Best Unknown European Destinations: 10 Hidden Gems In Europe that you must put on your bucket list to travel too soon.
If you’re looking for a quiet place to travel in Europe, we think these European best-hidden gems are underrated and largely unexplored.
Ireland – Killarney – Unexplored Places In Europe
Now lockdown is easing, are you looking for a tranquil, lesser-known corner of Europe to visit? Killarney is a quaint and quintessential Irish town that’s located in western Ireland. Killarney is commonly known for being the “tidiest town in Ireland” because of how clean it is.
In order to get to Ireland, you could either fly or catch the ferry from England or Scotland. If you’re flying into Dublin, you can easily get to Killarney in a day through a tour, by renting a car or using the train with Irish Rail. Hop on the train at Dublin Heuston Station and change at Mallow for Killarney. You could also catch a bus from Dublin but that takes 6 hours. Cork is the closest airport to Killarney and takes just 2 hours 36 minutes by train and less if you’re self-driving.
Killarney is a hidden gem because most tourists opt to visit Dublin or Galway. Instead, you should visit Killarney because there’s something there for everyone and it doesn’t seem as touristy as other cities in Ireland.
If you like the outdoors, be sure to explore Killarney National Park as there are lots of beautiful forests and hikes in the area. One such hike worth doing is up to Torc Waterfall. This waterfall is 66 feet tall and is absolutely beautiful to view in person. The hike takes roughly 20 minutes and you can keep hiking further if you want to. The forest that the hike is in is so lusciously green that you’ll definitely want to bring your camera to take some awesome photos. Keep your eyes peeled for wild, red deer and sea eagles which are flourishing here.
Looking for a longer and harder hike? Check out the Kerry Way Walking Trail. It’s 200km in length but there are smaller sections you can complete. These ancient trails pass through breathtaking scenery, remote valleys and scenic mountain passes and ridges. Alternatively, hike to Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil. The Devil’s Ladder is a challenging route and if you’re not experienced, you can hire a local guide.
Whilst you’re in Killarney, you’ll definitely not want to miss the Gap of Dunloe, the Wishing Bridge and from there descend into Black Valley to find Lord Brandon’s Cottage an old Victorian hunting lodge which is now a cafe. From here you can return to Killarney on one of the world’s oldest boat trips to Ross Castle on the Lakes of Killarney. Alternatively, if you fancy a challenge, hire a kayak and paddle to the enchanting Innisfallen Island where there are ruins of a Monastery founded in 640AD. This magical island is home to hundreds of native red deer which you can spot from the shores.
If adventure is calling your name you can rent bikes from Killarney and cycle to the Gap of Dunloe, through to Black Valley, Molls Gap and return to Killarney. This is dubbed one of Ireland’s best cycling routes. There’s also rock climbing, zip-lining, high ropes and canyoning here.
For those interested in history, be sure to try to check out Muckross House which is a historical mansion and garden area in Killarney. Queen Victoria actually stayed here during one of her visits and the owners rearranged the interior of the whole mansion just so Queen Victoria could have a perfect view from her window.
Written by Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages. See more from Krystianna on Instagram.
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Latvia – Cesis – Best Unknown European Destinations
Cesis in Latvia is the perfect town to visit for escaping the crowds. From Riga, it only takes two hours to get to Cesis but it’s far enough that the majority of tourists don’t make it thus making it one of the best unknown European places to visit.
The nearest airport to Cesis is Riga and Cesis is easily accessible from there by car rental, bus or train. The trains are a bit more comfortable but the buses more frequent. Hiring a car gives you the ultimate freedom to explore but you can also catch a ferry from Germany & Sweden if you fancy taking over your own car from the UK.
Cesis is famous for its medieval castle which dates back to the 13th century. It survived multiple wars, and multiple changes in ownership and some parts of the castle have fallen into disrepair. Others, like the South Tower, have been restored and are in such a good shape that you can go inside. The best thing about visiting Cesis castle is the peculiar way you get to explore the inside. Don’t expect any light installations, instead, you receive a lantern when buying your ticket so you can walk around the South Tower by candlelight. How romantic is that?!
