21 Unique Places to Visit in Europe in 2024 (Hidden Gems)

by Jon Miksis
Hidden gem alleyway in a European old town
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Looking to discover underrated cities and hidden gems in Europe? These are the lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path destinations bursting with charm, culture, and character. They are typically rich in history, have a unique local culture, and offer authentic and immersive travel experiences. These are the kind of places where you can truly get away from the crowds and stay connected with the local way of life.

Top Unique Places to Visit in Europe

Due to cheap airfare and social media hype, it seems that every square meter of this beautiful continent has already been trampled over. This begs the question: are there any hidden gems in Europe left to explore?

I’ve asked this question to some of my favorite travel bloggers and local experts who know Europe best. Here are the 21 best hidden gems in Europe that will evade the crowds in 2024.

Hidden vacation spots in Europe Pin for readers
Follow me on Insta (@Global.Viewpoint) for more hidden gems in Europe!

1. Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain

Setenil de las Bodegas is a small town in southern Spain etched into the cliffs. The people here live quite literally under a rock.

The dwellings in town are totally whitewashed, providing a stark contrast from the dark cliffs looming overhead.

Setenil de las Bodegas a small town in southern Spain under a rock
Setenil de las Bodegas is one of the best secret and underrated places in Europe.

What to See and Do

Aside from its scenic cliffside setting, Setenil de las Bodegas also has noteworthy attractions. Two intriguing sights include Nazari Castle and the Church of La Encarnación. Each is incredibly unique and cements the town’s reputation as one of Europe’s best underrated places to visit.

Nazari Castle, which stands at the top of the hill, was formerly an Arab fortress dating back to the 13th century. This medieval castle was one of the last Moorish strongholds before the Christians retook the Iberian Peninsula in the late 1400s. All but one of the castle’s original towers were demolished after the last siege. However, it’s still worth stopping for the incredible views of the picturesque town below.

The Church of La Encarnación isn’t the most extravagant church in Spain, but it’s special in its own right. It was built in the early 1500s to embody late Gothic architecture. The Church of La Encarnación is simple and peaceful, providing a glimpse of what life used to look like in small Spanish villages.

Where Is It?

Tucked between Sevilla and Granada, Setenil de las Bodegas is one of the most unique places in Spain and among Andalusia’s best-kept secrets. It’s miraculous how this town has managed to stay under the radar for so long. Setenil de las Bodegas is only 11 miles (18 km) north of Ronda, another off-the-beaten-path destination that merits a visit.

If you’re planning a road trip through Spain, be sure to tack on Setenil de las Bodegas to your itinerary!

2. The Algarve, Portugal

Located in southern Portugal, the Algarve is among the most incredible places to visit in Europe. While the French, Italian, and Spanish Rivieras steal most of the limelight, I think Portugal’s slice of paradise in the Algarve can give each spot a run for their money.

Portugal's stunning Algarve coast with its picturesque beaches and cliffs
Lagos is known for its rugged cliffs and beaches.

What Makes the Algarve One of the Best Places in Europe to Visit?

This region hugs the Atlantic Ocean coastline and offers rugged landscapes and windswept beaches you won’t find anywhere else. Whitewashed villages and towns are strewn between sandy coves and beaches, and you won’t have to break the bank to stay there.

The Algarve is much cheaper and lesser known than its Mediterranean counterparts. That said, the region is much less developed for tourism, so if you’re expecting touristy enclaves of beach resorts, clubs, and restaurants all over, you’re better off visiting some other places on my list.

Check out the soaring cliffs and epic rock formations the region is famous for. Stroll through old fishing villages and endless beaches as you enjoy the sunshine. It’s no wonder this is among the best places to visit in Europe!

The breathtaking cliffs of Algarve, Portugal, overlooking the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean
Sunset from the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail.

Where Is It?

The Algarve is 155 miles (250 km) south of Lisbon. Some towns and cities you’ll want to visit include Lagos, Faro, Tavira, and Albufeira.

If you’re seeking a hidden gem with raw beauty in one of the coolest places to visit in Europe, definitely add the Algarve to your bucket list!

Read next: Coolest Vacation Homes in Portugal

3. Perast, Montenegro

Just north of Kotor, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, lies a small coastal village called Perast. It’s cheap, quaint, and seemingly untouched. As such, it’s one of the best European unusual places you should visit in 2024.

Between the 15th and 18th centuries, Perast was a strategic port between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetian Republic. With a population of 274 people and only one main street, it’s hard to imagine that this tiny town was once at the crossroads of these powerful empires.

Boats docked near a mountain town, surrounded by serene waters and picturesque scenery
Perast and Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor are among the best hidden gems in Europe.

What to See and Do

More recently, Perast has attracted visitors with its medley of churches, royal palaces, and nearby islets.

With 16 churches, Perast probably has the most per capita in the world. The most majestic among them is St. Nikola Church, a Baroque masterpiece that dates back to the 17th century. The town is also surrounded by scenic mountains, which watch over the bay below. With so much scenery and charm, it’s no wonder that Perast is one of the most underrated cities to visit in Europe.

The charming town of Kotor in Croatia, nestled by the sea, offers stunning views and rich history
The old town of Perast is top among the best unknown places to visit in Europe.

Other Highlights in Perast

Just a quick ferry ride from Perast in the Bay of Kotor is an artificial island called Our Lady of the Rocks. Legend has it that sailors built this island 500 years ago by stacking piles of rocks and old ships. A small chapel sits atop this rocky mound jutting from the water. Inside, you’ll find many beautiful 17th-century paintings and an icon of the Virgin Mary dating back to the 1400s.

