Europe offers some of the most beautiful sights in the world, and there are plenty of amazing places you should add to your Europe bucket list — and you should see them. But many more incredible hidden gems are waiting to be unearthed.
Here is a list of 15 of the most beautiful yet underrated small towns in Europe that deserves a place on any traveler’s bucket list. You definitely should visit these places before they become too mainstream.
Situated on the coast of the Baltic Sea, Gdansk is Poland’s principal seaport and one of its most beautiful destinations. It boasts several important historical attractions, such as the Royal Way, the famous promenade street of Polish kings, along with historic cathedrals, medieval ports, and oodles of cool cafes. Like a ministate all to itself, Gdańsk has a unique feel that sets it apart from other cities in Poland.
This city is a perfect place for those who love living by the sea on one side and hills on the other as well as those who like a laid back atmosphere, lots of green open spaces, clean air, bike trails, good connectivity, and an international work environment. Also, it has a good train connection to Warsaw and South of Poland, as well as cheap flights to Scandinavia and other major cities in Europe.
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
Český Krumlov, in Bohemia’s deep south, is one of the most picturesque towns in Europe. It’s bisected by the Vltava River and dominated by its 13th-century castle. The castle has Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque elements, an 11-hectare garden, and an original 17th-century baroque theater. There are panoramic views of the old town and the river from the top of its round belltower.
It can be a magical place in winter, though, when the crowds are gone, and the castle is blanketed in snow. This charming small city captivates the hearts of a great majority of its visitors.
Novi Sad, Serbia
Novi Sad is a chipper town with all the spoils and none of the stress of the big smoke. Locals sprawl in pretty parks and outdoor cafes, and laneway bars pack out nightly.
Known for its numerous museums, galleries, and monuments, it is no wonder Novi Sad is a cultural hub in northern Serbia. Magnificent architecture and a thriving local arts and crafts scene make this city special. The symbol of Novi Sad is Petrovaradin Fortress, and it offers stunning views over the city and the Danube. With convenient connections to many of the region’s finest attractions, Novi Sad is a wonderful jumping-off point for Balkan adventures.
Opening up like a pop-up book from the banks of the Rio Douro, edgy-yet-opulent Porto entices with its historic center, sumptuous food and wine, and charismatic locals. The city boasts an extensive history, interesting tourist attractions, and a buzzing nightlife, and outstanding tourist facilities. If you like the hustle and bustle of big cities, this place is just for you.
Albarracín is a small town in the hills of east-central Spain, above a curve of the Guadalaviar River. Towering medieval walls, the Murallas de Albarracín, dominate the adjacent hillside.
The buildings in Albarracín are pink due to the color of the local stones and materials of which they were constructed, and the authentic old houses take you back to the medieval ages. Visit Albarracin and get lost in its narrow streets where time seems to standstill.
Brasov looks like a city frozen in medieval times. Centuries-old fortresses, old houses with tiled roofs, and the clock tower chiming every hour create an atmosphere of peace and calm.
A number of medieval watchtowers still glower over the town. Between them sparkle baroque buildings and churches, while easygoing cafes line main square Piaţa Sfatului. It is a perfect place for those who like to unravel the secrets of ancient towns.
Koman is a settlement in northern Albania. This unremarkable town is worth stopping at only in order to see the natural beauty of Komani lake. It will leave you in awe as you tug on through the narrow, rocky cliffs and mountains surrounded by nothing but untouched, wild beauty and as it widens, the occasional farmhouse or small village. The water is so glassy and reflective. Azure water, picturesque shores covered with greenery — it seems you can’t find a more amazing place!
Annecy is an alpine town in southeastern France, where Lake Annecy feeds into the Thiou River. Annecy is a city of Art with a magnificent architectural harmony. Walking around Annecy’s old town is a real delight. With its charming canals, flower-bedecked banks, small delightful bridges, and beautiful houses with colorful facades, Annecy carries really well its nickname of Savoyard Venice. Take the opportunity to go on a walking tour around the town, and don’t forget to visit the old castle.
Sintra is a delightful Portuguese town that is situated within the hills of the Serra de Sintra. Hidden within these pine-covered hills are extravagant palaces, opulent mansions, and the ruins of an ancient castle. Sintra is regarded as the best day trip from Lisbon, and with its pompous colorful castles and exotic gardens, this city is not to be missed.
Bled is located at the foot of the Julian Alps, on the shores of one of the most picturesque lakes in the world. This incredibly scenic lake looks too good to be real. Atop a small island in the lake’s center is the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria, with its steep staircase and bell tower.
When visiting Ljubljana, it’s easy to make your first trip to Lake Bled as either a day trip or as a place to spend the night. If you love nature and outdoor activities, why not take a day or even weeks to explore this magical place and its surroundings?
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar is a city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, straddling the Neretva River. It’s known for the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge), a reconstructed medieval arched bridge. With cobblestoned streets, old stone buildings, and its beautiful bridge spanning the picturesque Neretva River, this town looks like it was plucked from the pages of a fairy-tale. The nearby alleys are full of shops and market stalls, and the Old Bridge Museum explores the bridge’s long history. A narrow staircase leads up to the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque’s minaret for panoramic city views.
If you set out to design a fairy-tale medieval town, it would be hard to improve on central Bruges. Picturesque cobbled lanes and dreamy canals link photogenic market squares lined with soaring towers, historic churches, and lane after lane of old whitewashed almshouses.
The best time to visit Bruges is from June to August when the weather is mild, and the trees are green. In the winter, the city offers a variety of holiday events, including its famous Christmas markets.
Ronda is a mountaintop city in Spain’s Malaga province that’s set dramatically above a deep gorge. Ronda has a rich cultural and literary tradition and is the home of modern bullfighting. From beautiful alleyways and cobbled streets to ancient city walls, the famous new bridge, and incredible sweeping landscapes, it’s simply one of the most photogenic destinations in Spain.
The village can be visited on foot and a single day is enough to discover all the must-see attractions and points of interest. It is wonderful to get lost in the town’s old streets while enjoying its unique atmosphere.
Bergamo is an Italian city northeast of Milan, in the Lombardy region. Widely acclaimed as a city of rare beauty, Bergamo is famous for its wealth of artistic treasures and enchanting medieval atmosphere. Its history is as rich as can be and clearly marked by the town’s architecture and three height layers. Bergamo’s cityscape is divided into two centers: the upper, older Città Alta, and the lower, modern Città Bassa. If you find yourself in the north of Italy, a shortstop in Bergamo is a must. It’s close to Milan and can easily be seen on a day trip via high-speed train.
Bordeaux, a hub of the famed wine-growing region, is a port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France. It’s known for its Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, 18th- to 19th-century mansions and notable art museums. The crescent-shaped city of Bordeaux has been the region’s wine capital for decades, with its illustrious past on display in the Golden Triangle area’s ornate buildings. When you travel to Bordeaux, you’ll find a revitalized village, charming, 18th-century buildings, a pedestrian-friendly city center, and a thriving waterfront area with chic boutiques and cafés. There’s also world-class art, as well as theater and dining. Sipping a glass of fine wine, you will learn how to enjoy every moment of your life.