Europe is an incredibly alluring, magnetic continent for tourists all across the world. Architecture, gastronomy, art, culture, amusement parks, history – Europe has it all and more.
However, in recent years, certain cities in Europe have started to suffer from overtourism and locals are not happy to have their towns constantly invaded by tourists, which is understandable.
By visiting hidden gems in Europe, you will help to alleviate this issue. Like many countries around the world, European cities depend on tourism for economic growth. Exploring non-touristy spots will continue to contribute to the local economy without overburdening popular destinations.
By visiting alternative European cities, you will definitely discover a much more local atmosphere, get great value for money and you will also lighten the pressure on main tourist sites.
In this post, you will find amazing hidden gems in Europe as recommended by fellow travel bloggers – prepare to be amazed at their incredible suggestions.
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By Tom from Travel Past 50 | Facebook
If you are looking to visit one of the most beautiful, hidden gems in Europe then you need to visit the city of Ghent, Belgium.
Scenic river bends, picturesque bridges, bicycles, a university, and lovely architecture define the youthful city of Ghent, Belgium, which has the historic air of nearby Bruges without the hordes of tourists.
In the Middle Ages, Ghent’s busy port and flourishing textile industry made it the second largest city in Northern Europe. Since then, it has balanced commerce with craftsmanship, wielded both secular and religious power, and mixed traditional and pop cultures.
Today the city centre is known for a triple treat: St. Bavo’s Abbey, which houses the famous Ghent Altarpiece, the St. Nicholas’ Church, and the UNESCO World Heritage belfry of the town square.
Along the Lys River, rows of Flemish-style buildings with steep roofs, stepped facades, and articulated brickwork are artfully mirrored in the canal. Locals and visitors are drawn to the riverfront paths of Graslei and Korenlei to enjoy airy views of the old town.
Ghent is the largest car-free zone in Belgium and the historic centre is especially inviting to enthusiastic pedestrians like us. And when we want to take a seat, it is happily in front of a bowl of steaming moule frites, the perfect side dish to a day in Ghent.
Along with the mussels, be sure to have one of the famous locally brewed beers. Finally, as lights flicker in the water, a late-night walk along the river is a sure bet. Wake up to meet the early morning colours before a breakfast of authentic Belgian waffles.
By Maria and Rui from Two Find A Way | Instagram
Barcelona is one of Spain’s most popular cities to visit. However, it’s also often heavily congested with tourists year-round. There are plenty of other hidden gems in Spain where you can avoid tourist traps and one of the most beautiful of these is the city of Seville.
Seville, a city in the southern region of Andalusia, is one of Europe’s prettiest destinations. Some of the best attractions in Seville are the mesmerizing Alcázar, the Maria Luiza Park and the magical Plaza de España.
Seville blew us away with its stunning architecture, which combines Moorish and European influences, its relaxing vibe, warm sun, and delicious food. The city is also famous as the birthplace of Flamenco, so make sure to see a show when you’re in town.
Seville is easily reachable through its own airport, with connections to many destinations in Europe and Northern Africa. However, if you’re arriving into Spain’s main hubs of Madrid or Barcelona, you can get to Seville using public transportation.
From Madrid, the train takes less than 3 hours. If you have time, consider exploring other nearby cities and towns in Andalusia such as Granada and Málaga. You can use public transportation to do so or rent a car to road trip one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Europe.
Derry, Northern Ireland
Derry is an amazing city in Ireland but it is often overlooked by its close neighbour, Belfast. Derry is about 70 miles northwest of Belfast which can be easily reached in 2 hours by public train or 1.5 hours by car.
Derry is one of the most unique places to visit in Europe from its gripping history, quaint pubs and beautiful murals. In recent Northern Irish history, the Civil War known as The Troubles was the dominant theme in the Derry cityscape.
Nowadays though, tourists are able to explore these areas and get a real insight into the character and history of the city. The city has become even popular amongst fans of the TV show Derry Girls – it’s now possible to go on a tour of the filming locations.
At the Free Derry Corner, you can spot several culturally and historically significant murals, which give you a real glimpse into Derry’s recent history.
Just minutes away from this you will see the beautiful Derry City Walls. They are the only intact city walls on the island of Ireland. You can walk around the top of the ramparts, which will give you an elevated view of the city of Derry.
