21 Epic Hidden Gems in Europe: Secret Spots + Offbeat Highlights

Europe is packed full of mysterious cities and secret landscapes that are the material of legends, especially for those of us who grew up an ocean away from the continent.

Who among us hasn’t dreamed of strolling the streets of Paris when reading about the Belle Epoque, fantasized about exploring the Acropolis in Athens when learning about Greek mythology as children, or imagined standing in awe of the Colosseum in Rome?

Beyond these international landmarks, though, there are endless hidden gems in Europe to explore–and if you have a chance to get off the beaten path during your trip to Europe, you most certainly should.

We teamed up with several other travel bloggers for this post, and asked them a simple question: if you were recommending your favorite European hidden gems to travelers from a different part of the world, who aren’t intimately familiar with all of Europe’s nooks and crannies, where would you suggest they go? 

The answers stretched across the continent, from a remote Scottish island to capital cities that are far less visited than heavy hitters like Paris and London.

Here are some of the best hidden gems in Europe–plus what popular destinations you can combine them with for the ultimate trip.

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Western Europe Hidden Gems

Mechelen, Belgium

From Tea Gudek Snajdar of Culture Tourist

The charming small town of Mechelen is located right between Brussels and Antwerp, in the heart of Flanders. It’s as beautiful as some more famous Belgian towns. But it’s not as crowded with tourists, and that’s why you should definitely add Mechelen to any list of the best hidden gems in Europe.

Back in the 16th century, Mechelen was quite a prominent place, being the capital of the Low Countries (roughly the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg today). With so many beautiful old buildings, you can still feel the history on its every corner.

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Most of the city center is a pedestrian zone, so you can easily wander around. The most interesting sights there is the Large Beguinage (under the UNESCO protection), Hof van Busleyden Museum and Saint Rumbold’s Cathedral. Be sure to climb its tower, for a fantastic view of the city.

Mechelen is home to some amazing restaurants, as well. Definitely try some Belgian waffles, fries, and other specialties while there. If you like beer, be sure to visit Het Anker Brewery and try a local Gouden Carolus beer.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

You can easily visit Mechelen on a day trip from Brussels. It’s easily reachable by train from there, and it will take you around 30 minutes to get there.

Ornate buildings in Mechelen, Belgium, a great place to visit in Europe off the beaten path

Isle of Lewis, Scotland

From Susanne of Adventures Around Scotland

The Isle of Lewis is located off the north-west coast of Scotland and forms part of the Outer Hebridean island group.  It can be reached in just over 2 hours by taking a CalMac ferry from Ullapool on the Scottish mainland.  

Lewis is at the heart of Gaelic culture and many inhabitants are native Gaelic speakers. The island has a variety of historic attractions worth visiting including the 5000-year-old Callanish Stones, Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, and Dun Carloway Broch.  

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The main town of Stornoway is well equipped with supermarkets, independent shops, a cinema, theatre, pubs, cafes, and restaurants which specialize in locally caught seafood.

The island is also home to many beautiful beaches and walks, including clifftop trails where it is possible to spot whales and dolphins in the surrounding sea. For a close-up view of the marine wildlife, you can also join a local boat tour.

Finally, a visit to Museum nan Eilean is a must.  In the museum, you can view 6 of the highly detailed Lewis Chessman, part of a hoard of 93 pieces that were found on the island.  It is believed they are gaming pieces dating back to the 12th century.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

The Isle of Lewis can easily be combined with a city break in Inverness which is about a 90-minute drive or bus journey from the ferry port at Ullapool.

Small set of ruins on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, one of a beautiful offbeat Europe destination

Guernsey, Channel Islands 

From Teresa of Brogan Abroad

Guernsey is a completely underrated destination in both the UK and Europe as a whole.. Located in the English Channel between Britain and France, this beautiful island is part of the Channel Islands group of islands. 

It’s the sort of destination that tends to surprise visitors. The pristine beaches, the spectacular cliffs, and the emerald green waters are the kind of sight you’d expect in a Mediterranean island. And let’s not forget St Peter Port, the main town with its beautiful harbor and quaint narrow streets decorated with buntin. With so much to do in Guernsey, the island is a real gem of a place and you will feel like you’ve discovered a very well kept secret.

