It’s true that gazing up at the Eiffel Tower in Paris or seeing Big Ben in London for the first time is a thrill. But if you’re interested in a soul-satisfying trip with fewer crowds and more magic moments, consider visiting one of the 47 off the beaten path Europe destinations on this Europe bucket list by top travel bloggers. Or visiting Europe in winter. There are so many places in the very best of Europe you haven’t visited yet!
- 1. Europe Bucket List #1—South Coast of Iceland…to Gasp at Waterfalls
- 2. Bregenz, Austria…for Hiking Heaven
- 3. Korcula, Croatia…for Wine Tasting
- 4. Cairngorms National Park, Scotland…for Stargazing
- 5. The Lofoten Islands, Norway…for Pristine Nature
- 6. Provence, France…to See the Lavender in Bloom
- 7. Ksamil, Albania…for Sun-Kissed Beaches
- 8. York, England…for Iconic British History
- 9. Kayserberg, France…for Small Town Ambiance
- 10. Freudenberg, Germany…for Quaint Cobblestone Charm
- 11. Gdansk, Poland…for Epic WWII History
- 12. Guernsey…for World Famous Ice Cream
- 13. Hallstatt, Austria…for the Blue Hour
- 14. Killarney, Ireland…for Castles and Brewpubs
- 15. San Marino…to Visit the Oldest Republic in the Word
- 16. Crete, Greece…to See the Cradle of Civilization
- 17. Alps, Austria…for Adventure in Every Season
- 18. Triglav National Park, Slovenia…for an Epic Drive
- 19. Emilia-Romagna, Italy…for Foodie Feasts
- 20. French Riviera…for the Lemon Festival
- 21. Tromso, Norway…to Catch the Northern Lights
- 22. Romania…to See the Painted Monasteries
- 23. Italian Lakes Region, Italy…for Gondolas and Gardens
- 24. Costa Brava, Spain…for Catalan Cuisine
- 25. Porto, Portugal…to Sip Port
- 26. Dubrovnik, Croatia…for Game of Thrones Sites
- 27. Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany…for the Christmas Markets
- 28. Cotswolds, England…to Bask in the Romantic English Countryside
- 29. Galway, Ireland…for Irish History and Music
- 30. Transylvania, Romania…for Unspoiled Eastern Europe
- 31. Zagori, Greece for Lush Mountain Villages
- 32. Yerevan, Armenia for Café Culture
- 33. Zermatt, Switzerland…for the Matterhorn
- 34. Kotor, Montenegro…for Seafaring History
- 35. Krakow, Poland…for 15th Century Charm
- 36. Budapest, Hungary…for Traditional Thermal Baths
- 37. Outer Hebrides, Scotland…for Pristine Wilderness
- 38. Sintra, Portugal…for Moorish History
- 39. Inis Mor, Ireland…for the Simple Life
- 40. Maastricht, the Netherlands…for a Different Dutch Experience
- 41. Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland…for colorful villages and dramatic scenery
- 42. Helsinki, Finland…for a Hipster Vibe
- 43. Gibraltar…to See the Rock
- 44. Bratislava, Slovakia…for Quirky Eastern Europe
- 45. Blokhus, Denmark…for Family Fun
- 46. Cercedilla, Spain…for an Abandoned Spanish Town
- 47. Leiden, Netherlands…for Dutch Museums
- 48. Lisbon, Portugal for the Views
- 49. Regensburg, Germany for Medieval History
- 50. The Val D’Orcia, Italy for Nature
1. Europe Bucket List #1—South Coast of Iceland…to Gasp at Waterfalls
If Iceland is on your bucket list, think beyond a visit to Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. Add a day or two to include the beautiful south coast near Vik in your itinerary. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Europe!
The south coast of Iceland is a must-see in Europe before you die. It’s home to some stunning natural wonders, including the impressive waterfalls Seljalandfoss and Skogafoss. Don’t miss the chance to walk behind the falls at Seljalandfoss or, a little further along the path, visit Gljufurarbui, known as the Secret Falls.
At spectacular Skogafoss, be sure to climb the steep stairs to stand above them and take in the unforgettable view. (It’s worth the effort. I promise!) Then, a bit further along the coast, stop at Dyrholaey, a rocky peninsula that looks down over beaches made from black volcanic sand. Dryholaey is the perfect place for puffin spotting, too, as it’s home to dozens of the cute birds.
That black volcanic beach you gazed down on from Dyrholaey is Reynisfara. So take time to walk along the sand there. Then, turn and look up at the steep cliff face that rises up from the beach to admire the unusual ‘stepped’ rock faces.
Beware though: The waves here are particularly strong and more than one visitor has been swept away, never to be seen again.
Carolyn | Holidays to Europe
2. Bregenz, Austria…for Hiking Heaven
Nestled up to the Bodensee—Lake Constance—Bregenz makes an idyllic alpine base for visiting Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria or Lichtenstein! Bregenz is renowned both for its summer performing arts festival and idyllic winter skiing.
While it’s lesser known to Americans, this is one of the best Europe destinations. Locals will tell you it’s really all about the hiking as we did on one day visiting friends and hiking the Pfänder.
You can catch the gondola for the six-minute ride to the top of the Pfänder right from the center of town. From the top, you can see 240 alpine peaks from surrounding mountains.
And that’s just the beginning of all the great hikes in the area. For a scenic and delicious dinner with an unforgettable view of the Bodensee, check out the restaurant at Hotel Schönblick.
Want to explore more of Austria? Get Rick Steves’ Vienna, Salzburg and Tirol guidebook
3. Korcula, Croatia…for Wine Tasting
Working on a Europe travel bucket list challenge? Add less traveled spots in Croatia! With its rise in popularity over the last decade, tourists understandably flock to Dubrovnik, Split, and Hvar. But Korčula is also off the beaten track Europe! And it’s worth adding to your bucket list: Korčula.
One of the largest and most popular Dalmatian islands, Korčula is easy to visit from Dubrovnik. Its centerpiece: A stunning medieval walled old town that juts out on a picturesque spit of land, surrounded by sea. Elegant and atmospheric, it’s almost like a mini Dubrovnik.
Skip the tacky Marco Polo museum for a ticket to an authentic moreska show instead. Korčula’s traditional dance is an entertaining staged sword dance and drama that is well worth the entrance price.
Korčula is also known as the island of wine. Enthusiasts visit for the unique grape variety called “grk”, only grown on the island…and easy to discover on one of the island’s popular vineyard tours. The rest of the island is sleepy and densely carpeted with black pine, perfect for laid-back exploration by bicycle.
After your daytime adventures, head back to Korčula town to clamber (literally) up to Massimo Cocktail Bar. Then watch the sun set over the Pelješac peninsula from the top of a medieval tower.
Where else is amazing in Croatia? Check out Rick Steves’ Croatia and Slovenia guidebook
Steph | The Mediterranean Traveller
4. Cairngorms National Park, Scotland…for Stargazing
Cairngorms National Park is an expansive natural treasure in the northeast of Scotland. Definitely add it to your list of must see travel destinations in Europe!
