When we talk about exploring top gems in Europe, familiar destinations like Paris, Rome, and London tend to grab all the attention. However, beyond the bustling tourist hubs lie hidden treasures waiting to be discovered from big cities you may not have heard of to small towns and villages.
Why not turn your gaze towards underrated destinations in Europe that often fly under the radar?
Best Underrated Destinations in Europe
Here is a list of underrated destinations in Europe to consider visiting. Hidden gems and places off the usual tourist trails that promise unforgettable adventures.
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1. Porto, Portugal
Porto, Portugal, shines as an absolute gem in Europe’s crown. Despite being overlooked in the past, this city holds its ground as one of the best unknown places in Europe to visit. It is found along Portugal’s northwest coast and boasts a delightful blend of historic architecture that adds an irresistible charm.
From the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge to the vivid houses that grace the Douro River’s banks, Porto effortlessly merges tradition with modernity.
For those in search of a vacation marked by a high standard of living, Porto is an absolute must-see destination in Europe. Its walkable streets, hospitable locals, and unhurried way of life create an ideal environment. It’s a city that welcomes leisurely exploration, offering respite from overwhelming tourist crowds.
2. Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
Located in the heart of the Czech Republic, Český Krumlov is one of the best-hidden gems in Europe. This spot gained its fame primarily due to its incredible castle, which has stood for centuries and remains in splendid condition.
What’s great is that Český Krumlov isn’t super crowded like some touristy places in Europe. You can explore the town leisurely, visit its charming shops, and enjoy local cafes without the hustle of large crowds. The Vltava River flows calmly through the town’s centre, offering you the chance to take a tranquil boat ride if interested.
So, if you’re up for a European relaxing vacation to wander through a beautiful town, explore historic spots, and enjoy a relaxed vibe, Český Krumlov is your city to go to.
3. Ronda, Spain
If you want to know one of the underrated destinations in Europe to explore, you should consider Rondo. Ronda is a region located in Spain. It is divided by the El Tajo Gorge, spanned by the iconic Puente Nuevo bridge. Ronda is famous for this thrilling gorge called El Tajo. It’s like nature decided to carve out a giant crack in the earth, and Ronda’s right on the edge of it.
There’s even this super old bridge called Puente Nuevo that spans the gorge. Walking on it might make you a bit nervous, but the view you get is absolutely worth it. You’re free to stroll casually along the narrow streets, explore adorable shops, and savour some authentic local tapas without the hassle of crowds pushing you around.
So, if you’re into a Europe vacation where you can soak up jaw-dropping views, explore a charming town, and feel like you’ve stepped into another time, Ronda is calling your name.
4. Hallstatt, Austria
Hallstatt is famous for being a crazy old and unique place to visit in Europe. We’re talking ancient, like people have been living here for thousands of years. And get this – there’s even a salt mine you can check out.
This place isn’t a tourist circus, which is awesome. You can walk around the cobblestone streets, look at cute shops, and enjoy the peaceful charm. And guess what? You can just chill by the lake and enjoy the view without being in a crowd.
There’s a funicular that takes you up to a viewpoint. You hop in, and next, you’re overlooking the whole village and the sparkling lake below. It’s one of those pinch-me moments. So, if you’re all about breathtaking scenery, exploring an ancient village, and having a super laid-back vacation, Hallstatt is where it’s at.
5. Matera, Italy: Timeless Cave Dwellings
Matera is famous for its unique architecture and one of the hidden places to stay in Europe. The architecture has cave dwellings and are called “Sassi,” and they’ve turned into homes, churches, and even hotels. You can wander through these narrow alleys and soak up the history.
There’s this famous spot called the “Belvedere” where you can stand and just be blown away by the panorama. You’re looking at Sassi, the Gravina River, and the landscape that’s been around for ages.
It is worth trying out if you desire to explore an underrated destination in Europe, that’s unlike any other, and soaking in the charm of an ancient town, Matera is your spot.
