Want to get off the beaten path in Europe?
There are many hidden gems in Europe that are waiting to be discovered, from little-known ancient sites and hidden towns to secret beaches and tiny islands.
Whether you want to enjoy a city break without the crowds or go on a hiking trip through unspoilt forests, here are some amazing, non-touristy places in Europe that you should put on your bucket list.
1. Matera, Italy
This stunning ancient city is located in the deep south of Italy. In 2019, Matera held the title of European Capital of Culture, however it remains one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. Perched on a rocky hill, the city lay abandoned for a few years. In recent years, its derelict buildings have been turned into galleries, restaurants and boutique hotels.
Matera is known for its cave dwellings. Make sure to visit Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario, a museum that houses old furniture and artisan tools, and St. Lucia alle Malve, a rocky church with 13th-century frescoes.
Tip: For a truly authentic experience, stay at a beautifully furnished cave home.
2. Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Scotland’s Outer Hebrides islands are among the most remote places in Europe. This chain of islands off the main coast of Scotland is home to pristine white sandy beaches, ancient sites and quaint seaside villages.
Take a trip to the Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Harris, where you can indulge in some fresh seafood, learn more about ancient Scottish history, hike through remote areas and go whale-watching.
3. Tara National Park, Serbia
Serbia’s mountain communities are among Europe’s hidden gems. This Balkan country has several mountain ranges, including the Carpathians and the Dinaric Alps. The latter cover a large part of western Serbia and are home to several species of wildlife, including wolves and brown bears.
If you want to get off the beaten path in Serbia, spend a few days in Tara National Park (Dinaric Alps), where you can immerse yourself in the country’s rich, ethnic folklore and explore impressive gorges, including the Drina Gorge, which forms a natural border between Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Looking for more beautiful places to visit in western Serbia? Check out this post.
4. Braga, Portugal
Braga is the third largest city in Portugal and lies just a 1-hour train ride from Porto. Despite being home to several historic attractions, including the oldest cathedral in Portugal, Braga is not as touristy as other Portuguese destinations.
If you’re thinking of a romantic break in Portugal, consider spending a few days in Braga, where you can visit the medieval cathedral, explore the beautiful Guimarães Castle or go for a hike in Peneda-Gerês National Park.
5. The Faroe Islands
Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, with a population of just 50,000 people, you won’t be bothered by any crowds in the Faroe Islands.
If you’re an avid hiker, there’s plenty to explore on the Faroe Islands, from staggering mountains and stunning waterfalls, to stunning valleys and large swathes of greenery dotted by the occasional grazing sheep.
Tip: Make sure to pack these hiking essentials for your trip.
6. Gozo, Malta
Gozo is a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, which forms part of the Maltese archipelago. Unlike the more touristy and developed island of Malta, Gozo has retained its rural charm.
Small, traditional villages dot the Gozitan countryside. While the island may be small, there are plenty of places to visit, including the medieval city of Cittadella, the ancient Ggantija Temples and the stunning sandy beach of Ramla Bay.
While this wee island can get a bit busing during summer and public holidays (Malta’s residents love going to Gozo on long weekends), there are several secret places in Gozo where you can escape the crowds.
7. Piatra Craiului National Park, Romania
Piatra Craiului is a 15,000-hectare park in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains that harbours a rich wildlife and several scenic hiking trails. If you want to go hiking in Transylvania, this park should be your start point.
Besides boasting large swathes of ancient forest, Piatra Craiului is also home to over 120 species of birds, including the rare golden eagle, and some 270 butterfly species. This is also a great place to spot brown bears and wolves, as well as other wildlife species.
8. Qeparo, Albania
Albania’s stunning Adriatic coast and archaeological heritage are probably Europe’s last hidden treasure. Its clear turquoise beaches remain largely deserted and its historical sites untouched.
Albania is also a great destination for a walking holiday, offering trails along rugged mountains and through pine forests, with overnight stays in the homes of Albanian villagers.
If you want to enjoy a beach holiday without the crowds, spend a few days in the quaint seaside town of Qeparo, which forms part of the Albanian Riviera. The beach in Qeparo is stunning – and not as crowded as other beach resorts along the Adriatic Coast. There are also many cheap guesthouses in Qeparo overlooking the sea.
9. San Marino
Good luck trying to spot San Marino on a map. This miniscule enclave on the Italian peninsula has an area of about 61.2 sq. km and a population of just above 30,000. But that doesn’t mean that San Marino is short of places to see and explore.
The oldest republic in the world, San Marino is crowned with three majestic castles, each worth a visit. It is also a green and hilly country, rising up to 657m above sea level. You only need a few days in San Marino, so it is mainly ideal for hiking trips planned over a long weekend.
10. Bratislava, Slovakia
If you want to enjoy a quiet European city break, head to Bratislava.
Bratislava is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe. It is also one of the lesser-visited capitals on the continent. Fringed by mountains and forests, Bratislava combines centuries-old history with a modern twist. There are plenty of things to do in the Slovakian capital, from exploring the might Bratislava Castle to enjoying the city’s thriving nightlife.
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