Europe calls travelers looking for history, architecture, food, or wilderness adventures. If you’ve been to Europe for a few days or a few decades, you can’t shake the feeling that you’re in the middle of an epic saga.
The Old Country still has a few new tricks up its sleeve. There are plenty of reasons to visit classic European highlights, like Rome, Paris, and Athens, but consider fitting one or more of these hidden gems into your next trip.
Start at the Scottish mainland town of Ullapool and book a CalMac ferry for a two-hour trip to this Gaelic isle. Brush up on your Gaelic and visit the Callanish stones, looking sprightly at 5,000 years old. Spot whales from the cliff tops or admire 12th-century chess pieces at the Museum nan Eilean.
Take a tour of 800 years of French monarch styles and tastes. A hidden gem for anyone who loves Versailles, minus the hustle and bustle, Chateau de Fontainebleau is an evocative and affordable alternative. Tour this marvelous castle to glimpse the fashion changes between the 12th and 19th centuries of notables such as Marie Antoinette and Napoleon.
Head to the English Channel to find a hidden gem sandwiched between iconic destinations in the UK and France. Guernsey welcomes travelers with the calm beaches and emerald waters that are more at home surrounding a Mediterranean island. Stroll the Buntin-decorated streets of St. Peter Port to find cozy shops and wonderful excursions to keep you busy.
Leave the Channel behind and head to the sea. Palm tree-lined views of the Adriatic Sea are just the start of your Cavtat, Croatia expedition. Choose a woodland tour of Cavtat peninsulas or prepare for over 35,000 artifacts of European history. Rectors Palace and Racic Mausoleum are two hidden gems among the more popular Croatian towns.
Summit the highest peak in Germany or breathe in fresh, clear air as you take in the stunningly blue waterfalls. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is an off-the-beaten-path wonderland of verdant grass, dizzying mountain slopes, clear water, and fresh powder. The cherry on top of this unforgettable mountainous terrain is Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for the Walt Disney Cinderella Castle.
Foodies and history buffs continue to cross paths and brush shoulders around the cobblestone streets of Tallinn. The stunningly preserved medieval city center is a breath-taking display of hard-to-forget middle ages architecture. Keep walking through the old city gates to discover some tantalizing gastronomy from popular restaurants.
Fans of Bavaria and Christmas markets should check out Nuremberg, Germany. The second-largest city in Bavaria, and largest in the lesser-known Franconia region, Nuremberg delights wintertime travelers with gluhwein, lebkuchen gingerbread cookies, and one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany.
From mechanical goats to the pink St. Stanislaus Church, Poznan is the perfect quirky town to add to your Europe bucket list. A multi-colored Old Town square houses all your favorite Polish dishes and some you didn’t know you liked. Whet your appetite with pierogies and Polish donuts before moving on to stews, soups, and potato pancakes.
The multicultural hub of Europe is conspicuously missing from many travel itineraries. Check out Austro-Hungarian architecture and year-round outdoor expeditions. You’re not far from the Bjelasnica and Jahorina ski resorts, as well as many summertime hiking trails through this picturesque part of Europe.
Take a drive past fjords, tall mountain peaks, and icy cool lakes. Home to glacier-fed waters and Northern Europe’s highest mountain, the fjords of Norway are an outdoor expedition that rivals any in Europe. View ancient stave church sites and end your journey in Bergen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s best to take in the fjords by road, so pack your bags for a hidden gem road trip that rivals any in Europe or beyond.
At the heart of Bratislava is Michael’s gate, a memento of the original 14th-century fortifications. Bratislava effortlessly combines modern nightlife, historical architecture, and jaw-dropping town squares. Step into this whirlwind of neon lights, pastel colors, and fountain-speckled streets.
Whether you’re gearing up for the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lisi Las Fallas fireworks or touring the hipster region of Russafa, Valencia has a memorable blend of hidden gem experiences. Rent a bicycle to explore Turia Gardens for a hint at the majesty of the Spanish countryside.
The Sicilian wonderland of Taormina has been charming tourists for centuries. Start at Corso Umberto, the main boulevard, before hitting the beach by riding a cable car. Gaze in awe at the Ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina before enjoying a traditional ice cream, Sicilian granita.
Tantalizing tapas paired with refreshingly crisp Spanish wine fuel your late-night celebrations in Seville. Home to Moorish architecture, traditional flamenco, and perfectly manicured parks, Seville is home to everything you could want from a trip to Spain. Spend your days relaxing and lingering around town before picking up the pace during late-night dancing, eating, and celebrating.
Take your pick of the small towns nestled in the craggy Apennine mountains. Rolling green hills huddle around soaring peaks that stretch the entire length of Italy. You can’t go wrong in the Apennine mountains, but be sure to bring a GPS and Google Translate. Consider bringing an experienced guide along, or prepare for memorable meanderings along winding mountain roads.