Closeby is the striking Guildhall, which today functions as a cultural centre for Derry. There is free admission to the mesmerizing exhibitions inside. Just behind the Guildhall, you will find the beautiful Peace Bridge. It’s only for cyclists and pedestrians and a stroll on it is quite a peaceful experience.
Once you are ready to return to the city, you can delve into the lively pub and restaurant scene of Derry. The great thing about this city is that all of the main tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other.
By Jeremiah from Smiles On Arrival | Facebook
Italy is an incredibly popular holiday destination with cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan and Capri often taking precedence over other Italian destinations.
However, if you wish to visit a lesser-known but just as beautiful Italian destination, then may I suggest the stunning island of Ischia. Ischia is a real hidden gem in Europe with wonderful beaches, great food, excellent relaxing spas and incredible views.
While the island of Capri is beginning to really struggle with the issue of overtourism, Ischia still remains relatively unknown which allows it to preserve its great Italian charm. This provides you with a different, more authentic Italian experience.
Ischia is home to many beaches, with some of the best being Maronti Beach, Cataromana, and Spiaggia Dei Pescatori. Ischia is also known for its variety of health spas due to the special properties of this volcanic island. Natural hot springs can even be found in some of the beaches, with Sorgeto Bay being a great example.
Ischia is easily accessible by ferry from Naples, which is spectacular in its own right. If you’re coming from Rome, it’s fairly easy to make it to Naples via train. You can then take the ferry to Ischia which takes up to one hour and it is most definitely worth the visit!
Bath, United Kingdom
If you really want to experience British culture then my advice would be to skip London and head to Bath instead.
Bath is the only UK city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and with beautiful Roman baths and exquisite teashops, it is a city not to be missed. Bath is, without a doubt, one of the best weekend getaways in Europe.
Bath is situated 186 km from London and the train journey will take about 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a direct coach or rent a car.
The number one thing to do in the city is to visit the Roman Baths which date back to 70 AD. These are the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world. There is also a museum where you can take a peek at how life used to be during this time.
Another iconic place to visit in Bath is the Royal Crescent. The property was built in the 18th century and it is an exquisite example of the classic British Georgian architecture.
Other points of interest worth including in your itinerary are the Bath Abbey and Pulteney Bridge. You must check out the Pump Room Restaurant where you can have an afternoon tea with truly British treats: scones, jam and clotted cream.
Right next to the restaurant, there is a fantastic spa with naturally warm and mineral-rich water where you can take a dip and relax after a busy day exploring this historic city.
By Christina from Live A Wilder Life | Instagram
When people envision a trip to Croatia, the image that typically comes to mind is of the majestic fortified old town of Dubrovnik.
While Dubrovnik is without a doubt a beautiful city, few tourists ever make their way to the incredible northern region of Croatia to see the even more magical seaside town of Rovinj.
Located in the Istrian region, Rovinj is sure to satisfy your thirst for quaint European charm. and it is one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Europe.
Lined with smooth cobblestone streets, you could easily spend a day wandering through the alleyways, discovering different shops and cafes perched at the water’s edge.
If travelling in the summer or early autumn, a dip in the turquoise Adriatic Sea can be found at any of the beaches lining the city, including Monte Beach and Lone Bay.
Other highlights of Rovinj include picking up local delicacies at the Farmer’s Market, dining on truffle pasta dishes, taking a day trip to explore the hilltop towns surrounding Rovinj, and visiting Lim Fjord, a stunning natural park unmarred by development.
If you’re a wine lover, Istria is quickly becoming a new favourite for wine connoisseurs. You can do a tasting at many of the local bars or restaurants. Make sure to try out the local varietal, Malvazija, one of the oldest white wines in Croatia that dates back to ancient Greece.
Rovinj is located 3 hours away from the capital city of Zagreb and can be easily accessed by bus or renting a car. You can also fly into Pula airport, which is located 40 minutes away.
By Maggie from The World Was Here First | Facebook
If you’re thinking of visiting Ljubljana, Slovenia but the tourist crowds and high prices are a turn off from the compact capital, then why not consider heading just a little bit north to the lovely city of Maribor instead.
