In preparation for our big move back to Europe, we’ve been looking at beautiful and unique towns in Europe to add to our ever-growing European bucket list. There are so many weird and wonderful places to visit across Europe and while there are a few you’ve heard of, there are probably more you haven’t heard of. So this week we’re introducing you to some of our favourite European hidden gems. Ones we’d love to go to, and ones we’re itching to visit ourselves! From Portugal and Spain to the lesser-visited countries of Poland and Croatia, let’s take a look at some of Europe’s most unique towns. Bought to you by our favourite travel bloggers!
Northern Europe, also known as Scandinavia is a small part of Europe made up of Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It’s become increasingly more popular over the years with Iceland ranking high on most people’s bucket lists but there are plenty of hidden gems in Northern Europe too! This part of Europe can get cold winters (given its location, that isn’t surprising) but also mild humid summers.
Helsingor – Denmark
By Karpiak Caravan
Helsingor, Denmark is the perfect place for anyone who loves history and culture. From its stunning architecture to its rich history and culture, this coastal town is an ideal destination for anyone who wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city life. It’s also home to Kronborg Castle which was famously featured in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. If you want a truly memorable experience while traveling abroad, look no further than Helsingor.
Imagine exploring centuries-old castles, wandering through charming cobblestone streets lined with cafes, or enjoying a relaxing day at the beach. There are so many things to see and do in this unique city that you could spend weeks here without getting bored. With its gorgeous architecture and stunning views, it’s no wonder why this town is so popular among tourists.
Helsingor is just a one hour train ride from Copenhagen, where you can easily take in sights like Tivoli Gardens. But chances are, you won’t want to leave this unique European destination once you are there. If you’re looking for an unforgettable vacation filled with fun activities and great food then look no further than Helsingor – Denmark’s crown jewel!
Lulea - Sweden
By Backpacking Adventures
Lulea is an off-the-beaten-path destination in northern Sweden. Close to the arctic circle it is the gateway to Swedish Lapland with lots of outdoor activities year-round. Like other cities in the Scandinavian countries, nature is at its doorsteps.
Lulea has a beautiful location on the Bothnian coast. The Lulea archipelago has more than 1000 small islands. In summer you can go kayaking or hiking. In winter the sea freezes and special ice roads connect the islands with the main road.
In winter you can also go snowmobiling, dog sledding, or ice skating and there is a good chance to see the northern lights. The city is surrounded by pine tree forests, lakes, and rivers with plenty of hiking trails to explore.
Lastly, Lulea is also a great destination for food lovers. Being a young student city there is a range of cafes and restaurants. The local food is influenced by Nordic cuisine. In Lulea, you can try things like arctic char and reindeer meat as well as Swedish classics like meatballs with lingonberry sauce.
Husavik - Iceland
By The Unknown Enthusiast
Husavik, Iceland is found on the northern coast of Iceland, and sits just 30 miles from the Arctic circle. This seaside town is known for its fishing, but more prominently, for its incredible whale watching. In fact, Husavik is widely considered the whale watching capital of all of Europe!
Many types of varieties of whales can be seen in Husavik, but the minke, humpback, and blue whale are the most common. While whale sightings cannot be guaranteed, of course, it is also very common to see many whales during your tour (especially during the summer months!). The humpback whales in particular are very playful and like to “show off” for boats.
In addition to whales, puffin colonies are found along the coastal cliffs by Husavik. You can even take a puffin watching tour, or a puffin + whale watching tour combined if you want to see these cute birds up close.
Beyond whale watching, the town itself is just really charming. Husavik boasts a cute church that is often compared to a gingerbread house, and a gorgeous hot springs infinity pool spa (Geosea) that sits on the cliffs overlooking the bay of Husavik.
From September through April, you can see the Northern Lights, and during the months of June and July, you can see the midnight sun (where the sun is still out at midnight).
Between whale watching, puffins, and the geothermal infinity pool spa, Husavik is a town unlike any other!
Eastern Europe is a melting pot of different cultures, landscapes, and climates. Often referred to as the ‘Easter Block’, it isn’t considered a popular European travel destination. This is in part due to previously feeling hard to reach from other parts of the world. However, these days there are several easy ways to travel around Eastern Europe, from scenic train rides to hiring a car and road-tripping. Hitchhiking is also quite common in Eastern Europe, with most of the countries appearing in the top 50 Global Peace Index. It’s perhaps one of the most affordable regions in Europe if you’re looking for a budget-friendly holiday destination.
You’re probably wondering which countries are a part of Eastern Europe? Well, this seems to be an ever-changing answer. Some still consider Russia and Turkey to be Eastern European, while others say otherwise. For the sake of ease, here is a list of countries that are (or have been) a part of Eastern Europe; Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Albania, Slovakia, Czechia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosna & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, and Turkey.
Below are some of the most unique towns in Eastern Europe.
Split - Croatia
One of the most unique towns in Europe is definitely Split in Croatia! This breathtaking port city fascinates with cultural as well as historical heritage and an old town, so beautiful and unique as from a picture book. During a city tour, you will discover numerous historical attractions, marvel at the beautiful waterfront promenade, and enjoy the fabulous cafes and bars of the city.
