Updated: 12th January 2023

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Exploring the best hidden gems in Europe often means slow-rumbling scenic bus journeys through less-traversed valleys, epic hikes to almost-forgotten hamlets, or heart-thumping sailings to windswept isolated isles.

Some may call that inconvenient. I call it winning.

If you’re happiest pointing to a random place on a map called Počitelj – as I am often inclined – and dutifully heading there on a whim, then this list, my friends, is for you.

Of course, going off the beaten path in Europe will mean something different for everyone. Thus, I’ve aimed to include a decent balance between remote isles, secluded villages, under-the-radar sustainable city breaks, and lesser-visited lofty peaks.

Whether you’re looking for unique places to visit in Europe or just a city break that isn’t one of the usual suspects, I hope you’ll find a favourite amongst my picks of the best places to visit in Europe this year.

In no particular order, enjoy my 23 best Europe hidden gems for 2023 – let the new year of adventures commence!

Views over an Ottoman village in Bosnia Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a land relatively undiscovered by tourists

1. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Remotest Corners

One of the best hidden gems in Europe for adventure activities, Ottoman architecture and remote communities

Can I get away with calling a whole county a hidden gem? Maybe not. Yet, for the most part, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a relatively off-the-beaten-path – and affordable – destination in Europe.

After two deep dive visits, I’m convinced the country’s greatest asset is the mesmerising near-photoshopped lakes, the lush countryside, and the lofty hiking trails.

While Mostar is rightly famed for its Ottoman architecture and history-defining bridge, ‘doing’ B&H as a day trip from Dubrovnik will never give the nation the justice it deserves.

Some of my favourite lesser-visited spots ripe for adventure activities include the Neretva River and Zavala. Konjic is the place to go for relaxing river rafting – the water is so clear it might as well be Evian. Kravica Waterfall is another epic water-heavy spot, and the cascades are beyond photogenic.

In Zavala – population two – you can spend the night sleeping in a converted railway station. The abandoned tracks have now been reimagined as an epic cycling adventure. Heaven-reaching Bjelašnica mountain is also rich in trails, leading you to Lukomir, the most isolated hamlet in the country. Here, 1,495 meters above sea level, a community of shepherds, ancient tombstones, and timelessness await.

But the real magic for me in Bosnia and Herzegovina is those little moments. Whether it’s being serenaded by guitar as a chatty host pours homemade wine in Zavala, or sipping a sand-boiled Bosnian coffee overlooking the minarets of Ottoman Počitelj, it’s those journey-defining memories that capture the essence of ‘hidden Europe’ at its best.

Plan your trip: Don’t rush; 7-14 days allows for a deeper dive into these unique places. Late spring through autumn is most suited for outdoor adventures, while winter brings snow and skiing to the peaks. Off-road jeep tours to the mountains can be good for reaching the remote villages, and Highlander Adventures offer a 5-day hiking tour on the Via Dinarica.

Top tip: If you’re struggling to find Sarajevo flights, check Tuzla or Dubrovnik as an alternative.

View of the Graz River Mur
View of the River Mur in Graz, an underrated European city break

2. Graz, Austria

One of the most underrated European cities for a sustainable city break, served with a first-class culinary scene and architectural treasures

Graz, Austria’s second-largest city, is still something of a hidden gem on Europe’s city-break scene. Partly due to the lack of direct flight connections, but also because it doesn’t have the legendary status that Salzburg, Vienna or even the Austrian Alps commandeer. Don’t let that deter you; it’s very much the green city’s appeal.

Not only is Graz an extremely sustainable city break (especially if you arrive flight-free), but its setting, surrounded by the Styrian countryside, promises plenty of farm-to-fork dining. Prepare to reconsider all your ideas about Austrian cuisine, as this city takes fresh produce, creative recipes, and vegetarian plates to another level.

Graz's Clock Tower
Graz’s Clock Tower

Unsurprisingly for a city which has earned two UNESCO designations, there are plenty of things to do in Graz.

On the one hand, Graz’s historic World Heritage-listed core delivers everything you’d expect from a grand European city. There are Italian-esque courtyards aplenty, medieval cobbled streets, the remains of a hilltop fortress, frescoed facades, grand avenues, and church spires climbing to the heavens.

Then you have the other side, where Graz’s status as a ‘City of Design’ shines through. A floating artificial island doubles as a small gallery, a somewhat out-of-place modern art museum presents like a tentacled alien, and up-and-coming neighbourhoods capture the best of off the beaten path Europe.

Graz is a city best savoured slowly; indeed one of my favourite unusual European destinations for a city-cum-countryside getaway.

Graz Old Town

Read more:
Graz travel guide

Plan your trip: Stay at least two nights to soak up the city’s atmosphere; Graz is one of those places where it is just a pleasure to be and explore slowly. Summer and autumn are my suggestions.

Top tip: Trains are the best way to arrive to this Europe hidden gem, either from Vienna (2:30 hours) or Salzburg (4 hours). FlixBus also has long-distance connections.

Pico, a Europe hidden gem
Pico remains very much a hidden gem in Europe

3. Pico Island, The Azores, Portugal 

One of the best places to visit in Europe for lofty hikes, lava tunnel exploration, Atlantic swell and inspiring wines

With a flurry of new flight routes launching in 2023 – from as far afield as Boston and NYC – the Azores are enjoying a moment in the spotlight. While most attention is focused on São Miguel, the largest isle of the nine-strong archipelago, for a more off-the-beaten-path experience venture to Pico.

Literally called ‘peak’, it should be no surprise Portugal’s highest mountain crowns this verdant-cerulean speck in the Atlantic Ocean.

Towering up to the heavens – and often piercing the clouds – Mount Pico’s summit rewards with far-reaching vistas from 2,351 metres. New restrictions have come into force in 2023 to protect the fragile landscape, and a guide is highly recommended, especially on a night hike.

Inside a Lava Tube in the Azores
Inside a Lava Tube in Pico, Azores

Adventures also continue far below the surface at Gruta das Torres. Here, you can venture inside the dark depths of the largest lava tube in Portugal and explore more of this unique island.

Back at ground zero, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pico’s vineyards provides a delicious curiosity. Weathered vines rise from the black volcanic rock, telling the back-breaking story of creating viniculture in such an adverse setting.

Then, out in the deep blue, marine-biologist-led boat tours will help you spot dolphins and whales in the wild. This hidden gem of Europe isn’t so easy to visit, but it certainly delivers the goods. 

Plan your trip: If you don’t want to DIY-it, Intrepid Travel offers this fast-paced 7-day tour of the Azores, including Pico. Sao Miguel is the primary international airport of the archipelago. Allow at least a week to hop the central three island group of Pico, Faial and São Jorge. Winter can be windy and wet – you’re isolated in the middle of the Atlantic.

Top tip: If you want to travel across the majority of the archipelago by ferry, the long-distance route only runs in summer.