6. Tallinn, Estonia
When you step into Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, it’s like stepping into a time machine. The city’s old town is ancient – really, really ancient – yet it’s still standing tall and proud. The streets beneath your feet are uneven, covered in cobblestones that have seen countless footsteps.
And the buildings? Oh, they’re straight out of a fairy tale – tall and vibrant, with roofs that could have leapt off the pages of a storybook. As you wander, it’s almost as if you can catch the faint whispers of history floating around you.
But hold on, Tallinn isn’t a one-trick wonder. It’s like a magical blend of the past and present, where old meets new in a graceful dance. Right in the heart of the city, a modern and bustling side emerges, brimming with life and excitement.
You’ll find yourself amidst a hub of activity, with endless things to do and sights to take in. It’s like having two worlds seamlessly intertwined within a single city – that’s what truly makes Tallinn the best unknown places in Europe to visit.
7. Sintra, Portugal
Sintra is a popular spot for couples in Europe and honeymooners seeking a romantic getaway. Sintra, Portugal is one fascinating but hidden gem in Europe. It is a charming town located in Portugal, just a short distance from Lisbon. Sintra is home to several exquisite palaces and castles. The Pena Palace is perhaps the most iconic, perched on a hilltop and boasting a colourful exterior that stands out against the lush greenery.
The Sintra National Palace’s distinctive twin chimneys are another notable landmark. Beyond its architectural wonders, Sintra also holds cultural significance. The town has inspired poets, writers, and artists throughout history, and its influence can be felt in literature and art.
Also, Sintra offers a taste of Portuguese culinary delights. You can savour traditional dishes and local specialities at charming cafes and restaurants scattered throughout the town.
8. Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium, is an absolute hidden gem in Europe. This vibrant city, with its rich history and contemporary spirit, offers an experience that’s both captivating and charming.
Ghent’s historical significance is so glaring as you stroll through its rocky streets. The medieval architecture paints a lovely backdrop that’s wonderfully complemented by the modern energy that radiates through the city. Its well-preserved buildings, such as the imposing Gravensteen Castle and the awe-inspiring Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, give a clear view of the city’s past.
But that’s not all to Ghent. It’s a city where creativity and innovation flourish. The university crowd gives the city youthful vigour, and this energy is reflected in the thriving arts and cultural scene. Galleries, theatres, and music venues abound, ensuring there’s always something captivating to explore.
For food lovers, Ghent is a culinary haven. A wide variety of places to eat cater to all kinds of tastes. You can enjoy traditional Belgian dishes or try out new and exciting foods. And, of course, no visit to Ghent is complete without savouring a warm waffle topped with delectable treats.
Ghent is also a city committed to sustainability and embracing a green lifestyle. It has a downtown area where cars aren’t allowed, and they’re also big on eco-friendly projects.
9. Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro is a hidden gem for beach holidays in Europe and a coastal town that has an enchanting history that seems to come alive through every stone street and archway. The Bay of Kotor, often called Europe’s southernmost fjord, wraps around the town, creating a picture-perfect setting with calm waters and towering mountains.
For the adventurers out there, a hike up to the Kotor Fortress rewards you with sweeping views of the bay below. The climb might be a bit steep, but the scenery that opens up is absolutely worth the effort.
Kotor’s connection to the sea echoes in its culture and cuisine. Seafood takes centre stage, and you can indulge in the day’s fresh catch prepared with a Mediterranean touch. You’ll find lively markets and cosy cafes along the waterfront that beckon you to soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
10. Gimmelwald, Switzerland
Gimmelwald, located within Switzerland’s Alpine beauty, is a place that defines an authentic Swiss Alps adventure. This village, refreshingly car-free, is a haven of tranquillity where you can truly disconnect and unwind.
