8 hidden gem destinations in Europe to add to your travel bucket list

Europe is a tourist attraction. With history buffs heading for ancient architecture, art lovers visiting fascinating museums and galleries, dining at world-class restaurants, and outdoor lovers fascinated by the gorgeous landscape, there is something for every type of traveler.

There are plenty of coveted holiday destinations in Europe, and many of them really deserve their popularity. But thanks to cheap airfares and influencer Instagram feeds, it can sometimes seem like every square foot of the continent has already been crushed, leaving one wondering if there are any hidden gems in Europe left to explore.

Cities like Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam will always be attractive. However, if you get off the beaten track in Europe, you may discover a very special place – a place with all the charm of famous places, but without the crowds. With picturesque villages, gorgeous hill towns, seaside resorts, and medieval hamlets among vineyards and lakes, Europe is brimming with secret destinations, away from the bustling crowds.

There is something rewarding about searching for unexplored and untouched destinations, and each country has some sites that have yet to be explored by tourists and travelers. If you ever get the chance to travel outside the traditional international tourist “sights”, and look for some overlooked places, you definitely should! And thanks to the very extensive bus and train network, I think you’ll find it not that hard to do.

Let me give you a little inspiration to get you started.

San Marino
San Marino

Image credit: Vladimir Sazonov / Shutterstock.com

1. San Marino

Located on the eastern coast of the Italian peninsula, the nation of San Marino is one of Europe’s best hidden gems. At 24 square miles, this tiny republic is the third smallest country in Europe (after Vatican City and Monaco), and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

With an official founding date of September 301 (yes, you read that right, year 301!) this is the world’s oldest sovereign and constitutional republic, and its constitution, enacted in 1600, is the world’s oldest still in existence. Effect. San Marino is one of the world’s richest countries, with a budget surplus and no national debt.

If you want to explore the winding cobbled streets and timeless European charm, this is the place for you, and you should definitely make time to “enjoy the frontier” from Italy to this small country perched atop a mountain. Indeed, without border procedures, the passage from Italy to San Marino is smooth, and foreign visitors can enter without even showing a passport; Although if you want to stamp your passport as a souvenir, there is a fee of €5.

The historic center of San Marino is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and if you look up, you will see the three towers of San Marino, called Cesta, Guaita and Montale, which were built between 13The tenth and 15The tenth Horns, towering over Monte Titano.

Pro tip: San Marino is 2 hours by train from Bologna and 3 hours east of Florence. But don’t listen to those who say take a day trip – spend at least one night here, and then once you leave the day hikers, you’ll really feel like you’ve got the place to yourselves.

Boeing, Slovenia
Boeing, Slovenia

Image credit: Peerayut Buasup / Shutterstock.com

2. Boeing, Slovenia

Bohinj, Slovenia, located in the Triglav National Park in the Julian Alps, one of the oldest national parks in Europe, is a destination inextricably linked with nature, sustainable development and unique experiences. Explore on foot, by bike, on horseback or sleigh, visit the city’s three museums, learn about traditional Alpine dairy and cheese making, try fly fishing, or visit the International Wildflower Festival – there’s so much to see and do its here.

The highlight of a trip to Bohinj is Lake Bohinj. Most visitors to Slovenia head straight to Lake Bled, with its small island surmounted by a church, which is truly amazing. But less than 30 minutes from Lake Bohinj, it’s absolutely stunning but without the crowds. Think low hanging mist and mirror-like reflections of the surrounding beautiful snow-capped mountains.

Pro tip: Bohinj Ski Resort is considered one of the best (and best value) in Europe.

Sao Miguel Island, Portugal
Sao Miguel Island

Image credit: Evgeni Fabisuk / Shutterstock.com

3. São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

The Azores, an archipelago of nine islands in the North Atlantic Ocean about 845 miles west of mainland Portugal, is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal (the other being Madeira). São Miguel is the largest of the islands and best for first-time visitors. Would you like to hike to sparkling crater lakes, bathe in hot fresh water springs or the thermally active ocean? The islands lie at the junction of three tectonic plates, resulting in beautiful volcanic landscapes.

The beaches are also unique – some are covered in black volcanic sand – and it is possible to watch whales and swim, responsibly, close to dolphins. Aside from all the things to do in Sao Miguel, the food is also incredible, with plenty of fresh fish, beef, cheese, and even pineapple. Highlight was levedoa fluffy, slightly sweet Portuguese muffin (flat and somewhat similar to an English muffin).

Pro tip: The islands are easily accessible from mainland Portugal with plenty of flights from Lisbon and Porto. São Miguel Airport also has links with other European countries, as well as the United States and Canada.

The Ducal Palace in Mantova, Italy
The Ducal Palace in Mantova, Italy

Image credit: Massimiliano Pieracini / Shutterstock.com

4. Mantua, Italy

If you love Italian architecture and art but also love to escape the crowds, then Mantova is for you. While local Italian tourists love to visit Mantua, international tourists seem unaware of its existence! Located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, Mantua is easy to reach by car, although there are train lines from Verona, Milan, and Bologna.

