Hidden gems, local secrets, off-the-beaten-path destinations, or whatever you choose to call them, here are 20 of my favorite non-touristy places in Europe!
Europe is very high on many people’s travel wishlist. As it should be!
Physically, it is quite small compared to other continents. You can fly from one side to the other in just a few hours.
Culturally, it is incredibly diverse.
Within this small space, there are over 40 countries. And within each country, there are many regions and towns where the cultures, languages, and lifestyles differ completely.
So it’s very easy to discover new and exciting things in Europe.
Take Italy, for example. You can visit Rome, one of the most touristy cities on the planet. Then ride the train just 1 hour outside the city and you’ll be in Anzio, a quiet coastal town with basically no other tourists.
So if you’re looking to meet locals and venture off the normal tourist route, here are 20 non-touristy places in Europe.
(I’ve only listed places that I’ve actually visited to keep my recommendations authentic! However, most photos are from Unsplash, as I didn’t have a good camera while I was in Europe sadly. Some of these places are SO non-touristy that Unsplash didn’t have any photos of them!)
20 Non-Touristy Places in Europe
Before I get into the list, I just want to mention that I wrote a similar article a few years ago. It’s called Hidden Gems of Europe, and I include 8 of these places in that article.
But since then, I’ve done a lot more traveling and learned about more amazing places that I want to include. Rather than add to my old list, I’ve decided to create a new one.
I’ll also link to my other informative articles so you can read more about any of the given destinations.
I just really love Europe, and I hope this article inspires travelers to occasionally explore some less-popular destinations. Enjoy!
1. Sofia, Bulgaria
Sofia, Bulgaria, is actually one of my favorite cities in Europe.
I ventured here solo for 4 days and fell in love with the welcoming culture, the magnificent architecture, the affordable food and shopping, and the hospitality of locals.
Because Bulgaria isn’t that touristy, locals are thrilled to have travelers visit their country.
Locals host free walking tours of Sofia every day. I did a historical walking tour and a food-tasting walking tour, all of which were enlightening and fun (and free!).
Sofia has a rich history, which shows in its street art and architecture. It also has a very modern culture, complete with vegan restaurants, tea rooms, coffee shops, pub crawls, and more.
2. Galway, Ireland
Although Galway does see its fair share of tourists, it’s nothing compared to Ireland’s capital city of Dublin.
Galway is charming and peaceful. It’s a great gateway for visiting the Cliffs of Moher and exploring Ireland’s rugged western coastline.
From the colorful array of houses in the harbor, to the fresh local food at the Galway Market, to the lively, pub and cafe-lined Shop Street, this Irish city is one of the best non-touristy places in Europe.
3. Aveiro, Portugal
I spent one month living in Porto, Portugal, working in a hostel. During that time, one of my favorite experiences was taking a day trip to Aveiro.
This tiny town in northern Portugal is such a treat. I honestly wonder why more tourists don’t come here!
Countless canals wind through the town, so virtually every street is waterfront. Brightly colored and intricately decorated buildings line the canals, making this an incredibly photogenic spot.
Sleek moliceiro boats offer water tours to the few tourists that do come to Aveiro, and heavenly bakeries beckon us to come inside and indulge in Portuguese pastries. If you’re visiting Porto, make sure you take a day trip here!
4. Soave, Italy
Soave is very close to my heart, as my family lived here when I was 4 years old. This small commune in northern Italy definitely classifies as one of my favorite non-touristy places in Europe.
Most travelers up here head to Venice or Verona, but I feel so lucky to have been able to call this place home.
Soave’s two most distinguishing assets are its castle and its wine. Soave produces delicious, crisp white wine and there are vineyards and wineries all over the area. There is also an impressive medieval castle that looks over the town.
Aside from these two things, Soave is just a classic Italian town. There is one main road with restaurants and gelato shops, complete with rickety cobblestone streets. If you do take the time to visit Soave, just know you’re seeing the real Italy.
5. Sibiu, Romania
Romania is a truly underrated country in Europe. It’s so affordable to visit and it is full of stunning attractions like castles, mountains, and more.
