8 best kept secrets in Europe
Touring around Europe can be incredibly fun, but also very hectic! While the top tourist destinations on the continent are obviously popular for a reason, there are many wondrous places that are often overlooked.
Europe's hidden gems
Looking to get off the beaten track? Take a look at our picks for eight of Europe's best-kept secrets.
1. Marken, the Netherlands
Marken is a beautiful peninsula in the province of North Holland in the Netherlands with a population of under 2.000. The village is known for its characteristic wooden houses, white drawbridges and beautiful sea views. Join a walking tour, led by guides in traditional Dutch clothes, sample the local grain wine, or even pop into the old wooden shoe factory. The village is easily accessible via public transportation from Amsterdam.
2. Alcala del Jucar, Spain
This striking village in the Albacete province of eastern Spain perches dramatically on a steep hillside that overlooks the Jucar River. It is home to the Alcala del Jucar Castle, a mediaeval Arab fortress that has an unbelievable view of the countryside, the Church of San Andreas, which dates from the 15th century, and the Cuevas del Diablo, a series of caves carved into the face of the cliff. Soak up some historical buildings with incredible architecture, breathtaking natural beauty, and the vibe of Spain, away from the crowds.
3. The Ore Mountains, Germany
Discover something special in the Ore Mountains, a natural region that lies along the Czech-German border, dividing the historical regions of Bohemia in Czechia and Saxony in Germany. The mountains extend for over 160 kilometres and have an average width of 40 kilometres. The highest peak is the Fichtelberg Mountain with an elevation of 1.250 metres. In the summer, people come to hike in the breathtaking scenery, while in winter it is a location for skiing, snowboarding and bobsledding.
4. Baleal, Portugal
Baleal is a pretty island in the western region of Portugal, with a fascinating history of whaling. Separated from mainland Portugal, it is a perfect place to enjoy the country's culture and traditions in a more secluded fashion. The island is about an hour away from Lisbon, easily accessible by bus or car, and is fairly inexpensive. It’s known to be a surfer’s heaven with amazing weather year-round and great swells. If you're not into surfing, it's a great place to just kick back and relax at the beach.
5. Bachalpsee, Switzerland
Known to the Swiss as the “blue jewel”, Bachalpsee is a beautiful lake in the Bernese Oberland, surrounded by rolling green pastures, blankets of wildflowers and gorgeous views of the mountains. It's a short hike from First or Grindelwald, making it perfect for families and casual hikers. The glacial waters reflecting the sensational mountains look like something straight out of a painting and are something every nature lover must see.
6. Monemvasia, Greece
This town is located on a small, quaint island off the east coast of Peloponnese. The town is famous for its impressive medieval castles that were carved directly into the rock. It was originally only accessible by boat to ward off enemies, but there is now a single pathway that connects the castle to the mainland. Wandering around this interesting town lets you travel back in time while taking in unforgettable views of the pristine sea.
7. Rye, England
Rye is an old town near the coast of East Sussex, known for its cobblestone pathways and half-timbered houses. The town's varied history is preserved in sites like the Ypres Tower, St. Mary’s Church, and Mermaid Street. Relax and have a drink at a local pub or stop for a lunch of fresh seafood. Soak up the sunshine at Camber Sands, one of the best beaches in England, and watch seals pop their heads out of the waves. Rye is around an hour and a half from London and is accessible by train or bus.
8. Mdina, Malta
The fortified city of Mdina is in the Northern Region of Malta, and once was the capital of the country. The influence of Maltese nobility and religious authorities remains here, with regal architecture and intricate designs present throughout the city. A cool place to visit in Mdina is the Fontanella Tearooms which offer incredible views of the city and a relaxing cup of tea and homemade cakes. Visit the many cathedrals, museums, and catacombs that retell the ancient stories of this unique city.
Europe - but without the hustle and bustle
There are many wonderful cities to visit in Europe, but there are many lesser-known sites that provide just as much culture, history and food, but without so many people! Have we missed any hidden gems in Europe? Let us know in the comments below!