Most of the best places to visit in Europe are completely overrun by tourists. Still worth it? Yes, sure. There is a reason why people travel to Europe and visit London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, Santorini and many other popular tourist destinations in Europe.
But if you have seen these amazing places or are looking for some hidden gems off the beaten path then check out my list of unique places to visit in Europe for 2024.
Since I was born and raised in Europe I always traveled far and wide to discover the world, which led me to visit 160 countries as of January 2024. Traveling in Europe was never on my bucketlist, but I have to admit were are spoiled for choice in Europe when it comes to amazing places to visit.
Apart from the main tourist destinations there are so many quaint villages, cute towns, fantastic mountain escapes and beautiful beach towns and I am sure that most you have never heard of most of the hidden gems that I have listed below.
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1. Altea, Spain
The Spanish Costa Blanca is not directly the place you expect on a list of hidden gems in Europe. Travel to Alicante, rent a car and make your way to Altea, a gorgeous white village where you will find the real Spanish life where people still take siestas.
It is located not far from Alicante and Benidorm, famous holiday destinations in Europe. The little village, completely painted white, is located on a hill and its old center is car free.
The narrow streets full of boutique shops and coffee places make this a super lovely hidden gem in Europe and a great day trip from Alicante or Benidorm.
2. Lake Komani, Albania
Travel peak season had already started, but towards end of June I found myself pretty much alone far off the beaten track in Europe in the northeast in Albania. What I discovered there was a mind blowing tourist destination and something you won't find anywhere else in Europe.
The Komani Lake is one of those hidden places that made me fall in love with traveling in Europe. I never knew Europe had such amazing places to see and I felt like I was in Thailand or Vietnam.
Lake Komani is a lake inside a canyon, created after they constructed a huge dam, that reminded me of the Norwegian fjords. The Lake Komani Ferry is the best way to see this utterly stunning gorge. Click on the link to discover more about this fantastic off the beaten path travel destination in Europe.
3. Giethoorn, Netherlands
Forget about Amsterdam when traveling to the Netherlands. Holland has some really cool places to visit and one of them is Giethoorn. A cute little town in the remote and very laid-back northeast of The Netherlands.
There are no roads and Giethoorn is a car free village which makes this a unique tourist destination.
To get around you can either use the bike lanes or use the canals. Most plots are separated by small water ways and a boat ride around Giethoorn is of course the most popular thing to do here.
Bike tours are also popular, read more about it in my article about the most beautiful places to visit in the Netherlands.
4. Mostar and Kravice Falls, Bosnia
Who would think of Bosnia when we talk about unique places to visit in Europe. Once you make it to Mostar you know why I put this place on a list with hidden places in Europe.
Once a year Mostar is the mecca of cliff diving when Red Bull Cliff organizes an event on the famous Mostar bridge.
Its cobblestoned city center with its narrow streets make it a super lovely tourist hotspot and eating out on one of the many terraces is perfect for people watching.
Prices are still very moderate in Bosnia and there are walking tours to learn more about the important roll of Mostar in the Yugoslav Wars. Nearby you will find the amazing Kravice falls a perfect day trip from Mostar.
5. Uvac Canyon, Serbia
We stay in the Balkan for one more off the beaten path destination in Europe. When visiting Uvac Canyon many locals in Serbia had never even been there. It is actually not hard to get to, but definitely not on the tourist trail. When I made it to the Uvac Canyon viewpoint I was literally the only one there.
I fantasized that I should have taken a tent with me and camp there. Watching stars at night and the sunrise in the morning would have been magical. May be one of my favorite off the beaten track destinations in Europe.
6. South Tirol, Italy
You can't say it out loud, but this region of Italy feels more Austrian than Italian. But for obvious reasons as after World War 1, Italy claimed this piece of Austria and it has never been given back. Whichever country it belongs to, South Tyrol is an absolutely fabulous region and pretty renowned around the world because of the mighty Dolomites.
When visiting Sud Tyrol in summer you have to visit one of the many amazing mountain lakes like Lago di Carrezza or Lago di Braies. Also check out some incredible places to stay: Hotel Chalet Mirabel, Hotel Winkler Sport & Spa and La Maiena Meran.
One of my favorite places to visit in the Dolomites is Alta Badia. It is such a beautiful places perched in and between some of the most amazing peaks in the Dolomites. Decide for yourself and check out the best things to do in Alta Badia in the link.
It is not only peak season in summer, in winter it is a fantastic place to go skiing. Dolomiti Superski is one of the many resorts in the Italian Dolomites and has more than 1,000 kilometers of groomed tracks in 1 lift tickets. Check out my article about the best places to visit in Dolomiti Superski.
7. Canoe trip in Varmland, Sweden
If you want to get away from it all then make your way to Värmland in Sweden and go on a self guided canoe trip. Rent a canoe and supplies and start paddling around the countless lakes of west Sweden, close to the Norwegian border. From the moment you set sail it is just you and nature.
You can camp basically everywhere, find yourself a spot, cook your own food, try to catch some fish, drink wine, watch shooting stars and find inner peace. There is no better place to get off the beaten track in Europe then this.
8. Peja, Kosovo
Another place in Balkan that made it to the list. After all the Balkan is already off the beaten path in Europe anyway. Kosovo is even off the beaten path in the Balkan and when you make it to Peja, a sleepy little village in west Kosovo, you know you found an off the beaten track place to visit in Europe.
Just a 20 minute ride away from the lovely central square of Peja there is the Bjeshket e Nemuna national Park with great hikes and lakes. In winter you can even ski here. But if you are looking for hidden places in Europe in summer you now know where to go.