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Guernsey has recently been enjoying a bit of the limelight thanks to the popular book and film The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which is based on the island. The actual filming locations are in mainland England, but, as the story is set during a historic time for the island, you can take tours that show you around the places the book is based on.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Guernsey is not near any big destinations, but if you are traveling to London, you can combine your visit with a two-day escapade to Guernsey, as direct flights are just over an hour.

Chateau de Fontainebleau, France

From Theresa of Fueled By Wanderlust

Chateau de Fontainebleau is a magnificent French castle that flies under the radar compared to tourist magnets like Versailles.  This chateau is unique for its diverse rooms and corridors, which result from the varying tastes and styles of French monarchs spanning 800 years.  

A visit to Chateau de Fontainebleau still provides the grandeur of Versailles but avoids competing for space with mobs of people.  It is also less expensive to visit than Versailles at 12€ vs. the latter’s price of 18€.  

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Plus, Chateau de Fontainebleau has seen more monarchs pass through its halls than Versailles. Between the 12th and 19th centuries, rooms were ornately designed for the likes of Napoleon and Marie Antoinette and were the backdrop for big life events like marriages and births.  As you wind your way through the long halls of this castle, you’ll see the contrasts in styles for yourself, along with beautiful antiques, artwork, and tapestries.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

A visit to Fontainebleau is the perfect addition to a Paris trip.  Simply hop on the Transilien train from Paris’ Gare de Lyon station, and take the hour ride to Fontainebleau-Avon station.  From there, take the Aerial 1 bus to the Chateau stop, and the castle is just a two-minute walk further.

Chateau de Fontainbleau in the Loire Valley of France

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

From Frankie of As the Bird Flies

Rotterdam is considered to be the Netherlands’ second city after Amsterdam, and a visit there can easily be added on to a trip to the Dutch capital city as the distance between the two is just a short 45-minute train ride.

Despite the proximity, Rotterdam is very different. This is obvious immediately as a short stroll from Rotterdam Centraal Station will show you how much wider the streets are and how much more modern the architecture is.

As Europe’s main port and once the biggest harbor in the world, Rotterdam was heavily bombed in the Second World War. In the decades that followed as re-building began, the architecture sort of took on a life of its own with the famous cube houses being just one example. There really aren’t many other places in Europe that have such a varied and unusual cityscape.

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As well as a tour of Rotterdam’s harbor and architecture, there are many other cool offbeat things to do in Rotterdam.

You can explore the city’s street art scene, walk along the community built Luchtsingel (a raised walkway and bridge, similar to New York’s Highline) and you can do a food tour of some of the different international cuisine available in Rotterdam thanks to it being home to over 170 different nationalities, making it on paper more multicultural than Amsterdam.

While there is a semi-serious rivalry between Rotterdam and Amsterdam, those from Roffa (the local’s nickname for the city) will always see themselves and their city as much cooler than Amsterdam could ever be, and you may find it’s hard to argue with them!

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Rotterdam can easily be combined with a trip to popular Amsterdam. Though it can be visited as a day trip, you may find yourself tempted to stay longer!

Yellow cube houses of Rotterdam with blue sky above them. Rotterdam is an excellent European hidden gem to visit

Hidden Gems in Southern Europe

Bologna Apennines

From Lori of Travlinmad

If you love Italy and are looking for a new, more offbeat destination to visit, with more Italians and fewer tourists, consider a trip to the small towns of the Bologna Apennines.

The Apennine mountains run the length of Italy from the north in Liguria, down the peninsula into Sicily, with landscapes ranging from craggy and mountainous to rolling green hills. The hills near Bologna are also referred to as the Emilian Tuscan Apennines since they straddle both regions of Emilia Romagna and Tuscany.

Tucked between the hills and valleys are dozens of small towns, called borgos — many of them hundreds of years old and indeed some with few residents — that still reflect the history and very local culture within each one. It’s quite possible to find locals who have never strayed far from their own town in quite some time, if ever.