Next to the medieval castle, you can find the New Castle. You’ll need to buy a combined ticket to gain entrance to both of them. The New Castle was built in the 18th century and houses various exhibitions about the culture and history of the Cesis region. The restored rooms are quite interesting if you want to know how the inhabitants of the New Castle lived historically. The highlight, though, is the very top of the tower from where you have a great view of the Medieval Castle and the Old Town.
After visiting the two castles, you could take a walk through the Castle Gardens. Count von Sievers, one of the inhabitants of New Castle, created them around 200 years ago. He named various parts after his beloved family members. His daughter’s name was Mindoras and you can now hike to the top of Mindoras Hill.
Inside the castle park, you can also find the oldest brewery in Northern Europe. Cesis Castle brewery has been around since the late 1500s. With the arrival of the Swedes in Cesis, beer became more and more popular and the brewery moved and expanded multiple times. Count von Sievers, the creator of the Castle Park, constructed the brewery which you can still see on the castle grounds. The beer is now produced on the outskirts of Cesis but you can find a cafe inside the Old Brewery that is perfect if you want to take a break and drink a beer.
Of course, Cesis has a lot more to offer than just the castles and the park. You should stroll through the Old Town and enjoy the historic buildings there. Here, you can find more restaurants and cafes which will allow you to sample typical Latvian cuisine.
Cesis is the perfect location for hiking as it is found inside the Gauja National Park. While Cesis is quiet enough for you to escape the crowds, the forests around the town will allow you to isolate completely and surround yourself with the quietness of nature. The Cirulisi Nature Trails are great for all abilities.
Written by Ilona from Top Travel Sights. See more from Ilona on Facebook.
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The Netherlands – Veluwe – Hidden Gems of Europe
Most travellers stick to the well-known city of Amsterdam when visiting the Netherlands but if you’d like to see one of the most beautiful areas in Europe without the crowds, add the quiet and unknown Veluwe to your Dutch trip. So few tourists make it here that we think it’s definitely one of the most unknown European places to visit and possibly one of the world’s most unknown places!
One of the highlights in the Veluwe area is the national park with the same name. The Veluwe National Park is a beautiful nature reserve in the heart of the Netherlands. You could easily spend a full day – or even two – around the park. There are no cars, as you have to park them at one of the entrance gates when visiting. As the Dutch love their bicycles, that’s the best way to get around the park. Free bikes are available at any bicycle parking around the park. Just grab one and start exploring!
A must-visit stop in the national park is the Kröller-Müller Museum. The museum was created around the private collection of the wealthy Kröller-Müller couple. They were huge fans of modern artists like Van Gogh, making this museum the second-largest Van Gogh museum after the one in Amsterdam. You need a ticket for the park and the museum, but you can buy a combination ticket for both in advance online.
Another great highlight of the national park is the Veluwe country house Jachthuis Sint Hubertus. It was designed for the Kröller-Müller couple from the cutlery to the facade by the Dutch architect Berlage who also designed some famous buildings in Amsterdam. You can join a tour to see the interior and learn more about Berlage, the wealthy couple and the park.
After visiting the national park, plan in at least two days to visit the rest of the Veluwe area. Highlights are a tour around the beautiful castle Rosendael, modern art museum MORE, hiking at the unique forests around Radio Kootwijk and visiting the royal palace Het Loo.
Base yourself at one of the charming villages in the Veluwe area – historic Zutphen is definitely our favourite – or choose the city of Arnhem with its trendy restaurants, concept stores and hotspots. You might also want to consider one of the forest cabins or nature home at the Veluwe. You can find charming tiny houses and other design houses at the Droomparken or Wije Werelt holiday parks, but glamping at the new Glamp Outdoor Camp also makes a great experience.