As Slovenia’s second-largest city, Maribor packs in a lot of charm and personality into its diminutive size and only receives a fraction of the visitors as Ljubljana making it a real hidden gem in Europe.
Located in Slovenia’s Styria region, Maribor is famous for its wine production and you can’t visit this lovely little city without sampling a drop or two of a local vintage.
In fact, Maribor is so centred on its tradition of winemaking that one of the top sites in the city is the Old Vine House, which is home to the world’s oldest grapevine — at over 400 years old, this vine is still producing vintages to this day.
If you’re interested in doing a degustation of some fantastic Slovenian reds, whites and rosés, then you can choose to do this at the Old Vine House as well.
If you want to learn a bit about Slovenian history in the 20th century, then make sure to visit the Museum of National Liberation. Or, if you want to get a bit more active, then take a stroll through the lush City Park or a short hike up the grapevine lined Pyramid Hill for great views of the city.
Of course, no trip to Maribor would be complete without just letting your feet be your guide and allowing yourself to wander through the lovely streets of the pedestrianised Old Town.
All in all, if you want an alternative to busy Ljubljana or just an additional stop on a Slovenia itinerary, then Maribor is an excellent option.
By Ruth from Tanama Tales | Pinterest
If you are visiting Portugal, Lisbon and Porto are often top options for those who are interested in architecture, history, gastronomy, and culture. However, due to its many offerings, Lisbon and Porto get flooded with visitors and they have become prone to overtourism.
Those who want to see a different side of Portugal, without sacrificing quality amenities and to also get away from the crowds, should head to the city of Coimbra, one of the best hidden gems in Europe with so much to see and do.
Coimbra is located on the banks of the Mondego River, 77 miles (124 km) from Porto and 127 miles (204 km) from Lisbon. The city is well-connected to major transportation hubs by train and bus.
Since Coimbra is closer to Porto, I recommend flying to the Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport (several low-cost airlines fly there) and taking the express, one-hour train to Coimbra.
While in the city, do not miss the Santa Clara Bridge, the Praca do Comercio, Rua Sofia (one of the main commercial arteries), the Santa Cruz Church, the Cathedral, the University (which looks more like a palace) and the Joanine Library.
You can add one or more museums, a botanical garden, a walk along the river banks, a river cruise, the Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery or the Portugal dos Prequenitos park to your itinerary.
I also highly recommend strolling around the city at night. People eat, drink and socialize on tavernas, plazas and even stairs. There are tons of places to eat or have a drink while absorbing the atmosphere.
In addition, you can also visit the Buçaco Forest, Conimbriga Roman ruins or the beach town of Figueira da Foz as day trips from Coimbra.
When thinking of Poland, many people assume that Krakow is the only place worth visiting. However, if you like the sound of a culturally rich city paired with a trendy food scene, then you should give Warsaw a go!
Poland’s capital can be easily reached from many European cities by low-cost carriers within two to three hours by plane. It also has a well connected international bus & train system and makes an ideal stop-over when embarking on a road trip from Germany to the Baltic states.
Some of Warsaw’s cultural highlights include the Old Town with its colourful tenement houses, The Royal Castle (now a museum) that has stood strong for 700 years and the striking Lazienki Park. Warsaw is truly one of the most unique places to visit in Europe.
Once in the Old Town, allow some time to soak in the medieval atmosphere while strolling through its cobbled little alleyways. Make sure to include a lunch stop at Gosciniec for some of Warsaw’s best traditional Pierogi’s (dumplings).
For a more hip and vibrant vibe, make sure to visit Ząbkowska Street, within the artistic Praga district. It’s full of alternative, quirky bars and cafés – surrounded by a range of cool street art.
On hot summer days, head to one of Warsaw’s city beaches. Poniatówka Beach got sunbeds and hammocks, whereas Praga District (Rusalka) Beach rewards you with views of the Old Town
A must-do when visiting Warsaw should definitely include a vodka tasting. Poland’s national drink is best experienced at Elixir Restaurant by Dom Wódki. It has over 500 vodkas to try and offers food to match!
As so often is the case, it’s the lesser-known places that you never thought of going to are the ones that positively surprise you most and Warsaw offers exactly that!