Sibiu is a small city in the Transylvania region of Romania. This place honestly feels like somewhere out of a folktale.
The buildings are cute and colorful and covered in decorations. The streets are peaceful, the people are kind, the food is hearty.
Though it was freezing when I visited in winter, the falling snow just made the city that much more charming.
6. Murcia, Spain
Murica, on the southern coast of Spain, has only one hostel. So it does get the occasional backpacker. But Murcia felt very authentic and non-touristy.
The central market is overflowing with fresh produce and locals mingling. The powerful Cathedral of Murcia is full of Spaniards praying. You’ll never see any long entrance lines or steep entry fees for attractions here.
But what you will see is lots of gorgeous Spanish architecture and genuinely kind locals.
There is no airport in Murcia, so when I left Spain I had to catch a local bus to another small town and then ask people for help on how to reach the airport. The locals were so nice and impressed with my beginner Spanish that a young waitress left her shift and drove me to the airport herself.
There is no better way to practice your Spanish and experience the local hospitality than visiting a small town in Spain.
7. Kotor, Montenegro
I’ve visited 21 countries in Europe, and Kotor, Montenegro has THE BEST VIEW I’ve ever seen.
Kotor is a historic, fortified town in the Bay of Kotor. The town is lovely, but it’s the hike up into the surrounding mountains that is the most memorable.
Hiking up the ancient city walls allows you to see the red-roofed town surrounded by the turquoise waters of the bay and the towering mountains around it.
8. Osijek, Croatia
Most people venture to Croatia for island-hopping. Croatia’s coast is breathtaking, but there is something to be said for its land-locked towns as well.
Osijek is the capital of Croatia’s eastern Slavonia region. So while coastal Croatia can feel like a Mediterranean beach paradise, Slavonia feels like real Eastern Europe.
There are basically no tourists in Osijek. The only hostel available was above a local bar, and it was one of the sketchiest hostels I’ve stayed in. So I recommend booking an actual hotel if you come here.
BUT despite that, I loved Osijek. The architecture was grand, particularly on European Avenue. Relaxing parks, open-air markets, and charming public squares all contributed to the non-touristy feel of the city.
9. Birmingham, England
Though England is notoriously gray and rainy, its cities are lively enough to shine through the clouds. That’s how Birmingham felt to me; like a city that was beautiful enough to entertain me on a horrible rainy day.
I only visited Birmingham as a day trip from London. But I was impressed with the charismatic streets full of flowers and street artists.
I also loved the historic spots like Victoria Square and the Birmingham Cathedral, as well as the super modern Birmingham Library.
10. Anzio, Italy
This town is so non-touristy that my friends and I (who were all American) were turned down from a few restaurants for no reason!
But once someone let us sit down and we got some delicious, authentic Italian food in us, we were stoked.
From the ocean views with distant mountains to the buzzing local squares full of gelato shops and flea markets, my day here was full of happiness.
11. Riga, Latvia
I visited Riga, the capital city of Latvia, by myself for a few days in the middle of a winter snowstorm. Despite the frigid weather, I was still infatuated with the beauty of this city.
Riga’s Old Town is just precious. The buildings are quirky and colorful, and they looked even more captivating when topped with fresh snow.
All the food was heartwarming and cheap. I stayed in a super cozy hostel with the friendly staff.
Riga is famous for its Art-Nouveau architecture, and Albert Street houses some of the grandest, most impressive building designs I’ve ever seen.
12. Cologne, Germany
Located in western Germany near the French Border is Cologne. Compared to Berlin or Bavaria, Cologne is a relatively non-touristy place to visit in Germany.
Like many European cities, Cologne has a charming Old Town with peaceful streets and colorful buildings.
But my favorite part of Cologne was climbing the 533 steps to the top of the gigantic Cologne Cathedral. Here you get the best view over the city and a bit of an adrenaline rush. The stairs at the very top are quite thin and rickety!
Cologne also has lots of fascinating museums and plenty of multicultural food.
13. Tobermory, Scotland
Off the west coast of Scotland lies The Isle of Mull. This small island is one of the nicest, most charming non-touristy places in Europe in my opinion.
