Europe's best hidden gems 2021
This year, more than ever, you are seeking something different, away from the usual overrated destinations. Look no further, we have prepared for you a selection of the best hidden gems in Europe.
Secret destinations in Spain, hidden islands in Portugal, amazingly colourful destinations of the French Riviera and the most incredible medieval towns, await you for an unforgettable holiday in Europe.
Provence-Alpes Cote d'Azur - France
This city is truly magical and unique with its ochre and pastel colours, citrus smells of lemon and gorgeous fruit. Menton is dazzling and warm like a summer’s sun. The city and a multitude of small villages nestled in the hills create an amazing mosaic, a true gem of the French Riviera.
Not only do Its exceptional gardens, sandy beaches and colourful houses make it one of the most attractive destinations in Europe, but its subtropical microclimate guarantees sun all year round.
Considered a preserved Eden, Menton is much more than a tourist hidden gem, it is a city of art and history, a city of craftsmen, enthusiasts, farmers, botanists, gardeners, artists and nature lovers.
Soak up sun, vitamin D, culture and beaches and enjoy leisurely strolls amidst fragrant fruit and vegetable stalls, flowers, cheeses and fish like you have never seen.
How to get there: Book your flights to Nice Airport (50 min by car).
Where to stay: "Best Western Plus Hotel Prince de Galles" located in the seaside town of Menton.
Kvarner Gulf - Croatia
When in Opatija, one of the most beautiful destinations in Croatia, leave the comfort of your wellness hotel for an afternoon, take a walk, explore the area and enjoy its produce in Volosko, one of the best hidden gems in Europe.
The very heart of the sea beats in this fishing village on the Kvarner Gulf. You guessed it, Volosko is a must-see destination for its delicious, ultra-fresh fish and seafood restaurants. You will very much enjoy the welcome and authenticity as you take a stroll along the alleys of Volosko, discovering artists' studios, art galleries, and being enchanted by the performances of "Klapa" vocal groups or jazz and other cultural and artistic performances.
A must during your stay: walk along the Lungomare Seaside promenade which joins Volosko in Opatija and greet the Maiden with the Seagull, the perfect place for a marriage proposal.
You can stay either in Volosko or prefer a comfortable stay in Opatija. Renowned for its 4- and 5-star hotels, it is the Montreux of the Adriatic. Sparkling and elegant, Opatija has, for centuries, attracted crowned heads but also lovers who have married there by their thousands, lovers of wellness and relaxation and …chocolate lovers.
How to get there: Book your flights to Rijeka Airport (30 min) or Pula (1h15) or Zagreb (1h50).
Wallonia - Belgium
Recognized by the European Commission for its commitment to sustainable tourism, Durbuy is also recognized as one of the Best sustainable destinations for hiking, Best sustainable and gastronomic destinations, Best Romantic and Sustainable destinations Best Sustainable wellness destinations in Europe, need we say more… Durbuy does not only collect awards, it is also very active in sustainable development by supporting its producers, farmers, artisans and promoting a local know-how that you can enjoy in its many restaurants. By the way, did you know that Durbuy is considered to be the smallest city in the world?
Breathe deeply and find yourself in this green delight with its unique charm. Less than two hours from Brussels, Maastricht or Aachen, you are at the heart of a thousand years of history, in a rural area brimming with heritage and flavours of every kind.
At any time of the year, the old mediaeval town of Durbuy invites you to stroll through its cobbled streets or to explore the huge variety of walking trails in the region.
In total, 41 villages and hamlets cover an area three-quarters of it covered by forest and meadows. Such glorious mix of colors and experiences will constantly enchant you throughout your stay.
You will be spoiled for choice with 45 restaurants and lots of picnic areas along the 170 km of marked paths; you may feel torn between staying at one of the 22 luxury hotels or B&B and you may find it hard to cram kayaking, mountain biking, golf or climbing via ferrata, taking part in a geocaching, all of this into a single day! What a fantastic way to get exhausted and crash into a comfortable bed!
In the meantime, though, we hope to have wetted your appetite for more ...
How to get there: Durbuy is easily accessible by train from the main Belgian stations.
Where to stay: “"Hotel Victoria" situated in the historical heart of Durbuy.
4. Cies Island
Galicia - Spain
You have seen Barcelona, London, Paris, Berlin and are tired of city breaks, shopping activities and formated restaurants. Discover Galicia and The Cies Islands. This archipelago facing the city of Vigo has been a Nature Reserve for almost 50 years.
The three islands are Monte Agudo, O Faro and San Martino. The first two are connected by a long strip of sand and are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain (be sure to visit Ronda Beach – it is amazing!). The Romans called this place "The Islands of the gods". Come hike with your family or simply enjoy the sublime beaches of Cies Islands. Boat crossings run several times a day in the summer and you can even book a yacht and take a private cruise. It is possible to camp on the Cies Islands but you can also book your accommodation in Vigo and make the crossing for one day in the wild.
How to get there: Book your flights to Vigo (15 min by car) or Porto (1h30 by car, 2H by bus).
Where to stay: "Hotel Pazo Los Escudos Spa & Beach". Stay near Cies Islands.