On your boat ride to Our Lady of the Rocks, you’ll encounter another small island with an intriguing past, Saint George. This natural island is best known for its 12th-century monastery. Unfortunately, it’s not open to tourists, but you can circle the island by boat for just a few Euros. It’s very tucked away and, as such, deserves a mention among Europe’s unusual places.

In addition to its interesting sights and attractions, Perast is also a spectacular spot for seafood lovers. Local fishermen bring the day’s fresh catch straight from the Bay of Kotor and Adriatic Sea. The oysters and mussels are some of the best in the region.

Where Is It?

Perast is just 7.5 miles (12 km) north of Kotor and less than 50 miles (80 km) from Dubrovnik, Croatia. It’s also 100 miles (160 km) from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, making Perast a popular day road trip. Needless to say, there’s a lot to see in this region of Europe.

With its pretty architecture and captivating history, Perast is one of the best hidden gems in Europe you should visit in 2024.

4. Theth National Park, Albania

If you’re looking for one of the most distinct places to visit in Europe, add Theth National Park to your bucket list! This underrated vacation spot is in the heart of Albania, and it is a true paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Jon hiking in Theth National Park
Me hiking in Theth National Park

What makes Theth National Park so special? Firstly, it’s home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes you’ll ever see. The park is located in the Albanian Alps, and is home to towering peaks, crystal-clear rivers, and dense forests. Theth National Park is also home to a rich and diverse array of wildlife, including rare species of birds and animals that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

What Makes Theth National Park a Unique Place to Visit in Europe

What really sets Theth National Park apart is its rich cultural history. The park is home to several traditional Albanian villages that have been passed down for generations. These villages offer a glimpse into the unique way of life of the Albanian people, and you’ll have the opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about their culture and traditions.

So why should you visit Theth National Park? If you’re a fan of nature and culture, this is the perfect destination for you. It’s a place to escape the crowds and experience something truly authentic and immersive. Plus, it’s an underrated destination in Europe, so you’ll have the chance to experience all of this without the crowds and tourist traps you’ll find at more well-known destinations.

I’ve been to the Swiss, Austrian, and Italian Alps many times, and I must say…these mountains in Albania can certainly rival them. And the best part? There were virtually no other people there. So, pack your bags and head to Theth National Park for an adventure of a lifetime!

A picturesque church in Theth nestled between rocky mountains
A picturesque church in Theth nestled between rocky mountains

5. Brisighella, Italy

Brisighella is a medieval fairytale town just south of Bologna. It’s incredibly beautiful and charming, yet it somehow keeps a low profile. You probably haven’t heard of it, which is why it deserves a spot among Europe’s best unique places.

Charming Italian town of Brisighella, Italy, featuring picturesque streets and stunning countryside
Brisighella, Italy is one of the best secret places and underrated cities in Europe.

What to See and Do

Brisighella is a secret destination with a dense history and authentic culture. It’s tucked between three majestic hills, which contain a castle (La Rocca), a clock tower (La Torre), and a church (Il Monticino). These structures date back to the 14th, 16th, and 18th century, respectively.

Majestic clock tower standing tall on a hill, overlooking the city below
Brisighella’s clock tower, La Torre. This town is one of the best unknown places to visit in Europe.

Hiking is a popular activity here, particularly during the summer. You can hike up from the village to each of the sights above on foot, and you’ll see sweeping views of the village and countryside below.

You can wander aimlessly and not tire of its quaint and colorful streets. But if you do grow tired, you’ll have plenty of world-class wines, olive oils, and gelato to try at its restaurants and cafés.

Given its glorious nature and charm, Brisighella is among the best unknown places to visit in Europe.

Brisighella's castle stands atop a lush hill, embraced by a beautiful forest
Brisighella’s hilltop castle, La Rocca is one of the best hidden places in Europe.

Where Is It?

Brisighella is just an hour by train or car from Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna. It’s also just over two hours from Venice and 1 hour 20 minutes by car from Florence.

Brimming with beautiful architecture and scenic countryside, Brisighella is one of the best hidden gems in Europe that you should visit in 2024.

6. Mittenwald, Germany

  • Historic colorful houses: Check.
  • Snow-capped mountains: Check.
  • Bavarian food and beer: Check.
  • Tourist crowds: Nope!

Mittenwald is a sleepy village that looks like it belongs on the pages of a Grimm’s fairytale. It may come as a surprise that Mittenwald has remained one of the best hidden spots and underrated places in Europe, particularly given its proximity to Germany’s robust automobile industry.

Mittenwald in Germany
Mittenwald is one of Europe’s lesser known hidden gems.

What to See and Do

Mittenwald is one of those quintessential German towns that everyone should visit and experience. It’s chock-full of vibrant energy at every turn, beginning with its colorful architecture. Many of the homes and shops in town date back over 250 years, but you’d think they were built yesterday.

When you visit Mittenwald, give yourself ample time to stroll through the Altstadt, or Old Town. Timeless tradition is on every street, especially the Obermarkt (the main street). Colorful homes, shops, and murals are peppered among the town’s pedestrian-friendly paths. It’s a lovely sight.

Interestingly, Mittenwald has a long history and legacy in the craft of violin making. It’s often called the “Village of a Thousand Violins” for this reason. Given that Mittenwald is both enchanting and rhythmic, the name suits the town perfectly.