Tobermory is the island’s main town. There is only one Main Street adjacent to the harbor. Here you can taste Scottish whiskey, indulge in freshly baked treats, and enjoy the ocean views.
After enjoying the town, embark on a boat tour out to some more remote islands. The Isle of Staffa is covered in crazy volcanic rock shapes, and the Isle of Lunga is covered in puffins!
14. Děčín, Czech Republic
The only reason I came to this village in northern Czech Republic is because I was visiting a Czech friend who showed me around his country. This was an amazing opportunity to see the real, local side of the country.
We visited Děčín to go via-Ferrata rock climbing. It was my first time trying this thrilling sport, and there was a great local company who gave us the gear.
Climbing the decent-sized cliffs and overlooking the surrounding green hills, river, and regal European architecture was unforgettable.
It’s also not far from Bohemian Switzerland National Park, which the locals call “Czech Switzerland”. There is some fun hiking and mind-blowing natural sights here!
15. Warsaw, Poland
The capital city of Poland is so enchanting that it got me completely hooked on traveling. I even wrote an article about it called Why Warsaw Changed My Life.
From the sleek modernity of the new city spaces, to the colorful antiquity of the Old Town, Warsaw is captivating. There are lush gardens, interesting statues, and incredible restaurants.
Tourists are scare in all of Poland, even in the capital city. But I loved every second I spent in Warsaw, so I highly recommend it to travelers in Eastern Europe.
16. Brasov, Romania
Brasov is one of the most visited towns in Transylvania. However, it’s still a very quiet and authentic place, as Romania in general doesn’t see too many tourists.
People come to Brasov to see its nearby castles.
Bran Castle is thought to be the inspiration for the Dracula tale. Peles Castle is a relatively new castle from the late 1800s that exudes luxury. Both castles can be visited as a day trip from Brasov.
The town of Brasov itself is lovely as well, with plenty of adorable buildings and bustling public squares.
17. Eastbourne, England
For an authentic coastal getaway in England, Eastbourne is a great place to go.
It’s similar to Brighton, but without all the tourists!
Eastbourne has rugged cliffs and stunning ocean views. Visit the South Downs for hiking and biking, or visit a local pub for some real English fish and chips.
So from the rolling green hills free from other people, to the classic British pubs, this is definitely one of the best non-touristy places in Europe
18. Zagreb, Croatia
As I mentioned earlier, most travelers in Croatia visit the coast. But Zagreb, the capital city, is located inland in the north of the country and it is definitely worth a visit!
Zagreb has some of the coolest architecture in Croatia. St. Mark’s Church, the Cathedral of Zagreb, the Croatian National Theater, and Ban Jelačić Square are especially photogenic.
Other highlights of the city include the early morning Dolac Market, which is full of local foods and smiling Croatians, and the Museum of Broken Relationships, which is self-explanatory.
19. Alicante, Spain
This beautiful city is one of my favorite places in Spain. It’s a small city, so you can hit all the best attractions in just 1 or 2 days.
Eat fresh bread and fruit at the Mercado Central, then hike up Mount Benacantil to the massive fortress of Castell de Santa Bárbara.
Afterwards, walk along the Marina, eat tapas, relax on the beach and swim in the Mediterranean Sea. Honestly, Alicante is heaven.
20. Reykjavik, Iceland
Though Iceland’s glaciers, waterfalls, and mountains are the country’s most enticing features, Reykjavik is incredible as well.
Iceland’s capital city is quaint, classy, and clean, though there is actually lots of vibrant street art to spice up the sleek white architecture.
Reykjavik is a great place to stroll around, eat food, and experience the Icelandic culture.
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Thanks for reading about these 20 non-touristy places in Europe!
Some quick travel tips for visiting Europe:
Transport within Europe: Omio is a great online resource for comparing transport prices in Europe.
Accommodation: Hostelworld is my favorite for finding cheap, fun hostels in Europe. But some of these places are so non-touristy that they may not have hostels. In that case, I recommend Airbnb or Booking.com.
Visas: Most European countries don’t require visas for a visit less than 3 months. But always check visa requirements just in case! I recommend iVisa.com for researching visas.
Other helpful travel articles:
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