Europe is one of the most visited destinations on the planet, full of amazingly popular destinations, but it still has a wide variety of off the beaten path places to visit too. Here are just 15 of the best hidden gems you have to visit in Europe.
Europe is home to plenty of iconic cities, but there are lots of off the beaten path destinations to visit too! While hotspots like Rome, Paris and London are all well worth visiting, they are some of the busiest tourist destinations in the world. Getting off the beaten track not only allows you to see a different side of Europe, but also provides you with the welcome opportunity to escape the tourist crowds!
Any big European trip has to take in the big bucket list destinations. Paris, Seville, Berlin, Athens, the list is very long! But the problem is they are among the busiest and most crowded destinations in the world. The good news is that Europe is a vast continent full of remote islands, under the radar second cities, secluded villages and unique countryside regions that get far fewer visitors, let you escape the tourist crowds and see an entirely different side of the continent!
Whether you are looking for unique places to visit in Europe or a city break in a lesser known destination, here are the best off the beaten path destinations in Europe.
Porto Santo, Portugal.
Porto Santo is a small island in Portugal that often gets overlooked as most travellers tend to head to neighbouring Madeira, which is in itself a relatively underrated destination, but has so much to offer travellers looking for an island escape in Europe it has no business at all being on any hidden gem list! Where Madeira is lush, green and action packed, Porto Santo is eternally laid back and uncrowded with the perfect stretches of golden, sandy beaches that Madeira is missing. If you are looking for a quiet escape from everything then Porto Santo is the perfect quick break.
Named Sacred Port after sailors took refuge on the island during a storm, Porto Santo is only 11 km long and 6 km wide so is perfect for exploring via bike or jeep, or any number of connected hikes if you feel up to exploring the diverse landscape and the long stretch of beach that seems to run the entire length of one side of the island, and is easy to get to via ferry or plane from Madeira which makes it not just a great destination in its own right but a perfect day trip or short break from the larger island.
Granada is one of the single most under the radar and underestimated European cities I have had the pleasure of visiting for a long time, and it has even managed to charm its way onto my notoriously hard to please and venerated favourites list! As most people head to the coastal areas of Spain in the summer and fill up the resorts in Andalucia or the Costa Del Sol or head to Madrid and Barcelona on a city break,very few people head inland and Granada gives travellers a far less crowded and much more local experience.
From it’s grand, picturesque architecture and famously social culture to its rich historical heritage and surprisingly cosmopolitan feel there is so much to see and do in Granada. Even the rowdy impromptu flamenco bars with free tapas and the balmy easy going evenings where the entire city seems to come out to mingle makes sure that the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down.
On the north western tip of Spain, Asturias has a stunning blend of rugged coastline, soft sand beaches, tiny picturesque villages and beautiful architecture steeped in history and culture. Most travellers tend to bypass this part of Spain entirely, usually heading straight to Madrid or the Mediterranean coast destinations of Malaga or Alicante, but they are missing out on a laid back destination with some truly stunning beach locations like Playa de Gulpiyuri, an inland beach that can only be reached through secret underground tunnels, and a plethora of tiny fishing villages where the seafood is some of the best you can find in Spain!
Oichalia is a village and a municipality in Messenia, Greece, and is a picturesque region famous for its vast stretches of olive groves and fig orchards. Boasting a small number of traditional guesthouses, local cafes and a farmers market, Oichalia is a world away from the tourist hot spots of Greece and a chance to take a step back and discover a way of life long thought lost.
The biggest reason to visit Oichalia though is The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae.
In a country famous for its ancient history, mythology and UNESCO world heritage sites, perhaps none are as significant, or as unfamiliar to mass tourism, as the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae. Built to honour the God Apollo, one of the twelve Olympians and God of music, dance, truth and prophecy and healing and diseases, this magnificent temple is considered to be one of the best surviving examples of ancient Greek architecture.
Tatra Mountains, Slovakia.
The Tatra mountains, part of the Carpathian mountain range, form a naturally stunning border between Slovakia and Poland and are part of the ruggedly beautiful natural landscape that overlooks almost every adventure you can have in Slovakia, a destination that is shockingly overlooked as most travellers head to the surrounding tick box destinations of Austria, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. All of these are worthy of a visit, but do yourself a favour and take some time to explore the truly stunning and unspoilt countryside of Slovakia while you are in this part of the world.
Whether you are hiking through the vast, protected natural parkland directly below the mountains or rafting on a river underneath them, the Tatra mountains are always there, beckoning, and you cannot have an adventure in Slovakia without ending up at some point on the top of at least one of the majestic peaks.
Kalamata is the capital city of the Messinia region in Greece. Often overlooked or rushed through by many travellers, this charming seaside city is a surprising cultural powerhouse surrounded by a range of stunning beaches, within easy reach of some of Greece’s most significant historical and cultural sites including Sparta, ancient Olympia, the Temple of Apollo Epicurious at Bassae and so much more.
Despite this, and despite the fact it is just a short drive or flight from Athens, Kalamata is overlooked by travellers and are overshadowed by the popularity of other Greek regions and cities.
Liverpool is a destination that is often overlooked by international travellers to the UK who rarely move outside of the capital, but this is a huge mistake. Liverpool is a distinctly unique city with strong cultural links to the Celtic nations and a fierce national identity all of its own. Liverpudlian’s are proud Scouser’s first and English second.
With more listed heritage buildings, art galleries, iconic sites and tourist attractions than anywhere else in the country apart from London, a history that reaches back past the Domesday book and a recent surge of economic and social regeneration has transformed the city once again into a cultural powerhouse, Liverpool is one of the most energetic, friendly and culturally vibrant cities in the world, and if you visit in the summer there are always a multitude of unique festivals and celebrations such as the International Beatles Week in August.
