Off The Beaten Track: 6 Hidden Gems To Visit In Europe
Europe is a tourist magnet. Its colourful cities and towns capture our curiosity and spark our inner explorer. History lovers appreciate Europe’s ancient architecture, while outdoor enthusiasts are mesmerized by its diverse landscapes. And if you’re a foodie, it’s easy to eat your way through Europe’s hidden gems and cosmopolitan cities alike. Local ingredients and delicacies vary from village to village, so you will never grow tired of the endless food options that these unique places to visit in Europe have to offer.
Due to cheap airfare and social media hype, it seems that every square meter of this beautiful continent has already been trampled over. This begs the question: are there any hidden gems in Europe left to explore? The answer is a resounding yes, as the following list shows:
Isle of Lewis, Scotland
The Isle of Lewis is located off the northwest coast of Scotland and forms part of the Outer Hebridean island group. It can be reached in just over 2 hours by taking a CalMac ferry from Ullapool on the Scottish mainland.
Lewis is at the heart of Gaelic culture and many inhabitants are native Gaelic speakers. The island has a variety of historic attractions worth visiting including the 5000-year-old Callanish Stones, Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, and Dun Carloway Broch.
The main town of Stornoway is well equipped with supermarkets, independent shops, a cinema, a theatre, pubs, cafes, and restaurants which specialize in locally caught seafood.
The island is also home to many beautiful beaches and walks, including clifftop trails where it is possible to spot whales and dolphins in the surrounding sea. For a close-up view of the marine wildlife, you can also join a local boat tour.
Finally, a visit to Museum nan Eilean is a must. In the museum, you can view 6 of the highly detailed Lewis Chessman, part of a hoard of 93 pieces that were found on the island. It is believed they are gaming pieces dating back to the 12th century.
Chateau de Fontainebleau, France
Chateau de Fontainebleau is a magnificent French castle that flies under the radar compared to tourist magnets like Versailles. This chateau is unique for its diverse rooms and corridors, which result from the varying tastes and styles of French monarchs spanning 800 years.
A visit to Chateau de Fontainebleau still provides the grandeur of Versailles but avoids competing for space with mobs of people. It is also less expensive to visit than Versailles at 12€ vs. the latter’s price of 18€.
Plus, Chateau de Fontainebleau has seen more monarchs pass through its halls than Versailles. Between the 12th and 19th centuries, rooms were ornately designed for the likes of Napoleon and Marie Antoinette and were the backdrop for big life events like marriages and births. As you wind your way through the long halls of this castle, you’ll see the contrasts in styles for yourself, along with beautiful antiques, artwork, and tapestries.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is one of the most tranquil off-the-beaten-path places in Germany, and one of the most unforgettable hidden gems in Europe.
It’s the perfect spot to connect with Mother Nature – at all times of the year, too. The grass seems greener, the mountains steeper, the snow whiter and the water bluer.
All fitness types can enjoy the outdoors here. A simple yet scenic hiking trail runs through the crystal blue waterfalls of Partnach Gorge. For experienced hikers, trek up Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze. You can also ascend via cable car, where you are greeted with the most stunning panoramic mountainous views. There’s even a beer garden at the top.
The pretty seafront town of Cavtat in the southern Konvale region is a European hidden gem in the popular tourist destination of Croatia. The charming small town lies around a wide, palm tree-lined harbour lined with several cafes and restaurants, all of which offer stunning views of the Adriatic.
Visit the town’s two historic churches or the museum dedicated to local 19th-century artist Vlaho Bukovac. View the 35,000 historical artifacts at the Rectors Palace or climb the cobbled lanes of Cavtat to the Racic Mausoleum with its fantastic views of the coastline. Enjoy a stroll around Cavtat’s two wooded peninsulas with access to the warm, clear waters of the Adriatic from wherever you choose to flop!
Finish off a perfect day with ice cream from the famous House of Ice Cream whilst watching local teams compete in the open-air water polo pitch in the harbour or mingle with post-work locals who flock to the harbour to swim after work.
With some offbeat destinations, you wonder how they managed to remain under the radar. That is the case with Birgi, a pretty and authentic little Turkish town featuring the most amazing Ottoman houses, cobblestone streets, and friendly people.
If you’re looking for ‘the authentic Turkey’, this is it! And the bonus is that it comes with lovely accommodation choices too. In Birgi, you’ll get to stay in restored Ottoman mansions at bargain prices. After your generous Turkish breakfast, get ready to stroll the streets of Birgi.
Our top tip? Visit on a Monday. That’ll allow you to taste the local produce sold at the weekly market. After that, walk to Çakırağa Konağı. This 18th-century mansion will blow you off your feet. Once you’ve seen this masterpiece, enjoy the beautiful and narrow streets in the old town, and feel like you are stepping back into time, surrounded by the finest examples of Ottoman architecture.
A 40-minute train ride north of Copenhagen lies a quaint Danish town with a deep history and rotten reputation. In fact, you may not recognize the name, but you have probably heard of Helsingør, Denmark. That’s because it was in Hamlet by the name Elsinore Castle.
That castle is the real-life Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark and it’s one of the most fascinating hidden gems in Europe. The town has about 60,000 residents, a famous castle and a plethora of other attractions. You could easily spend a few days in Helsingør and see the city museum, Oresund Aquarium and the Danish Maritime Museum.
The town also has a sister city just a short ferry ride across the Oresund Sound in Sweden which makes a great half-day trip. On weekends there is a vibrant street food market in Helsingør.
Kronborg Castle is still the main attraction in Helsingør. There are free guided tours included with admission and in the summer months, there are even Shakespearean actors performing with guides. When you visit, make sure to spend some time in the underground dungeon and climb the cannon tower.