Another big draw here is the Karwendel Alps, which provide an epic backdrop around the town. This makes Mittenwald an attractive place for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

Mittenwald in the Alps, a breathtaking view from the mountain top, surrounded by majestic peaks and endless beauty
Mittenwald has a front row seat of the Karwendel Alps. It’s one of the best hidden vacation spots in Europe.

Without the massive crowds of tourists (which usually accompany Europe’s picturesque towns), the loudest noise you’ll likely hear on a given day is the gentle stream running through the town center. Otherwise, you’ll probably hear a violin.

The tranquil and timeless ambiance makes Mittenwald one of the best unknown and underrated places in Europe.

Where Is It?

Situated along the Germany-Austria border, Mittenwald is just 2 hours by train from Munich and 40 minutes from Innsbruck, Austria. Though it’s so close to these popular places, it’s still one of the best European unusual places you should visit in 2024.

If you’d like to pair this road trip with a visit to one of the best castles in Europe, Neuschwanstein Castle is only an hour’s drive away.

7. Varna, Bulgaria

Unlike the first 2 locations on this list, Varna is more of a cosmopolitan European city than a small village. Nevertheless, it has managed to stay out of the limelight thus far. Here’s why you should visit Varna, one of the best secret places and underrated cities in Europe:

Varna is a seaside resort town with beautiful beaches and a lively cultural scene. Locals consider it the Jewel of the Black Sea, yet most people outside Bulgaria haven’t heard of it. Kristin, a teacher and blogger who has lived in Europe and visited all corners of the continent, recently traveled to the coastal city of Varna:

“When I heard about Varna, I knew I had to visit. I knew a bit about Bulgaria from Rick Steves episodes, but other than knowing they nod their head yes for no and shake no for yes, I didn’t know much. And I had to look up Varna on Google, not knowing anything about it. What a beautiful location on the Black Sea…” – Kristin N., Under the Ligurian Sun
Scenic ocean vista from balcony overlooking tranquil blue sea in Varna, Bulgaria
Varna, Bulgaria is one of the best-kept secrets and hidden gems in Europe. Photo Credit: Kristin N., Under the Ligurian Sun

What to See and Do in This European Hidden Gem

In addition to its seaside charm, Varna is also brimming with historical and cultural attractions. A massive Roman bath complex and archaeological museum straddle the city center, as do many eccentric restaurants, cafés, and bars.  As a beautiful beach destination and cultural center, Varna is known in Bulgaria for its nightlife.

Though Varna has a cosmopolitan vibe, the prices here are surprisingly cheap. This certainly makes up for the premium you’ll likely have to pay to get there!

Given its plethora of cool cultural attractions and sprightly beach life, Varna is one of the best hidden cities in Europe.

Where is it?

Varna isn’t super convenient to get to, but that’s part of the reason why it’s remained one of the best unusual places and underrated cities in Europe for so long.

Located on the shores of the Black Sea in eastern Bulgaria, Varna is 275 miles (442 km) east of Sofia. As such, it’s about a 5-hour drive or 2-hour flight from Bulgaria’s capital.

Alternatively, Varna is 165 miles (266 km) southeast of Romania’s capital, Bucharest. This is the most convenient and economical way to get to Varna. Along the way, you’ll pass through Transylvania, a historic and mountainous region that every traveler should also add to their “hit” list.

Varna is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Though many Bulgarian tourists come here in the summer, it’s still less crowded relative to other coastal cities.

8. San Marino

Itching to explore winding cobblestone streets and timeless European charm? Look no further than San Marino.

Before the 19th century, the Italian Peninsula was a politically fragmented cluster of states. The boot-shaped landmass hadn’t been united since the days of the Roman Empire. It wasn’t until the 1800s when Giuseppe Garibaldi and other prominent revolutionaries sought to unite these states under the Kingdom of Italy. 

When the dust settled and unification was mostly achieved, there were only a handful of states that evaded this coalescence. San Marino was one of them.

More recently, San Marino has also eluded the immense tourism that dogs much of Italy. Here’s why you should visit San Marino, one of Europe’s best, lesser-known places.

Scenic castle on mountain summit, staircase ascending to majestic fortress in San Marino
San Marino is definitely off the beaten path. It’s one of the best secret and underrated places in Europe.

What to See and Do

San Marino is a micro-state perched high atop a mountain with panoramic views of the Italian landscape below. From here, you’ll catch a glimpse of gently rolling hills and vineyards extending as far as the eye can see. It has the same magical allure as Tuscany without the crowds, making it one of the best hidden vacation spots in Europe.

San Marino’s historic center is deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside, you’ll discover a labyrinth of narrow streets that are lined with quaint cafés and shops. You’ll see three towers standing tall on Monte Titano when you look up.

Castle atop mountain, surveying scenic valley landscape in Italian Peninsula, San Marino
Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the Three Towers of San Marino are called Cesta, Guaita, and Montale. These are some of the best hidden places in Europe.

Around town, you’ll also find plenty of piazzas (squares) and palazzos (palaces) where time has stood still since the Middle Ages. As you stroll its enchanting streets, it’s easy to see why this has been the site of many royal palaces and castles for centuries. 

San Marino is the oldest surviving republic in the world. It’s shocking to think it’s been such a hidden gem for so long.

Where Is It?

San Marino is in northeastern Italy, just inland from the Adriatic coastline. It’s a two-hour train ride from Bologna and three hours east of Florence.

9. Ohrid, North Macedonia

An amazing list of the best lesser-known places in Europe wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Macedonia (now called North Macedonia as of 2019). Ohrid, which lies in the western part of the country, is an underrated destination worthy of a spot on your bucket list.