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Equally fascinating are the unexpected, out of place architecture, castles, markets, B&Bs, trattorias and even Michelin-star restaurants that make you shake your head and wonder why more adventurous travelers aren’t there.

Traveling the Apennines is indeed for the adventurous traveler — who aren’t afraid of not speaking the language or knowing exactly where they’re going. While a good GPS and Google Translate works wonders — an elderly guide was using too — this kind of authentic travel makes you fall in love a place even more.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

A trip through the Bologna Apennines could easily be combined with a tour through Tuscany or Cinque Terre.

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Seville, Spain

From Caroline of CK Travels

Instead of visiting popular Spanish cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, why not get a bit off the beaten path in Europe and check out Seville instead? Seville is Spain’s fourth-biggest city and is located in the southern region of Andalusia, where you’ll find beautiful Moorish architecture, UNESCO heritage sites, excellent wining and dining, and many gorgeous landscaped parks.

There are so many things to do in Seville but we would recommend strolling through the labyrinth of charming narrow streets and alleys of the El Barrio de Santa Cruz neighborhood, then heading over to Plaza de España to admire the architecture and exquisite tile work.

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As you head towards the end of the day, enjoy a meal at one of Seville’s many cozy and historic tapas bars for a glass of Spanish wine and some fresh and delicious seafood. Follow up dinner with an intimate traditional flamenco show at either Casa del Flamenco or Casa de la Memoria and if you still have energy afterward, head to Hotel Doña Maria‘s rooftop bar for a drink with one with the best views of the Cathedral lit up at night.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

You could combine Seville with a trip to the capital city of Madrid – to reach there you can take the high-speed train or a cheap internal flight.

Kate Storm standing on a bridge in Seville Spain with her back to the camera--Seville makes an excellent stop on a Europe road trip!

Taormina, Sicily

From Veronika of Travel Geekery

Taormina is one of the most charming towns in Sicily. Located in the Northeast of the Italian island, Taormina offers the best combination of wonderful historical architecture and beach time. The no. 1 attraction on any traveler’s list is the Ancient Greek Theater of Taormina, wonderfully preserved and with magical views of the sea.

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But there’s a lot more to do in Taormina. Besides taking long strolls along Taormina’s main boulevard, the Corso Umberto, and the many side streets, the best is to head down to the beach – by a cable car!

The scenic ride can be an attraction in itself, but wait until you see the beaches. Especially the Isola Bella Beach belongs to one of the best in Sicily. It even has its own little island that you can walk to and learn more about (it does have an interesting history!).

On a hot day, let yourself be seduced by a real Sicilian granita, an ice-cream like dessert typical for this part of the world. The best granita can be found at Bam Bar.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Taormina can be easily visited on a trip to Catania and/or Mount Etna.

Kate and Jeremy standing in Greek Theatre in Taormina--visiting this place is easily one of the best things to do in Taormina! Kate and Jeremy are facing each other, Kate is wearing a floral maxi dress.

Valencia, Spain

From Lauren of Always Find Adventure

Instead of busy Barcelona, try getting off the beaten path in Europe and going 3 hours south to Spain’s 3rd largest city, Valencia.

Valencia has the metropolitan feel, but an added coziness of an old charming Spanish town. It’s even safer than Barcelona, in that, you won’t have to worry so much about theft or pickpocketing.

Two must-see and do things in Valencia include taking a Paella Class (the classic dish of Spain, originating in Valencia), as well as riding bikes through Turia Gardens, one of the largest parks in Spain.

There, you can enjoy some of the best places to visit in Valencia, including the gorgeous, futuristic structures at The City of Arts & Sciences campus, bike to all of the old towers, and then as well as end your journey at the Bioparc (zoo). 

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Some neighborhoods to explore include El Carmen (the old city), Russafa (the hipster region), City Center, and Malvarrosa (the beach).

There’s always something to celebrate in Valencia, so you might even catch fireworks during March for Las Fallas. This event is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List and includes incredible art structures in the streets that are then lit on fire.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Valencia, Spain is super accessible from Madrid or Barcelona via plane, train or bus!