4. Villa Romana del Casale, Italy 

One of the the best hidden gems in Europe for Roman mosaics on the grandest scale

At Villa Romana del Casale, you’ll find what UNESCO call “the finest mosaics in situ anywhere in the Roman world”.

While it might seem that such treasures should be in and around Rome, this well-preserved example is actually in the sun-kissed southern island of Sicily.

As you slowly stroll through the vast villa – constructed in the 4th century AD – you’ll have a constant stream of story-depicting tiles to admire which decorate every inch of floor below the raised walkways. It’s an absolutely mind-blowing site, deserving of its UNESCO recognition, and delivers a cultural side to everything else that Sicily, one of the best islands to visit, offers.

If you aren’t that far south but still want mosaic marvels, head to Palestrina, a 70-minute bus ride from Rome. Here, inside the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Palestrina, you can see the Hellenistic Nile Mosaic, which pre-dates christ. It’s a remarkable and detailed artwork depicting mythical scenes of Egypt.

Plan your trip: Most of the site is covered, so good year-round. Allow at least two hours for a visit. Day tours from Palermo, which combine Villa Romana del Casale and the Valley of the Temples, can be worth booking if you’re short on time.

Top tip: On arrival at Piazza Armerina, shared taxis usually wait if you don’t want to walk. The cost is around €5pp.

Vipava Valley Slovenia
Beautiful roads in the Vipava Valley of Slovenia

5. Vipava Valley, Slovenia

Perfect for a mountain-backed eco-escape cycling between vineyards and private cellars

Slovenia’s finally getting the attention it deserves. The green city of Ljubljana is becoming a popular weekend break, and the mystical magic of Lake Bled is now a firm traveller favourite.

However, as I see from my Slovenian friends on Facebook, their beloved capital is starting to suffer over-tourism and the related property rent issues that always follow.

Thankfully, much of this lush country remains blissfully off the beaten path, and Vipava Valley is undoubtedly one of Europe’s best hidden gems for now.

Vipava Valley, a Europe hidden gem in Slovenia
Village views in the Vipava Valley

Slow travel and sustainability aren’t buzzwords in Slovenia; they are a way of life, and nowhere is this truer than in Vipava Valley. A gorgeous canvas of greenery, hills and vineyards, you could easily mistake this for a Tuscan painting at first glance.

The joy of visiting Vipava is found while cycling or hiking between the hamlets, heading into the art-inspiring mountains, Paragliding powered by the valley’s beloved wind – affectionately nicknamed The Burja – or sampling every zero-kilometre food morsel that is put in front of you.

Then, there are the home-grown wines. With an unknown number of wine cellars here – everyone seems to have one under their house – even the most inauspicious homes often double up as a restaurant. Sipping these signature grapes, such as the indigenous Zelen, while hearing stories of times gone by in candle-lit cellars, is a travel memory you’ll treasure.

Plan your trip: Ideal for a long weekend or even one week – this underrated destination in Europe is a slow travel destination. Visit from spring through autumn. Trieste, in Italy, is a good arriving point, given Sloevenia’s limited flights.

Top tip: If you want to side trip from Ljubljana without a designated driver, there are day wine tours available. Or, get in touch with my friend Jani at Wajdusna for an active e-bike trip between the vines.

Leon Cathedral's stained glass
Leon Cathedral’s stained glass

6. León, Spain

One of the best hidden gems in Europe for architecture-admirers seeking a laid-back city break

Spain is home to many of Europe’s hidden gems, even though they are often significant and famed cities. There are just frankly too many destinations in the country to visit, which makes even places like León something of an unusual Europe destination for many travellers.

But it shouldn’t be. This city has the lot.

There’s a great food scene, with an abundance of mouthwatering free-tapas bars packing out the pedestrianised centre. The nightlife is excellent while staying reasonably laid-back, and the city is compact, with the pumping bar quarter a labyrinth of delicious treats and late-night laughter.

Casa Botines from behind
Casa Botines, designed by Gaudī

León’s main draw, however, is its architecture – and being home to one of Gaudí’s designs has ensured it’s not an off the beaten path European destination for fans of the flamboyant architect. Casa Botines, one of his only works outside Catalonia, brings a Modernist contrast to the city’s otherwise aged-architectural treasures.

From marvelling at the impeccable 13th-century stained-glass windows in the cathedral – some of the best in Europe – to taking in the Romanesque frescoes of the basilica, grandeur and superb artistry are on full display here.

León might not be the most secret spot in Europe, but it steps up to the challenge of diverting people from the likes of Madrid with glee.

Plan your trip: León’s architecture makes it one of the best cities in Spain at any time of the year, although winters can be chilly. Using high-speed rail, the journey from Madrid takes around 2 hours by train.

Top tip: Book a night in the Hotel Real Colegiata San Isidoro for an incredible heritage stay.

The Kazbegi region of Georgia
The Kazbegi region of Georgia

7. The Georgian Caucasus Mountains

One of the best Europe hidden gems for an affordable mountain retreat of epic hikes

Spanning from Georgia to Azerbaijan and connecting two continents, the Georgian Caucasus Mountains offer incredible hiking trails in the warmer months, while winter brings snowy escapades.

Georgia, especially the capital city of Tbilisi, has been gaining popularity in the digital nomad community for years, thanks to the one-year visa and low nomad tax rates. Still, you’ll find the real community magic of the nation amongst the highest peaks.

Dormant Mount Kazbek, climbing to an elevation of 5,055 metres, is a real sight to behold. The surrounding area around Stepantsminda – a starting-point town – is one of the most popular year-round destinations thanks to its position on the principal Georgia to Russia highway keeping this range (usually) accessible.

Monasteries sit above the clouds, friendly dogs will volunteer to be your trekking ‘guides’, and hospitable homestays will start as a place to crash, before quickly becoming a home with new Chacha (home-brewed brandy) plying friends. The food, from twisted-dough Khinkali dumplings to the cheese-stuffed Khachapuri bread, is the pièce de résistance.

Plan your trip: Outstanding year-round, the snowy peaks can make road access in winter an occasional challenge. Kutaisi airport usually provides more affordable flight connections than Tbilisi. Either come for a couple of days or a more extended hiking escape.

Top tip: Public buses are cheap and relatively frequent from Tbilisi, while group day tours provide an easy, and still affordable, option.

Canals in The Hague
The Hague – an alternative European destination to Amsterdam

8. The Hague, The Netherlands

One of the best places to visit in Europe for politics and history, beach bars and brews, and plenty of learning

The Hague is one of my favourite underrated European city breaks, and it’s fair to say I was shocked by how cool it is.

For many, Amsterdam is the one-stop go-to in The Netherlands, leaving much of the nation’s other destinations as Europe hidden gem. While that might not be the case here – the city’s world-famous for its international courts – it makes for a great weekend without the often unbearable crowds of the capital.