St. John the Theologian (Kaneo) in Ohrid with lake and mountain views.
St. John the Theologian (Kaneo) in Ohrid with lake and mountain views.

Nestled on the shores of Lake Ohrid, this city offers a dose of history, culture, and sublime beauty. Ohrid is a UNECO World Heritage Site that’s considered the “Jerusalem of the Balkans,” filled with old-world charm, including historic streets, churches, and a medieval castle. 

They also call Ohrid the “Pearl of North Macedonia.” Take a stroll through the cobbled streets with views of the lake and surrounding landscapes, and you’ll wonder how Ohrid has remained off the beaten path for so long.

What to See and Do

On the same day, you can explore the city’s historic landmarks and swim in the lake. One of the best views is from St. John the Theologian, an old church with sweeping vistas of the lake and surrounding mountains. Built in the 13th century during pre-Ottoman times, it has beautiful frescoes and Byzantine-style architecture.

Other must-see sights include Saint Sophia, Church of Saint Clement and Panteleimon, Holy Mary Perybleptos, and Plaoshnik, all of which are ancient churches and archeological sites. In between, don’t miss Samoil’s Fortress, an 11th-century fortress that straddles the old town. 

The historic architecture is unique and unlike any of the structures you’ll find in Western and Central Europe. As such, it’s easy to see why Ohrid is among the best lesser-known places in Eastern Europe.

Aside from sightseeing, Ohrid is a city where you should relax, unwind, and soak in the alfresco scene. There are lots of lakeside restaurants and cafés, where you can spend hours on end and never grow tired of the lively ambiance. And the best part of all? Ohrid is a budget-friendly city where you can pay as little as $10 per night for accommodations. Winning!

Read next: 14 Most Budget-Friendly Cities in Europe

A Mediterranean beach town in Ohrid
Ohrid feels like a Mediterranean beach town.

Where Is It?

Ohrid is located in North Macedonia, not far from the Albanian border. The easiest way to get here is by flying into Skopje, the capital, and then taking a 3.5-hour bus ride. With its great location and endless things to see and do, Ohrid is one of Europe’s most outstanding places to visit.

A Macedonian Orthodox church built in the Byzantine style
A Macedonian Orthodox church built in the Byzantine style.

10. St. Gilgen, Austria

St. Gilgen is a tiny village that straddles Wolfgangsee, one of Austria’s prettiest lakes. It has everything you’d expect in an Alpine town: pristine scenery, fairytale houses, and traditional cuisine. What more could you want?

St. Gilgen doesn’t carry the hefty prices of Salzburg or the crowds of Hallstatt, making it a picture-perfect place to experience Austria’s off-the-beaten-path charm. Here’s why you should visit one of Europe’s best secret and underrated places.

A picturesque town nestled amidst majestic mountains, with a charming church as its centerpiece
St. Gilgen in Austria is among the most underrated cities in Europe.

What to See and Do

St. Gilgen has a cheerful atmosphere that takes on many forms throughout the year. During the winter, it’s a popular skiing destination among Austrians. Zwölferhorn Mountain overlooks the town and adjacent lake, offering an incredible vantage point of the winter wonderland below.

During the summertime, the mountain draws avid hikers to its peak. The cable car ride to the top is an experience in and of itself. You’ll be amazed by the boundless greenery and Alpine lakes that dot the landscape below.

In addition to its scenery, St. Gilgen also puts you in a jovial mood with its colorful homes and shops. The façades are painted in every color of the rainbow (and then some). The wooden balconies, quaint guesthouses, and family-run restaurants are all so quintessentially Austrian.

During the summer months in St. Gilgen, there’s no shortage of water activities on the lake. You can rent boats, paddle boards, and pretty much any other type of aquatic equipment. Whether you’re looking for some relaxation or a jolt of adrenaline, Wolfgangsee has got you covered.

Lakefront homes with mountain view in Wolfgangsee
Wolfgangsee is a popular resort spot for Austrians. The masses haven’t yet discovered this hidden gem in the heart of Central Europe.

St. Gilgen Is a Famous Place in Europe to Visit All Year

Just before Christmas is another magical time to visit St. Gilgen. The town sprouts to life with an elaborate “Christkindlmarkt” or Christmas Market. The enchanting ambiance makes you feel like you’re strolling back in time through this Austrian village. The food and gifts on display are very enticing as well. Mulled wine, anyone?

Where Is It?

St. Gilgen is 17 miles (28 km) east of Salzburg, which is just a 30-minute car ride. If you just want to stop by briefly, I recommend doing a guided tour of the whole region.

As an avid fan of The Sound of Music, I naturally felt compelled to do The Sound of Music Tour. In general, I’m not too fond of bus tours and prefer to explore on my own, but this was something special.

Firstly, it gives you a great overview of the region and its top sights. We drove through Salzburg, up and down verdant mountains, and around nearby villages and towns (including St. Gilgen). 

The bus stopped frequently so we could take pictures. For me, this tour was a blast from the past. Hit songs from the movie blared through the speakers of the bus throughout the entire tour. It was fantastic, and I would definitely do it again (both St. Gilgen and the bus tour).

11. Rye, England

Looking to stay in one of the most unique places to visit in Europe? Rye is what you’ve been dreaming of!

Mermaid Street in Rye, England
Mermaid Street in Rye, England

Rye is the quintessential English town that brings you back in time. It’s probably one of the quaintest towns in the country with charming homes and buildings dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. It’s nestled near the English Channel, offering stunning views of the River Rother and Romney Marsh.