Reflective pool in Valencia Spain at sunset

Central + Eastern European Hidden Gems

Nuremberg, Germany

From Yulia of That’s What She Had

When planning a trip to Bavaria most people opt to visit its capital, Munich. Meanwhile, only 170 km north lies the second biggest city in the region which is well worth your time — Nuremberg. Nuremberg is the largest city and unofficial capital of Franconia, a smaller region within Bavaria. 

The city is probably most famous for its Christmas market, one of the oldest in Germany. This is when Nuremberg is most crowded, with over 2 million tourists arriving to drink gluhwein, eat traditional lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies), and shop for Christmas decorations.

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However, Nuremberg has a lot more to offer throughout the year. It’s a great destination if you are interested in the history of WWII: both Nazi Party Rally Grounds and the courthouse where Nuremberg processes took place are located here.

If you are more into Middle Ages history, pay a visit to the beautiful Old Town with its gothic architecture. Between the three main churches, the castle, and dozens of half-timbered houses, the Old Town will easily take you a whole day to explore.

For food lovers, Nuremberg restaurants offer Franconian specialties like wedding soup with pancake strips and semolina dumplings, schäufele (pork shoulder with crispy skin), and Nuremberg-style bratwurst (small sausages that are protected by European law and can only be made within city limits). Last, but definitely not least, pretzels come from Franconia, so Nuremberg, being its unofficial capital, is probably the best place in the world to try them.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Nuremberg is best combined with a trip to Munich and/or Germany’s Romantic Road.

Colorful half-timbered houses on a quiet street in Nuremberg Germany

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

From Ellis of Backpack Adventures

Sarajevo is Europe’s most multicultural capital. With its long history of religious and cultural diversity, the city is sometimes called the Jerusalem of Europe. It’s where mosques and churches stand next to each other and where you can easily recognize the different time periods the city went through.

In the scenic old town called the Bascarsija you go back to the Ottoman times. They left behind the beautiful bridges, mosques, madrassahs and caravanserai’s that dot the city. Their legacy is also still present in Bosnian cuisine from the delicious bureks to baklava.

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Outside of the old city, you will find the elegant and colorful Austro-Hungarian buildings and Tito’s socialist flat apartments when Sarajevo was part of Yugoslavia. Sarajevo is also famous for its role in the Bosnian war when the city was under siege for more than 3 years. Traces of the war are everywhere and there are some excellent museums to learn more about this time.

There are a lot of interesting things to do in the city, but also nearby and it is a great starting point for outdoor adventures in the mountains. In summer they are a great place for hiking while in winter they are the center for winter sports with ski resorts in Jahorina and Bjelasnica. Therefore Sarajevo is a great destination all year round. No matter when you visit Europe, a visit to Sarajevo is well worth it and great to combine with Mostar or Zagreb in Croatia. 

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Sarajevo can easily be added onto a trip visiting popular Croatia.

Sarajevo as seen from above near sunset. Sarajevo is one of the best hidden gems in Europe for travelers coming from a different continent!

Tallinn, Estonia

From Lesia of Dutch Wannabe

If you’re looking for a city break that offers amazing gastronomy, plenty of history and comfort at a great budget price, look no further than the delightful European hidden gem of Tallinn, Estonia.

Tallinn is famous for its’ medieval city center, which is exceptionally well-preserved. The cobblestone streets will take you from the giant city hall square up the hill to cathedrals and watchtowers.

The Toompea hill offers impressive views of Tallinn’s red-tiled rooftops, but once you venture beyond the old city gates, you will find a vibrant modern city.

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There are many things to do in Tallinn. With many mainstream malls, handmade fairs and artisan shops, the shopping experience is very well-varied. The city is also famous for its’ spa hotels and access to the sea.

Those interested in culture will learn all about Estonia’s history and their time as part of the USSR, thanks to such museums as the KGB Museum.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

You can combine your trip to Tallinn with a cruise of the Baltics. Helsinki, the capital of Finland is only an overnight ferry ride away.