But here’s the thing that truly steals the show! Picture-perfect views of the majestic Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger peaks that form an unforgettable backdrop. Gimmelwald isn’t just a place; it’s a space where you can fully embrace the beauty of nature, wander along nearby trails, and take in that refreshing mountain air that feels like a revitalizing hug.
Gimmelwald isn’t just another place to visit in Europe for holidays; it’s your personal escape hatch. It’s where you hit the reset button, recharge your batteries, and get lost in the wild beauty of the Alps.
11. Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
Set amidst Bulgaria’s stunning scenery, the Rila Monastery is a blend of spirituality and stunning architecture which makes it one of the best underrated destinations in Europe to visit. It’s not just a religious spot; it’s a piece of living history that’s held onto its cultural importance for ages.
The monastery’s stunning architecture is a true feast for the eyes. Intricate frescoes adorn the exterior walls, telling stories of faith and tradition in vibrant colours. The Hrelyo Tower, a symbol of the monastery, adds a touch of grandeur to the complex making it one of the best places to visit in Europe.
For history, culture, and spirituality enthusiasts, the Rila Monastery is a must-visit Europe destination to explore. Its architectural elegance, deep-rooted history, and tranquil setting come together to create a place that deeply connects with the soul and leaves an enduring mark.
12. Cinque Terre, Italy
Located right along the rugged Ligurian coastline, Cinque Terre is a group of five incredibly charming villages that truly embody the Italian coastal spirit and is one of the top gems in Europe.
Each village – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – possesses its own unique character. The colourful buildings seem to cascade down the cliffs, creating a visual spectacle against the azure waters of the Mediterranean. The narrow streets and charming squares are perfect for leisurely strolls, helping you discover hidden corners and local treasures.
Cinque Terre isn’t just about its captivating landscapes; it’s also a place to savour the flavours of Italy. You’re in for a treat with delicious fresh seafood, homemade pasta, and local wines. Also, don’t forget to go on beautiful hikes along the paths that connect the villages. You’ll see amazing views of the coast and get to enjoy the beauty of nature all around you.
13. Brasov, Romania
Romania itself is one of the big underrated destinations in Europe and Brasov is a must-visit destination in Europe found in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains. It gives a feel of history, culture, and natural splendour.
One fascinating thing is there is a big open area known as the Council Square. There, you’ll see colourful buildings, and it’s a busy spot with cafes, markets, and events. One of the important buildings is the Black Church, which is really old and has a special Gothic style.
The mountains around the city offer lots of outdoor activities. In the summer, you can go hiking in the forests and enjoy amazing views from places like Tampa Mountain. When winter comes, the mountains turn into a great spot for skiing and other winter sports.
14. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park is indeed one of the underrated destinations in Europe located in the heart of Croatia. For nature enthusiasts and those with a camera in hand, the park is a dream come true. Wooden pathways and trails meander through the park, offering an up-close encounter with the beautiful waterfalls and lakes painted in mesmerizing shades of blue and green. The gentle rush of water and the soothing sounds of nature create a serene atmosphere that wraps you in tranquillity.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a place for all seasons. In warmer times, the park transforms into a vibrant haven, which has vibrant plants and wildlife. When it is the winter season, the landscape has this touch of snow and the park turns into a winter wonderland, offering an intriguing view.
What truly steals the show are the interconnected lakes and waterfalls that grace the landscape. The crown jewel, the Great Waterfall, stands tall as Croatia’s highest waterfall, a truly awe-inspiring sight.
If you are in search of a place to visit in Europe that celebrates the beauty of nature, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a destination that doesn’t disappoint.
15. Colmar, France
Located in the heart of the Alsace region, Colmar is a top Europe gem with well-preserved medieval architecture, colourful timber-framed houses, and meandering canals.
Colmar’s old town is like a cosy puzzle of tiny streets and bumpy alleys. Every corner you turn reveals something amazing and new to see. The houses over there are full of attractive colours, made of wood, and decorated with flowers everywhere.