Written by Maartje & Sebastiaan from The Orange Backpack. See more from Maartje & Sebastiaan on Instagram.
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Norway – Trondheim – Undiscovered Hidden Gems In Europe
Trondheim is one of Norway’s largest cities but I think it is one of the most underrated places in Europe and a hidden gem of Norway. Whether you travel there for the weekend or even spend a bit longer & make it home for a month or two there’s always a perfect spot to enjoy this quiet and mostly unexplored city.
Trondheim is a city on the Trondheim Fjord, in central Norway which dates back to the 11th century. Thanks to easy international and internal flight connections, you can visit Trondheim conveniently & without too much fuss. One option to reach Trondheim is by taking public transportation which is a popular option for travellers who like to marvel at the breathtaking landscapes along the way. For a relaxing and comfortable way to arrive at Trondheim, riding the train is the best as it offers incredible views of Norwegian mountains, fjords and countryside.
Trondheim’s medieval history makes it the perfect place to explore those tight alleyways of which over 40 remain. You can explore them alone or take local tours. Due to its compactness, Trondheim has plenty of cosy coffee shops and when you’re looking for accommodation, the local neighbourhood is a great choice for a more interesting, cultural experience. One specific quiet location is the minimalist hostel, Trondheim Vandrerhjem. It is situated out of town but one can easily reach Trondheim centre with a 15-minute walk.
When in Trondheim you must visit Bakklandet which is famous for its painted, wooden homes and cyclists. Other top recommendations are to visit Niadros Cathedral, take photos from The Old Town Bridge, take the tram up to Lian and go swimming in the lake, hike the local woods of Bymarka, have a picnic at Kristiansten Fortress, hire a bicycle and see Trondheim on wheels and take a walk past the river down to the fjord.
To fall in love with Trondheim and appreciate it more, it’s also a good idea to explore the city with a local. If you hire a private tour with a local for a few hours and you’ll be able to have a unique perspective on Trondheim.
Written by Lucile from Lucile HR. See more from Lucile on Facebook.
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Poland – Malbork – Best Unknown European Destinations
Malbork is a town in northern Poland, within the historical region of Pomerelia. It is most famously known for its large brick, a medieval castle which sits on the shores of the river Nogat but very few tourists make it to this part of Poland and I think it’s definitely one of the best unknown European places you could visit.
The nearest airport to Malbork is Gdansk, a 50-minute drive away, however, the train from Gdansk is just as easy and maybe nicer as you get to admire the Polish landscape en-route.
If arriving by train, any visitor will be amazed by the marvellously preserved 19th-century train station. Built entirely of wooden structures and red brick, the station is a perfect example of Neogothic architecture, just like several other structures that managed to survive WWII. One of them is a feat of 19th-century technology – a pressure water tower which functions to this day. Another one of the remains of the Second German Empire is the meticulous Central Post Office.
Going back in time, the visitor should allow several hours for the visit of the main attraction, the Malbork Castle. The castle is a gem of Gothic architecture. The castle was partially destroyed during the war and it was reconstructed by world-famous Polish architectural conservators and curators. It is the largest brick castle still standing in Europe. Visitors can see many preserved rooms, including the magnificent chapel, the medieval authentic kitchen, and even the grand master’s privy chamber.
The town offers other examples of gothic-style architecture such as the Old Town Hall where city officials served from the mid-1300s until 1926. During WWII, the building housed the Nazi Gestapo headquarters and as such, became a place of martyrdom of many. Today, the building is a cultural centre and can be visited by hunters of marvellous Gothic architecture and interior styling.
The nearby Prehistoric Park is a great place for whole family fun. Stretching over several miles, the Dinosaur Path, where visitors can watch robotised dinosaurs move, growl and purr. There is also a Dragonland where you can admire prototypes of these mythical creatures. If adventure is more your style, head over to the zip line in Malborkstones.