Charming villages dot the edges of the park, leaving the pristine center of the park teaming with trails for hiking along babbling brooks, scaling mountains, winter skiing, or summer swims and canoe rides in the park’s abundant lakes.
Be sure to visit Aviemore, a sweet town with plenty of good eats, such as the local fare at the Old Bridge Inn and pastries from Asher’s Bakery. Then follow the winding road toward Cairngorm Mountain, stopping to visit lochs, moors, and Britain’s only free-roaming herd of reindeer.
Arrive early at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre for a chance to join in on a hike to see the herd and experience the beauty of the hills from a different perspective.
Historic sites such as Blair and Balmoral Castles share histories of the region, while dark sky parks—like Blairfindy Farm—offer awe-inspiring stargazing opportunities on a clear night (and if you’re lucky, aurora viewing).
Top off your visit with some of the best single malt whisky in the world at Glenlivet. Are you a birdwatcher? Check out this list of extraordinary birdwatching destinations in Europe.
For more about Scotland, get Rick Steves’ Best of Scotland guidebook
Christa | at Expedition Wildlife
5. The Lofoten Islands, Norway…for Pristine Nature
The Lofoten Islands sit above the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway. A stunning string of mountainous islands with beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise blue water, Lofoten has so much to love, making it a top bucket list destination.
From the never-ending daylight of midnight sun in summer to winter’s northern lights over snowy peaks, Lofoten charms visitors in every season.
Rich in natural resources, fishing has long been important to the peoples of the place. Cod is king here and you’ll see it drying on racks all over the islands.
Known as stockfish, you can sample it as jerky or in a tomato stew-like dish called bacalao. For authentic Lofoten Island lodging, find a little fishing village and stay in one of the iconic red or yellow fisherman’s cabins, called rorbua.
Nature abounds here, so hike through the hills to soak up the scenery. Watch for sea eagles soaring overhead. Get out on the clean pristine waters in a kayak. Or take a wildlife safari through fjords watching for whales.
With peaks at every turn that plunge into arctic waters, you can’t help but be stunned by the amazingly gorgeous Lofoten Islands. Also, if you have kids in tow and are flying in or out of Oslo, check out this two-day itinerary.
For other inspired Scandinavian travel itineraries, read Rick Steve’s Scandinavia guidebook
Erin | Oregon Girl Around the World
6. Provence, France…to See the Lavender in Bloom
Everyone knows of Paris and Nice, but what about sultry Provence in the south of France? This is where Peter Maille’s famous book about an English expat took place (A Year in Provence) and is just one of the reasons it is one of the top Europe destinations today.
Thanks to a new fast train from Paris, you can be sipping a glass of rosé in a matter of less than three hours later on a terrace while watching fields of purple—and sunflowers—sway in the breeze…as far as your eye can see.
The best time to see the lavender in bloom? Aim to visit between mid-June and mid-August for prime viewing. You’ll want a rental car for easy access to all of the idyllic little villages high in the Luberon.
When we visited, we based in gorgeous Saint Remy and then drove past famous Abbé de Sénanque, with stops in Gordes and Bonnieux. After a Michelin-starred lunch in tiny Ansouis, we headed past the grapevines and olive groves near Cucaron and climbed high onto the cliffs of Saignon.
Our last stop of the day was in Rousillon, whose ochre colored cliffs looked a lot like those you find in Utah in the U.S.
Interested in other memorable city breaks in France? Head north to see the famous beaches of Normandy. (It’s easy with D-Day tours from Bayeux!) Or see the Cro-Magnon cave art and Château de Beynac in the Dordogne.
So much France, so little time! Head here for Rick Steve’s France guidebook
7. Ksamil, Albania…for Sun-Kissed Beaches
Any list of the best places to visit in Europe off the beaten track wouldn’t be complete without Ksamil, Albania. This is amazing Europe!
The beaches here are some of the most extraordinary, with crystal clear turquoise water and white sand. In addition to beautiful scenery, Albania’s cost of living is cheaper than other popular destinations like Italy, Spain and France so you’ll get twice the vacation at half the price.
The Albanian people are friendly and welcoming as well. Near Ksamil, you also have the historical site of Butrint, with roots dating back to Julius Caesar himself. Reserve a boat trip or head out for a swim.
Then, after refreshing with a nice cocktail or iced coffee on the beach, head into town to one of the many great restaurants serving authentic Albanian food. Read more on traveling Albania here.
Or explore further with Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe guidebook
Alex | Swedish Nomad
8. York, England…for Iconic British History
If you haven’t yet made a visit to the medieval capital of Northern England, then you should add it to your European bucket list.
There has been a city on the site of York for nearly 2,000 years now, making it one of 12 cities in England that are so old that they pre-date records. The medieval walls surround the main city, making all the key sights within walking distance, so you can fit a lot of sights into just a couple of days.
On your ‘must-see’ list should be the imposing Yorkminster, The Shambles (the street that inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series), a walk on the best preserved medieval city walls in the UK, and trainspotting at England’s biggest railway museum.
Don’t miss the opportunity for a ghost tour through the street’s of Europe’s most haunted city or the opportunity to brush up on the city’s impressive history at the Yorvik Viking Centre.
York is just 90 minutes from London by train, so it makes for an excellent excursion if you’re in the capital. For more on what to see and do in York, consider this itinerary.
Looking for other English travel inspiration? Get Rick Steves’ Great Britain guidebook
Ben | Sabbatical Guide
9. Kayserberg, France…for Small Town Ambiance
One of the most attractive small towns in the Alsace region, Kayserberg is conveniently nestled between Colmar and Ribeauville at the edge of northeastern France. You’ll spy the ruins of Chateau de Kaysersberg first, high on a hill, as you enter this amazing place in Europe.
The chateau—first built in the 13th century—was an important stop on a key trade route that used to pass through this valley. This route has been protected since Roman times. Add Kayersbag to your list of Europe travel destinations in the coming year!
The town sits deep in a lush valley with hills bursting with grapes rising all around it. This is Europe off the beaten path for sure.
You’ll take in nature’s bounty with working vineyards as far as your eye can see. The small winding streets, the picture perfect architecture, and the gurgle of the small flowing river that runs through Kayserberg make this a special destination.
In fact, locals and visitors alike congregate on the 16th century stone bridge to take in the beauty of Kayersberg. If you’re lucky enough to visit in December, the Christmas spirit will fill the air…with festive market stalls everywhere. The town will be dressed up for your visit.
Looking for other delightful small towns in France? Consider visiting Chartres and its world-famous medieval cathedral as a day trip from Paris.
Since you’ll likely fly into or out of Paris, be sure to check out Rick Steves’ Paris guidebook
Mark Wyld | Wyld Family Travel
10. Freudenberg, Germany…for Quaint Cobblestone Charm
One of the most charming places I’ve visited in Europe is Freudenberg in Germany. A small medieval fairytale town in the German province of North Rhine-Westphalia. The old part of Freudenberg is called ”Alter Flecken,” and consists of 86 half-timbered houses in black and white.
