The best lesser-known places to visit in Europe

List by
Humbo
10 places in 9 countries
Map

In the midst of European explorations, some cities remain less frequented by the throng of tourists yet hold an abundance of cultural wealth, natural beauty, and a compelling history. This guide aims to spotlight these unassuming gems, spanning from the Baltic shores to the alpine landscapes of Austria, the warm Mediterranean climates and the chilled Northern reaches.

While many opt for the iconic European cities of Rome, Paris or London, our chosen destinations include the Latvian beach city of Jūrmala, the Lombardic town of Bergamo, the Czech Republic's student city Brno, and Leipzig - a city of music and intellect in Germany. In Scandinavia, the charm of Å, a village in Norway's Lofoten archipelago, and Öland, a Swedish island. Closer to the Mediterranean Sea, Sankt Gilgen in Austria, Port d'Andratx in Spain, and Italy's seaport city Trieste await discovery. Lastly, we will explore Elsinore, a Danish city known for its prominent castle that inspired Shakespeare.

These places are not just geographical coordinates on a map; they are living narratives of human civilizations, enriched with tales of past epochs, filled with architectural gems and offering authentic local cuisines that have evolved over centuries. They provide a less trodden path for those who seek a unique travel experience away from the usual crowd.

Jūrmala

City in🇱🇻 Latviarated
4.2

Jūrmala, a coastal town in Latvia, has historically been a restful haven for city-weary folks from nearby Riga. Its charmingly languid pace and long stretches of sandy beaches draw visitors who seek respite from the fast-paced rhythm of city life. The Baltic Sea, often calm and quiet, sets the mood for leisurely days.

However, it's not all sun, sea, and sand in Jūrmala. The town is also known for its wellness offerings, particularly its mineral-rich mud sourced from the nearby Lielupe riverbed. Several spas in the city offer treatments utilizing this local resource. A unique cultural blend of Latvian and Russian influences also characterizes the town's culinary scene. Local eateries serve everything from Latvian rye bread to Russian pelmeni.

Visitors should be aware that the town can get quite crowded during peak season. Moreover, a small entry fee is charged for beach access during summer. While English is widely spoken in hotels and restaurants but less so among older locals.

Explore Jūrmala

Bergamo

City in🇮🇹 Italyrated
4.4

Bergamo is a hidden treasure of northern Italy, often overlooked in favor of its flamboyant neighbors, Milan and Venice. Sitting in the foothills of the Alps, this medieval city is divided into two parts - the elevated Citta Alta, with its fortified walls and old-world charm, and the more modern Citta Bassa. Its narrow streets are filled with time-worn beauty, from the ornate Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore to the Piazza Vecchia, with its centuries-old buildings.

Bergamo is no slouch in the culinary department either, offering a distinct cuisine that's rich in polenta, cheese, and hearty meats. Try casoncelli, a local pasta stuffed with beef, breadcrumbs and spices, followed by a slice of polenta e osei, a buttery cake named after the bird hunters who inspired it.

An interesting fact about Bergamo is its unique festival, Festa di Sant'Alessandro, which is celebrated on August 26th to honor its patron saint. The city comes alive with music, street performances and fireworks, making it an exciting time to visit.

Explore Bergamo

Brno

City in🇨🇿 Czechiarated
4

Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, is an under-the-radar destination, often overshadowed by the better-known Prague. The city's heart is marked by the 13th-century Špilberk Castle, an important cultural monument that now houses a museum.

The city has a sizeable student population, lending a youthful energy to its cafes, pubs, and cultural events. This student presence also means Brno is lively throughout the year, not just during peak tourist season.

The locals are well-educated and generally fluent in English. Their hospitable nature often surprises visitors who are used to the more reserved mannerisms of their Prague counterparts.

Despite its many charms, be aware that Brno has fewer hotels than other major cities. Early booking is advisable, especially during the Brno Grand Prix in August when the city becomes a hub for motorcycle racing fans.

Explore Brno

Leipzig

City in🇩🇪 Germanyrated
4.1

Known as a hub for music and the arts, Leipzig was home to great composers such as Bach and Mendelssohn; its opera house is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to 1693.

With a population that leans young, thanks to the presence of a major university, Leipzig has a thriving nightlife and music scene. Its art and cultural festivals draw in both locals and visitors, creating a lively atmosphere.

Food lovers should not miss the chance to try Leipziger Allerlei, a traditional vegetable dish that harks back to the city's trading history.

However, be aware that, while extensive, Leipzig's public transportation system can be somewhat complex for newcomers. It's best to familiarize yourself with it beforehand.

Explore Leipzig

Å

Village in🇳🇴 Norwayrated
4.6

Located on the Lofoten archipelago in Norway, Å is a quaint fishing village that packs a punch. It's commonly known as the end of the road, signifying its geographical extremity. Contrary to its size, it holds two museums - the Stockfish Museum and the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum- preserving the region's rich maritime history.

