18 Feb,2019 By Jagabond
Every travel blogger has their hidden gems. These locations might be off the tourist radar, lost within a country that already has more famous cities, or lacking in easy public transport options. Whatever the reason, these hidden gems should be considered together with more popular options. Explore and discover these 16 European destinations.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
Annecy is defined by its incredible lake and the majestic mountain views surrounding it. The market in the center of town along the canals is one of the best I’ve ever seen. For regional cuisine try tartiflette, an amazingly tasty yet unhealthy dish loaded with cheese, potatoes and bacon. Take a boat tour on the lake for the best picture opportunities.
The Rioja region of Spain produces some of the best wine in Europe, and Laguardia is the can’t miss attraction. This walled city exudes medieval magic. I’ll always remember walking the quiet stone streets at night, drinking at one of Europe’s oldest wineries, and admiring views of the surrounding vineyards.
Ghent is often overshadowed by the more touristy Bruges. It has canals with amazing pubs and restaurants lining the water, an overall personality that makes you feel young again, and one of the most picturesque views in Europe when standing on St. Michael’s bridge. Visit Ghent in July for their annual festival.
Slovenia is my favorite country in Europe. Their capital has a quaint, underrated downtown area and a number of quirks. The local hero is a poet, the symbol of the city is a dragon, and there is a unique triple bridge that highlights the main square. You won’t find crazy nightlife or wild clubs, but you will meet lots of friendly people.
The Azores off the coast of Portugal are becoming famous among fans of eco-tourism. Each one of the nine islands has their own personality, and for Madalena on Pico Island it’s wine. The vineyards are set on volcanic soil, giving the wines a unique flavor. Drive around the island to find multiple sites for swimming and snorkeling.
When touring Southern France don’t miss this. Nimes is often called the ‘French Rome’ due to all the well preserved remnants of the Roman empire. Travel back to gladiator times at the arena, take a leisurely stroll through the stunningly beautiful Jardins de la Fontaine, and do a day trip to admire the Pont du Gard.
This might be the most undiscovered place on my list. Most tourists in the northern part of Sardinia stay in the Catalan city of Alghero, but I recommend a quick overnight in this colorful fishing village. Enjoy the quietness of Bosa while you dine outside on fresh seafood and a bottle of Vermentino.
Rick Steves helped make the Cinque Terre hike famous. The most amazing stretch of trail is the one connecting Monterosso to Vernazza, with incredible views of the Italian Riviera. Of the five linked villages, Monterosso has the best selection of lodging, nightlife and restaurant options.
Malta is a small country with much diversity. Beach lovers will adore the bright blue water, sociologists will admire the mix of cultures, and historians will marvel at both the recent and ancient history. St. Julian’s has most of the nightlife and acts as a great base for public transport.
The home of Alexander the Great is proof that there’s more to Greece than island life and the Parthenon. Walking along the water you can visit the White Tower, offering great views of the city, and the impressive statue of Alexander. Lovers of ancient history should check out the religious mosaics at the Church of Ayios Dimitrios.
Overshadowed by Vienna, my favorite city in Europe, Graz hides in the shadows but is secretly amazing. Walk up to the Schlossberg for a day of leisure, beautiful views of the city and a great lion monument. Stop by for a coffee at the Murinsel, a novel bridge over the Mur river that resembles a metal island.
The Slovenian coast isn’t long, but it is beautiful. Piran is the crowning jewel, and starts the Istrian Peninsula that carries over into Croatia. This coastal town has added meaning for me, as this is where I fell in love. The region is known for truffles, wine and beautiful sunsets. Take your lover here for a romantic escape.
Yes, Netherlands offers more than just Amsterdam. Maastricht was a gem I discovered while living in Belgium. What do I love about it? The streets are impeccably clean, the pubs are incredible, and you have great views over the Meuse River. The nearby university ensures the city always remains young, progressive and vibrant.
I previously wrote about Bolzano and their amazing Christmas market. This is also a great launching point for nature excursions to the nearby Dolomites. My most unique experience here was the archaeology museum focused on Otzi, a 5,000 year old mummy. You can learn his scientifically determined history, and see the iceman himself.
Northern France is scattered with industrial towns, but Lille is the clear jewel. The downtown area offers great cafes and shopping opportunities, and a free zoo which is surprisingly good. Book a trip in early September to see the annual Braderie de Lille, Europe’s largest flea market.
This is a city waiting to be discovered. The vibe here is a far cry from Dubrovnik, and is more driven by locals than tourists. Climb the belfry tower for great views, listen to the sea organ’s unique sound, and watch the jazzy lights of the solar circle. Zadar is also a great base for visiting Plitvice National Park to see some amazing waterfalls.
Here are some other articles I’ve written to help plan your next Europe trip.