By Hannah from Hannah’s Happy Adventures | Instagram
Munich, Germany is one of the most visited cities in Europe every year. It has a lot to offer from traditional German beer gardens to beautiful castles and mountains.
However, before you add Munich to your list of cities to visit – I would like you to consider an alternative – the city of Freiburg, in neighbouring Baden-Wurttemberg.
Freiburg is a beautiful alternative to Munich, and offers many of the same things – but arguably – much better. I spent one year living in Freiburg, and no city I visited throughout Germany compared to it – Munich included. The city of Frieburg is without a doubt one of the best hidden gems in Europe.
Once you arrive in Freiburg, I recommend exploring the stunning colourful streets. In the centre of the city, you will find the Munster (cathedral) – spend the €2 required to walk up the bell tower.
The square surrounding the Munster is filled with a market each day – where you can pick up some local foods and drink. After you’ve had your fill of the city centre, head up Schlossberg. It’s a hill overlooking the city and is home to a beautiful beer garden – Kastaniengarten. Get your stein of beer here and enjoy the views of the city.
On your way down, pass by Schwabentor – one of two old gates that surround the city. I recommend this one as the other now has a McDonald’s in it! These are just some of the fabulous things you can do in Freiburg – check out more things to do here.
Freiburg is easily reachable by public transport. It takes 6 hours by train from Germany’s capital – Berlin. Alternatively, multiple car parks are available in the city, should you wish to travel by car.
Freiburg’s closest airport is located just outside of Basel – from here you can take a one hour bus into the city. There is also a small airport in Baden-Baden, from here you can take the bus or train into Freiburg.
By Sarah from A Social Nomad | Pinterest
As the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia receives most of the inbound international tourists. However, Plovdiv, one of Europe’s hidden gems, deserves your attention for a number of reasons. First, it is gloriously cosmopolitan with a Mediterranean feel lifestyle.
Plovdiv is teeming with Roman ruins and you’ll want to start your visit at the amphitheatre, which you can clamber over and into to your heart’s content. Be sure to take a cooling drink at the bar at the top – it’s a fabulous place to watch the sunset.
Built on seven hills similar to Rome, Plovdiv offers a series of museums, foodie experiences and a laidback style that’s not found in the more full-on, tourist-heavy Sofia.
In Plovdiv, you’re also close to a series of wine-producing areas, so it’s a great place to base yourself to explore the seriously tasty world of Bulgarian wine.
There is an amazing international food scene in Plovdiv, but don’t miss the opportunity to try some traditional Bulgarian food too – incredibly fresh salads, hearty stews and fabulously flaky cheesy bread.
It takes around 2 hours to get to Plovdiv from Sofia by road and there also are frequent buses from the centre of the city. Plovdiv is also connected to the Bulgarian rail network, and while the trains aren’t all fast here, it’s a fabulous way to arrive while seeing the stunning countryside!
If you are looking for one of the top hidden gems in Europe, then look no further than the city of Debrecen in Hungary. Debrecen, the second-largest city in Hungary, is located close to the border with Romania and is not far from Ukraine.
This sweet town of Debrecen is one of the best weekend getaways in Europe with the UNESCO world heritage site, Hortobágy National Park, nearby for nature trails and hikes.
The town centre has a beautiful flower market and if you visit in August, you can celebrate its landmark flower parade. The Kerekerdo Adventure Park is a great place to spend the day especially if you have children.
One of the most spectacular structures in the town is The Great Church. Built in the early 19th century in a neoclassical style, it instantly stands out in the city. Tourists can climb to the top which will give you a majestic view of the whole city.
The Debrecen Zoo has an old-fashioned amusement park, and the city is full of parks with gorgeous fountains. You can also walk up the Nagyerdei Water Tower for a spectacular view of the town, and at night you can watch a multimedia show at the Nagyerdei Park fountain, where you can also see laser shows, depending on the season.
Another incredibly popular spot in Debrecen is The Aquaticum Baths which are quite different from the thermal baths offered elsewhere in Hungary. The facility offers adventurous activities for children such as water slides and relaxing elements for adults such as jacuzzis and cave baths.
By Julie from Ruhls of the Road | YouTube
Madrid may be one of the most popular cities to visit in Spain but there is one city which is a real European hidden gem that offers so much more and that is Granada.