I was impressed with the fantastic food and bar scene, especially for vegetarians . Then there are the in-depth and fascinating museums such as the refugee-focused Humanity House (currently closed) and the Mauritshuis, home to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Along the golden sand beach, there are plenty of chic beach clubs, and of course, the critical work the city does internationally for Peace and Justice.

It might not have as many canals or the coffee shops of Amsterdam, but it makes up for it with the laid-back vibes, friendly locals, and culture to gorge on. Seriously, if you are looking for a new European city break in 2023, you can’t go wrong with The Hague.

Plan your trip: The Hague makes a decent year-round visit. The beaches are best in summer, and September is a great time to visit. It’s also a more laid-back base to Amsterdam for day trips.

Top tip: The Peace Palace only opens for general public tours a few days of the year. If you want to visit, plan dates around the Peace and Justice weekend.

BeratAlbaniaWhiteCity
Berat, Albania

9. Berat, Albania

One of the best Europe hidden gems for an enchanting village escape after the beaches

Berat – Albania’s cutest village – is often called the ‘City of a Thousand Windows’. On arrival, it’s obvious why, as you gawk at the whitewashed Ottoman houses hugging the side of the fortress-crowned hill.

Atop it all is Berat Castle, with its more than 2500 years of history. Much of what you see today dates from the 13th century, though Byzantine churches are still visible. We arrived here intending to spend one night in the castle walls, but quickly extended our stay to enjoy two days in Berat.

Albania, in general, has recently gone from a lesser-visited hidden gem in Europe, to an in-the-know paradisiacal beach escape. Still, the country’s interior has plenty more to offer, including Gjirokaster, Lake Komani and Bogovë Nature Park – especially the secluded waterfall.

If you don’t have The Balkans on your radar, take a virtual tour of Muslim Europe in the delightful book Minarets in the Mountains. Written by my fellow LP-writer Tharik Hussain, it provides a look at the Muslim history of Europe that’s often not spoken about. 

Europe hidden gem

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Albania in photos

Plan your trip: Many people visit Berat as a stop between Tirana and Ksamil’s beaches. But do yourself a favour and stay at least one night – the wide windows under the orange hue make for a magnificent evening setting.

Top tip: Stay in the castle walls. I adored Guesthouse Kris, and the hosts were super friendly – we’re still in touch years later.

The Cinema of Nature
The Cinema of Nature, Leogang, Austria

10. The Asitz Mountain, Austria

One of the most unique places to visit in Europe for a sustainable summer hike of culture, art and escapism

One of my most recent Europe hidden gem finds is the region of Saalfelden Leogang, set in the Austrian Alps. While many would think of this corner of the world as the ideal winter ski destination, I visited at the start of summer and boy, am I glad I did.

The two towns that make up this region are adorable. Saalfelden is more urban, Leogang is more rural, and the entire valley is absolutely stunning. However, the main reason to venture to this part of Austria is for an unforgettable mountain experience atop the lofty peaks of the Asitz Mountain.

Reaching 655 metres at its highest, this beautiful winter ski destination is also renowned for exhilarating and intense mountain biking routes. Locally known as ‘the mountain of senses’, there is much more to this part of the jagged range than just extreme sports.

Austria's hidden gems of Europe
The Asitz Mountain

Something of a secret European destination still, culture lovers will be well rewarded after riding the gondola to the top. Summer sees art and sculpture trails through the forest for the eyes, water features for paddling, herb gardens for the senses, a ‘nature cinema’, and most magically, outdoor concerts performed against an incredible mountain lake backdrop.

You’ll also find cultured wooden huts – TONspurs – on the mountain. Inside, you can lay back and enjoy the panorama while listening to previous concerts playing through the headrest. Honestly, it’s one of my new favourite European destinations.

Plan your trip: A long weekend or even longer – this is a slow travel destination. In summer, it’s all about hikes and the arts, while the winter snow brings skiing and snowboarding. Train travel from the UK is possible by overnighting and then taking the Alpine Express. The nearest airports are Innsbruck and Salzburg.

Top tip: Stay at the Stockinggut Leogang. It’s a great spot with grand views. See my review here.

Sunset on the 9km golden beach in Porto Santo
Sunset on the 9km golden beach in Porto Santo

11. Porto Santo Island, Portugal

One of the hidden gems in Europe for lazy beach days and winter sun 

Madeira, one of my favourite islands, is another Portuguese destination enjoying its moment in the spotlight. But the largest isle, renowned for its epic hikes and volcanic coastline, isn’t the only option in the archipelago. 

A three-hour ferry away is Porto Santo, the ‘baby-sister’ if you will. Here, it’s a whole other vibe and picture, and the country’s newest biosphere reserve remains one the best off the beaten path Europe beach escapes.

Lauding a nine-kilometre stretch of golden sands – hard to find on the main island where darker shores prevail– this is a perfect place to bury yourself in a book and top-up the tan. For some soft adventure, the rolling hills backing the island make for easy hiking routes.

With a mixture of accommodation options, ranging from upscale resorts to down-to-earth home rentals, Porto Santo is all about easy days relaxing, rounded off with fresh-seafood and spectacular sunsets. Honestly, it’s more of a beach with an island than an island with a beach.

Beautiful Madeira

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Madeira in photos

Plan your trip: You could enjoy a beach week or make it a short visit combined with Madeira. The climate is fairly decent year-round. In winter, I basically had the whole beach to myself – though it wasn’t quite tanning weather.

Top tip: It’s often easier and cheaper to fly to Madeira and take the ferry than into Porto Santo directly. In summer, a ferry service operates from mainland Portugal to Madeira for a flight-free choice.

Castelmezzano, one of the prettiest hidden gems in Europe
Castelmezzano, one of the prettiest hidden gems in Europe

12. Castelmezzano, Italy

One of the most unique places to visit in Europe for that dream mountain village getaway

Perched against the backdrop of the Dolomiti Lucane, Castelmezzano is one of Italy’s most beautiful small villages.

We stumbled upon it after a last-minute detour decision during a southern Italy road trip, and my heart leapt the second the cluster of ochre roofs came into view. Set in the lesser-visited European region of Basilicata, head here for a countryside bolthole.

On the opposite mountain, you’ll find Castelmezzano’s ‘twin’ – Pietrapertosa. Linking them both is The Angel’s Flight– a high-speed zip wire that whisks you between these two beguiling peak-snuggled villages.

While the town is mesmerising – especially when viewed from a distance to admire its unique location – the surrounding area is full of epic hikes, forests and a national park. The age-old charm of an overnight stay in Castelmezzaono’s 10th century settlement makes it a firm Europe hidden gem favourite.

Plan your trip: This is a real ‘get away from it’ kind of village. You can either stay a while and become part of the furniture or call in on a road trip around southern Italy. The zip-line usually shutters from November until May.