Mantua is known for its treasures, architectural masterpieces, elegant mansions, and medieval and Renaissance cityscapes. Highlights of a visit include the Ducal Palace (the largest residential building in Europe, after the Vatican, with 600 rooms, large frescoes, and fine art), the Palazzo Te, the Teatro Bibiena, and the Renaissance Basilica di Sant’Andrea. The town is surrounded by three artificial lakes, one of which is covered in wads of tulips, just crying out for a sunset boat cruise.

Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro

Image credit: Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock.com

5. Perast, Montenegro

Just a 20-minute drive north of Kotor, the small seaside village of Perast (one of the most beautiful in Montenegro, and one of the most expensive too!), is one of the best-preserved towns on the entire Adriatic coast. With 17 Baroque palaces, and 19 churches (the most luxurious of which is the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, a Baroque masterpiece dating back to the 17th century.The tenth century), with barely more than 270 residents and one main street, Perast is a small town full of history and legends.

Add to that its scenic location, compact size and very small harbor for cruise ships, and you have one of the most enchanting and seemingly untouched destinations in Montenegro. It is hard to imagine that this small town was once a strategic port at the crossroads of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice.

Pro tip: Perast is a great place for seafood lovers, as local fishermen bring their catch directly from the Gulf of Kotor and the Adriatic Sea. Oysters and mussels are some of the best in the region.

Mandraki.  Nisyros, Greece
Mandraki town in Nisyros

Image credit: Karel Gallas / Shutterstock.com

6. Nisyros Island, Greece

The small, quiet island of Nisyros in the southern Aegean is known for its active volcano, with a crater of sulfur bubbles in the center of the island. While its heart may be volcanic, the island is surrounded by charming whitewashed villages with distinctive blue framed windows and doors.

For most visitors, Nisyros is a day trip from the resort island of Kos, but if you want to experience more of this little treasure, you should stay a few nights. Spend two days hiking, swimming in secluded beaches, exploring at your own pace, or drinking Greek coffee along the waterfront as you relax with a book – experience the Greek lifestyle without the crowds of places like Santorini.

Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain
Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain

Image credit: Lyd Photography / Shutterstock.com

7. Setenil de las Bodegas – Spain

Setenil de las Bodegas is a small town in southern Spain best known for its whitewashed houses built into the surrounding landscape, providing a stark contrast to the dark cliffs looming above.

Aside from its scenic cliffside location, Setenil de las Bodegas also has a couple of noteworthy attractions. The hilltop Nizari Castle in the city was an Arab fort dating back to the 13th centuryThe tenth century. The medieval fortress was one of the last strongholds of the Moors before the Christians reconquered the Iberian Peninsula in the late 15th century. All but one of the castle’s original towers were demolished after the last siege, but it’s still worth stopping here to take in the wonderful views of the city below.

The second place to visit is the Basilica de la Encarnacion. While this may not be the most extravagant church in Spain, it is still special in its own right. Built in 1505 by order of the Archbishop of Seville, the church was built over the ancient Arab Mezquita, as was the custom in those days, and is still in use today, providing a glimpse of what life was like in Little Spanish. villages.

Located between Seville and Granada, Setenil de las Bodegas is one of Andalusia’s best kept secrets. It’s amazing that the city managed to stay under the radar for so long.

Novalja on the island of Pag in Croatia
Novalja on the island of Pag in Croatia

Image credit: Ilija Ascic / Shutterstock.com

8. Pag Island, Croatia

Pag is one of the 1,200 Croatian islands in the Adriatic Sea – which may go some way to explaining how I managed to keep this situation out of sight. Unlike other Croatian islands, which tend to be tropical and covered with dense vegetation, Pag Island, often referred to as “moon rock”, is arid and rocky.

There are no rivers or trees, it has a barren land covered with white stones and a lot of salt. The island itself is surrounded by the bright clear blue Adriatic Sea, the island is surrounded by coves and secluded beaches. The best beaches include Zrce Beach, Strasko Beach, and Spiaggia di Rucica. Sunrise and sunset here are some of the most amazing and beautiful you will ever see.

Perhaps oddly enough, along with the island’s beauty, culture and history, the northern part of Pag is known for its nightlife scene, and the party center of Pag Island on Zrće Beach has become a festival and club destination to rival any party place in the world. In the meantime, the south remains quieter and calmer.

In addition to all of this, Paš is also famous for its sheep’s milk cheese (Paški sir) and is widely considered home to the best cheese, olive oils and wine in Croatia, as well as being the origin of Pag lace, a centuries-old tradition started by the Benedictine nuns in St. Margaret’s Monastery.

go off track

A few of my recommendations for getting started on your European travels are off the beaten track. Remember, as American academic and author Susan Magsamin once said, “Look for opportunities to take roads that are less crowded. There are no wrong turns.” Happy exploring!

To learn more about Europe, explore these articles:

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