It was built during the rulership of Prince John Maurice of Nassau in the 18th century after a fire in town, and ever since then, it has been preserved in all its glory.
One of the most magical things about this old town is that there’s not much to do, except strolling around town and savoring coffee and pastries at a lovely little outdoor café. It’s the stuff dreams are made of…with only the gong of church bells and chirping birds to interrupt your reverie.
Freudenberg is one of the most unique cities in Europe, and is a must to visit if you’re in the area. But don’t stop at one city! Visit the best preserved medieval town in Germany just an hour south in Regensburg.
Where *else* is amazing in Germany? Check out Rick Steves’ Germany guidebook
Christine | Christine Abroad
11. Gdansk, Poland…for Epic WWII History
As a travel destination, Gdansk surprised me with how much it had to offer. First, there is the gorgeous Old Town. Walking the compact historic center is a delightful experience.
It contains a wealth of beautiful buildings, with ornate and colorful facades. It also offers impressive gates, a storied street, the largest brick church in the world, and a medieval crane that was powered by human treadmills. All sitting next to the picturesque Motlawa river.
Gdansk’s tumultuous history is fascinating, first as a medieval trading powerhouse and then as the object of power struggles between Germany and Poland. Gdansk was a Free City when Germany decided it wanted it back, and fired the very first shots of WWII at Westerplatte, just outside Gdansk.
The city was bombed to near obliteration during the war, and it took lots of reconstruction in the 1950s and 1960s to restore it to its former grandeur.
Finally, there is more to see and do outside the Old Town. The Solidarity Center celebrating Lech Walesa’s resistance, the botanical gardens at Park Oliwa, and the lighthouse at the harbor are special places.
Plus, you can take your pick of several interesting museums. If you are looking for bucket list places to visit a bit off the beaten track, consider Gdansk!
Want more detail? Check out Rick Steves’ Kraków, Warsaw and Gdanksk guidebook
Dhara | It’s Not about the Miles
12. Guernsey…for World Famous Ice Cream
Bet you didn’t expect to see Guernsey on a post about bucket list destinations in Europe, did you? But Guernsey, part of the Channel Islands off the coast of France, is worth your attention.
Victor Hugo, one of the island’s most famous residents, penned Les Miserables while living here; you can tour his historic house— Hauteville House—and see the very spot where he completed his masterpiece. As the French would say, C’est incroyable (incredible)!
In addition to Guernsey’s literary heritage, its cows are pretty famous too. With the high butterfat and protein levels in their milk, they produce some of the most delicious ice cream (and other dairy products) in the world.
Be sure to pop in to Café Délices in St. Peter Port to sample flavors. And if you’re a beach bum, you’ll love Guernsey. With its tidal range of 33 feet—making it one of the largest in the world—you’ll see plenty of folks swimming gleefully during high tide.
Guernsey isn’t far from Normandy! Find more ideas in Rick Steves’ Snapshot Normandy guidebook
13. Hallstatt, Austria…for the Blue Hour
If you’re a photography enthusiast, don’t miss the magical Blue Hour at dawn and dusk, when natural light is at its best, in Hallstatt. This alpine village is so picturesque that it’s famous for snagging photographers winning images in photography contests!
Misty mornings in spring make for dreamlike photos. Orange and yellow backdrops against the blue waters in autumn make for watercolor painting-like images. Perfect blue skies mirroring the water in summer make every shot instagrammable. And snow-covered roofs and mountains in winter make for postcard-worthy captures.
Situated on the Hallstätter See, Hallstatt is part of the Dachstein / Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape, one of Austria’s World Heritage Sites. The village itself is on the other side of the lake, and is best reached by boat. You’ll be mesmerized by swans swimming in the deep blue waters and the mountains rising behind the settlement.
Working on a Europe adventure bucket list? Explore a cave in Dachstein. Or bike around Hallstatt and Obertraun, to experience the view at 2700m above sea level on the Skywalk suspension bridge. While slightly scary, it’s a soul-satisfying feast for all of your senses with incredible views to match.
Find more regional highlights in Rick Steves’ Vienna, Salzburg and Tirol guidebook
14. Killarney, Ireland…for Castles and Brewpubs
Sure, other places in Ireland get more attention, but that just means you’ll have more of the magical town of Killarney to yourself if you put it on your list of unique places to visit in Europe.
Strategically nestled in Ireland’s west, Killarney is the perfect base for exploring the nearby Ring of Kerry, a 175 kilometer driving circuit that takes in some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery.
Alternatively, you can head to the coast by day to check out Ireland’s famous Wild Atlantic Way. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. Or, if you’re looking for something a little easier, within walking distance of the town center is the beautiful Killarney National Park, with the picture-perfect Ross Castle.
Killarney town itself also offers excellent dining options and a charming array of shops and boutiques. And no Ireland itinerary is complete without checking out an authentic pub. Fortunately, Killarney has plenty on offer. (Raise a glass at John M Reidy, The Laurels Pub, or Murphy’s.)
Plus, there are plenty of affordable accommodation options, making it the perfect base for exploring everything on your Irish bucket list.
Get the complete scoop on Ireland in Rick Steves’ Ireland guidebook
Nate | Travel Lemming
15. San Marino…to Visit the Oldest Republic in the Word
As one of the smallest countries in the world, San Marino also claims to be the oldest republic in the world. San Marino’s border is completely enclosed within Italy; however, it maintains an open border policy with its much larger neighbor.
You choose: Drive or take the train to the Italian city of Rimini, the only gateway to San Marino. Then, a regularly scheduled 40-minute bus ride will take you from Rimini’s main train station to the San Marino capital, with some stops in smaller towns within San Marino.
The capital city bears the same name as the country. The majority of San Marino historic city center, along with Mount Titano, is under the protection of UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
After getting your optional passport stamp at the San Marino visitor’s center, allow yourself time to get lost and wander. Visit San Marino’s fabulous museums and take time to climb along the scenic fortress of Guaita.
As you can imagine, staying in San Marino “proper” can be very expensive. A budget friendly option: Stay in one of the smaller towns of San Marino, like Serravalle or La Dogana.
You can even stay in Rimini, Italy. A day trip to the capital can easily be done by bus.
16. Crete, Greece…to See the Cradle of Civilization
If you’re looking for the best bucket list island in Greece, the magical island of Crete is your spot!
As epicenter of the Minoan culture in its early days, Crete was also part of The Roman Empire, Byzantium, The Arabs, The Ottoman Empire and Venetia. Every single one of those glorious civilizations imprinted a piece of its legacy here, making the island the vivid multi-cultured delight it is today.
Start your trip from the pastel-colored Venetian harbor of Chania. Then relax on the pink sands of Elafonisi. Take a shot of instagrammable Balos Lagoon. Afterwards, continue your exploration to the south, where you’ll enjoy a magnificent view of Preveli and the most perfect beach in Greece: Skinaria.