Granada is a vibrant, beautiful destination full of historic sites, delicious food and Flamenco dancing. This is one of the best places to visit in all of Europe and stands out as a better destination than Madrid without all the crowds.
The sites in Granada are incredible and will totally blow your mind. The Alhambra stands tall and proud in the centre of the city and is the biggest tourist attraction in Granada. On top of that, Sacromonte and San Nicolas are wonderful places to visit, especially for a gorgeous sunset.
Granada serves some of the most appetising food in Spain and it is also common to be served free tapas in bars and restaurants. If you order a drink, it will most likely be served with a plate of delicious food alongside it.
As for drinks, Sangria and Tinto de Verano are the local specialities. Both are refreshing, fruity cocktails served chilled making them the perfect drink for a warm Spanish setting.
Granada is also home to some incredible Flamenco dancing. You can stop to see a show at many theatres in town, or you can treat yourself to dinner and a show at many venues throughout Granada.
Closeby, there is the El Bañuelo, which are incredible 11th Century Arabic baths and the great hiking at nearby Sierra Nevada National Park. Adding these activities to your Granada itinerary will ensure you have an adventurous holiday.
You can reach Granada by flying into Málaga airport. Málaga airport is 125km from Granada and it takes about 90 minutes to drive from Malaga to Granada. One of the best ways to get to Granada is to use public transport. Buses leave from Málaga bus station and arrive at Granada bus station on a regular basis.
By Martina from Places Of Juma | Facebook
The famous harbour city of Split is a real magnet for travellers in Croatia. Tourists come from all over the world to explore the picturesque old town and making Split one of the most visited cities in the country.
However, if you are looking looking for an alternative place to visit with fewer crowds, then the port town Sibenik is where to visit. It is a true jewel on the Croatian Adriatic. Also situated in Dalmatia, Sibenik is only around 80 kilometres away.
Visiting this coastal town, you will enjoy plenty of amazing things to do. The highlight is the indescribably beautiful ambience of the medieval old town. You can walk through winding stone streets and discover wonderful attractions.
One of the main places to visit is the Sibenik Cathedral of St. James, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On top of the old town, there are three old fortresses which offer visitors a wonderful view over Sibenik and the sheltered bay.
Similar to Split, there are also some fantastic beaches around Sibenik. Perfect if you want to connect sightseeing with some relaxing hours at the beach. An absolute must-do, especially for nature enthusiasts, is a visit to the Nature Reserve Sv. Ante and to hike the beautiful trail along the canal.
By Sarah and Olivier from Off The Tourist Treadmill | Facebook
One of the most visited cities in France is its romantic capital, Paris, with its famous landmarks and the River Seine. However, why not venture a little further south and visit Lyon, the capital of French gastronomy?
Like Paris, Lyon is a romantic city with its twin rivers, the Saône and the Rhône. At dusk, the whole city comes alive with clever lighting. Did you know that Lyon is famous worldwide for its annual ‘Fête des Lumières’ when the entire city is transformed into a light show? A spectacle which lasts for 4 days in December.
Although Lyon is a large city, it has a compact centre which is perfect to explore on foot. There are so many things to enjoy in Lyon and walking around the Presqu’île is the best way to discover the city.
Start your itinerary at Place Bellecour and, as you walk towards the Place des Terreaux, you will discover plenty of charming places. Look out for the ‘Bouchons Lyonnais’ which only serve regional food and are great places to sample local food specialities.
The old city (Vieux Lyon) is a picturesque hidden gem in Lyon where you can experience the unique ‘Traboules’. These are hidden passageways which were used by workers to deliver goods between the streets. They aren’t visible, so push on old doors to discover them!
From the old city, you can also take a funicular (‘la Ficelle’) to the top of the hill above Lyon. Here, you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the city and visit the elegant Fourvière Cathedral.
Lyon has as much to offer visitors as Paris in the north, if not more. Although the city is large, it is more laid back than Paris and benefits more from the sun .
Recently, money has been invested in the city making it an excellent place to live with newly refurbished areas, improved transport links, cycle paths along the river and communal green spaces.
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Over To You….
Have you visited any of these hidden gems in Europe? Do you have any other recommendations for unique hidden gems in Europe?