Forget about the best places to visit in Europe, those are way too crowded! The standard holiday destinations in Europe are overrun by tourists between June and September and therefore I urge you to go off the beaten path in Europe. Here is my list of unique places to visit in Europe for 2023.
For many years traveling in Europe was never my favorite thing to do, but even I am getting older! Lol. Only two years ago I always said that some day when I would be old I would visit Rome, London and Paris. Last year I traveled to all of them! So am I starting to like Europe travel? Kind of! I have to admit there are some amazing hidden places to see in Europe that I discovered over the last two years and I am happy to share them with you in this travel blog.
Get your prepaid or e-sim card for Europe and don't end up with high roaming costs. Click on the link to read everything about buying a Europe sim card and find the best one for your trip. You can also order them online or buy them upon arrival on the airport.
1. Altea, Spain
The Spanish Costa Blanca is not directly the place you expect on a list of hidden gems in Europe, but make your way here in off season and you will find yourself alone in the streets of this beautiful village. Altea is a little beach village 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
Peak season had just not started, but end of June I found myself far off the beaten track in Europe in the northeast in Albania and what I discovered there was mind blowing. The Komani Lake is one of those hidden places in Europe that made me fall in love with traveling in Europe. I never knew we had such amazing places and I felt like I was in Thailand or Vietnam! Lake Komani is a man-made lake inside a canyon that reminded me of the Norwegian fjords. The Lake Komani Ferry is the best way to see this utterly stunning gorge.
3. Giethoorn, Netherlands
Forget about Amsterdam, when traveling to the Netherlands there are many more places to visit and one of them is Giethoorn. A little town in the remote and very laid-back northeast of The Netherlands. There are no roads and Giethoorn is a car free village. 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 it 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 quaint place and eating out on one of the many terraces is lovely for people watching. Prices are still very moderate 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 2023
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 2023. 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. There is no need to fear of any major accidents to happen in 2023.
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 2023 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 2023 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 2023 I visited a total of 150 countries.
Enjoy your trip to Europe!