Top tip: Don’t miss the city of Matera, a magical land of caves, ancient underground living, and storied streets.

Durham Castle as seen from the riverside
Durham Castle as seen from the riverside

13. Durham, England

One of the best places to visit in Europe for the quintessential British experience

If you are looking for a slice of English city-life with countryside charm, head to Durham.

Most famed for the UNESCO World Heritage-listed castle and cathedral – the oldest being from the 9th century – you’ll want to allow at least a half-day to tour both. There’s also a large university here, meaning plenty of good bars and decent restaurants – including ample vegetarian options.

Outside the city, you can ramble along the Durham Heritage Coast, a European hidden gem for its sea glass-strewn beach. Raby Castle – a privately owned medieval gem which has starred in Downton Abbey – can also be toured. 

Lastly, be sure to visit Beamish Museum, a living museum. I spent a full day here solo; it was that impressive! With an interactive museum-meets-theme-park vibe, you’ll discover the history of England from the 1800s onwards.

From fully staffed old-school sweet shops and dress-up photography studios to vintage trams and buses driving around, the experience is very much ‘lived history’ history. There are even actors in the ‘homes’ and ‘schools’.

Plan your trip: I’d suggest at least three days or a packed weekend. Then you can experience the city, a couple of castles and the fantastic Beamish Museum. As with everywhere in the UK, it’s best in the warmer and dryer months.

Top tip: Always book your train tickets in advance in the UK, it will save you a lot of money. Buses in the region are surprisingly decent, making sights easy to explore.

Sunrise Erfurt Thuringia
Sunrise at the Krämerbrücke (Merchants Bridge) in Erfurt

14. Erfurt and Thuringia, Germany

One of the most undiscovered cities in Europe for quaint corners, classical culture, library lovers and adapted accessibility 

Historic, charming and relatively compact, Erfurt is the capital of the Germany’s lesser-visited State of Thuringia.

The city dates back to around 700 AD and slowly became an important trading destination in the Middle Ages. Thanks to the Old Town surviving WWII, you can still experience it very much as it once was.

Home to Germany’s oldest university, it’s a classic city with a youthful vibe. In the summer months when I visited, the beer gardens were overflowing, walks along the river were divine, and an energy floated through the warm evening air that I hadn’t felt in other German cities. 

The main attractions are the hulking Gothic cathedral and the Petersberg Fortress. Krämerbrücke – a unique arched bridge with a central cobbled street and boutique stores – also deserves a special mention.

You can easily visit more of Europe’s hidden gems nearby, using Erfurt as a base. Weimar is especially worth the journey for the Renaissance-style Anna Amalia Library.

Anna_Amalia_Library-weimar

Read more:
Exploring Erfurt

Plan your trip: Spend a weekend in Erfurt, or one week exploring some of Thuringia’s highlights. Spring through autumn is the nicest. Frankfurt is the nearest major gateway (2:30 hours), and discounted train tickets are offered for those with booked hotels in the region. Erfurt is also one of the best barrier-free city breaks in Germany.

Top tip: Bundle up the regions of Thuringia and Saxony into a road trip. Combined, these two states are known as the Cultural Heart of Germany.

The view of old town Bansko and the snowy mountains
The view of Bansko Old Town and the snowy mountains

15. Bansko & Pirin National Park, Bulgaria

One of the best places to visit in Europe for excellent value skiing by winter and summer hiking

Bansko was meant to be my first skiing trip. Shortly after arrival, I discovered that I was terrible at the winter sport, and quickly resigned myself to being an avid après-skier instead.

Thankfully, a ski trip in Bansko doesn’t break the bank, making it one of the best choices for first-timers who don’t want to commit to expensive options in the Alps – or pros who seek a more off the beaten path Europe experience. 

For example, my chalet room, including dinners, breakfasts, transfers and drinks with Snomads, was around £300 for the week. Lessons and lift passes are also decently priced. Then – away from the slope’s inflated yet not too steep prices – the €1.55 G&Ts went down rather well too. 

Before the pistes, which begin a 30-minute Gondola ride from the resort town, you’ll find all you need in Bansko Old Town. Some streets are lined with heritage buildings, while house museums and a small but stunning Orthodox church provide the culture.

If you visit outside the ski season, you’ll still be able to enjoy the old town and head into the Pirin National Park for some much more verdant hiking to lakes.

A snowy road in bansko Bulgaria

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Skiing in Bansko

Plan your trip: Come for the hiking in summer or a skiing week in winter. An overnight stay is enough if you just want to explore the town and take a day hike. 

Top tip: If you want to continue to Plovdiv, the slow and scenic narrow-gauge train provides a pleasant meandering journey.

Arpino's sprawling town is one of the best places to see near Rome
Arpino sits on the Frosinone Valley’s slope

16. The Frosinone Valley, Italy

One of the best non touristy places to visit for a Rome side trip of verdant walks, offbeat villages, and vineyard vistas

Around halfway between Rome and Naples, the idyllic Province of Frosinone is situated in the southern part of the Lazio region.

Perhaps the most famous attraction here is the Abbey of Montecassino, a vast complex atop the hill in Cassino, which, following its destruction in World War Two, has subsequently been rebuilt.

However, I spent most of my time around the Valle di Comino. Some of Europe’s fiercest battles have taken place in these forested heartlands, but it’s now a serene setting of olive groves, mountains, and beautiful small villages.

If you’re seeking that dreamy and verdant Italy-from-the-movies feel, Frosinone will oblige. Sip delicious award-winning Cabernet in the vineyards of Atina. Discover Arpino – the ‘city of Cicero’ – and explore the ancient L’Acropoli di Civitavecchia. Then head to pretty-as-a-postcard San Donato Val di Comino for mountain-backed village views and overflowing tables in an agriturismos’ (rural farm accommodation) farm-to-fork restaurant.

Plan your trip: Spring through Autumn are great times to visit – I especially enjoy late September during the wine harvest. You could make this a little post-Rome getaway or a stand-alone extended vacation.

Top tip: Arpino is perhaps the best town to base yourself in for decent restaurants and a bit of life. For a more rural village stay, opt for a farm base in San Donato Val di Comino.

Restaurants on the Nisyros Waterfront
The volcanic island of Nisyros, in the Dodecanese islands

17. Nisyros Island, Greece

One of the best hidden gems in Europe for a whitewashed village escape on an Aegean-enveloped active volcano 

The volcanic island of Nisyros was one of my most accidental discoveries. In fact, I didn’t even know I was going to Greece until I got invited there on a second date. Sadly, the romance never blossomed, but I did replace it with a new lover: this European hidden gem in the Aegean Sea.

While the whole place is rather unique – it’s one hulking volcano – it is hugged by idyllic whitewashed villages serving up typical Greek traits. Tavernas dish out the staples, white and blue set the scene, and bright bougainvillaea adds a splash of colour.