One of the highlights is the Unterlinden Museum, where you can admire centuries-old art and artefacts. The Saint-Martin Collegiate Church, with its stunning Gothic architecture, is another gem that’s worth exploring. Be sure not to leave without having a taste of their local cuisine like Alsatian dishes.
16. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar’s famous Stari Most bridge is a powerful symbol of coming together and staying strong, linking cultures right in the centre of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Old Bridge, a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture, stands as a symbol of unity and resilience. Strolling through the cobbled streets of the Old Bazaar, you’ll find the scent of traditional food, the sound of local music, and the vibrant colours of crafts that tell stories of generations making it the perfect underrated destination in Europe.
Mostar is a blend of East and West, where minarets and church spires stand side by side. The Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque and the Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity are just two examples of this cultural harmony. The city’s rich history is also evident in its museums, which recount tales of times gone by.
The Neretva River offers you an environment to unwind. You can take a relaxed walk by the water or try a peaceful boat ride to see Mostar from a new angle. And definitely, make sure to taste the local food, which shows off the different flavours of the area.
17. Sibiu, Romania
Sibiu’s old town is a masterpiece of architectural beauty and one of the underrated destinations in Europe. The pastel-coloured houses and intricate facades create a picture-perfect setting that’s straight out of a fairy tale. As you walk through the streets, you’ll come across hidden squares, cosy cafes, and vibrant markets that offer a glimpse into local life.
The city’s three main squares – the Great Square, the Small Square, and the Huet Square – are like open-air museums, each with its own character and history.
Sibiu is a city that’s alive with modern energy. The ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization, located on the outskirts, gives you a glimpse into Romania’s rural history and traditions. The city also hosts a variety of events, from music festivals to craft fairs, that celebrate its vibrant present.
18. San Marino
Most people don’t know of San Marino in Italy, let alone know that it’s its own country!
San Marino, nestled atop an Italian mountain, is a top underrated European destination that offers a glimpse into a different era. This independent microstate feels like a step back in time, with medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, and panoramic views that leave you breathless.
San Marino’s old town, perched on the hillside, is a maze of narrow lanes and historic buildings. The Three Towers – Guaita, Cesta, and Montale – are iconic symbols of the city, offering not only stunning vistas but also a connection to its rich history. As you explore the town, you’ll find charming shops, traditional cafes, and quaint squares that exude a sense of tranquillity.
The Palazzo Pubblico, the seat of government, is an architectural masterpiece that reflects the city’s noble heritage. The Basilica di San Marino, with its impressive facade, adds to the city’s cultural and religious significance. And don’t forget to take in the sweeping views from the city walls – they stretch as far as the eye can see, offering a sense of wonder that’s truly unique.
19. Valletta, Malta
Valletta, the capital of Malta, is a treasure trove of history and Mediterranean allure. Valletta’s grand harbour welcomes you with a sense of awe while its fortifications and bastions tell tales of rich maritime history. St. John’s Co-Cathedral is a masterpiece of Baroque art, adorned with intricate details and Caravaggio’s paintings that take you back in time.
The city comes alive with festivals and events, celebrating its heritage and contemporary spirit. Valletta’s cuisine is a delicious fusion of Mediterranean flavours, offering a culinary journey that tantalizes your taste buds, making it one of the best places to visit in Europe.
Wrap up of Underrated Destinations in Europe
These underrated destinations in Europe are waiting to be explored!
From charming streets in Ghent to ancient places like Lviv, these 19 gems in Europe are like hidden treasures full of special experiences. So, when you’re planning your trip, think about going off the regular path to find these lesser-known but awesome places in Europe.
I hope this has helped you with the underrated destinations in Europe and the best places to visit in Europe!
For more of my Europe posts see:
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- What To Pack For A Europe Summer City Break With Hand Luggage Only!
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- 26 Day Trips from London By Train! Ideas For Cities, Beaches & Europe!