Gotland Island - Sweden
Time for a change. Time for something new this year. Something off the beaten track. Photos of Barcelona or Berlin do not impress any more. We have done the searching for you and have found Sweden's best hidden gems: Visby.
Resort for royal families, the town of Visby is probably one of the most beautiful fortified towns in Europe. This charming medieval town is famous for its cobblestone street, its fortifications but also its marina since Visby faces the Baltic Sea.
Secretly, all Swedes dream of living in Visby, everyone loves this magnificent city so famous for its saffron pancakes and the truffles that grow on the island.
Visby is the icing on the cake of your trip to Sweden. For a trip to nature, culture, good food or just to lounge on the beaches of Gotland Island, this fairy-tale destination is what you need… now!.
How to get there: Book your flights to Stockholm, Malmö or Gothenburg + a domestic flight to Visby. It is also possible to reach the island by ferry (3 hours).
Where to stay: "Hotell St Clemens" is a charming eco-friendly hotel inside Visby's medieval city walls.
Venice - Italy
You have been to Venice with your previous lover before? Don't book the same hotel this time, it might be a bit disturbing. Choose Chioggia (called the little Venice): it is more private and authentic.
Located near all the tourist attractions of Venice, Chioggia also has many tourist offers for families such as Museum of Adriatic Zoology, or Sottomarina beach and Forte San Felice. With cheaper accommodation than in Venice, Chioggia is a good choice for an authentic holiday, closer to the real life of the inhabitants.
There is a summer boat that connects Chioggia to Saint Mark's Square in summer (from June to end of September).
Mind you, Chioggia is 25km from Venice (almost 45km by road), so you may not to go to Venice every day but you will certainly enjoy a much quieter and less expensive place.
Book your tours and activities in Venice such as a from Venice: Murano, Torcello & Burano boat trip with guide.
How to get there: Book your flights to Venice (a boat connects Saint Mark’s Square to Chioggia in summer).
Where to stay: For lovers "Hotel Grande Italia" in Chioggia’s historic centre.
Saint-Raphaël - France
Nestled in the Esterels massif and facing the Mediterranean, Anthéor is located between the very chic seaside resorts of Saint Raphaël and Cannes. It is obviously one of the most beautiful secret destinations in France.
It is crossed by the "Corniche d'or" considered one of the most beautiful roads in France which connects Saint-Raphaël to Mandelieu-la-Napoule and crosses the coast.
Anthéor is undoubtedly a first choice destination if you think that “to live happily live hidden”in nature.
How to get there: Book your flights to Cannes (40 min by car) (1h30 by public transport).
Where to stay: "Hotel and Appart Hotel Les Flots Bleus" located on the beachfront.
8. Alcala del Jucar
Albacete Province - Spain
For a 360-degree view of the region, climb up to the castle nestled at the top of the village. If you have difficulty walking or are traveling with a stroller and small children, you can also park at the top of the castle and enjoy the view effortlessly. Stop a little before the "Puente Romano" and be sure that you capture the bridge, the village and the castle on your phone for the perfect photo.
If history and old stones do not excite you, there are many delicious restaurants in Alcala del Jucar. Whether you are on a road trip in Spain or on a getaway trip from Valencia, Alcala del Jucar, hidden gems full of charm and authenticity, should be at the top of your travel wish list.
How to get there: Book your flights to Valencia (1h30 by car) or Madrid (3h by car).
Where to stay: "Hotel Spa Elia" features a restaurant and a seasonal outdoor pool.
Wales - UK
This village in Wales looks like an Italian village, don't you think?
Now owned by a Charitable Trust, Portmeirion is the creation of the wealthy iconoclast Sir Clough Williams-Ellis who built a village in North Wales in the pure Italian style that he loved so much.
This construction which took about 50 years (1925 to 1975), is a true labor of love. Wandering through its colorful alleys is pure enchantment. The place has also inspired many film and television directors and of course the iconic TV series "The Prisoner". Sir Clough Williams-Ellis was an architect himself but he was not interested in copying a specific place in Italy, rather, he wanted to transcribe the spirit of the Mediterranean village.
This village has inspired many artists and is also closely linked to the history of the Beatles who were fans of the place; Paul McCartney and Georges Harrison celebrated many birthdays there. Luckily, you can stay there as most houses are hotel rooms, as was already the case during Sir Clough Williams-Ellis's lifetime). Entrance to the village is chargeable but goes to a charity fund which reinvests in social reintegration projects for the community.
How to get there: Book your flights to Manchester (2h by car) or Birmingham (2h15 min).
Where to stay: "Portmeirion Village & Castell Deudraeth" built by the visionary architect of Portmeirion.
You probably have heard about "Peniche", the surfers' mecca in Portugal: people come from afar to surf in the region. Nazaré, located just 30 minutes drive from Peniche is the spot with the biggest waves in Europe.
Located just 1 hour drive from Lisbon, Baléal is a tiny island surrounded by the ocean. To be honest if we say "Baleal Island" and even "Ilha de Baleal" which means the same, it is more a peninsula than a real island since it is connected to the mainland by a tombolo.