But, what makes this hidden gem of Europe particularly impressive is Stefanos – one of the world’s largest hydrothermal craters. It’s not the only one, either; there are a handful of them on the island. Walking into the caldera, and standing on the space-like floor, is something of a surreal – and sulphur-filled – bucket list experience.

If you stay a while, you can explore the island’s coastal villages and lounge on the dark sand and pebble beaches. Nisyros is a solid pick for that laid-back Greek lifestyle without the overwhelming crowds of, say, Santorini.

Plan your trip: You can day-trip from Kos, spend a couple of days hiking, or enjoy a week or more escaping it all. While Greece is one of Europe’s warmest winter destinations, I’d suggest avoiding the chillier months.

Top tip: Ferries leave from Kardamena, Kos, or you can book a day tour in advance.

A giant boulder sits on top of a home in Monsanto, a Europe hidden gems In
Monsanto, boulders define the designs

18. Monsanto and Central Portugal’s Schist Villages

One of the most quirky places in europe for mind-boggling boulders, creative retreats, and near-empty trails

In Portugal’s parched interior, Monsanto is a pretty village lauding some unusual features. Boulders call all the shots here, making it a rather unique hidden gem of Europe.

Perched atop a volcanic massif with far-reaching views to the Spanish borders, the hamlet is littered with giant rocks. Not to be deterred from making it their home, previous residents have constructed houses alongside, between and even underneath precarious looking boulders.

Monsanto isn’t a place you come to do much, and that is very much the charm. There are excellent panoramas, the remains of the fortified castle, and a timeless air that sadly is getting lost in Portugal’s ever-growing tourism scene. Side trips include admiring ancient fossils in Penha Garcia, and visiting the remains of a Roman settlement in Idanaha-A-Velha.

Closer to Coimbra, you’ll find more Schist Villages in the Serra da Lousã. Cerdeira, which has been lovingly restored, now provides a bolthole for creativity, with some of hidden Europe’s most tucked-away workshops and retreats.

Plan your trip: Monsanto sits in the central sun-bleached heartlands. Intense heat defines summers, and cold snaps the winter. Come in spring or march, and stay at least a night or two to enjoy the magnificent sunsets.

Top tip: Day trips from Lisbon on public transport are almost impossible, so stay a night. You’ll need to book a tour if you just want a flying peek at Monsanto. 

19. Annecy, France 

One of the best places to visit in Europe for a pretty-as-a-postcard lakeside getaway 

Annecy, in southeastern France, was my last ‘Europe off the beaten path’ visit of 2022. On a gloriously sunny day, the Christmas markets I came for felt slightly out of place, but the charm of this small alpine town shined as brightly as the rays from above.

Walking the excellently preserved medieval centre – the Vieille Ville – you’ll cross canals flanked by pastel-coloured facades. On an island in the largest channel, Le Palais de I’Île, a small castle, hosts a mini museum and provides a prominent photo point. Château d’Annecy – a historical monument and castle – sits higher still and serves as a more impressive museum.

But, I found the real joy in simply ambling – both along the canals and cobbled streets and the lakeside Jardins de l’Europe. The town sits on the edge of Lake Annecy, one of the country’s cleanest, lending itself to waterside strolls. Beyond, the nearby mountain trails help you go off the beaten path in the Haute-Savoie surrounds. 

Plan your trip: Annecy is a pretty France weekend break year-round. In December, the Christmas markets added to the charm. It is fairly small, so it could be a day trip, or you can use it as a base to explore the nearby snow-capped peaks.

Top tip: If you’re a fine art enthusiast, take the 80-minute side trip to Grenoble for the Musêe de Grenoble. For a regional museum, it’s incredibly well stacked with masterpieces.

Dunrobin Castle
Like a fairytale, Dunrobin Castle

20. Sutherland and Moray, Scotland

One of the best places to visit in Europe for castle touring, coastal walking and clan learning  

Without heading to Scotland’s far-flung isles, it’s getting harder to find ‘hidden gems’ in the ever-popular nation. The mountainous country rich in lochs, legends, myths and munros is one of the most scenic escapes in Europe, and unfathomable crowds descend on the likes of Skye and Edinburgh Festivals in peak summer. 

Sutherland and Moray are two parts of Scotland I love, and you can base yourself bang in the middle in Inverness if you want to explore by public transport. While Inverness isn’t as grand as Edinburgh, the cathedral and castle make for a stately setting to call home.

In Sutherland, the show’s star is Dunrobin Castle, a grand – if relatively modern – turreted delight, set amongst perfectly manicured gardens. Moray brings the older sights, with the impressive ruins of Elgin Cathedral dating back to 1224.

Along this stretch of coast, you’ll find quaint villages and killer views, and hopefully, avoid the crowds heading to the West Highlands and famous valleys such as Glencoe. That said, the NC500 coastal route has become very popular in recent years, so it might be best to skip the high season.

Scottish mountains and lake

Read more:
Scotland road trip

Plan your trip: Either use Inverness as a base to experience the area, or even better, make it a Scotland road trip. Showers can come any time of year in Scotland, but avoiding winter weather and summer crowds is advisable.

Top tip: Dunrobin Castle is closed from November until March.

21. Lake of the Four Cantons, Switzerland

One of the best places to visit in Europe for spectacular backdrops with border-defining history

Switzerland’s lakes, mountains, timepieces, chocolates and banks have long appealed to those with the budget to travel the country. While it’s certainly not a cheap destination, free activities in the great outdoors can make it more palatable for your purse.

Lake Lucerne, or the Lake of the Four Cantons, is one of the country’s prettiest bodies of water. On the edge of the lake, you’ll find some Europe hidden gems such as Tellskapelle, the chapel honouring William Tell, Switzerland’s national hero.

While Tell himself is most likely mythical, the nearby towns provide genuine and important history for this famously neutral nation. In the cantons of Uri and Schwyz, the country established its independence – and two museums share the stories of those crucial days. 

Hiking trails along the water’s edge link some smaller towns together. Beyond the settlements, the backdrop of soaring mountains – with their elevations often reachable by cable car – captivate. 

Round off your visit in the larger city of Lucerne, where medieval architecture makes the Altstadt (Old Town) a pretty setting. Highlights include the Kapellbrücke – a 12th-century wooden bridge decorated with a series of triangular paintings – and the ‘saddest Lion statue’ in the world, a memorial monument dedicated to the Swiss Guards who died in the French Revolution.

Plan your trip: Spring through autumn is an excellent time to visit – I found October great. Plan a couple of days for village-hopping and at least one day in Lucerne. The public ferry pass could be good value if you want to see a few stops around the lake.

Top tip: Private boat tours allow for short sightseeing trips or more indulgent luxury lunch cruises.