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Portugal – Braga – Quiet Places Not On The Tourist Radar
It may be the third-largest city in Portugal, but Braga sees just a fraction of the tourists that flock to Lisbon and Porto. In fact, have you ever heard of Braga?
The easiest way to get to Braga from the UK is to fly into Porto and catch the train to Braga. To reach Braga by train, you’ll need to take the bus, aerobus or subway to Sao Bento, from where there are regular daily departures. As Braga is located on Portugal’s rail network, it can also be accessed from Lisbon and other stations across Portugal, as well as from over the border in Spain.
Whilst the total population of Braga is close to 200,000, the historic city centre has a very small-town feel and is imminently walkable. The architecture resembles what you’d find across the border in the Galicia region of Spain with many whitewashed buildings with stone trimming around the doors and windows and only the occasional façade covered with azulejo tiles.
Braga has a long and illustrious history that dates back 5,000 years when tribes known as Celtiberians lived here. To experience Braga’s pre-history first-hand, you can visit Mamoa de Lamas, a megalithic structure just outside of town that was built around 3000 BC. Much later, during the Roman Empire, the emperor Augustus founded the city that he called Bracara Augusta. Quite a few remains of Braga’s Roman heritage can still be seen today, including a bath complex and a mysterious fountain sanctuary known as the Fonte do Ídolo. If you like ancient history, you’ll also want to visit the Dom Diogo de Sousa Archeological Museum while you’re in town.
The other museum that is worth visiting is the Biscaínhos Museum; a beautiful palace with period furnishings surrounded by quiet and peaceful gardens. Most people don’t realize that the gardens are actually open to the public and are completely free to visit! You can just tell the staff at reception that you want to visit the gardens, and they will let you pass through. Although a tour of the palace only costs two euros and is also very worthwhile.
Braga’s most famous attraction is the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary, which lies about six kilometres outside of town. You can take a bus to get there or alternatively, there’s a very pleasant walking and cycling path along a small river, called the Ecovia do Rio Este, that will take you most of the way. While the church is beautiful in its own right, the reason it’s famous is because of the giant staircase that leads up to it. If you’re not keen to climb 582 steps, don’t worry, there’s also an old funicular you can ride to the top.
In and around the historical centre, there are some lovely apartments and great restaurants and even though traditional Portuguese cuisine is quite heavy and meat-based, there are also several options for vegetarian and vegan food in Braga.
Written by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan. See more from Wendy on Instagram.
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Slovakia – High Tatras – Hidden Gem In Europe To Visit
If you enjoy being in nature, then the High Tatras mountains in Slovakia are the perfect place to spend a quiet getaway once lockdown is over. This range of mountains is so infrequently visited by foreign tourists that it definitely constitutes one of the best unknown European places to visit.
The High Tatras mountain range is located on the border of northern Slovakia and southern Poland. They’re a part of the Carpathian Mountains, which at 1,500 kilometres long, is the second-longest mountain range in Europe. All the highest peaks of the High Tatras are found on the Slovakian side, with the highest one being Gerlachovský štít at 2,655 metres tall.
This mountain range has an incredible amount of things to offer to tourists, including tons of beautiful hiking trails, gorgeous emerald lakes, and luscious ski slopes. In fact, the High Tatras is a true dream destination that will blow you away with the beauty of its majestic landscapes. The incredible thing though, is that it’s still quite undiscovered; almost everyone who visits is from Slovakia, Poland, or Hungary, and most tourists who visit Slovakia don’t bother exploring outside of Bratislava. Hence, the High Tatras mountains are not very crowded at all and much quieter than most other outdoor destinations in Europe.
Another great thing about visiting the High Tatras is that it’s a great destination for all seasons. Head over there in the summer (between Mid-June and September) if you want to do some hiking, or in the winter (between December and March) if you want to ski in a frozen winter wonderland. In the spring, beautiful blossoms accompany the view of jagged mountains, and in the fall, the entire scenery is painted with shades of orange. As you can tell, the landscape there looks completely different during each season, and it’s truly a breathtaking sight no matter when you visit.