Cityscape of Tallinn at sunset, one of the best hidden gems in Europe

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

From Elizabeth of Anchored Adventure Blog

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is one of the most tranquil off-the-beaten-path places in Germany, and one of the most unforgettable hidden gems in Europe. 

It’s the perfect spot to connect with Mother Nature – at all times of the year, too. The grass seems greener, the mountains steeper, the snow whiter and the water bluer.

All fitness types can enjoy the outdoors here. A simple yet scenic hiking trail runs through the crystal blue waterfalls of Partnach Gorge. For experienced hikers, trek up Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze. You can also ascend via cable car, where you are greeted with the most stunning panoramic mountainous views. There’s even a beer garden at the top.

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The former King Ludwig II’s castles, particularly the popular Neuschwanstein, are not too far from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Referred to as the “Disney Castle,” Neuschwanstein inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

The Old Town, which converts to a Christmas market in December, is filled with authentic Bavarian restaurants and local shops. Pick an accommodation just outside the Old Town, so you can watch the sunset over the mountains each evening.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Garmisch-Partenkirchen combines well with a trip to Munich. The journey takes under 90 minutes via car, and it’s even accessible via bus and train.

Garmisch Germany, expansive green field with a few houses framed by mountains in the background

Lviv, Ukraine

From Ivan of Mind the Travel

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv has many faces. Lviv embraces multiculturalism as it has borrowed other cultural practices from its invaders. Anyone who has made his way here will find a stark contrast to the brutal architecture which dominates elsewhere in the country.

Located some 70km from Poland, the beautiful city of Lviv lies on foothills of Carpathian mountains and boasts charming city squares, surrounded by bright colored Baroque styled buildings, cobblestoned streets, 60 museums, 100 cathedrals/churches, and numerous unique restaurants.

A colorful, lively Rynok Square is the centerpiece of a compact historical city center that abounds with art galleries, monuments, cathedrals, and museums.

Lviv is a walkable city where you get into narrow streets surrounded by bright houses, rustic bars, chocolate – coffee manufacturing units, and many more.

Climb up Lviv Town Hall observation deck: tough but well worth the glorious views. If you can grab a ticket, the Baroque opera offers world-class performances for little more than the price of a beer.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Lviv is easily accessible with direct buses from any big Polish city like Warsaw, Krakow or Wroclaw.

If you are coming from the United States, you can catch a direct flight from New York to Kyiv.

Alternatively, you can fly with KLM or Lufthansa into any of the main hubs in Europe and then get a low-cost airline like Wizz Air or Ryanair to fly directly to Lviv.

You should remember that Ukraine is not part of the Schengen Area and the above ways only work if you do not need a Schengen Visa to enter Europe. If you do, it is best that you fly directly or with a transit flight to Kyiv with any major airlines that offer a route from your home country.

View of Lviv Ukraine from above, one of the best hidden gems in Europe to visit

Cavtat, Croatia

From Sinead of Map Made Memories

The pretty seafront town of Cavtat in the southern Konvale region is a European hidden gem in the popular tourist destination of Croatia. The charming small town lies around a wide, palm tree-lined harbor lined with several cafes and restaurants, all of which offer stunning views of the Adriatic.

Visit the town’s two historic churches or the museum dedicated to local 19th-century artist Vlaho Bukovac. View the 35,000 historical artifacts at the Rectors Palace or climb the cobbled lanes of Cavtat to the Racic Mausoleum with its fantastic views of the coastline.  Enjoy a stroll around Cavtat’s two wooded peninsulas with access to the warm, clear waters of the Adriatic from wherever you choose to flop!

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Finish off a perfect day with ice cream from the famous House of Ice Cream whilst watching local teams compete in the open-air water polo pitch in the harbor or mingle with post-work locals who flock to the harbor to swim after work.  

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Combine a visit to Cavtat with a trip to nearby, historic Dubrovnik. You can reach Dubrovnik by public bus from Cavtat or even better, enjoy a short, scenic 45-minute boat trip to Dubrovnik along the Adriatic coast.