Christmas lights and a church in Seiffen ore Mountains
The all-year-round Christmas village of Seiffen, Saxony

22. The Ore Mountains, Saxony

One of the best places to visit in Europe for Christmas traditions, mountain fare, and festive markets 

Look no further than the Ore Mountains for one of the best winter hidden gems in Europe. Located in the eastern state of Saxony, close to the Czech border, a winter wonderland renowned for its festive traditions awaits.

The village of Seiffen is the place to start. Here, carpenters, toy-makers, candle-crafters, Moravian Star-stitchers and Angel-artists work year-round, creating something of a real-life Santa’s grotto. But, when winter – and the inevitable snow – rolls around, it’s at its finest. 

Long standing seasonal traditions are very much alive, and mainly come courtesy of the surrounding ex-mining towns. Don a hard hat and heat into a decommissioned underground quarry for a candle-lit carol concert. Settle in at the table for a typical miners’ feast using age-old recipes.Then, get your fill of Glühwein and handicrafts at one of the region’s countless markets with marching band parades. Even just in Dresden, the region’s Baroque-heavy capital, you’ll find eleven themed markets.

The Ore Mountains are one of the most unique places to visit in Europe, and make for a great alternative to the continent’s most famous festive destinations. 

Plan your trip: This is a land best experienced in the lead-up to Christmas. Plan to stay a night or two as part of a longer Germany/Saxony Christmas Market road trip – public transport is more limited around the mountains.

Top tip: If you want to attend some special events – such as parades or miners’ concerts – check for updates on this local website.

Kutna Hora Bone Church
Inside the Bone Church of Kutna Hora

23. Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

One of the best places to visit in Europe for a bone-chilling gothic city trip

Whilst Prague may be one of the hottest must-visit cities in Europe, the historic and impressive Bohemia city of Kutna Hora is still a relatively under-the-radar gem.

Discover the cobbled streets and grand Gothic architecture – especially the brawny cathedral – and then pay a respectful visit to the unique ‘Bone Church’, which is, as you might have guessed, adorned with bones.

Sedlec Ossuary shares its nearly 1000 years of history with a no-holding-back approach. Some 40,000 human skeletons form the walls, ceilings and even chandeliers. It’s quite the macabre sight.

Plan your trip: Decent year-round, but summer is best for exploring the surrounding nature. Make it an overnight visit, or come on a day trip from Prague. Group tours are offered from Prague and cost around €50, though it’s easy and cheap to go DIY – the train takes approximately one hour. 

Top tip: The Ostuary closes at 4 pm in winter and 6 pm in summer.

A cathedral in Kyiv Ukraine framed by an art stool on the bottom right
Kyiv, Ukrain

+ For the future: Kyiv, Ukraine

St Michael's Cathedral in Kyiv, a blue cathedral with gold dome

Read more:
Two days in Kyiv

On my previous European hidden gems list, Kyiv was one of the top entries. Tragically the Russian invasion has caused misery and suffering for those living in Ukraine and, obviously, made tourism impossible. However, I leave this entry as a mention for future travel plans when we can return to Ukraine and help support and rebuild the nation through tourism.

And that’s a wrap for this 2023 edition of list underrated destinations in Europe. Got any suggestions of where I should head next to add to this list or have you visited somewhere above? Let me know in the comments and safe travels!

For my Europe adventures, discover my favourite secret Spain spots, hidden gems in Italy, or these beautiful and lesser visited villages near Rome. Or, find your own favourite amongst all my Europe travel articles.

152 replies
  1. Chetan Jadhav says:

    Awesome places. Some of the destinations, I came to know about it for the first time through your post. The European ambiance has a different charm to it and it gets tweaked from one country to another. Thanks for sharing these tidbits of information, loved reading it.

  2. Bryson Fico says:

    I hear so many positives about visiting Slovenia. The Vipava Valley is just another reason to visit and probably significantly cheaper and less crowed than France.

    • Blog Dordogne says:

      What is missing here is one of the best places to go when you go to France.
      The Dordogne, the place to be, so much to do and the food…….. Checkout and see for youself

  3. Flora says:

    Hi Daniel!

    This is another great guide as always. Europe is definitely the perfect choice if you want a memorable trip, I recommend it for many people especially for couples or honeymoon.

    This Guide is full of the most interesting and stunning sites, and I want to thank you for sharing this and give us the inspiration to travel again.

  4. Isabellevo says:

    Great site. With all the restrictions on travel it is really nice to virtually explore. I love the options in Italy and will make them an objective post my Positano trip. Also great to see another option for Czech Republic in addition to Prague! Look forward to more stories as you hit the milestone of 60+ countries and counting!

  5. Anjali T says:

    Wooww…Really amazing places. Italy, Greece & Spain are in my bucket list. I want to tick off these places very soon. Your list is quite helpful especially the way you have mentioned the means for travel and how much time we should give to that place. Thank you for sharing it. Waiting for the next list!

  6. Shoestring Travel says:

    Europe is like a dream. It has so many offbeat places that it becomes impossible to travel to all the destinations in one’s lifetime. Probably we have to take birth once again to travel to all of these beautiful locations.

  7. Ryan says:

    Have you been to Santorini?

    I would recommend going and staying at Parrissa Beach. This is not the hill side pictures you see with the amazing views on all the postcards. Although you can rent a four wheeler ($10 euro/day) and get there in 15 minutes. We stayed in Parissa Beach in 2011 in an apartment on the beach for about $400/month (yes per month) when rooms were going for 10x that in the tourist spots of Ios. It’s a cool scene too, tons a great beach bars, a boardwalk of restaurants, out door theaters and best of all it is all cheap as can be.

    • John says:

      When I can suggest a great place to go which really offers a real great stay for families with kids, go and see Glamping-Dordogne.
      They offer safaritents but really, with so much comfort.

      Really a place to go.

  8. Carl Fisher says:

    Well in Europe there are lots of places where you can spend time moreover one of the most tourist island is Mljet island where you can spend your time with your partner beside this there are lots of things too which you can plan during your Day tours in Mljet.

  9. priser till maldiverna says:

    Much appreciate the places of Europe that you have mentioned. Each county of Europe is known for its unique kind of beauty and is generally appreciate for what they have. Besides that, these nations are totally safe.

  10. JD says:

    Hello Dan! Last summer I happened upon Monte Isola, an island in the middle of Lago d’Iseo in Lombardy. Have you ever been here? When I went, immediately fell in love with its small town vibe and stunning views. Definitely one of my lesser known places that is a must visit!

  11. Meera says:

    Such a cool round-up! Totally want to add these to my bucket list now. I visited London in the summer of 2017 and was absolutely stunned by the cobble-stoned sidewalks, the countryside and the food.

  12. Dominic Peake says:

    I think that Europe might be the only continent in the world that never runs out of its places to visit. The continent itself is covering with beautiful culture, medieval heritage exotic place and legacies of kingdom to read for. You can check out our Europe’s best

  13. Anita says:

    Planning to visit Portugal in 2020. I cannot imagine how thrilling it must be. I have to say that your list has some pretty cool destinations. If my budget allows, I might add in Albania. Great post!