Some of the most spectacular hikes to do in the High Tatras are Rysy Peak, Kriváň Peak, the Mylnická-Furkotská Valleys and the Kôprová Valley. If you prefer a more relaxing holiday with less activity, you can also take a peaceful stroll around one of the many lakes in the area, such as Popradské Pleso and Štrbské Pleso. There are also several spa hotels around that offer gorgeous views of the mountains, such as the Grand Hotel Kempinski. Or, if you prefer to be somewhere quieter, simply rent an Airbnb in Tatranska Lomnica, which will put you close enough to the hiking trails and ski slopes but still provide you with peace and relaxation.
Written by Jiayi from Diary Of A Nomad. See more from Jiayi on Instagram.
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Slovenia – Lake Bohinj – Europe’s Undiscovered Gem
You’ve probably seen photos from Lake Bled – a picturesque alpine lake in Slovenia to which tourists flock every summer. Well, if crowds aren’t your thing but would still like to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Julian Alps, indulge in delicious traditional Slovene food and hike a little, Bohinj is the perfect destination for you. Bohinj is only a 20-minute drive past Lake Bled but not many people know about it and so it has managed to preserve its untouched beauty.
The easiest way to get to Lake Bohinj from the UK is to fly to Ljubljana and catch the train or self-drive the 60km to Bohinj. The closest station to the lake is Bohinjska Bistrica (6km). You can also catch the bus.
Lake Bohinj is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia and lies in the heart of Triglav National Park. The views are phenomenal with tall mountain peaks reflected in the clear alpine lake with the iconic St. John the Baptist Church and old stone bridge perched in the background.
Lake Bohinj is a year-round destination and a holiday here can be as relaxing or as active as you’d like it to be. In summer, the lake is the perfect temperature for a refreshing dip. You can rent stand-up paddleboards, kayaks or rowboats for a day out on the water too. In winter you can hit the slopes on the surrounding mountains or enjoy the winter wonderland in the valley.
There is a track around the lake which takes two to three hours to complete and takes you past cute little bays and offers an ever-changing view over the Julian Alps. Bohinj is also fantastic for mountain biking and offers some amazing rock climbing opportunities which are also suitable for beginners.
Bohinj Lake is also the ideal starting point for some of the most rewarding hikes in the country and if you like to hike, you’ll be spoiled for choice as there are several options for any level or length. Some of the most iconic hikes in Triglav National Park include: Slap Savica – an easy hike to one of the most iconic Slovene waterfalls, Mostnica Gorge – an easy to intermediate walk along Mostnica river to which you can add Voje waterfall, Zajamniki – an easy to intermediate hike to a picture-perfect mountain pasture with panoramic views over Mt. Triglav and traditional shepherds huts: Vogel – an intermediate hike to Vogel peak, or you could take the cable car up, Triglav – a hard hike to the most iconic Slovene mountain that requires some preparation and is often done over two days. It’s said you’re not a true Slovene until you hike Mount Triglav.
Written by Tom & Zi from Craving Adventure. See more from Zi & Tom on Instagram.
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UK – Scilly Isles – A Quiet Retreat On Your Doorstep
The Isles of Scilly are located 28 miles off the southwest coast of Cornwall in western England. If you’re looking for the best unknown European places to visit, the Scilly Isles are right here on your very doorstep.
As with any off-the-beaten-track destination, it takes a bit of time to reach the Scillies but it is certainly worth the journey. Regional flights depart from Devon and Cornwall or there’s a daily ferry from the harbour of Penzance. Cars are not permitted on the islands and luggage allowances can be on the light side. There are very few visitors to these spectacular isles and this is why it’s one of the best unknown places in Europe.
