When it comes to Europe, you’ll never fall short of places to explore. Be it to the breathtaking fjords of Norway or the red-hot landscapes of southern Spain, travellers to this region come in abundance – and for good reason. With such sheer variety found across Europe, and an array of vibrant cultures, there’s something for everyone here. There’s more to Europe than Paris, London and Berlin, look beyond the big cities and you can open up a treasure trove of hidden gems begging to be explored – and, in today’s article, we’re offering you a small selection of underrated, incredible European locations to add to your travel list.
1. Bled, Slovenia
Though Slovenia has been touted as an up-and-coming destination in recent years, this small, mountainous country has remained largely unexplored by the mainstream. Slovenia is both rich in natural diversity and culture, serving as the crossroads between eastern and western Europe for centuries. Of the settlements scattered across Slovenia, Bled arguably holds the most allure, sitting quietly on the shores of one of the most famous lakes in Europe – Lake Bled. Boasting the oldest castle in Slovenia, stunning surroundings and a wealth of activities, this lakeside town is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on visitors.
2. Coimbra, Portugal
The Iberian Peninsula is brimming with wonders, but Coimbra stands out as one of the most impressive. Coimbra was once the medieval capital of Portugal, which becomes apparent as you wander across its paved squares and into its beautiful buildings. Top sights to see while you’re here include the ancient Coimbra university, which is the oldest in all of Portugal – as well as its vast science museum, the Santa Cruz church and its serene riverbank. Whatever you decide to do while you’re here, this small city will charm you so much you’ll be counting down the days until your return.
3. Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Our next gem takes us off the east coast of Africa, to the Canary Islands. Nestled among the popular tourist traps of Tenerife and Gran Canaria, the smaller island of Lanzarote offers a safe haven for travellers hungry for a taste of adventure. From volcano trekking in Timanfaya National Park to parasailing above its azure waters, there’s plenty to do here if you’re a thrillseeker. Or, if you want to kick back and relax, the island boasts white, sandy beaches in abundance, too. What’s more, with a vast selection of private villas in Lanzarote available, it’s easy to find a home-from-home here so you can rest and rejuvenate in peace.
4. Rothenburg ob de Tauber, Germany
If fairytale towns of cobbled streets, flower-filled window boxes and medieval buildings sound like a dream come true, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the destination for you. This picture-perfect town boasts extraordinary beauty at every turn, which is why it can get busy during the summer months. Visit during the off season, however, and you can wander its streets free from the crowds. Be sure to check out The Plönlein and Marktplatz, and explore the well-preserved city walls for stunning views both over the city and across the landscapes beyond.
5. Alberobello, Italy
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town of Alberobello is a sight to behold. The 1,500, densely-packed trulli – the pointed dwellings you can see in the image – that make up this impressive town offer visitors a truly unique experience. Built using ancient construction techniques, these buildings are in incredible condition, given some date as far back as the 14th century. Whether you simply soak up its splendour by walking its narrow streets or eat al fresco at one of its small trattoria, this unique settlement is a glistening gem of the Mediterranean – which makes it well worth a visit.
Rather unsurprisingly, Alberobello has become a bit of a tourist trap during peak months, so we’d recommend visiting outside of the peak season, when you can explore its streets away from the busy day trip crowds that flock here in the summer months.
6. Tbilisi, Georgia
A significant city straddling the edge of both Europe and Asia, Tbilisi has been the proud capital of Georgia since the 5th century. Here, you’ll find plenty to do – with everything from underground nightclubs to medieval monuments, the Georgian capital offers unmatched variety in the South Caucasus. Whether it’s a trip to the Orbeliani for a traditional hot bath, a wander through its resident artists’ shops or a stroll along the cosmopolitan Rustaveli Avenue, the bustling city of Tbilisi offers a plethora of cultural and leisurely activities to dive into.
Across the width and breadth of Europe, there are countless destinations to wet your travel appetite. But if you want somewhere a little less popular, then dig deeper and discover this continent’s hidden gems.
Sam Wright is an experienced freelancer and content writer for Optima Villas – providers of luxury villas in Lanzarote.