Meander down cobbled passageways as you pass by half-timber homes and historic inns. Take in the medieval ambiance of Mermaid Street and stop inside the Rye Castle Museum. It’s easy to see why this is one of Europe’s best places to visit!

A charming narrow street with a lamp post and a fence in Rye
Rye is a one of the places in Europe to visit for history lovers.

Where Is It?

Rye is 70 miles (112 km) southeast of London, just a 1.5-hour car ride and a 1-hour train ride away. If you just want to stop by briefly, I recommend doing a guided tour of the whole region.

Read next: Coolest Vacation Rentals in the UK

12. Basel, Switzerland

Though situated in the heart of Central Europe, Basel is a hidden gem worthy of a spot on this list.

The Spalentor (Gate of Spalen)
The Spalentor (Gate of Spalen) was built around 1400. It’s an iconic sight in the heart of one of Europe’s most underrated cities.

What to See and Do

During the summer, Basel is especially lively. The Rhine River that flows through the town provides locals and visitors with a scenic summer swim. The alfresco scene along the riverbank, amid the backdrop of the Old Town, makes for an incredible sight as you’re making your way downstream.

The Rhine River offering a picturesque view of a majestic castle in the distance
Walking along the Rhine River offers some of the most stunning views of Basel, one of the best hidden vacation spots in Europe

In addition, Basel has a thriving art scene. This underrated city is home to more than 40 museums and cultural attractions, hence its nickname, the “cultural capital of Switzerland.”

Outside the museums, you’ll find plenty of art exhibitions in the streets, most notably in its architecture. Take a walking tour, and you’ll love what you see. Two of the most iconic structures are the Spalentor (Gate of Spalen) and Basel Münster (Cathedral), which are more than 500 years old.

Basel has so much to see and do, making it one of the best hidden cities in Europe.

Where Is It?

Basel is a pocket-sized city in the northwestern corner of Switzerland, sharing a border with Germany and France. The city strikes a unique balance between urban cool and a small town by the river.

Inspired to visit Switzerland? Don’t miss these 12 best Airbnbs in the Swiss Alps!

Aerial view of Basel from the Roche Tower, the tallest building in Switzerland.
Aerial view of Basel from the Roche Tower, the tallest building in Switzerland.

13. Alentejo, Portugal

Unless you’re a wine sommelier or native to Portugal, you probably haven’t heard much about Alentejo. This region in southern Portugal has all but eluded the pleasure and plight of European tourism thus far. 

With its historic villages, endless vineyards, and steadfast sunshine, Alentejo is worthy of a spot on your ever-growing amazing list of the best lesser-known places in Europe.

What to See and Do

Dan Flying Solo is a UK travel blogger and Lonely Planet Trailblazer currently living in Portugal. He recently visited Alentejo, and here’s how he pitched it to me:

“The Alentejo region of Portugal covers a huge area of the country, yet surprisingly remains relatively unvisited. Famed for its quality wine production, here you can sleep at Quintas (farms) and sample delicious local produce and wine from the source. Start in the city of Évora, where Gothic and Roman history collide amongst whitewashed houses, before taking a road trip through the green vineyards and contrasting arid nature of the landscape. Complete your Alentejo exploration in Beja, an adorable city most famed for its traditional tiles, or on the rugged windswept coast, where black sands provide a different beach escape than the more well known Algarve.” –Dan (Follow him on Instagram at @DanFlyingSolo)
The Alentejo region of Portugal
The Alentejo region of Portugal is a hidden gem and underrated place to visit in Europe.

Where Is It?

Alentejo covers a broad swath of land in the lower third of Portugal. As such, there are a couple of convenient ways to arrive here from the north and south. In the northern part of Alentejo, you can fly into Lisbon and make the 2-hour drive east to Évora. In the southern part of the region, it’s best to fly into Faro. Then, head north for about 2 hours to arrive in Beja, one of the best secret places in Europe.

14. Achill Island, Ireland

If you’re looking for an underrated European destination, then look no further than Achill Island! This little slice of paradise is located off the west coast of Ireland, and it is the perfect destination for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Achill Island in Europe
Achill Island is a unique place to visit in Europe with so much raw beauty

So what makes Achill Island so special? Well, for starters, it is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes imaginable. The island, located along the Wild Atlantic Way, brims with rolling green hills, picturesque beaches, and rugged cliffs that will take your breath away.

This is the perfect destination if you’re a fan of nature, culture, and a good pint of Guinness. It’s a place to escape the crowds and experience something truly authentic and immersive. Plus, it’s an underrated destination, so you won’t have to deal with those pesky tourists clogging up all the best sights (not that there’s anything wrong with tourists, of course – they just tend to ruin everything).

If you’re looking to explore Ireland anytime soon, I highly recommend spending time in the western part of the country. Just be sure to bring a good raincoat – it is Ireland, after all.

Rocky coastline of the Isle of Man: Majestic cliffs and rugged terrain meet the crashing waves
So many visitors of Ireland make it to the Cliffs of Moher. However, if you head further north, you’ll be treated to unspoiled landscapes like this.

15. Pag Island, Croatia

Pag Island is one of Croatia’s 1,200 islands in the Adriatic Sea, which may explain how it’s managed to keep a low profile and remain one of the best hidden places in Europe.

Church of St. Mary on Pag Island
Church of St. Mary on Pag Island, one of the best secret and underrated places in Europe.