Be ready for limited amenities, with just a couple of restaurants and cafes. Locals often offer rooms for rent, providing an authentic experience. The fishing industry thrives here, so trying the local stockfish is a must. The lack of light pollution also offers a high chance of viewing the northern lights during winter months. A visit to Å will give you a genuine taste of Norway's seafaring past and present.

Explore Å

Öland

Island in🇸🇪 Swedenrated
4.3

Öland, a slender island in Sweden, has its own distinct charm, with a captivating landscape filled with windmills and orchids. While it's recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it still remains a well-kept secret to many.

The islanders are primarily of farming and fishing lineage. Öland also houses around 400 windmills, a stark contrast to the modern cities of Sweden. These windmills are a nod to the island's rich past and provide an interesting sight for history aficionados.

Öland is a popular summer destination for Swedes, which means it can get crowded during these months. And while it is generally safe, care should be taken when exploring the more secluded parts of the island.

Explore Öland

Sankt Gilgen

Town in🇦🇹 Austriarated
5

Sankt Gilgen, a small Austrian town, has a modest population, no more than a few thousand, and an untouched, peaceful ambiance that offers respite from bustling cities. The Mozart family once lived here, adding a note of historical interest.

Despite its small size, Sankt Gilgen has a surprising range of attractions. Lake Wolfgangsee's clear waters invite swimming and boating while the Zwölferhorn cable car ascends to breathtaking views. Stroll through the well-preserved old town or visit the Mozart museum.

Be warned that Sankt Gilgen's charm also draws in tourists, especially in the summer. While not as crowded as Salzburg or Vienna, it can be busy during peak season. The weather can be unpredictable, too; carry a rain jacket even on sunny days. And while Sankt Gilgen's food scene is limited, hearty Austrian fare like Wiener Schnitzel and Apfelstrudel are readily available.

An interesting local tip - the morning mist over Lake Wolfgangsee is a sight not to be missed. It's a perfect blend of natural beauty and serenity that encapsulates the spirit of Sankt Gilgen.

Explore Sankt Gilgen

Port d'Andratx

Village in🇪🇸 Spainrated
4

The charm of Port d'Andratx in Mallorca, Spain, remains unspoiled. This fishing town, marked by a blend of traditional Spanish houses and modern architecture, offers more than just breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. The main highlight is its harbor, brimming with yachts and fishing boats, which form a beautiful contrast against the backdrop of the Tramuntana mountains.

Visitors often delight in the seafood offerings at local eateries. Fresh catch of the day served in various forms, from traditional tapas to gourmet preparations, is a must-try. A trip to the local market will offer an array of artisanal products, fruits and vegetables.

Port d'Andratx is not your typical tourist spot. English is not widely spoken here, so knowing a bit of Spanish can be helpful.

Explore Port d'Andratx

Trieste

City in🇮🇹 Italyrated
4.1

Despite not boasting the fame of Rome or Venice, Trieste in northeastern Italy holds its own charm. Here, Italian, Slovenian, and German influences coexist in harmony, reflecting in architecture, food, and language. Notably, Trieste houses a few hundred locals who still speak a unique dialect - Triestino. A blend of Italian and Venetian with Slovenian, German, and Greek influences, it's a linguistic testament to the city's rich multicultural history.

Trieste’s gem is its seafront Piazza Unita d’Italia, Europe’s largest sea-facing square. Flanked by 19th-century buildings, it exudes an old-world charm. Nearby, the Roman Theatre offers a glimpse into the city's ancient roots.

For an authentic Trieste experience, try a cup of locally produced coffee at one of the traditional coffee houses. The city has been a coffee trading center since the 18th century and continues to uphold its coffee tradition.

Explore Trieste

Elsinore

Town in🇩🇰 Denmarkrated
4.4

Elsinore, more formally known as Helsingør, sits on the northeastern tip of Denmark. Despite its low profile, this coastal town offers more than meets the eye. Home to the famed Kronborg Castle, the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet, it has a palpable connection to the past. The castle offers a compelling peek into royal life during the Renaissance era.

Elsinore is not just about historical relics; it offers modern attractions, too. The Culture Yard, an award-winning cultural center, houses concerts, theatre performances, and exhibitions. For food lovers, local eateries offer an array of Danish treats, including the traditional Smørrebrød.

While Elsinore's calm might appeal to some, others might find it a tad too quiet, especially in the off-peak seasons. Its small size also means limited options for nightlife. Despite these minor setbacks, Elsinore remains a captivating destination with its blend of historical and contemporary charms.

Explore Elsinore

Articles you might also enjoy

Popular on Humbo right now
The best places to visit in the worldThe 30 best food cities in the worldThe most beautiful national parks in the worldThe best places for women to travel aloneThe 20 happiest cities in the worldThe best disc golf destinations in the worldThe warmest places in Europe during winterThe 10 most expensive cities in the world
Humbo™AboutVisitedBucket listSustainable travelPrivacyTerms