We’re all familiar with the allure of Paris, Rome, London, Barcelona… and these cities are indeed deserving of their reputations. Everyone should see the Sacre Coeur or the Trevi Fountain at least once in their lifetime. But where can you go for a truly amazing experience outside of the standard European tourist destinations? Here, I’ll reveal eight incredible hidden gems in Europe, guaranteed to create memories of a lifetime.
Not many people think of Romania as a top European travel destination, but the traditional mountain villages of Transylvania cannot be missed.
Largely German-influenced, Brașov is a particularly special mix of old and new, town and country. On just a short drive to Castle Bran (Dracula’s Castle), you’ll encounter horse-drawn carriages and farmers working the fields by hand.
Stroll the Piata Sfatului by day and go bear watching by night. (Yes, Romania has one of the largest brown bear populations in Europe, second only to Russia.) Enjoy a full-course authentic dinner for two at a whopping price of $20, tip included.
One could easily spend several days in this region without any shortage of fun-filled activities or amazing sights. Visit Brașov soon, though. Its rock bottom prices won’t last forever.
Ahhh. When I visited Islay, I immediately pictured myself living in some seaside cottage writing my blog every day. Probably with Scotch in hand.
People are so mesmerized by Skye—which is extraordinarily beautiful, by the way—they forget all about little Islay not too far away. And, you know me—I always root for the underdog.
Islay is home to a bagillion peaty Scotch distilleries, of course, but it’s also just a lovely, chill little Scottish island. Think wispy shorelines, ancient ruins, rolling green hills, even seals! It’s the kind of place you want to go for a long bike ride, picnic basket all packed up, and absolutely one of many hidden gems in Europe.
Travel to the Baltic states has really picked up over the last several years, but most of the focus has been on Tallinn, Estonia. And, while Tallinn is great, I found that its little neighbor of Vilnius, Lithuania packed more of an authentic punch.
Like Tallinn, Vilnius has a proper Old Town area you can stroll, but it also has a little artsy district known as Užupis. Užupis is one of the city’s oldest areas and, during the Soviet Era, was also one of its roughest. Now, it’s a thriving creative community that claims itself an independent republic.
Vilnius ended up being one of the most Instagrammable places I found in the Baltics and, in my mind, definitely belongs on the list of hidden gems in Europe.
Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Not that I don’t love it, but everyone’s been stuck on Reykjavik and Iceland for years now. But there are other locations just as awesome with a fraction of the tourists, you know. I present to you: the capital of the Faroe Islands, Tórshavn.
Yes, yes. Whenever I mention the Faroe Islands, a lot of people don’t even know the place exists, let alone where they are. They’re part of Denmark and they’re basically dead center between Iceland and the UK. And they’re amazing.
Tórshavn is the cutest, tiniest little capital city there ever was featuring itty bitty alleyways and grass-topped homes. There’s even a Michelin-starred restaurant there! Fly in from Edinburgh or Bergen and enjoy a few days taking in great food and spectacular views.
An hour’s drive from the more opulent Vienna, Bratislava sits right on the Danube where the Austrian, Hungarian, and Slovakian borders meet. As you exit the city’s Eastern Bloc sector and cross the river, the quaint Staré Mesto, or “Old Town,” awaits.
Dating back to 500 BC, this tiny capital is much older than its larger metropolitan neighbors Prague and Budapest, and its Old Town maintains the charm of a fairytale medieval village.
Get lost roaming the cobblestone alleyways as you gradually climb your way up to Bratislava Castle. Take a break (or two) at one of the many side-street cafes and enjoy some authentic Eastern European comfort food, perfect after a long day of sightseeing.
Bratislava might be overshadowed by the decadence of Budapest and Vienna, but its humble charisma far outshines either. A for-sure must-visit on the list of hidden gems in Europe.
Capri is already a tourist hotspot, but if you ask folks what Italian islands they most want to visit, typical responses might include Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia. Don’t count out the little guy, though.
This luxurious retreat juts right out of the Mediterranean declaring its impressive beauty. Clusters of white and pastel homes rest cliffside, flanked by countless rock formations in the surrounding waters.
Get lost shopping in winding alleys, take in some history at Tiberius’ Villa Jovis, or enjoy a boat ride to the Blue Grotto.
If the posh prices deter you, make a day trip of it; Capri is only an hour’s ferry ride from Naples.
When you imagine an idyllic beach vacation, Bulgaria probably isn’t what you had in mind. The Black Sea coast, however, is a favorite of many Eastern Europeans, and Sozopol is quintessential Black Sea Bulgaria.
As the oldest settlement in the country, this little Thracian town sits pleasantly on a sunny peninsula. Old Town is filled with traditional wooden houses on cobblestone streets, while New Town boasts small resorts and restaurants.
Both flaunt gorgeous sandy beaches with crystal-clear turquoise waters. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a seaside Zagorka beer.
A lot of folks forget about Slovenia, a tiny little country nestled between Italy and the increasingly popular Croatia, but its capital city of Ljubljana is anything but forgettable.
The 2016 Green Capital of Europe is a cozy walkable town, featuring numerous elaborate bridges that criss-cross the Ljubljanica River. The Ljubljana Castle perches high on a hill overlooking the whites, pinks, and yellows of the town’s grand architecture.
This city has the perfect mix of history, architecture, and shopping, and it has an incredible restaurant scene lining the meandering river. Only two and a half hours from Venice, a must-see if you’re in the area.
More Hidden Gems in Europe?
If you’re ever considering a visit to Vienna or Venice, plan a stop-off at one of these hidden gems in Europe. Quaint, charming, and friendly, they’re sure to deliver an experience you won’t regret.
Do you have more hidden gems in Europe for this list? Add them in the comments section below.