Plan your next holiday in one of these nine hidden gems of Europe. From Slovenia to Sweden, from Romania to southern Italy, from Norway to France, there are so many stunning places to explore, natural wonders and charming villages that are often overlooked in favour of the most popular holiday destinations. Read more about these 9 gems in this post, I am sure you will fall in love with them!
9 Hidden Gems of Europe
While it might not seem like it, it won’t be long before we’re once again allowed to holiday in mainland Europe. It’s reasonable to be concerned that the more popular tourist destinations will be crowded. It would be the case even if a pandemic weren’t high on our list of problems! Fortunately, Europe offers a plethora of destinations where you don’t need to worry about crowds and social distancing comes easy. If you’re looking for beauty and isolation on the continent, each of them has a great deal to offer.
Where Covid-19 is concerned, you’ll need to worry most about how you’re going to actually get to the airport – in most cases, the train has the most convenient answer. You can take a train from Brighton to Gatwick airport and be there in no time. So, without further ado, here’s a list of 9 wonderful and lesser-known destinations in Europe.
1. Bâlea Lake, Romania
It doesn’t get much more out of the way than this glacier lake, nestled in the middle of the Făgăraș Mountains, central Romania, at a whopping 2,034 metres of altitude. As you can imagine, the scenery from the top of the lake is simply breathtaking! The location takes its name from a story involving a mountain shepherd who managed to fend off a bear and was rewarded by the king for his bravery. There are more fascinating Romanian tales to learn when you visit. The location is stunning, but it’s not just for looking at: there’s a wealth of hiking trails and cycling routes spread across the nearby mountains. If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you are going to love Bâlea Lake.
2. Jerez, Spain
Jerez is often overlooked in the tourist trail in favour of more popular destinations in Andalucia – such as Seville, Granada, Malaga and Cordoba. Jerez is well worth a visit of a long weekend or longer if you plan to hire a car and explore the nearby area. The city has got all the charms and authenticity of southern Spanish towns, without being overcrowded. Prices are very affordable too and the weather is balmy and sunny most days of the year! You can feast on authentic Spanish tapas, drink the best fino in the world and cry your eyes out at a live flamenco show all in one glorious night out.
3. Corsica, France
You might not think of Corsica as much of a hidden gem – after all, everyone knows exactly where it is and what it has to offer. But there’s such a lot of stuff to do in Corsica that it can feel like you’ve just discovered it: there are two hundred beaches spread across a thousand kilometres of coastline, as well as a myriad of picturesque hilltop villages and rugged inland gorges. And let’s be honest, Corsica is often overlooked by UK and European tourists in favour of its bigger sister, the Italian island of Sardinia. Corsica is unspoilt and authentic, rugged and charming, with delicious food and wine to offer.
4. Sistelo, Portugal
Sistelo (Arcos de Valdevez) in northern Portugal, very close to the border with Spain, is a hiker’s paradise. Just a ninety-minute trip from Porto, it is often referred to as “Little Tibet” because of its distinctly terraced hillsides. Sistelo was originally a medieval village and still today you can see traces of its history. The location over the mountain side and panoramic views of the river are alone worth a visit! One of the most popular sights in the region is Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres, perfect for a day of hiking. Once you’re done with outdoor activities, you can make a stop at Sistelo Castle, a palace built for a 19th century Viscount.
5. Ostuni, Italy
Ostuni, fittingly dubbed the “Città Bianca” (the White City) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Puglia, southern Italy. The most distinctive feature of Ostuni is the white colour of the buildings of the old town, which was built on three hills of Cretaceous limestone, which rise up to 229 m above the sea level. A must-visit landmark there is the ancient Gothic, Romanesque, and Byzantine cathedral. From Ostuni, get a car and explore Alberobello in Valle d’Itria (Itria Valley) and Matera, with its prehistoric cave dwellings dug into calcarenite rock.
6. Innerdalen, Norway
Innerdalen, Norway’s most beautiful mountain valley, is distinct for being completely isolated. There’s no road running through it, so you’ll be able to enjoy a sense of utter isolation and peace as you hike around the lake. Despite the seclusion, the area is actually quite approachable; the best way to get there is by train or car from Oslo, The valley is dominated by the peak of Dalatårnet (1,394 metres high). There are also crystal clear lakes, streams and small rivers cascade down from the glaciers above. The hiking routes in the valley tend to last for between one and two hours.
7. Gothenburg, Sweden
Many people know about Stockholm of course, the capital of Sweden, but have you ever heard of Gothenburg? I had the chance to visit this city, located on the country’s west coast, twice in the past decade. I was immediately charmed by the laid back vibe, quirky shops and cosy cafes, the chic historic district, colourful houses, canals and waterfront. Gothenburg is a fantastic destination for a long weekend with plenty of entertainment and delicious cinnamon buns! Gothenburg is also a great base to explore West Sweden and Värmland. Another reason to love Gothenburg? Lonely Planet named it the world’s Best Sustainable City Stay (in their Best in Travel 2021 list).
8. Bohinj, Slovenia
This glacial valley surrounded by the Alps is among the most beautiful landscapes the continent has to offer. The crystal-clear, turquoise Lake Bohinj is the largest natural lake in the country. Less famous than Lake Bled (which is located just 26 km away), less crowded and in many ways much more authentic. The town of Bohinj was awarded the EDEN Innovation in Sustainable Tourism prize by the European Commission. Bohinj is also home to a reasonably-priced ski resort, Vogel, which skiing on natural snow, very well-
9. Wroclaw, Poland
I couldn’t leave Wrocław out of my list of hidden European gems! After all, this is a city I love and that last year I chose as my new home. Wroclaw (pronounced “vrohtz-uav”) is the regional capital of Lower Silesia in south-western Poland. The heart of the city is the beautiful market square, called Rynek, with its pastel-coloured historic townhouses and Gothic City Hall. The Old Town is located near the Oder River and there are a few charming islands nearby, including the beautiful Cathedral Island. With around 130 bridges connecting the 12 islands, you might begin to understand why some declare Wroclaw as the Venice of Poland. Prague, Dresden and Gdańsk (another hidden gem of Poland) are all easy to reach by car from Wrocław.
Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post.