What to See and Do in Pag Island

Unlike other islands in Croatia, which tend to be tropical and covered with dense vegetation, Pag Island is almost otherworldly. It looks more like the moon than our own planet. There are no rivers and trees; instead, the arid landscape is draped with white stones and lots of salt. It’s no wonder why Pag has become a desirable destination for salt-of-the-earth people and beachgoers alike.

Pag Island in Croatia
Pag Island in Croatia is among the best kept secrets and hidden gems in Europe.

The northern part of Pag Island is known for its sprightly nightlife scene, while the south is quieter and more serene.

A myriad of secluded beaches are sprinkled around the island. The coastline is relatively calm, with shallow coves and crystal-clear water. Top beaches include Zrce Beach, Strasko Beach, and Spiaggia di Rucica.

In addition to the exotic terrain, Pag Island is also famed for its sheep milk cheese. It’s widely considered the best artisan cheese from Croatia. To go with it, be sure to try the Pag Zutica (local white wine) and Pag Lamb.

Where Is It?

Pag Island is just 35 miles (56 km) north of Zadar, Croatia, which is roughly a two-hour bus ride.

To arrive here, you’ll want to fly into Zadar and then take a bus connection from there. During the summer, there are also connections to a few other major cities: Split, Zagreb, and Rijeka. However, these cities are much further away than Zadar, so you’re better off flying through there.

It’s not super convenient to get to, which may explain why it’s not as well known.

16. Kazimierz Dolny, Poland

When most international travelers think of Poland, the first places that probably come to mind are Warsaw and Kraków. However, there’s a small town nestled between these cities that’s equally lovely yet doesn’t draw the same crowds. 

With a population of only 3,500, Kazimierz Dolny has mostly flown under the radar of European tourism. It’s undoubtedly one of the best unknown places in Europe.

Kazimierz Dolny in the winter.
Kazimierz Dolny is one of the best hidden gems in Europe during all months of the year. However, if you really want to have the place to yourself, consider visiting in the winter.

What to See and Do

If you like art, you’ll feel right at home in Kazimierz Dolny. The streets are like an endless art exhibition. You’ll find art galleries on almost every street, where artists and painters eagerly set up shop to sell their work. 

Fittingly, the homes and shops lining these streets are also vibrant and colorful. For these reasons, Kazimierz Dolny has a reputation for being among the top art hubs in central Europe.

On a more solemn note, Kazimierz Dolny is also home to the Holocaust Memorial Wall. In this town’s long history, it’s important to acknowledge the good and the bad. The Holocaust Memorial Wall is a place of contemplation and reflection, just a short walk from the city center.

Another top attraction in Kazimierz Dolny is its Old Market Square. It’s much smaller than that of Kraków (which happens to be the largest among Europe’s medieval squares), but it definitely merits a visit to marvel at the extraordinary architecture. 

The small square can quickly fill up with Polish tourists during the summer. So, if you’d like to have the square all to yourself, stop by early in the morning.

Kazimierz Dolny in Poland
Kazimierz Dolny in Poland is one of the best secret places and underrated cities in Europe.

Where Is It?

Kazimierz Dolny is just 90 miles (145 km) southeast of Warsaw and 160 miles (260 km) northeast of Kraków. Generally speaking, the trains in Poland are very reliable and inexpensive, so you should have no problem jumping between cities. 

However, in the case of Kazimierz Dolny—a small town in the countryside—you’ll likely want to take a train to Bakowiec and then complete the rest of the journey by bus or taxi.

Whether you’re a history buff or an art enthusiast, you’ll agree that Kazimierz Dolny is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.

17. Mdina, Malta

When you’re standing on the streets of Mdina, you feel like you’re in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East all at once.

This enchanting city has been a prized fortification for nearly 2,700 years. Many powerful empires, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, and Normans, influenced its architecture. Today, it’s undoubtedly one of the best hidden vacation spots in Europe.

A charming narrow street with a clock tower in the background in the city of Mdina
Mdina has been a home for noble families from Malta, Spain, and Sicily since the 12th century. It’s one of the best underrated cities to visit in Europe.

What to See and Do in One of Europe’s Top Hidden Gem Vacation Spots

Every history and architecture aficionado should visit the walled city of Mdina. Founded in the 12th century, St. Paul’s Cathedral is probably the most magnificent building in town. Much of the structure we see today is in the Baroque style and dates back to the late 1600s.

If you’re a Game of Thrones enthusiast, you’ll definitely want to add Mdina to your bucket list as well. The Mdina Gate and Fort were used as filming locations for King’s Landing and the Red Keep.

I was also amazed by Mdina’s quiet, narrow streets and the timeless charm that lingers in the air. At night, the streets of Mdina become lamp-lit and eerily silent, hence its nickname “the Silent City.”

This definitely aligns with Mdina’s reputation as a European hidden gem.

A narrow alley in Valletta, Malta's old city, showcasing its historic beauty and architectural charm
Mdina was once the capital of Malta, but today only has a population of 300 people. It attracts 80,000 tourists each year, which means you’ll basically have the place to yourself.

Where Is It?

Mdina is only 8 miles (13 km) from Malta’s capital, Valletta. However, due to heavy traffic, it’s about a one-hour bus ride away. Malta may be a small and compact island, but it’s among the most densely populated countries in the world. It’s also one of the world’s most Instagrammable countries.

18. Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt comes with a steep price tag, unlike the other European destinations on this list, which are relatively inexpensive. But when you consider its setting amid lofty snow-capped mountains, ritzy resorts, and charming cottages, it’s definitely worth every Swiss Franc.