Harbor of Cavtat Croatia, a beautiful nontouristy place to visit in Europe

Poznan, Poland

From Or of My Path in the World

Poznan is, without a doubt, one of the most gorgeous and charming cities in Poland. With remarkable historical landmarks, beautiful architecture, amazing traditional restaurants, countless parks and gardens, and many more incredible things to do and see, it makes the perfect budget-friendly place to explore Europe off the beaten path.

Like in many other Polish cities, one of Poznan’s highlights is the Old Town. Beyond the maze of colorful streets filled with restaurants and cute cafes, there are plenty of museums and landmarks to visit in this area. From the Old Town Hall to the Royal Castle to the stunningly pink St Stanislaus Church, Poznan’s Old Town is full of surprises.

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As for the food, Poznan prides itself with a historical local pastry called St. Martin’s croissant. It even has a museum dedicated to it, and bakeries must have a special certificate to be able to call it St. Martin’s croissant. More delicious food to devour in Poznan includes Polish donuts, pierogis (Polish dumplings), potato pancakes, soups, and stews.

This little city is full of other surprises like the oldest cathedral in Poland, the largest palm house in Poland, open-air markets, botanical gardens, and much more.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Poznan can be visited as a 2-3 day city break or as an addition to a trip to the city of Wroclaw.

Colorful street in Poznan Poland with cafe visible in the foreground. Poznan is a great destination for those looking to explore Europe off the beaten path

Birgi, Turkey

From Pascale of Slow Travel Guide

With some offbeat destinations, you wonder how they managed to remain under the radar. That is the case with Birgi, a pretty and authentic little Turkish town featuring the most amazing Ottoman houses, cobblestone streets, and friendly people.

If you’re looking for ‘the authentic Turkey’, this is it! And the bonus is that it comes with lovely accommodation choices too. In Birgi, you’ll get to stay in restored Ottoman mansions at bargain prices. After your generous Turkish breakfast, get ready to stroll the streets of Birgi.

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Our top tip? Visit on a Monday. That’ll allow you to taste the local produce sold at the weekly market. After that, walk to Çakırağa Konağı. This 18th-century mansion will blow you off your feet. Once you’ve seen this masterpiece, enjoy the beautiful and narrow streets in the old town, and feel like you are stepping back into time, surrounded by the finest examples of Ottoman architecture. 

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Combine a visit to Birgi with one of Turkey’s main attractions: the UNESCO site of Ephesus is only an hour and a half away by car, and Istanbul can be reached in roughly 7 hours of driving or via a domestic flight.

Ottoman style houses in Birgi Turkey

Hidden Gems in Northern Europe

Fjords of Norway

From Bret & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

Located in the country’s eastern half, Oslo may be the most popular destination in Norway for travelers from outside of Europe. But the fjords that line Norway’s western coast are truly spectacular, and exploring their stunning natural beauty makes for one of the world’s best road trips. 

The colorful historic buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bergen, whose maritime history dates back centuries, are a great place to begin the journey. From there you head north on endlessly winding roads along the coast, with countless glacier-fed lakes, monolithic mountains, waterfalls, gigantic fjords, and a few ancient stave churches along the way.

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The trip also follows the Sognefjellet National Tourist Route, which is Northern Europe’s highest mountain pass (at 1,434 meters above sea level). It begins in the lush cultural landscape of the Bøverdalen Valley and runs across the mountain plateau, offering jaw-dropping panoramic views of glaciers and towering mountains, before descending to the tranquil hamlets of the Sognefjord in the west. 

Whether you’re a die-hard nature lover, a history buff, or are simply fond of charming villages and folkloric culture, this region of Norway is truly a must-see for any traveler visiting Oslo or Bergen.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Norway’s fjords are a standalone destination in their own right, but can easily be combined with popular cities like Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo for travelers coming from outside Europe who are looking to start their trip at an international flight hub.

Bright blue fjord in Norway as seen with snowcapped mountains in the background

Helsingør, Denmark

From Derek & Mike of Everything Copenhagen

A 40-minute train ride north of Copenhagen lies a quaint Danish town with a deep history and rotten reputation. In fact, you may not recognize the name, but you have probably heard of Helsingør, Denmark. That’s because it was in Hamlet by the name Elsinore Castle.