End your journey in the capital of Heraklion, where you can search for minotaurs in the ancient palace of King Minos, Knossos, and find out more about the fascinating Minoan civilization in the nearby historical museum.
No matter what your interests are, the island of Crete is more than ready to deliver. A travel bucket list destination, without a doubt!
17. Alps, Austria…for Adventure in Every Season
Any good Europe adventure bucket list should have at least one location in the Austrian Alps on it. My recommendation is the picturesque Saalbach-Hinterglemm area. It’s a delicious place to escape the stresses of big cities and breathe in the mountain air.
It’s peaceful…with that authentic “Sound of Music” feel about it. But not too peaceful…you’ll find every snow sport possible available in winter. Think multiple ski runs right at your door. Then close the day in front of a warm fire at one of the many local pubs or restaurants in town.
Saalbach-Hinterglemm is not just a winter destination though. It’s now opening ski-lifts in summer too, for hiking, mountain biking, or just to visit the mountain tops and admire the views.
There are plenty of other adventure sports available in the area with one of the longest—1.6km—and fastest zip lines in the world, just one part of a full high ropes course. Children are well catered for also, with plenty of playgrounds and activities specifically for them.
Austria is magical! Read more in Rick Steves’ Vienna, Salzburg and Tirol guidebook
Josie | Josie Wanders
18. Triglav National Park, Slovenia…for an Epic Drive
A drive along the Vršič Pass through Triglav National Park in Slovenia may raise your blood pressure, but the views will take your breath away!
This windy mountain pass reaches an elevation of 5,285 ft (1,611 meters) and takes you on a hair-raising journey through the majestic Julian Alps. There are 50 hairpin turns, each labeled with a number and the elevation.
You can do the drive in either direction, but we started in Kranjska Gora and ended in Trenta. There are various hiking trails in the area if you want to break up the drive or stretch your legs.
Keep in mind though: Due to its elevation, the Vršič Pass is only open seven months out of the year due to heavy snowfall in the winter months. This scenic drive is the best way to experience the beauty of Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only national park.
What else can you do in Slovenia? Check out Rick Steves’ Croatia and Slovenia guidebook
Toccara | Forget Someday
19. Emilia-Romagna, Italy…for Foodie Feasts
Tuscany may get all the international acclaim, and truth be told, there are ways to get away from the crowds even there in the Val d’Orcia. It’s even possible to see the famous Cinque Terre without the crowds if you’re smart about it.
But the region of Emilia Romagna that sits right next door to Tuscany is also one of the best off the beaten path spots in Europe! Emilia Romagna is the original home of delicious Italian classics like Parmigiano-Reggiano—which is actually a city there—and aged balsamic vinegar.
Ever had spaghetti Bolognese? It comes from Emilia Romagna’s capital city, Bologna, and is known as tagliatelle al ragu. You’ll also find Parma ham and bologna sausage here—under the name mortadella— which is far superior to the deli meat you may remember from childhood.
In addition to food, Emilia Romagna is home to a long and fascinating history, a great wine scene, the tallest leaning tower in Italy (and you can even climb it!), great beaches and more.
Other things to do in Emilia Romagna: Check out Europe’s oldest university, visit the Ferrari factory, see the 11th century castles and Renaissance domes in Modena, check out the gorgeous beaches on the Adriatic Coast, and visit the childhood home of Verdi, one of the greatest composers of all time.
For seriously inspired off-the-beaten-path ideas here, get Little Roads Europe’s Emilia-Romagna guidebook
Kate | Our Escape Clause
20. French Riviera…for the Lemon Festival
The French Riviera has long been a worldwide destination for the well-heeled traveler. But while everyone flocks to Nice, Cannes, Monaco or St. Tropez, try going hyper-local to really experience the essence of this incredible destination.
Right next to Nice, there’s Villefranche-sur-Mer. A quaint fishing village with just one beach, Villefranche is just a short scooter ride away from Nice.
The commune is built on a hillside, so you’ll get your fair share of winding narrow streets, little steps here and there, and locals going about their day. At the same time, there’s an excellent selection of restaurants that’ll please even the more demanding travelers.
When driving the French Riviera, be sure to stop at the charming St. Paul de Vence. This little medieval town sits atop a hill and offers magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. St. Paul de Vence has always been popular among artists, which explains the many lovely art galleries in this charming village.
And don’t miss Menton! The city is famous among locals for its annual Lemon Festival (Fête du Citron) in February when villagers celebrate locally grown lemons with a lemon parade and lemon decorations galore.
Looking for more ideas? Read Rick Steve’s Provence & French Riviera guidebook
Veronika | Travel Geekery
21. Tromso, Norway…to Catch the Northern Lights
Tromso, in Northern Norway, lies 217 miles inside the Arctic Circle and should be on everyone’s bucket list, if only to try and catch a glimpse of the amazing Northern Lights.
Having been unsuccessful in Iceland, we turned to Tromso for a second try after viewing a compelling documentary. Visiting in November, it was surprisingly not as cold as expected, but more beautiful than we could have imagined.
Tromso is an expensive city, as many Scandinavian cities are, but worth it. From the Polar Museum to the stunning Arctic Cathedral, there is plenty to see and do during the daytime. Try your hand at husky sleighing or even take a polar fjord cruise.
But night is when the magic happens: the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. While you may be lucky enough to see them from the city they are best viewed outside the city in a dark, dark sky. It’s easy to book a tour from Tromso.
Where *else* in Scandinavia? Go here immediately: Rick Steve’s Scandinavia guidebook
22. Romania…to See the Painted Monasteries
The word is out about Romania! Tourism is on the rise so go now while you can still experience the charm of authentic rural life and incredible wildlife without the crowds.
If you’re looking for things to do in Europe, don’t miss the true hidden gems in this amazing destination: the painted monasteries in Moldavia, part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, in the northeastern part of the country.
Here’s what’s so unusual about them: The outside walls are painted with images from the Bible, dating back to the 15th and the 16th centuries.
Each one of these eight little churches is renowned for a unique characteristic…like Voronet Church, which is celebrated for its deep blue hue (known as Voronet Blue), created from lapis lazuli rocks. It’s known as The Sistine Chapel of the East because of its impressive outside frescoes.
Another very well preserved church is the one at Moldovita, whose frescoes were painted in 1537. Even as a non-believer, it’s impossible to remain without emotion as you admire the work of art on its walls.
Top tip: Spring for a guide so you don’t miss any of the behind-the-scenes details.
For more beyond Romania, read Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe guidebook
23. Italian Lakes Region, Italy…for Gondolas and Gardens
Exploring the beautiful northern Italian lakes region in Italy should be high on everyone’s European travel bucket list. Just a short drive from Milan, this picturesque area holds surprises around every corner.
Lake Como is always a favorite, but don’t miss Lake Maggiore where the snow capped Italian Alps rise above its shimmering waters.
Take a convenient ferry from the resort town of Stresa to see the unique Italianate gardens and magnificent villa at Isola Bella and the Borromean Islands. Then take a gondola up to Motarrone and enjoy incredible views of Maggiore and surrounds.