  14. linhmai says:

    Im so glad that i stumble upon this article. Definitely bookmark this for future trips. So many beautiful places i havent visited according to your post. Thank you and keep up your good work!

  15. Jack says:

    wow! The scenery of these trips is so beautiful, I also want to try these places once in a lifetime, thank you for sharing this wonderful thing.

  16. Larry says:

    Czechoslovakia hasn’t been a country for quite some time now. Good pictures and lots of good destinations, though, for sure.

  17. Vincent says:

    I appreciate your effort. I must say that your shared all these places are the best to have great fun in Europe and tourists can enjoy some time with family and friends. I have a good experience of Lake Komani because I have been there couple of the times in my whole life to enjoy my holidays and every time had a blast of fun at this most amazing and alluring destination.

  18. Alex Spectar says:

    These are some really beautiful places, I have been wanting to take a vacation to the UK just couldn’t make time, after seeing these images all I wanna do is pack my bags.

  19. Iva Says says:

    Great post, thanks for sharing these awesome gems. I plan to visit Slovenia this summer and Piran wasn’t on my bucket list. I will surely add it now after seeing those wonderful photos of the place.

    • Hans says:

      Trough dordognevakantiehuizen.nl I have found a great place to stay in the Dordogne France. A real great area to visit when you go to France.

      Nice people and a great place for getting to know the real French life.

  20. CO says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve recently moved to Leipzig (Saxony) and it’s nice to see it appearing on some blogs now as an area to visit. Gose beer is also from Saxony and one of Germany’s largest Sekt producers (I think it’s in Weimar). I’m looking forward to getting out to the Dresden area soon, especially for a trip over to Bastei.
    I’m also excited to check out more of Eastern Europe, especially Montenegro, now that I’m so much closer (than Canada). I’ve enjoyed your suggestions!

  21. Teodora says:

    Hi! Amazing and inspirational! I live in London now but I would love to show you around Romania and see it through your lenses 😃. Keep walking!

  22. tropicalsunvillas says:

    Amazing post, read it for first time and was fascinated by the photos and the true information that you don’t get very often.
    If you visit Costa Rica, Please Visit this amazing Beach Resort

  23. Katie says:

    What a great list of places. Even though these are written for 2017, they will still be great gems in 2018. I’m heading on a Eastern Europe trip for 4 months in the Summer so unwell certainly be checking out some of these places. Thanks for the ideas !

  24. Graeme says:

    Hi Dan, love the article. Two years ago, during a European road trip, we stayed in Schwangau, with the intention of visiting Neuschwanstein Castle. There wasn’t much there, to be honest. Just a nondescript main road. We couldn’t even find the castle when we first arrived, due to the mist obscuring it. It wasn’t until the next day when we were leaving that we saw it peeking out from behind its shroud. We both exclaimed “It was behind us all this time!”.

    As we were leaving we drove through the neighbouring town of Füssen. It looks like a much more characterful town and we wished we had stayed there. Next time!

    This year’s road trip took in Riquewhir/Colmar/Eguisheim, all stunning. Then onto Lauterbrunnen :0, Orta San Guilio – beautiful and quiet, Sirmione – hot, bustling and lovely. Postojna – dig those caves, through Istria, taking in Buzet and Motovun until we reached Rovinj, which we absolutely love. Stunning old town and the unrivaled Punta Corrente park.

    Our return journey took in Venice – on the cheap, there is a campsite on the other side of the lagoon where you can camp for approx €20-30 per night. Then onto Menaggio (Much nicer than Belaggio, not so geared up to selling you expensive baubles). From there to Freiburg, then over the Black Forest high road, across a bit of France, up the length of Luxembourg to Clervaux for the Family of Man exhibit. Clervaux was/is a unique place. I don’t know quite how I’d describe it. They seem to have a thing for anthropomorphic furniture and decorations. They were also pumping Yello’s “The Race” from the town’s PA system, for no discernible reason. Last stop was Bruges, but this isn’t a hidden gem, just a gem.

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Sounds like such an amazing trip, hoping to do it myself next year so will keep Fussen in mind as a base.

      And also wow, thank you for all these amazing tips of places. Moving back to Europe in 2018 so this has given me lots of new places to adventure too.

      Hope the next trip is just as exciting for you :)

  25. Amelia says:

    Love the list, I definitely need to save some of your recommendations for my next trips:) I would also add Polish capital, Warsaw. Even though I didn’t expect much from it, it turned out to be one of the most amazing destinations I have been to. It is traditional and very modern at the same time, it is such an unique and great combinations. It is truly a stunning city. And the gastronomic aspect of it is incredible – there are tens of amazing restaurants worth visiting. My personal favorite is called the Akademia, a place with modern versions of traditional Polish cuisine. So creative and delicious! I will for sure go back one day :D

    • Gall says:

      If you like visiting cities, I recommend it again Gdańsk, Wrocław, Kraków, Toruń, Zamość, Poznań. In addition to cities, we have mountains and depression, beautiful beaches, many lakes, forests and even dunes and a desert … :) We have all

  26. Vé Máy Bay says:

    Agree with your list of most affordable destinations in 2017. Croatia ,England are going to be in any list of cheap travel destinations……I have been to these places and I can’t forget the wonderful experiences I had…..some countries with unique cultures, amazing nature and exceptional food (very cheap yet delicious)

  27. Aussie Dan says:

    Dan a great list of which I have visited a number. I went to Hvar from Australia for the first time 16 years ago, it has always had great affordable high quality B&B accommodation. I have been back to Croatia three times since then as it is my favourite summer destination in Europe and Hvar now has more 4 & 5 star hotels and the B&B places are more expensive but are still the main source of accommodation in all of Croatia. Everybody does this and is most peoples major source of income. Some rooms are superb and have views and all for 100 dollars night.It is however a very popular place as is Lake Bled. Another few gem in Croatia that I will let you in on are the town of Betina on the island of Murter and the town of Komiza on the island of Vis. Popular but not over busy. Check them out on Google

  28. Jax says:

    Another good Spanish town would be Lekeitio, Spain up in Basque country. An adorable little town with a beautiful beach surrounded by those massive cliffs that are sprinkled all over the Basque coastal area, plus this awesome little island right inside the bay that you can walk out to and explore. And pintxos everywhere :) We rented a car and drove all along that coast, there are so many awesome little villages and towns up there it was hard to pick one to stop at!