9. Lesbos, Greece
Finding a Greek island that is not that yet overrun by mass tourism is hard, but on Lesbos in northeast Greece I hardly saw any tourists. Super laid-back fishing villages, delicious seafood, deserted winding roads, hot springs and very friendly people made me fall in love with this island. It is not far from the Turkish mainland or you can get here by boat from Athens.
Direct flights from Western Europe can be found as well. When you visit Lesbos, the most easy going island in Greece you will understand why it is such a unique place to visit in Europe and just a stone throw away from Asia.
10. Gdansk, Poland
Poland in general is an upcoming destination in Europe. Still affordable and what an awesome cities has that country to offer. The Gdansk city center is a unique place to visit in Europe and probably one of the most stunning city center I have seen in a while. Its architecture is mind blowing and strolling through old town will make you understand that this is one of those unique places in Europe that should be on everyones bucketlist. Most houses are painted in bright colors, not a couple or some streets, almost all of the city center.
One of the best things to do in Gdansk is to climb up to the top of the cathedral from where you have an amazing view over the city.
11. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
I bet you have often seen photos of picturesque towns in Germany. Well, big chance Rothenburg ob der Tauber was one of them. This utterly picture perfect village in central Germany is famous for its colorful houses and fairytale vibes. Although this city is found by loads of tourists during the day there is a way to have it for yourself and that is why I put it on the list hidden gems in Europe.
Stay here overnight and in the early morning and the late afternoon you will find the streets nearly empty even in summer. When you see more photos of this amazing village Im sure you understand why I added it to the list of unique places to see in Europe.
12. Porto Covo, Portugal
All the way in the far Southwest of Europe there is a little beach town that with a little fantasy looks like the smaller brother of Santorini. Porto Covo is not a standard tourist destination, but a true hidden gem in Europe.
I found it on my roadtrip from Porto to the Algarve and decided to stay overnight in this super laid-back beach town. All the houses are painted white and there is a car free city center. There are many small hidden beaches around and because it is a little off the beaten path in Europe not overrun by tourists yet.
13. Debrecen, Hungary
With Debrecen, the second biggest city in Hungary I am actually targeting Eastern Hungary in general. Only a couple months ago I was traveling around chasing the best places to see in Hungary.
On top of the great pub-vibe in this student city I stumbled upon medieval castles and hot springs and had the time of my life. On my Hungary roadtrip I hardly saw any other tourists and I totally felt like I was off the beaten path in Europe. Some places you can’t miss are the Fuzer Castle and the Boldogko Castle. Both places can be visited on a day trip from Debrecen.
14. Matka Canyon, North Macedonia
North Macedonia is not a place where most people spend their Europe holiday, but therefore a perfect fit for this list of amazing places to visit in Europe off the beaten track. The number one thing to do in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia is visiting Matka Canyon. A gorgeous canyon with boat rides, restaurants, hikes, swimming and even an hotel to stay over night inside the canyon.
The city of Skopje is not far away and with its massive squares and lots of outdoor terraces and dining options totally worth visiting as well.
15. Southern Norway
Did you know that Kristiansand in Southern Norway gets the most sun hours in Scandinavia in summer. No wonder that it is a popular tourist destination for Norwegian people. But don’t worry mass tourism hasn't arrived here yet. Kristiansand, one of the bigger cities in Norway, yet still an off the beaten track destination in Europe. There is a city beach, that also houses Palmesus, Scandinavia’s biggest beach party around the first weekend of July.
Rent a car and explore the many coastal villages, fjords and its islands. Some hidden gems here in Southern Norway are the island of Sandøya and Lyngør. Even Kristiansand in winter is worth going.
An absolutely must visit when traveling to Southern Norway is the Treetop Island, a private tree hut on a little island in a lake. Completely with your private hot tub and sauna. An absolutely incredible romantic getaway and totally off the beaten path in a little village called Konsmo.
Some Europe Travel tips
1. Best time to travel to Europe
It feels like there is never a best time to travel to Europe. In summer when the weather is at its best for a trip around Europe there are too many tourists everywhere. Traveling Europe in winter can be challenging if you can’t deal with temperatures around freezing level and autumn can be wet. Therefore more and more people are looking for unique places to visit in Europe to avoid mass tourism in summer.
2. Is it safe to travel in Europe in 2024
Apart from small common threats for travelers like pickpocketing, theft, incidents in nightlife areas and road accidents one should be fine traveling in Europe in 2024. That said terrorist attacks in Europe have increased in the last years.
Good thing about going off the beaten path in Europe is that the chance of being caught in a terrorist attack is almost non-existing. The major cities and popular tourist attractions in Europe are generally prime targets, but security measures in Europe are extremely high.
3. Buy a local sim card on arrival
The best way to stay connected when traveling to Europe is to buy a local sim card. Check my guide for buying a local sim card in Europe in 2024 wherein I list the best sim card for tourists per country. If you want to order a Europe sim card before your trip then I recommend you to take a look at my article about the best European sim cards for tourists.
4. ETIAS Visa for Europe
Traveling in Europe requires a Schengen visa which for most countries is a matter of applying online. In 2024 you can make use of the Etias visa. You will have to fill out an electronic form online, which is a replacement for your Schengen visa. It will be used for screening and eventually should make traveling to Europe safer and easier.
I hope you liked my article about off the beaten Europe destinations. May you think you have any cool hidden gems or cool places that I should definitely visit in Europe then please leave me a comment or send me a DM on my Instagram account @traveltomtom. Im happy to help in any way!
My Instagram is wanderlust fuelling and I am attempting to travel to every country in the world. As of January 2024 I visited more than 155 countries.
Enjoy your trip to Europe and discover these hidden gems!