For one of the most magical experiences you will ever have, continue on a short distance to Lake Orta and explore gorgeous Orta San Giulio. Here, wisteria drapes from colorful walls that line narrow cobbled streets.
You’ll see glimpses of the lake as you wander towards the main piazza. And it is here that you can enjoy jaw-dropping views of Isola San Giulio and its medieval monastery rising from the water.
Looking for foodie itineraries? Get Little Roads’ Italy’s Alpine Lakes guidebook immediately!
Katy | Untold Morsels
24. Costa Brava, Spain…for Catalan Cuisine
Stretching from the French border down to the small coastal town of Blanes and inland as far as Girona, The Costa Brava is a region in Catalonia in the northeast of Spain, not far from Barcelona. This area’s rocky coastline and beautiful beaches boast some of the clearest water in the world.
You can walk the coastal path for 200 kilometers, swim in hidden coves, snorkel, dive, take a boat trip, or just enjoy the beach!
Many of Costa Brava’s towns dot historic routes back to the middle ages, and so offer stunning examples of medieval architecture almost everywhere you look.
See the impressive fortress at Tossa de Mar, walk the almost 1000-year-old bridge in the town of Besalú, or check out all of the now-famous Game of Thrones locations in the city of Girona!
Another reason to add the Costa Brava to your list is it was home to renowned Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. Dali designed the Dalí Theatre-Museum himself in his hometown of Figueres here, and is in fact buried in a crypt under the former stage.
It’s a great place for a guided tour. Don’t miss his house at Portlligat or Castle Púbol, where his wife is buried.
Best of all, you’ll indulge in the long tradition of traditional Catalan cuisine. From turf and surf style mains to tapas and more modern fusion food, dining is a memorable experience here. Are you adding it to your list yet?
Sonja | Migrating Miss
25. Porto, Portugal…to Sip Port
Porto, a fascinating city to explore, is located on the River Douro and the Atlantic Ocean. Explore the famous blue and white tiles and granite buildings of this historic city by river cruise, cable car, tram or customize your tour with the hop-on-hop-off bus.
Check out the stunning six bridges that span the River Douro…each built in a different era. Top tip and must-do in Porto: Walk the upper deck of Ponte D Luis for the most spectacular views of the city.
Then, after walking the bridge from the Porto side of the River Douro, hop on the cable car to travel to the lower bank of Vila Nova de Gaia. It is here you can explore the streets and sample the famous port wine of Porto.
When we visited beautiful Porto in September, we awoke to mesmerizing morning mist on the River Douro followed by a day of brilliant sunshine…just one of the many reasons you must add Porto to your European travel bucket list.
For Portugal beyond Portal, head to Rick Steves’ Portugal guidebook
Cathy | Cathy Travelling
26. Dubrovnik, Croatia…for Game of Thrones Sites
The iconic city of Dubrovnik lies at the edge of the mesmerizing blue waters of the Adriatic Sea against a hilly backdrop. Tourism is on the rise here after Dubrovnik’s stunning scenery rose to recent fame as a Game of Thrones set.
Fans can enjoy any number of excellent walking tours of the famous landmarks used in the series.
After Dubrovnik was established as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, it was heavily bombed in 1991. Fortunately, since then, it has undergone major renovations and restorations to restore it to its former glory. The quaint little alleyways and glistening roads are a testament to how successful Croatia has been here.
Your “can’t miss sights” in Dubrovnik are the classic Old Wall Walk, Onofrio’s fountains (particularly the impressive fountain near Pile Gate), and the Church of St. Blaise, Saint Ignatius Church, Stradun (the main street in Dubrovnik).
Don’t miss Lovrijenac Fortress, Minčeta Tower, Rector’s Palace, Dubrovnik Cathedral, and Lokrum Islan. Add Dubrovnik to your list!
Want more Croatia inspiration? Check out Rick Steves’ Croatia and Slovenia guidebook
Becki | Meet Me in Departures
27. Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany…for the Christmas Markets
Have you ever experienced a German Christmas market? The quaint village of Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber is one of Germany’s sweetest gems. While a visit is memorable any time of year, this fairytale village is at is best when dressed up for Christmas.
Along with its walled city, historically preserved style and great shopping, it also offers a massive and immersive Christmas store that is not to be missed.
Rothenburg offers not only an amazing Christmas market with mulled wine and delicious schneeballes (a local specialty pastry made for over 300 years here), but the Christmas store, Kathe Wohlfahrt, really tops off the experience.
You’ll be mesmerized by an incredible assortment of unique German Christmas ornaments, trimmed trees, and so much more. There’s even a classic Christmas inspired delivery truck (see below) to get you in the spirit before you even enter. Be sure to check out this must-see village during the next holiday season.
There are so many great German Christmas market towns in Rick Steves’ Germany guidebook
Amanda | Every Further Mile and on Instagram
28. Cotswolds, England…to Bask in the Romantic English Countryside
When you think of England, do you think of the gently rolling countryside, romantic thatched cottages with roses trailing from windows? With stately homes and cream teas? If so, welcome to the Cotswolds.
This region offers something for everyone. History buffs will thrill to visit local castles, like Sudeley Castle with its rich Tudor past, or Bleinheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s childhood home. Or head to beautiful Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for Roman and Georgian history.
Some of the UK’s prettiest villages are here in the Cotswolds. Visit Castle Combe, Bibury or Bourton-on-the-Water to see homes constructed from the local honey-colored Cotswold stone. Then walk the Cotswold Way which links many of these little villages for an idyllic stroll through the lovely countryside.
There are plenty of attractions for families too. Kids will love the Cotswold Farm Park or the Wildlife Park, where rhinos graze in front of a traditional manor house. Cotswolds is in southwest England, just a two hour drive from London, making it a great city break from the capital.
For England beyond the Cotswolds, you need Rick Steves’ England guidebook
Emily | Kids and Compass
29. Galway, Ireland…for Irish History and Music
For the quintessential Irish experience, Galway is the city to visit. Galway’s history includes explorers, pirates, military conquerors, the Spanish Armada, and even US Presidents. All of these sites remain today to be explored by history lovers, as the foundation for a city still buzzing with youthful energy.
Take in that history by visiting the cathedrals, castles, halls, the Spanish Arch and city walls, and even the Galway City Museum. Then get out and experience the vibe of Galway, mingling with locals at Eyre Square or on the banks of the River Corrib.
In the evening, take in some traditional music and buskers with a pint in the Latin Quarter. There will be plenty of craic, and you may even hear older residents chatting in Gaelic. Be sure to catch the weekend Galway Farmer’s Market at St. Nicholas Church.
When it’s time for a respite from the city, head out to Wild Atlantic Way. If nature is what you’re after, choose from day trips to Connemara National Park, the Burren, or the Cliffs of Moher.
For a cultural experience, head to Portumna to visit the Portumna Workhouse and Museum, one of only three locations where you can still hear the important story of the Irish workhouse. Looking for the sea? Ferry to the Aran Islands where time seems to stand still. You can check out a 10 day Ireland itinerary here.
