With the plethora of amazing bucket-list cities that comprise Europe, it’s hard to consider traveling to that beautiful continent without visiting a top tourist destination like Rome, Paris, or Madrid. But those travelers that want an authentic European vacation know that they have to travel outside of the main thoroughfares to smaller cities. Although these small cities may be a bit off the beaten path, they’re just as beautiful and much less crowded (not to mention easier on the wallet) than their more popular counterparts. If you’re looking for a truly unique experience the next time you travel to Europe, consider one of these fabulous hidden gems!
1. Kotor, Montenegro
Cruise lovers have known about this “secret” spot for a while, but I’ve found that the regular traveler doesn’t even know where Kotor is! This medieval city is at the tip of the bay wedged between mountain peaks which provide some of the most unique and moody atmospheric conditions. If the photo opportunities aren’t enough to make you want to visit, the area also offers vast sightseeing opportunities with medieval castles and churches, plenty of activities between the mountains and the coastline and let’s not forget the delicious, fresh food that is sure to please any gourmand.
2. Tavira, Portugal
If you can’t decide between traveling to Spain or Portugal, Tavira is the ideal spot for you! Only 18 miles from the border of Spain, Tavira is a colorful Portuguese city that exudes authentic charm. The city is best explored by foot so you can meander through the beautiful gardens, enjoy the unique hand-carved details of the vivid architecture and take in the fresh air and beautiful water views.
3. Camogli, Northern Italy
If you’ve always dreamed of strolling the Italian Riviera, but want a less crowded and far cheaper alternative, consider the small but breathtaking fishing village, Camogli. Fresh seafood abounds and there is no shortage of water activities to enjoy. And if you want to get the best vantage point, hiking San Rocco will give you the most beautiful, panoramic views of the water and the colorful buildings that dot the landscape.
4. Wroclaw, Poland
If you want quintessential European charm without the large crowds, you can’t miss Wroclaw. I’ve never met anyone who’s traveled to Wroclaw and didn’t fall in love. This small slice of heaven is flush with culture, beauty, nature and a bustling nightlife! As Poland’s 4th largest city, it has plenty of activities and events all year round for those who need to stay busy. And if you’re a more relaxed traveler, you’ll love strolling over the many bridges that criss-cross the river, taking in the idyllic water views and the architectural flourishes that make Wroclaw so special.
5. Paphos, Cyprus
Ancient Mythology and modern amenities merge in Paphos to create a unique and evocative travel experience. This section of Cyprus has something for everyone. Enjoy a day sightseeing at the ancient castles, monasteries and World Heritage Site churches or spend the day sunbathing on the pristine white-sand beaches while taking in the magnificent blue water. Adventurers can hike the Troodos mountains to get the most picturesque vantage point of the hills and the dazzling water beyond.
6. Lake Bled, Slovenia
If you want to visit the most quaint village in Europe, Lake Bled is your place. This gorgeous area looks as though it was just ripped from a postcard. Picture an emerald green lake buttressed by a small medieval village and with the backdrop of the snow-capped Julian Alps in the distance. If this sounds like heaven to you, Lake Bled may be your new favorite destination. Even though you could spend days relaxing by soaking up the beauty, there’s plenty of exploration and activities to enjoy, as well. Take a tour of the medieval Bled Castle or take in some fresh mountain air by enjoying hiking, kayaking or swimming.
7. Monschau, Germany
Strolling through the small city of Monschau, Germany lined with its picture-book framed houses will make you feel as though you’ve just stepped back in time a few hundred years. Enjoy a falconry show at the nearby Hellenthal National Park and then spend the day exploring the rest of the Eifel’s wilderness. Or if you’d rather spare your feet the blisters, you can take an electric boat cruise on the Rursee to take in the best mountain and water views of the Eifel National Park.