  29. Jax says:

    Ahhh Kutna Hora was such a weird and cool town! That bone church was unreal, and I think it was still low season because I felt like I was the only person in town so the whole trip gave me a badass, kind of eery vibe. And Hvar is totally not just for rich people with yachts! My boyfriend and I brought camping gear and camped out by the water for three nights on Hvar and it was gorgeous (getting all glammed up for a night out at a nice restaurant in a tent was a fun little first for me too!). Great post Dan! I can’t wait to see some of these other towns in my future travels :)

  30. Ioanna says:

    So many beautiful places to visit! So little time… ;-) I need to finally get to Gdańsk – it would such a nice weekend trip, as I live just 3h by train from it. Some of those photos are just unbelievably beautiful! Thank you for making this list!

  31. Hanna says:

    You’ve 100% fuelled my list of “must visit’s” this year. As a side note. I once fell asleep on a train in Liechtenstein and seemingly did the opposite of what you did! I then had to sneak back on a train (platform in the middle of nowhere. With no ticket office) and back into the country (with a “slight” wait in the freezing cold snow.)

  32. Julia says:

    I like this list very much! I was so schocked to see Colchester on there (or Colch as it is locally known). It’s a town I visit sometimes and is only an hour away from me so I never really saw it as a tourist spot before!

  33. sumanth borra says:

    Hi, glad to see the list they are all really awesome places. I like to travel to hidden places like you. Here is one, I think you would like it. “Blooming cherry tree street”, Bonn, Germany. It’s not that well known to people but it is one beautiful street. The city Bonn is okay, but this street grabed my attention. It’s best to go in the fall around August and September to get the view of the cherry trees.

  34. Frank says:

    Glad to see Kutna Hora on your list – doesn’t get much mention and the town itself is often overshadowed by the bone church (which is honestly not fair, it’s a great little town).

  35. Barbara. Iatrou says:

    All of these places sound fantastic,I have visited many european countries but I see you don’t mention Greece! So much to discover there. You must visit Kalavrita. It can be reached by a narrow gauge railway as its at the top of a mountain.The train takes you through natrow gorges snd beautiful scenery until you reach the top. It’s history during world war 2 is tragic but I’ll leave you to gen up on that.

  36. Sarah Colley says:

    Neuschwanstein in Schwangeau is not really a town. The only thing there are the two castles, which are amazing. But the actual town is called Fussen, which is one of the most beautiful and quaint towns I’ve ever been to. It’s surrounded by amazing mountains and trees. Just make sure to get there early enough during the day because they will sell out of tickets, and close fairly early. I was only able to tour one of the castles because they sold out. But Fussen is incredible. The train ride there from Munich isn’t that long. I think it was about an hour and a half, and the ride is as equally beautiful and relaxing. It was definitely a great day trip.

    You should also check out many of the small towns in Turkey. It’s one of my favorite countries (I’ve been to 16 so far). On the Mediterranean there is a town called Bodrum. There is a really cool castle there I spent the whole day exploring it. My boyfriend has a house in the town next to Bodrum, called Turgetreis. It’s a small town, but so beautiful. All along the Mediterranean. You can see the Greek islands from pretty much anywhere in the town. We rode scooters around the town and through the sidewalk, ate ice cream and drank fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and ate fresh bread, walked through the bizarre. It’s the place I always think of when I want to escape life. You can take a ferry ride to any of the Greek islands. You can take a bus ride to fehtiye (the Turkish dead sea). There are also small towns next to Turgetreis that are just so small, but beautiful. With little bracelet stands and homemade dishes and locally done paintings. All the beaches along these towns are great for relaxing. You’ll never want to leave, some tourists never do.

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Ahhhh, I was misled into thinking Schwangau was a proper town – great to know, thank you. I’m all about castles so if there are two I’ll be a happy man.

      Turkey is somewhere I really do need to explore more, three visits to Istanbul and still not made it out of the city. I think I’ll take your scooter tip and go for an explore along the coast, it sounds incredible. Safe travels :)

  37. Laurahatesmushrooms says:

    Great list! Love your top tip for Hof in Iceland, and interestingly I’ve been to Hvar years ago and thought it was incredible too. However friends went this year and thought it was over crowded now

  38. Mandi says:

    I did a Euro Trip in May-June and you hit the description of Bled and Ljubljana spot on – both amazing cities and Bled is a hidden gem. I have been to the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles and I stayed in the adorable little town of Fussen, Germany. It was only a short, inexpensive local bus ride away. I don’t recommend paying to see the inside of the Neuschwanstein because they don’t give you very much access and the beautiful views outside are well-worth it. I HIGHLY recommend walking around the lake (Alpsee) because it is absolutely incredible. Enjoy!

  39. soumna says:

    I love that you have Carvoeiro in this list. I stayed in Carvoiero for a few days this summer and I just did not want to leave. I loved Port De Soller too but Pollenca in Mallorca is equally gorgeous and hidden.

  40. S Geyer says:

    Meteora, Greece – beautiful monasteries – 5 or 6 of them. Easily accessible by train from Athens (4 hours). Quaint towns with fabulous restaurants, friendly people and great/inexpensive places to stay.

  41. Maya says:

    These are such great tips for when we don’t have too much time to jet around the world.

    I grew up close to Bled and even remember ice-skating on the lake in winter, too bad it doesn’t really freeze anymore. Grmada is my favorite dessert there, a bit different and messier than the famous kremsnita ☺ Bohinj is another beautiful little area close to Bled, even wilder and perfect for a (cold) swim, while the Soča Valley is just completely stunning.

    Safe travels!

    Maya | londondamsel.co.uk

  42. Anonymous says:

    I would recommend the Alsacian region in France, particularly the town of Eguisheim, but also Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé and Obernai. While Equisheim, Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé are beautiful but very crowded with tourists in the high season, Obernai is a bustling market town, with many nice restaurants, wine bars and little shops, as well as nice architecture.

  43. amyrbutler says:

    I love visiting smaller towns! Gdansk is high on my list — was just daydreaming about a (hopeful) 2017 trip to Poland. I’d also add Lviv in Ukraine — coffee and chocolate capital of the country! It also has a military themed bar and a secret Masonic restaurant. It’s on the western side of Ukraine, easily accessible from Poland and Hungary.

  44. Juliette @ Snorkels To Snow says:

    What a fantastic list! I want to go to them all ha ha! I’m hoping we can do a Scandinavia/Arctic trip maybe next year, and Iceland will most definitely be on that list so Glacier Beach looks incredible. Love your photos – stunning & inspiring.

  45. Kelly says:

    I love Bled! The cake is a must see! Well, eat. I also recommend Beilstein in Germany – tiny and adorable and enticing. I went to Schwangau last month – book a tour so you can make sure you get in to the castle!

  46. Maaike says:

    Could definitely make a great European road trip of this list! So much fun would that be! Even though I was born and raised in Europe, this continent knows to surprise in the most wonderful ways each and every time

  47. Danielle (Escaping Essex) says:

    Love this list! Of all the towns that I’ve visited on this list, I can definitely confirm that they are worth a visit! Especially Bled!! This list also gets top marks for including Colchester – I live so close by!

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