For the most beautiful Irish sites and villages, get a copy of Rick Steves’ Ireland guidebook
30. Transylvania, Romania…for Unspoiled Eastern Europe
If you’re looking for off the beaten path European destinations, your best bet is to head to east. Here, you’ll find places that are both incredibly beautiful and rich in culture but with far fewer tourists. One of my favorite places is Transylvania in central Romania.
Transylvania is most famous for being the setting of Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror novel, Dracula, and the majority of tourists that visit this part of the world head straight to his castle, Bran Castle.
But the castle is just the beginning. Be sure to see Sighisoara, Brașov, and Sibiu. If you want to experience even more of off the beaten path Europe, head to some of the smaller nearby towns.
This is a very remote part of Europe, and many of the towns still have dirt roads and communal water pumps in the town centers. In fact, they are so far removed from the rest of Europe, even from Bucharest, that the makers of the 2006 movie Borat filmed here rather than Kazakhstan.
This is great news for the keen adventurer who wants to experience a part of Europe that’s unspoiled by tourism. Looking for a middle ground? Towns like Sighisoara and Sibiu offer a great compromise between the two extremes.
See more inspired itinerary ideas here: Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe guidebook
James | This Travel Guide
31. Zagori, Greece for Lush Mountain Villages
If you can visit only one area in mainland Greece during your holidays, make it Zagori! This small, mountainous region in Northern Greece offers the perfect combination of outstanding natural beauty and rich traditions preserved through centuries.
The landscape of Zagori is a striking mixture of rugged peaks, deep gorges, rushing rivers and mountain lakes, within the Vikos Aoos National Park and National Park of Valia Kalda.
But it’s not just the unspoiled nature that makes Zagori so special. The stone-built mountain villages, called Zagorochoria, with their traditional architecture and beautiful views are equally stunning.
Mikro and Megalo Papingo, Tsepelovo or Monodentri are some of the most famous examples of these villages, but there are more than 45 of them scattered throughout the mountains waiting to be discovered.
The best way to experience Zagori is on foot. The choices for hiking are endless, from short strolls through the villages to some serious mountain ascents. Looking for a serious hike with four hours to spare?
Climb from Papingo to Drakolimni Tymfi’s, the highest placed mountain lake in Greece. Or hike through the impressive, 20 kilometers long Vikos Gorge, one of the deepest canyons in the world.
Zagori is a paradise for thrill-seekers, too. From canyoning to rafting or rock climbing, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get your heart rate up.
But no matter whether you choose to scramble to the mountaintop or to kick back at the balcony of your guesthouse, you are guaranteed to have an incredible visit to Zagori.
Helena | Just for One Summer
32. Yerevan, Armenia for Café Culture
Yerevan, Armenia is an amazing place to put on your bucket list for Europe. As Armenia’s capital city and most populous city, it’s home to jaw-dropping scenery, mouth-watering food, and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
My first time in Yerevan was back in 2013 and I fell in love with the city from the moment I stepped foot in it. The rest of the world could learn a lot from Armenia’s example: Hospitality is an art form here.
In Yerevan, you’ll also find one of the best cafe cultures in the world. In warmer months, sidewalk cafes are ubiquitous and so make the perfect place to begin your day. Take in the pink hue of the buildings in a collage of architectural styles while you sip.
Foodie destination? Wine? Check and check! Looking for a respite from the city? Steal away into one of the leafy parks sprawled across Armenia or choose from many day trips to immerse yourself in nature and Armenian history.
If you’re looking for an affordable, off-the-beaten-path destination in Europe, head to Yerevan soon. The city won’t stay a secret for too much longer.
Looking for other Eastern European itineraries? See Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe guidebook
Megan | Megan Starr Blog. Or join her on Facebook.
33. Zermatt, Switzerland…for the Matterhorn
Travelers sometimes decide to skip Switzerland because it can be expensive, but it’s also one of the most beautiful countries in the world. While I could name 100 places that are insanely beautiful in this tiny country, I recommend adding Zermatt to your list of ultimate Europe vacation destinations.
The unique shape of Zermatt’s mountain, The Matterhorn, has made it famous worldwide. But there’s so much more to do here…Stroll along the Vispa River.
Or explore the cute little village center of Zermatt to window shop Switzerland’s beautiful luxury watches. Summit Klein Matterhorn Mountain for amazing views. Looking for a place to stay? Fine a place for every budget here.
Where else is incredible in Switzerland? You need to read Rick Steves’ Switzerland guidebook
Arzo | Arzo Travels
34. Kotor, Montenegro…for Seafaring History
If you’re travelling around the Balkan region of Europe, stopping in Kotor, Montenegro is where it’s at. This seaside town—located in the beautiful Bay of Kotor—is surrounded by tall mountains and the pristine Adriatic coastline. This makes Kotor a visual feast.
There are lots of things to do and see in Kotor. Its medieval and seafaring history makes the wander through the old town quite special. You’ll find cafés, shops, old churches, and Montenegrin history around every single corner.
Oh, and don’t forget to try all the Balkan specialty foods… like cevapi, burek, and fresh seafood from the region. If you’re an active traveler, consider a hike up to the Castle of San Giovanni high in the mountain above the old town.
Or tackle the challenging “Ladder of Kotor.” This walking trail has over 70 switchback paths, but you’ll be rewarded with views of the entire bay and surrounding mountainous area when you reach the top. Kotor makes a perfect first stop to explore the rest of Montenegro, too.
You guessed it! You need the Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe guidebook
Eric and Lisa | Penguin and Pia
35. Krakow, Poland…for 15th Century Charm
Krakow is one of my favorite cities in the world. With a historic city center that was mostly spared damage during WWII, its buildings are not only gorgeous, but actually centuries old.
These days, as you walk the Rynek Glowny market—which has welcomed shoppers for hundreds of year—you’re more likely to find tourist t-shirts than food staples and hand-crafted goods, but it’s worth the visit.
Around the square, you’ll find an endless array of delicious Polish food, some of it served in restaurants dating back to the 15th century. Visitors can also tour magnificent Wawel Castle, which was home to Polish royals for centuries and features unique interior touches and a fascinating hodgepodge of architectural styles.
If you’re looking to get out of the city, take a tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mines just a few minutes from downtown Krakow or a day trip to Auschwitz. The salt mines fueled the Polish economy for centuries and are home to sculptures made from the very salt that was mined there as well as an underground chapel.
One more time (to save you from scrolling lol!): Check out the Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe guidebook
Kris | Nomad by Trade
36. Budapest, Hungary…for Traditional Thermal Baths
As the capital of Hungary, Budapest should definitely be on your bucket list if you’re fond of castles, hills and culture. The Danube river divides this eastern European city into Buda and Pest.
Here’s how to approach it: Buda needs at least one entire day to be explored. Begin with a short hike to Gellért Hill to see the Citadella. The famous Buda Castle is built atop Castle Hill and makes for a lovely walk on the cobbled roads. There is also a spell-binding network of underground caves to explore here, with several great walking tours available.