That castle is the real-life Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark and it’s one of the most fascinating hidden gems in Europe. The town has about 60,000 residents, a famous castle and a plethora of other attractions. You could easily spend a few days in Helsingør and see the city museum, Oresund Aquarium and the Danish Maritime Museum.

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The town also has a sister city just a short ferry ride across the Oresund Sound in Sweden which makes a great half-day trip. On weekends there is a vibrant street food market in Helsingør.

Kronborg Castle is still the main attraction in Helsingør. There are free guided tours included with admission and in the summer months, there are even Shakespearean actors performing with guides. When you visit, make sure to spend some time in the underground dungeon and climb the cannon tower.

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

Helsingør is easily visited as a day trip from Copenhagen.

Helsingor from top of Kronborg Castle

Bratislava, Slovakia

From Ann of The Road is Life

The capital of Slovakia may not come to mind as your top pick for your next European destination but there are plenty of reasons why it deserves a spot on your itinerary. Bratislava is a vibrant and fun city packed with fascinating sites to discover and a lively nightlife scene. 

One of the highlights of visiting Bratislava is exploring the pretty streets of the old town center, you’ll come across beautiful squares with fountains and pastel-colored facades. Make sure to check out Michael’s Gate in the old town, it dates back to the 14th century and it’s the only gate to survive from the town’s original fortifications. 

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Of course, you cannot miss a visit to Bratislava’s main attraction, the castle on a hilltop that sits on the edge of the Danube River and towers over the city below. Make sure to climb up one of the castle’s towers for a spectacular panoramic view of Bratislava and the surrounding countryside. 

Combine This Hidden Gem in Europe With…

The good thing about visiting Bratislava is that you can easily combine it with trips to either Budapest, Prague, or Vienna. Bratislava is conveniently located only a few hours away from all of these major European cities by train or bus.

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4 photos of European cities: Sarajevo, Krakow, Ragusa, and Tallinn. Black and red text reads "secret europe: 21 delightful hidden gems in Europe"

About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

6 thoughts on “21 Epic Hidden Gems in Europe: Secret Spots + Offbeat Highlights”

  1. What a great list! We’re going to be in Belgium and Germany in May so definitely will add some of these places to our list. And couldn’t agree more with Nuremberg and Seville. We were just in Seville earlier this month and it is the most charming!

    • Oh how wonderful! We’re hoping to make it back to Seville next month ourselves. And perhaps we’ll see Nuremberg for the Christmas markets this year…

  2. Thanks for another interesting blog. It’s amazing to think that I have visited many of the better-known locations that are just a short train ride away but (with the exception of Nuremberg) have visited none of those hidden gems listed in your story.
    I found your second photo from the top interesting as its location isn’t revealed in your story. However I went there last year and the 35 minute walk up along a sometimes loose rocky surface to that magnificent viewpoint is well worth the effort. I won’t reveal your secret other than to say that I believe that its name starts with “K”.

    • Ha, I didn’t mean to keep it secret! It’s just a filler photo of sorts. Kotor is an amazing place, though–we love it there! 🙂

  3. The reasons to visit L’viv are numerous and compelling, but I’m not so sure mutli-cultualism is one of them, unless you mean the several African med students or the American IT business folks.

    I’m not so sure to whom you’re referring as invaders. Poland or Austria did not “invade” L’viv. They built much of it. Are you thinking of the Nazis or Soviet communists? By the end of WW2, and certainly by the time of its short-history as part of the USSR, Eastern Galicia had become perhaps the most culturally homogeneous of its long history. The same is true of many places following the WWs, the shifting of borders, and their associated refugee crises.

    • As for getting here from the States, Polish LOT is the best way. I’m not sure when UIA is starting yet, but in almost all cases the airports you mention have international transfers, so you don’t need to go through immigration before connecting.

      As for our architecture, there is some Baroque, but it’s not the dominant form. The opera house, for example, is much more recent and is a generous mix of styles commonnwith Viennese architects of the time.


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