Zermatt is a popular ski resort town among wealthy social circles. However, for the rest of us, it’s definitely one of the best hidden vacation spots in Europe.

What to See and Do

Zermatt fills the foyer with many prominent roles throughout the year. From January to March, Zermatt is a winter wonderland and has a lively après ski scene. From April onwards, it transitions into a summer resort location, though you can still spot plenty of snow covering the iconic Matterhorn (elevation: 14,692 ft. / 4,478 m) in August. 

If you are a chocolate connoisseur (like myself), prepare to be blown away: the Matterhorn is the mountain on the Toblerone bars. Fun fact!

Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland
Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. Though not totally unknown, it’s among the best underrated places to visit in Europe.

Marie-Lise is a digital marketing consultant with a hospitality background based in Switzerland. Here’s why she thinks you should visit Zermatt:

“Zermatt is beautiful during all times of the year. In the winter, the snow-covered mountains are ideal for skiing. During the summer, Zermatt becomes a haven for hikers. Regardless of the time of year, you’ll have the chance to see Switzerland’s most breathtaking landscapes.”

– Marie-Lise (Graduate of École Hôtelière de Lausanne and Glion Institute of Higher Education)

Where Is It?

Zermatt is located in southern Switzerland along the Swiss-Italian border. The closest airports to Zermatt are Sion and Geneva, though Zurich and Milan are also within reach. The last leg of the journey is by taking the mountain cog railway from Tasch, which gives you an incredible perspective of the Swiss Alps.

​​ 🇨🇭 Gornergratbahn│Zermatt – Gornergrat The Matterhorn Railway │Train Switzerland | Mount Matterhorn

Though a sought-after destination among hikers and skiers, Interlaken definitely overshadows Zermatt. It’s also much smaller and less accessible than other Alpine towns further north.

Stay in a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb with views of these snowcapped mountains, and you’ll see why it’s one of the best lesser known places in Central Europe.

Read next: Top Airbnb Stays in Switzerland

19. Figeac, France

Figeac is one of the most underrated and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The town’s Wikipedia page has less than 50 words written about it, proving its surreptitious nature.

Figeac is quiet and quaint, and it probably best depicts what life was like during the Middle Ages. It’s also one of the best unknown places in Europe.

Château de Saint Dau in Figeac
Château de Saint Dau in Figeac is one of the best unknown places to visit in Europe.

What to See and Do

In Figeac, a cheerful mix of timber and stone buildings blur into the surrounding landscape. Gentle rolling hills and waterways skirt around the beautiful village, a raw and unfettered taste of the French countryside. Figeac is where history and nature harmoniously intersect.

What makes this town intriguing and different from the rest is that no one or two dominant attractions lure visitors. Only a handful of TripAdvisor “Things to Do” have garnered any reviews. Rather than enticing tourists with specific sights and attractions, Figeac’s irresistible draw is its timeless charm.

The cobbled streets, 13th-century buildings, and sublime landscapes all speak for themselves. It’s quite refreshing to find a destination that’s retained its sense of liberty and authenticity without the buttress of social media and online reviews.

If you’re looking for that extra bit of pizzazz to spark your wanderlust, you may find this interesting: Jean-François Champollion, the famous French scholar who deciphered the Egyptian Hieroglyphics. was born here. There’s even a museum dedicated to him and his journey to uncover ancient history’s biggest riddle. Inside the Musée Champollion, you’ll also find an incredible reproduction of the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone replica in Figeac, France.
The Rosetta Stone replica in Figeac, France.

For those who enjoy the outdoors, Figeac is a great place for hiking and canoeing. On Saturdays, there’s also an elaborate market where you can buy local produce. It probably hasn’t changed much in several hundred years, and that’s the beauty of it.

Where Is It?

Figeac is essentially the midpoint between Toulouse, Montpellier, and Bordeaux. It’s just a 2-hour drive north from Toulouse, 3 hours northwest of Montpellier, and 3 hours east of Bordeaux. The map below will help you visualize this better.

Though Figeac is within striking distance of many large French cities, it’s one of the country’s best-kept secrets. As such, Figeac is among the top unique places in Europe to visit in 2024.

Read next: Coolest Airbnb Rentals in the French Riviera

20. Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Most of these European hidden gems have been centered around lesser-known cities and towns, so here’s a top nature getaway.

Triglav National Park is Slovenia’s lone national park and largest protected area. It’s located in the eastern part of the Julian Alps and is home to the highest mountain in the country, Triglav (9,395 ft. / 2,863.65 m from sea level). Here’s why it’s one of Europe’s hidden gems:

Triglav National Park in Slovenia
Triglav National Park in Slovenia is about as beautiful as it gets.

What to See and Do

If you want to get off the beaten track in the Julian Alps, this is it. Take a walk along the hiking trail at Triglav National Park, where natural beauty meets cultural heritage. As you explore the beautiful lakes, streams, mountains, and villages, it’s easy to see why this park has inspired people for generations.

Go hiking and mountain climbing to soak in the unique valleys and mountains. The scenery here is breathtaking, especially during the autumn when the trees are ablaze in fall colors. When you’re visiting Triglav National Park, be sure to spend ample time relaxing, unwinding, and staying connected with nature.

Triglav the highest mountain in Slovenia
Triglav is the highest mountain in Slovenia and the highest peak of the Julian Alps.

Where Is It?