When you cross one of the bridges to Pest, you can stroll along the riverside to visit important attractions, like the Parliament Building and St. Stephen’s Basilica. Ready for a rest? Stop in at the Great Market Hall to sample local delicacies and Hungarian street food.
My top picks: Try the Langos (think of it as Hungarian pizza) and strudel. Meat lovers can indulge in rural blood-pork dishes. And don’t forget to unwind after a busy day exploring with a dip in a traditional thermal bath!
Here is the Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe guidebook for more ideas!
Oindrila | Oindrila Goes Footloose
37. Outer Hebrides, Scotland…for Pristine Wilderness
When people think of blue seas and soft sandy beaches, Scotland isn’t typically the first place that springs to mind. But the Northwest coast island chain that makes up the Outer Hebrides offers beaches that truly take your breath away.
In fact, the beaches of the Isles of Barra, Lewis and Harris really are unspoiled strips of immaculate golden sands that are rarely touched by human footprints. And yet, the water really is Caribbean blue.
Let’s be clear though: Rainy Scotland weather means these are unlikely beaches for sunbathing. Instead, set out on a walk to experience wild Scotland at its best. The islands start at Barra in the south (where you can even take a flight from Glasgow that lands on the beach).
The Uists and Benbecula are littered with lochs, mountains and miles of pristine sand. Finally, there are Harris and Lewis where the stunning beaches merge with mountains and lovely little bays.
Go further afield in Scotland with inspiration in Rick Steves’ Best of Scotland guidebook
John | Real People
38. Sintra, Portugal…for Moorish History
Sintra, Portugal used to be a hot spot for Royals…where they escaped the summer heat in Lisbon. Today, you can still visit the moody ruins of the Castle of the Moors, an unforgettable UNESCO world heritage site built in the 8th and 9th centuries. Visit as a day trip from Lisbon or stay a few days.
After you walk the castle walls, head to the colorful Pena Palace, which has been transformed from ruins of a monastery. Then, in the historical center of town, you will find the National Palace of Sintra, the summer residence of the monarchs from the 15th to the 19th century.
Step inside to inspect the impressive tile work and period pieces. Have more than a day? Be sure to see Quinta de Regaleira, Monserrate Palace, Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla, Capuchos Convent, Palace of Seteais, and the Sintra Museum of Modern Art.
Find more Portugal ideas here: Rick Steves’ Portugal guidebook
Anisa | Two Traveling Texans
39. Inis Mor, Ireland…for the Simple Life
Inis Mor, in the historical and mystical Aran Islands—just off the west coast of Ireland—is an absolute Irish gem. Sail over from Galway Bay. Then climb up to the prehistoric fort high on a clifftop to watch the rugged waves crashing beneath you. Look over the edge on your belly if you dare!
There’s a natural pool knocking about near here too. And on the east of the island—with a population of less than 900 people—you can explore the beach.
Bicycles are the best way to slow down and experience the rich and simple life that locals love here. It’s where the legendary TV show, Father Ted, was filmed. If you’re looking to experience the real Irealnd, Inis Mor will steal your heart. The Aran Islands definitely belong on your Ireland itinerary!
You’ll find additional Ireland inspiration in Rick Steves’ Ireland guidebook
Alice |Teacake Travels or on Facebook
40. Maastricht, the Netherlands…for a Different Dutch Experience
Visiting the southern city of Maastricht almost never makes sense as part of a Dutch itinerary. Located in the ‘appendix’ of the Netherlands, at the southernmost point of the country, it’s a perfect stop en route from Brussels in Belgium to Cologne in Germany.
In fact, Mastricht is so far removed from the rest of the Netherlands that even Dutch citizens consider it a getaway “abroad”, thanks to its unique language, culture, and cuisine.
The city was founded by the Romans, but is currently occupied by lots of international students. As a result, many of the beautiful, historic buildings now play host to university faculty. For a splurge, check out the annual TEFAF art fair, the Michelin-starred restaurant Beluga, and the massive André Rieu concert in summer.
Low on cash but big on appetite? Get a ‘big box’ at Cato by Cato on the weekdays. No matter what you choose to do in Maastricht, do it in flat shoes; the cobblestoned streets and little green parks make the city both photogenic and walkable.
For more beyond Amsterdam, see Rick Steves’ Netherlands guidebook
Iris | Mind of a Hitchhiker
41. Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland…for colorful villages and dramatic scenery
Tucked away in the southwest of Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway is within easy reach of Glasgow, yet tourists often give it a miss in favor of the more well-trodden route north to the Scottish Highlands. Don’t miss this region rich in historical, cultural and natural attractions.
Dumfries and Galloway serve up all the traditional Scottish favorites…from impressive castles and whiskey distilleries to standing stones, red deer and stunning scenery. But even more, it’s home to numerous colorful towns and villages, like Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town lined with quaint book shops…and Kircudbright, the ‘Artists Town’, a charming fishing port filled with galleries and historic closes.
For dramatic scenery head to the most southerly point in the country at Mull of Galloway. Or climb The Merrick, the highest summit in Southern Scotland. Outdoor enthusiasts can choose from a multitude of walking trails at Galloway Forest Park while fans of the famous poet Robert Burns can visit the house where he lived until the end of his days in 1796.
These are just a few highlights of this diverse and lesser visited part of Scotland. Read about the Rhins of Galloway here.
Once again: Be sure to read Rick Steves’ Best of Scotland guidebook
Susanne | Adventures Around Scotland
42. Helsinki, Finland…for a Hipster Vibe
If you’re in search of a destination lesser visited in Europe, put Helsinki, Finland at the top of your list for its relaxed atmosphere and cool hipster vibe. Often overlooked in favor of better traveled Nordic cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm, Finland receives just a fraction of the tourists of its neighboring countries.
Located on the Baltic Sea, between Russia and the Swedish Kingdom, Helsinki was historically of strategic importance. Swedish and Russian influences still linger here to give the city its special charm. The city’s most iconic sight, Helsinki Cathedral, was built as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.
Insider tip: On a sunny day, head out to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and favorite among locals, where you can learn about the city’s rich history, relax in the park, or swim at the beach.
After taking in Helsinki’s beautiful art nouveau architecture and visiting the city’s fabulous art museums, take a breather at a local café for coffee and Finnish pastries. Enjoy this one day walking tour while you’re visiting.
You’ll find more about Helsinki and Estonia in Rick Steve’s Scandinavia guidebook
Jacky | Nomad Epicureans
43. Gibraltar…to See the Rock
You’ve heard of the Rock of Gibraltar, right? What you may not know is that Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory on the south coast of Spain. It’s small—just 6.8 km² or four miles—but there’s so much to do here.
Some love Gibraltar for the deals on duty-free goods: King Edward cigars are less than fifty cents and whiskey is as low as four USD per bottle! But people come here to see The Rock of Gibraltar, a 1400 foot (426 meters) high limestone ridge that dominates the enclave.
