Alsace such as Chateau Haut Koenigsbourg, Mont St Oldie, Struthof Concentration Camp and the UNESCO town of Neuf Brisach await your visit. The Alsace receives some of the best weather in all of France, plenty of sunny days to explore the best of Alsace.
#21 Bratislava in Slovakia
By Alice from Adventures of Alice
The landlocked country of Slovakia in the middle of Europe often surprises me that it doesn’t get as much attention as the more popular neighbouring countries of Austria, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. This is mainly because Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, is one of the prettiest cities in Europe and it’s easily one of my favourite hidden European gems.
In the medieval capital, you’ll find cobbled streets, colourful castles, magnificent cathedrals, and a delightful Old Town. Bratislava’s beautiful red and white castle is an absolute must-see, along with Michael’s Gate which you can actually climb to enjoy gorgeous 360-degree views of the city, the delightful blue church, the main square, the Grassalkovich Palace and a bridge shaped like a UFO. All these places are photography opportunities waiting to happen and truly beautiful examples of this funky little city’s personality. Also, don’t forget to go on a statue treasure hunt throughout the Old Town. There are lots of little statues hidden, the most famous of which is a little man poking out of a manhole cover!
As well as attractions and landmarks, Bratislava is full of cheap yet delicious restaurants. A foodie’s paradise, make sure to try the country’s signature dish: bryndzové halušky. It’s basically little dumplings with sheep’s cheese and sprinkled with crispy bacon bits. Though it sounds a little peculiar, it’s actually quite tasty!
Definitely a gem not to miss in Europe, Bratislava is perfect for a weekend break, but you could stay a little longer and go on some day trips outside the city. A few of my favourites are the imperial city of Vienne which is just 1 hour away by train or the historic Devin Castle. The city is great in the spring, summer or autumn months where the weather is pleasant and warm.
#22 Lærdal in Norway
By Tracy from Tracy’s Travels in Time
The Norwegian town of Laerdal is located around 206 km from Bergen on the banks of the Sognefjorden. The town offers visitors an authentic Scandinavian experience than many of the destinations favoured by the fjord sailing cruise ships.
Reaching Laerdal is only one of the unique aspects of the town due to its location at the end of Europe’s longest road tunnel. The Laerdal Tunnel is 24.5 km long with no emergency exits. To prevent feelings of claustrophobia there are three large caves spaced at intervals along the tunnel. The caves are lit with blue and white lights which gives the impression of sunrise.
Once through the tunnel you arrive in the beautiful town of Laerdal. There are number of things to do and see in Laerdal.
Firstly I recommend visiting the Gamle Laerdalsoyri village in Laerdal. The village consists of over 150 wooden houses which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Take a stroll through this unique village and soak in the atmosphere while appreciating the beautiful old houses.
Also located a short bus or cycle ride from Laerdal is the Borgund Stave Church which is the best preserved stave church in Norway. The church was built between 1180 and 1250 AD and is one of only 28 stave churches left in the country.
The best place to stay in Laerdal is the Laerdal Ferie og Fritidspark which offers accommodation in the form of well-furnished and equipped cabins.
Laerdal can be visited all year round just prepare for cooler temperatures with snow and ice during the winter months. Keep an eye out for the northern lights which can sometimes make an appearance on a clear night in winter.
There are a couple of supermarkets in the town but I would recommend taking some supplies with you as food and drink is very expensive.
#23 The Baltic Coast in Germany
By Bridget from The Flashpacker
Warnemünde is the loveliest beach town in Europe that you have never heard of. A sensational beach, great food, and medieval architecture are just some of the reasons to visit Warnemünde. Located on Germany’s Baltic coast, Warnemünde is made for strolling and relaxing. Over five kilometres of fine-white sand beach, flanked by a beach promenade and punctuated with the town’s characteristic canopied deckchairs, barbecues and playgrounds stretches for as far as the eye can see. Also in this area is the town’s main landmark, its lighthouse, which offers a bird’s eye view of ships sailing by.
When you’ve had your fill of sand and surf, make your way to Warnemünde’s canal side, which is lined with former fishermen’s houses. This is also the best place to refuel with a portion of fresh seafood or a juicy brätwurst washed down with a local Rostocker beer. Try Warnemünde’s fischbroetchen, a type of fish sandwich that is sold throughout the town. The enchanting cobble-stone street of Alexandrienstrasse with its wooden fishermen’s houses, and Neuer Markt, lined with Renaissance-era gabled merchants’ houses, ooze historic charm. If you have a chance, pay a visit to the town’s 19th Century Lutheran Church which has a striking Gothic altar.
Are you seeking a cultural fix? If so, pay a visit to Warnemünde’s Heritage Museum. Housed in a former fisherman’s’ home, this has a permanent exhibition on seafaring and fishing, as well as displaying folk culture, handwork crafts and customs.
The best time to visit Warnemünde is in the summer months (May to September) when you can expect mild temperatures and limited rainfall. Winters can be cold and wet. Much of Warnemünde’s accommodation is self-catering apartments. To stay in the thick of things, book the centrally-located Kurpark-Oase, a 5-star apartment featuring a private sauna.
#24 Rotterdam in The Netherlands
When visiting The Netherlands on a city trip, Amsterdam is probably your destination. But there’s much more to see than our touristy capital. Why not visit the more off-the-beaten-track city of Rotterdam instead? This raw and urban city is quite different from the other historic Dutch cities – though there are some historic buildings and areas like hotel New York, Delfshaven and the City Hall you must visit. As Rotterdam was pretty much completely rebuilt after the Second World War, most of its architecture is modern and different from the rest of the country. Many award-winning architectural gems are waiting for you to visit them, like the unique central station, the colorful market hall or yellow cube houses. Make sure to include the Rotterdam street art in your trip as well and leave enough time for half-day trips to the famous windmills in Kinderdijk and the tulip fields in Goeree Overflakkee.
Read more: you can find all our Rotterdam tips here, including the best hidden gems, our favourite breakfast spots and unique places to stay.
#25 Bohemian Switzerland
By Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster
When people think of the Czech Republic, most people would struggle to name any other place than Prague, its capital city. While this landlocked country is relatively small in size, it is home to a number of hidden gems that are rarely visited by international tourists. One of these gems is Bohemian Switzerland National Park, located in the north west of the country on the border of Germany.
Known for its outstanding beauty and striking landscapes, the Bohemian Switzerland National Park (known in Czech as Ceské švýcarsko) is one of the best places in the country for hiking and outdoor activities. Just 2 hours north of Prague, it is an easy day trip for adventure seekers and those looking to surround themselves with nature. Visitors can enjoy a mystic boat ride down the Kamenice River, enjoy beautiful views from numerous lookout points that stretch out over the Elbe River, and a plethora of hiking trails, the most popular being Gabriel’s Trail which leads to one of the most striking sandstone formations in the national park, Pravčická brána. This naturally formed arch is the largest in Europe and it was also featured in the children’s movie Chronicle of Narnia.
While the national park receives a high number of visitors in the summer months, it can be visited all year around. Iin September you can enjoy the beautiful auburn and yellow colours of fall, and in January you can hike the trails in what will seem like a winter wonderland with snow and icicles hanging from the sandstone formations. While most international visitors visit as a day trip from Prague, you may also want to consider staying in a local hotel or bed and breakfast where you can not only hit the hiking trails early but you can also indulge in some delicious local cuisine and Czech beer!