Talloires is a small, picturesque village in the French Alps that is often unfairly overlooked by visitors due to it proximity to the nearby popular destination of Annecy, despite its natural beauty which includes stunning views of Mont Blanc. Talloires is a snapshot of traditional village life in France, frozen in time and waiting for travellers to take themselves out of the tourist bubble, shop at quaint boutiques on cobblestone streets, or stroll through the manicured parks and gardens or people watch at a traditional French cafe.
Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Prague is arguably one of the largest city break destinations in Europe, especially in the summer as tourists pile in en masse, but for some reason many tourists don’t venture outside of the capital into the rest of the Czech Republic which makes places like Ostrava, Liberec and Brno the perfect choice for an alternative European break.
Ostrava, the third largest city in the Czech Republic, is situated in the northeast of the country and forms the heart of the Moravian-Silesian region. It is located close to the Slovak and Polish borders on the banks of Ostravice River and offers beautiful views of the Beskydy Mountains.
Far off the beaten track in rural Albacete is perhaps one of Spain’s most spectacular landscapes, a 40km limestone gorge that brings to mind a scaled down Grand Canyon, lined with alien like landscapes, historic rural villages built into the rock faces with colourful doors and rooftops, a Moorish castle and even troglodyte caves. If you want to discover a part of Spain very few tourists know about, this is the place.
County Meath, Ireland.
Everyone who visits Ireland makes a beeline for Dublin’s infamous nightlife the famous Game of Thrones or Star Wars locations or the charms of Cork, but despite a surge in popularity in recent years, the Boyne Valley in County Meath is still relatively unknown and definitely holds the crown as Ireland’s hidden gem!
The Boyne Valley in County Meath is just a short drive outside of Dublin and is the birthplace of Ireland’s Ancient East, with some of the world’s most mythical landscapes. The rich valley is home to a range of heritage sites including the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange and Knowth) as well as Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman castle at Trim.
Piatra Neamt, Romania.
Romania is on the whole a relatively underrated destination in and of itself, but for the travellers who have discovered its many charms the vast majority still stick to the capital, Bucharest. Not many venture out into the surrounding county’s, and they are missing out.
Neamt County is about as off the beaten track as you can get from any mainstream tourist trail and almost proudly bears its status as one of Europe’s unknown hidden gems, with a fascinating history, a culture barely touched by western consumerism, quaint towns and villages and stunning strings of lakes, forests and national parks strewn over the Carpathian mountain range.
Barry Island, Wales.
For all the popularity of the UK as a tourist destination, Wales in general always misses out to England and Scotland, especially the capitals of London and Edinburgh, but this is a huge mistake! Apart from Wales’ epic coastline, fantastic history and heritage with countless castles to explore and of course adventure to be had in the Brecon Beacons, one of the biggest hidden gems in the already underrated country is undoubtedly Barry. Specifically, Barry Island!
Famously home to Gavin and Stacey, with the entire town of Barry being a huge open air set for avid fans of the TV series, Barry Island is also a quintessentially Welsh seaside town and it’s stunning coastline, ice creams and family amusements has been attracting visitors since the late 1800’s!
The sweeping promenade stretches across the seafront of Whitmore bay and is not only one of my favourite places in the world, but is also everyone’s picture postcard perfect idea of a British seaside holiday, so get yourself an ice cream, enjoy the funfair, have a go on the slots in Nessa’s arcade and then get yourself a deckchair for the beach!
Germany’s second city, Cologne is constantly underestimated and passed over by many visitors. This is a huge mistake. Cologne is by far one of the premier city attractions in Germany with a lot of history and culture of its own, an amazing Cathedral and plenty to see and do.
Wilder Kaiser Region, Austria.
Wilder Kaiser is a stunning natural paradise in Austria that is famous for its winter sports and renowned for its adventure activities, and despite the fact it has some of the most stunning natural scenery on the entire European continent, has ski resorts that are constantly lauded as the worlds best and mountain lakes that are considered the best in the country, the Wilder Kaiser region is constantly overlooked by visitors to Austria who make a beeline for Vienna, the Wachau Valley and Graz.
Located in the eastern edge of Austria in the state of Tirol, the Wilder Kaiser region consists of the Kaisergebirge mountain range, with the four picturesque villages of Ellmau, Going, Scheffau and Söll in the southern foothills of the Kitzbühel Alps.
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Climbing The Olympus Of Romania.
Discovering Myth And Legend In Ireland’s Ancient East.
Hiking Madeira’s Iconic Levada Walks.
Revitalising My Health And Wellbeing In Tirol, Austria.
Some great picks here Michael,I’ve heard of a few of them but not been to most! Will definitely be checking them out!
Thanks Andy, glad to be of service!
Can I add cilento in Italy to this list? Its a bit further down from the Amalfi Coast and is stunning!
Of course, thanks for the suggestion!
I think Cologne is pretty touristy tbh, everyone knows about the Cathedral. Not sure why it’s on this list
It has a good amount of tourism Rob but not compared to Berlin for example, and is a great second city choice.
Love the suggestions for Spain,I think that despite it being such an overtouristy country most of that really is concentrated in a few very small areas and it us so easy to get off the beaten track further inland.
I completely agree Laura!
I think you may be biased toward Liverpool! 😉
Fair point! ;D
I’ve been seeing a lot about Kalamata on your socials lately and have to say as a firm Greek Island hopper I’ve been convinced to check it out!
You should, it is a great city!
I have so much of Europe left to visit! I have travelled there extensively but that bucket list just keeps growing!
I know exactly what you mean John, it never ends!