Other Gibraltar must-sees: the 18th Century Great Siege Tunnels and WWII fort; the view from the top of the Rock across to Africa; the Barbary Macaques, Europa Point lighthouse, the 14th Century Moorish Castle, St Michaels Cave and the botanic gardens. And don’t miss the dolphin tours from the harbor!
Remember, taxis are expensive here, especially for tours of the Rock. So use the cable car to get to the top (which is an experience in itself) and then walk down for a more rewarding experience.
Tracey | Pack the PJs
44. Bratislava, Slovakia…for Quirky Eastern Europe
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is a small city with an even smaller historic old town. The streets of Bratislava are quaint and fairytale-ish, but also a bit offbeat.
When I visited, the streets were pristine and very quiet, as if maybe all the villagers were hiding from Dracula inside its charming medieval towers (and it does feel like a village, rather than a city).
As you explore Bratislava you’ll come across baroque palaces and gothic cathedrals, like the imposing white Bratislava castle, which overlooks the Danube river. Be sure to also visit the photogenic Church of St. Elizabeth, which is an incredible pastel blue color.
Getting there: Bratislava is just a one-hour bus ride from Vienna, so it makes an easy day trip or two as part of a longer Europe trip.
Find more fabulous ideas here: Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe guidebook
45. Blokhus, Denmark…for Family Fun
If we had not had Danish friends who owned a holiday house in Blokhus, we may never have travelled this far north. What luck to have seen this great little town!
With a population of just over 400, Blokhus attracts around 1 million visitors annually. Situated on the northwest coast of the Jutland Peninsula, the North Sea rolls into the long sandy beaches that visitors drive along, finding secluded spots to fish and swim.
We visited there in the winter with our daughters when an icy dip in the ocean and then a sprint to a saltwater hot tub on the beach was the most challenging activity we braved.
‘Gateway Blokus’ park is a fun place to take kids to as they have a brilliant fitness challenge course with ropes, flying foxes and climbing frames, all free to use. Wood-fired pizza ovens have been built for people to use, complete with logs and a hand-powered wood splitter machine. The kids just loved ‘chopping’ the wood!
Many Danish—and German—residents own holiday houses in Blokhus, making it a seasonal town…busy in the summer, yet quiet and laid back in the winter months.
It seems like a more ‘authentic’ experience to stay here amongst ‘locals’ and is a worthy addition to add to a European travel bucket list. (An Aussie equivalent to Blokhus where locals can drive on miles of sandy beaches is Rainbow Beach on the East Coast of Australia.)
For more on Denmark, see Rick Steves’ Snapshot Copenhagen & Denmark guidebook
Jane | Wicked Walkabout
46. Cercedilla, Spain…for an Abandoned Spanish Town
Cercedilla, Spain is a small abandoned pueblo just north of Madrid., making it one of the best non touristy places to visit in Europe as its lack of tourist attractions keeps people away. Popular among hikers, Cercedilla is an easy train ride from Madrid.
Interestingly, many Spaniards owned summer homes in this beautiful town but lost their properties when the recession hit. Now, it’s a quiet town with long, bumpy roads and quaint, colorful homes. Visit during the fall when the color of these homes is matched by the color of the leaves.
Stop by one of the small cafes that are still open for tapas and a nice cup of café on a cold day. If you’re looking for a peaceful neighborhood experience in Europe, don’t miss Cercedilla.
47. Leiden, Netherlands…for Dutch Museums
Leiden is a quaint university town located just a 30 to 40-minute train ride away from Amsterdam. Given its proximity to the Dutch capital, it’s definitely worth taking a short, weekend trip to Leiden.
This unassuming and off-the-beaten-path city—with one of the most complete moat fortifications remaining in Europe—is a tourist destination in its own right.
For a more Dutch experience, visit the city center to mingle amidst locals at the Leiden Street Market, check out the two windmills (Molen de Valk and Molen de Put) or take a stroll along the canals. You can even take a canal boat tour for a view of the city from the water.
For the museum buff, Leiden is a treasure. Choose from the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden), the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, and National Museum of Ethnology (Museum Volkenkunde) among others.
There is also the Leiden Botanical Garden (Horticus Botanicus) for those in search of some nature. See Leiden! For more beyond Amsterdam, see Rick Steves’ Netherlands guidebook
Constance | The Adventures of Panda Bear
48. Lisbon, Portugal for the Views
As Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon is on the radar of travelers more and more. Scenically located on the Iberian peninsula, the city is a bit reminiscent of Barcelona…minus the Gaudi architecture but with better views of the sea!
In fact, Portugal feels very different from Spain. The intense Latin vibe is replaced with a relaxed “life is good” approach and warm welcome.
This beautiful city was almost completely rebuilt after the Great Earthquake of 1755, which decimated most of the architecture and population. Unlike most other cities in Europe, you’ll note the cobblestone streets and walkways in Portugal still retain their polished look (but they’re slippery so bring good shoes).
It’s all about the beautiful ceramic tile facades on buildings here. For an in-depth look at them, Visit the National Tile Museum while you’re here.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
49. Regensburg, Germany for Medieval History
Less than an hour from Munich, Regensburg is the best-preserved medieval town in Germany. It’s compact, too , so no car or public transportation is required to enjoy all the incredible sights in Old Town.
You can orient yourself from anywhere in the city by looking up for the steep Gothic spires of Regensburg Cathedral. From there, it’s just a short walk to the Tourist Information office in Old Town, where you can enjoy an incredible tour of the town hall, complete with a torture chamber underneath!
As an Imperial town, Regensburg (and its town hall) have been welcoming dignitaries from all over Europe since the 13th century.
Stroll across the Old Stone Bridge, which has been welcoming visitors for more than 800 years. Even older is a remnant of a building from Castra Regina, a fortress established during the Roman Empire in 179 AD/CE!
For an inspired day trip, consider a visit to Walhalla Memorial, a sort of “hall of fame” of German celebrities from the 19th century, with more than 2,000 busts. Walhalla is just an hour’s scenic bike ride from Regensburg along the Danube.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
50. The Val D’Orcia, Italy for Nature
The Val d’Orcia is a beautiful and scenic region of Tuscany that begins in the hills of Siena and extends to the lovely Monte Amiata. We road tripped through the Val D’Orica, completely by chance, on our way to a destination restaurant and highly recommend it to all!
This is the land of rolling Tuscan hills and tall Cypress trees…just like in all of the famous photos. Saffron, chestnuts, and truffles are plentiful here. The Val D’Orcia is definitely worthy of being one of the top travel destinations in Europe.
The picturesque little town of Pienza—famous for its pecorino cheese—makes an excellent base for this area. Stop to see the beautiful Romanesque Abbey of Sant’Antimo and the stone thermal bath in Bagni di San Filippo.
And don’t neglect the opportunity to drive through the gorgeous Monte Amiata. Wildflower-carpeted meadows give way to a forest of beech trees in this area that houses the largest extinct volcano in Italy. Then head back to Pienza for sunset, to sip a Brunello on the beautiful walled “terrace” of the village.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
And if you need US destination inspiration, see this American travel bucket list.
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