Triglav National Park is in northern Slovenia near the borders of Italy and Austria. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Villach, Austria, and an hour from Ljubljana (Slovenia’s capital). The park is also a short drive from Lake Bled, another of my favorite European hidden gems.

A beautiful waterfall in Triglav National Park.
Triglav National Park is brimming with breathtaking waterfalls.

21. Visby, Sweden

Nestled on the Swedish island of Gotland, Visby is a medieval town with lots of charm. It’s tucked away from the typical tourist crowd and is only really popular amongst Scandinavians. This is the one if you’re looking for an authentic Swedish experience.

Aerial view of Visby, Sweden with medieval buildings, cobblestone streets, and red rooftops
Visby, Sweden

What to See and Do

Visby is best known for its Medeltidsveckan (“Medieval Week”), a large medieval festival that runs from June to August and includes fairytale-esque events like jousting, street performances, and concerts. The best part? You get to wear Swedish medieval attire! I wouldn’t want to drink my Swedish lager any other way.

Adding to Visby’s medieval charm is a 700-year-old wall that circles the town. Visby has played a key strategic and commercial role in the Baltic Sea from the Middle Ages through today.

Visby a colorful coastal town.
Visby is a colorful coastal town.

Where Is This Cool Europe Hidden Gem?

Located in the Baltic Sea, Visby (and Gotland) are accessible by boat and plane. Most visitors come here via direct flight from Stockholm (35 minutes) or as a port city during a Baltic Cruise. It’s also around 3 hours by ferry from Nynashamn and Oskarshamn, Sweden.

Frequently Asked Questions About Unique Places to Visit in Europe

Here are some common questions (and answers) about the most underrated European cities and other hidden gems in Europe.

Why Should I Visit a Hidden Gem in Europe?

There are so many awesome reasons to visit a hidden gem in Europe! These destinations are the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the more touristy destinations. You can enjoy a slower pace of life, and take the time to really explore and appreciate the local culture. Plus, lesser known spots are often much more budget-friendly than the more well-known destinations.

What Is the Most Underrated Place in Europe?

The most underrated place in Europe is probably Moldova. It’s a small, landlocked country in Eastern Europe that tourists often overlook in favor of more well-known destinations like France and Italy. But trust me, Moldova has a lot to offer! It’s home to beautiful forests, rolling hills, and a rich cultural heritage. 

Plus, the wine is top-notch – you won’t find a better deal on a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon anywhere else in the world! So if you want to experience the best of Europe without the crowds and tourist traps, Moldova might be the place for you. Just be sure to pack your sense of adventure – and a designated driver if you plan on sampling the local vino!

The Church of the Holy Cross nestled in the park, surrounded by lush greenery and a serene atmosphere
Moldova is a hidden European destination that doesn’t get enough love

Are Hidden Gems in Europe Safe to Visit?

Like any destination, it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take common sense precautions. However, hidden gems in Europe are generally very safe places to visit. These destinations are often located off the beaten path, meaning they are less crowded and touristy, and therefore may have less crime.

What Is the Best Way to Find Hidden Gems in Europe?

One of the best ways to find hidden gems in Europe is to do your research and dig a little deeper. Look for destinations that are a little off the beaten path, and read reviews and blogs from other travelers who have visited the area. You can also ask locals for recommendations, as they often have insider knowledge about the best hidden gems in the area.

A man standing on a wooden bridge over a mountain lake
There are so many unique nature places to visit in Europe

Can I Visit a Hidden Gem in Europe on a Budget?

Absolutely! Hidden gems in Europe are often much more budget-friendly than well-known destinations, allowing you to stretch your travel budget a little further. Plus, these destinations are often located off the beaten path, which means that you’ll have access to more authentic and local experiences rather than the overpriced tourist traps that you’ll find in more popular destinations. 

Have You Been to Any of These ‘Best’ Hidden Gems in Europe?

If so, let me know which is your favorite! If not, I hope some of these places make it onto your bucket list!

These best hidden gems in Europe come in all shapes and sizes. I hope this article piqued your interest and introduced you to a few under-the-radar destinations and hidden vacation spots in Europe.

To follow my journey through Europe and around the world, feel free to connect with me on Instagram: @Global.Viewpoint!

Happy Travels! -Jon

Europe's hidden gems: quaint villages, stunning landscapes, and historic landmarks off the beaten path
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6 comments

marvike October 25, 2019 - 07:25

I also enjoyed myself while I was visiting this kind of places.

Reply
Global Viewpoint January 16, 2020 - 09:48

Awesome! Glad to hear it!

Reply
Tom April 22, 2019 - 05:12

Great post! I haven’t visited any of these hidden gems yet but definitely add to the list! Happy travels to you Jon and keep up the good work 🙂

Reply
Global Viewpoint April 29, 2019 - 14:32

Thanks Tom! Glad to hear that your bucket list grew a little longer! There are so many incredible places scattered around the continent. Happy travels!!

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Margit Ausserhofer April 19, 2019 - 02:38

You are presenting a great mixture of European gems. I‘ve been to four of them: Mittenwald (several times), St. Gilgen (also several times), Zermatt and Mdina. All four of them are really beautiful places. I‘ll visit Perast and the Bay of Kotor in May and I‘m looking forward to this visit. Unfortunately I can‘t decide for a favorite, but probably St. Gilgen because of the mountains and the lake.

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Global Viewpoint April 20, 2019 - 23:49

Wow! That’s wonderful that you’ve visited so many of these hidden gems! I’ll have to make this list a little longer 🙂 Hope you enjoy your trip to Perast this May! Happy Travels!

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