There are five habited islands to choose from and over one hundred uninhabited isles to explore by boat. If you’re looking for luxury, stay on the private island of Tresco, home to the famous Abbey Gardens. If you like to have a good range of shops and restaurants you should aim to stay on the main island of St Mary. For those Caribbean-esque beaches, look to visit St Martin. The other two isles, Bryher and St Agnes are far quieter with a very limited range of accommodation, perfect if you want to get away from it all. Even in the height of summer, you can expect to have a beach all to yourself.
There are ruins and ancient history hidden in the Scilly Isles and an excellent museum tracing the fate of shipwrecks and the islands’ inhabitants during wars and other major events.
Many visitors to the Isles of Scilly return yearly as there is a good range of self-catering properties to choose from along with a selection of hotels and a few campsites. Family holidays in the Scilly Isles are relaxing as children can play freely with limited supervision and parents can relax. If you want to avoid the school holidays, I recommend visiting in either June and September. There are some wonderfully romantic hotels and some excellent restaurants.
The main mode of transport on the Scilly Isles is your feet. Boats transport visitors between the isles and there are bikes for hire along with golf buggies on St Mary. Popular activities include swimming with seals, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. However, most people come to the Scillies for a peaceful holiday of doing very little. Beaching combing, evening drinks at a beachfront café, walks across the islands. Pursuits and pleasures are simple and all the better for it.
Written by Annabel from Smudged Postcard. See more from Annabel on Instagram.
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Ukraine – Chernihiv – Best Unknown European Destinations
Ukraine, in general, is quite an under-the-radar destination, with its capital Kyiv slowly gaining popularity and Lviv following. But there is still so much more to see in this eastern European country! Located just within a couple of hours away from Kyiv is one of Ukraine’s oldest towns, Chernihiv.
To get to Chernihiv, you could fly to Kyiv (Kiev) and catch a train or a bus. The train takes 2 hours and 42 minutes and costs roughly 15$usd and the bus takes nearly 3 hours and costs $5usd. Alternatively, you could rent a car in Kyiv and drive the short 141km which should take 2 hours or less.
Built centuries ago as a fort, Chernihiv was one of the most thriving settlements in the Kievan Rus. Its historic downtown, Dytynets, still has some remains of ancient fortifications with ramparts, old cathedrals and even a dozen cannons. The locals have a joke about those cannons; they say that when one does not want to go on a date with someone, they should set the date next to the thirteenth cannon.
The visitors enjoy exploring Dytynets which is now a big and peaceful green park with old trees and paths leading from one stunning historic landmark to another. Among such noteworthy sites is one of Ukraine’s first colleges. Here, the clergymen used to receive their education. The entire course lasted six years and included finals on Latin, Polish, Slavic and Russian languages. There were only two professors curating the full course and one of them was the city mayor. Chernihiv’s old town is also famous for its beautiful Orthodox churches. Some of them date back to the 1120s.
Just a couple of blocks away from Dytynets are the scenic banks of the river Desna with a long and tall pedestrian bridge. While the old town is filled with Medieval charm, this part of Chernihiv is cosy and relaxing with its brightly-coloured, one-story wooden houses built in the times of the Russian Empire and making this area very photogenic.
While being respectful to its past, Chernihiv is also a modern and vibrant city. Its small streets next to the Dytynets area are perfect for walking, discovering local life and relaxing in hipster cafes. Ukraine is definitely one of the go-to destinations in Europe for some great coffee. It is also very affordable and a cup of coffee and a piece of local syrnyk – the Ukrainian version of cheesecake, will cost around 2.5$usd.
And speaking of the budget, exploring this European destination will come at a very low price. A bus from Kyiv costs 3$usd and renting a freshly renovated apartment in the downtown can cost as little as 18$usd. A good meal (not a sandwich) should cost no more than 4-5 $usd.
Written by Inessa and Natalie from Through a Travel Lens. See more from Inessa and Natalie on Facebook.
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