A paradise for surfers and boadyboarders, Baleal will also delight families with its kilometres of beaches. The island of Baléal is surrounded by two beaches, one windier, (perfect for surfers), the other one quieter, perfect for families.
Plenty of cafes and restaurants await you for a holiday combining good food, sun and nature in Portugal. Need more inspiration? Discover the most beautiful beaches in Portugal and the best hidden gems in Portugal.
How to get there: Book your flights to Lisbon (1h by car).
Where to stay: "The Wave Baleal" offering a barbecue and sun terrace.
11. La Ciotat
Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur - France
For you, travel equals discovery of the unusual and you shy away from big overcrowded destinations, where shops, brands, restaurants, all look alike. So, La Ciotat is made for you. Although not very widely known, this destination located a few kilometers from Marseille, is everything we love in Provence: sun, relaxation, crafts, idleness, pastis, markets, local produce, good restaurants, welcoming and bon viveur population and friendly accommodation.
Do not miss a visit to the Mugel Botanical Garden and its incredible selection of tropical plants. Want to refresh yourself? Stop at Petit Mugel beach, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in La Ciotat.
Are you a cinephile? Then you know that it is the birthplace of cinema: indeed, one of the first films made by the Lumière Brothers, inventors of cinema, was shot in La Ciotat. It was called "Train arrival in La Ciotat". Spectators really believed that the train was hurtling towards them and would run away from the screening room. In fact, La Ciotat’s "Eden Theatre" is the world’s oldest operating cinema.
One last reason to visit La Ciotat? Did you know that pétanque, the most famous French sport, was invented in La Ciotat? You see, there are only good reasons to visit La Ciotat this year.
How to get there: Book your flights to Marseille (50 min by car) or Toulon (1h15).
Where to stay: "Appart'hôtel a deux pas de l'eau" for its top location.
Elblag is one of the most beautiful destinations in Poland, a secret destination less known than its neighbour Gdansk but just as interesting for lovers of history, architecture or simply those who want to take a city break off the beaten track to discover 'an authentic and terribly charming destination.
Considered one of the oldest cities in Poland, Elblag owes its economic development to its port connected to the ports of Gdansk and Amsterdam. If you like port cities, Elblag is for you. The development of Elblag dates back to the time of the Teutonic Order, which initiated many constructions in Elblag from the 13th century. Partly destroyed after the Second World War, the city was reborn from its ashes by faithfully rebuilding its most beautiful buildings.
Dynamic and sparkling, it is a student city and an important financial centre in Europe. Last but not least beer enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that Elblag does not only have museums and churches, but is also known for being home to the largest brewery in Poland.
Polish beers are very famous, refreshing and light; enjoy them with a meal on a terrace in one of the squares in the historic centre of Elblag.
Where to stay: "Focus Hotel Premium Elblag". It is one of our top picks in Elblag.
Waterland - The Netherlands
Fancy a holiday on an island with a variety of world famous cheeses? You can stay in the Azores, a 100% natural destination also known for its delicious cheeses, or stay on the European continent and treat yourself to a few days' getaway in Marken, the Netherlands.
Only 25 minutes by car from the heart of Amsterdam (1 hour by public transport), Marken is an oasis of nature and calm just a stone's throw from the capital.
During your stay, be sure to visit Uitdam, also ranked among the best hidden gems in The Netherlands.
How to get there: Book your flights to Amsterdam (25 min by car).
Where to stay: "Bed and Breakfast De Pepersteeg" in the heart of Marken.
Esturoy - Faroe Islands
Sunbathing is definitely not your main activity while on holiday? The Faroe Islands are for you! 60 km from the capital of Torshavn is the village of Gjogv. It owes its name to this long sea-filled gorge (see photo above).
Gjogv is considered one of the prettiest villages in Eysturoy. Staying there is affordable: there is a small campsite in the village. To access the toilets and showers use the facilities of the only hotel in town or just choose to spend your holiday there.
Mind you. Bring waterproof gear with you, it rains 300 days a year in the Faroe Islands. For your next holiday, discover this small village of 50 inhabitants and treat yourself to an immersion in pure wild nature.
How to get there: Book your flights to Vagar Airport (1H by car from Gjogv). The islands are well connected to each other by bridges.
Where to stay: "Three Bedroom vacation home" located in Gjogv.
Peloponnese - Greece
Discover the best hidden gems in Europe and visit "Monemvasia" also called Greek Gibraltar. Monemvasia has known multiple invasions (Arab, Norman, ...), and has been the territory of different powers over the centuries. It was even sold to the Pope by the Despot of the Morea.
But even the Pope failed to ensure protection for this landlocked city which then passed into Venetian hands before becoming Turkish and finally Greek in 1822 during the Greek war of Independence.
Monemvasia, linked to the mainland by a bridge only 50 years ago, underwent renovations to rehabilitate its fortifications, renovated its houses and gradually welcomes tourists from all over the world. If you are a movie buff you may have noticed that the horror movie "The Wind" was filmed there.
How to get there: Book your flights to Athens and drive to Monemvasia (3h30 by car, 6h by bus).
Where to stay: "Malvasia Traditional Hotel" offers stone-built units most with views over the sea