The absolute highlight and a must-see is Diocletian's Palace. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the main attraction of Split. Right next to it is the Cathedral of St. Domnius, from whose imposing church tower you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Split.
Incredibly beautiful, however, is also the picturesque promenade Riva at the port, where numerous restaurants and cafes are located, and which is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists.
Another must-visit that makes Split as a town so unique are the numerous beautiful beaches. Perfect if you want to combine sun, beach, and sea with sightseeing!
Lodz - Poland
By Veggie Wayfarer
Lodz is a former manufacturing city in Poland. As Tsarist Russia fell, there was no longer a demand for mass manufacturing and the city of Lodz started falling into decline. The hard times continued under the Iron Curtain and it is not until recently that the city has begun a veritable revival. Old manufacturing sites are being transformed into trendy shopping malls, museums, and upscale eateries. The vibrant street art scene means patchworks of colourful artwork adorn the façades of old manufacturing sites and former palaces of factory owners.
Lodz is the perfect day trip from Warsaw, an easy 1.5 h direct train ride brings you from the capital to Lodz. If time is of the essence be sure to check out Manufaktura and OFF Piotrkowska.
Rovinj - Croatia
By Chasing Lenscapes
If you are looking for a unique destination in Europe and you love small towns with cobbled alleys, colourful houses, lovely beaches, great cuisine, and a romantic setting, you must consider Rovinj in Croatia for your next trip.
Rovinj is located in Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, a picturesque region that is still relatively unknown. It is one of the most beautiful towns we’ve seen. It’s history dates back to the 3rd century and it has changed many hands over the years. Its history is reflected in the architecture, cuisine and culture and the local residents speak both Croatian and Italian.
Some of the best things you can do is simply get lost in the colourful alleys of Rovinj in search of Venetian architecture, crumbling colourful walls, instagrammable laundry lines, cute boutiques, and specialty food stores (with locally produced olive oil, truffle products, chunks of cheese and more).
The old town used to be an island, which means there are many little streets that will lead you to a beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea. You can also go wine tasting and olive oil tasting and even go truffle hunting (during the right season). So, if you are looking for a unique European destination for your next trip, start planning your trip to Rovinj!
Vilnius - Lithuania
By This Rare Earth
Vilnius is a city you can quickly fall in love with – and as the capital city of Lithuania, this is where most travelers will land to begin their adventures. A charming blend of old and new, Vilnius offers everything from deep history to quirky art to delicious eats. And, it is a great destination for budget travelers, too.
Many of the notable sights to see in Vilnius are completely free and reachable by foot. St. Anne’s and St. Bernardine’s – two famous churches side-by-side in the city - are an amazing architectural example, blending both Gothic and Baroque elements together. Gediminas Tower offers a spectacular view of the city, and the Gates of Dawn is a must-see. The KGB Museum illustrates a haunting history.
Colorful murals and charming art studios are dotted all around the city, and eateries with local and traditional Lithuanian foods are a must-try...
Vilnius offers such a lively sample of what this country is all about, and without a doubt will leave you wanting to see more of this Baltic gem
Eger - Hungary
By Guide Your Travel
Eger is a small town located in northeastern Hungary with just over 50,000 inhabitants. If you’re looking for a unique town to visit that isn’t overrun by tourists Eger is a fantastic choice. There is even a direct bus from Budapest which takes around two hours making it the perfect weekend trip. Eger has a beautiful old town and lots of little restaurants and cafes to explore. The town is very affordable so it’s a good budget-friendly destination. Eger Castle is one of the top things to do in town and a visit feels like you’re going back in time. It dates back to the 13th century and is a great location for taking photos. Eger also has a secret underground city making it unique in the area. There is a tunnel system of more than four kilometers hidden under the streets that you can explore. Once used for storing wine, the tunnels have become a local tourist attraction and tours are available year-round. Finally, there is the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Apostle which is a brightly coloured yellow church from the 19th century and one of the main landmarks in Eger. But the inside of the cathedral is even more beautiful than the exterior with its stunning hand-painted frescos.
Himare - Albania
By Haley Blackall Adventures
Quickly growing in popularity and deemed the ‘more economical version of Greece’ is the country of Albania in the Balkan region of Europe. Set on the central coast of the expansive Albanian Riviera is the local town of Himare. With five sleepy golden sand beaches, clear turquoise waters, and much to explore, the town is not to be missed.
A great alternative to more expensive European destinations, you can spend a week lapping up sunrays, exploring the many spectacular beaches (Gjipe Beach is a must!), snorkeling, paddle boarding, and filling your belly with scrumptious, fresh, and hearty Albanian cuisine. Make sure to visit the nearby Himare Castle for stunning panoramics of the coastal mountains and shoreline.
Watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand on the idyllic beach promenade, or hike your way along the coast to experience a day in the sun at Livadi Beach. All in all, Himare is the perfect destination for sun, water, adventure, and relaxation.
Kotor - Montenegro
By A Princess Travelling With Twins
Kotor is a charming small town nestled on the Mediterranean coast of Montenegro. Still a little off the radar as a tourist nation, Montenegro amazes for the countless number of attractions it offers, where Kotor is perhaps the most famous.
Kotor has a very similar layout to the more famous Dubrovnik, the ancient part is completely enclosed by high protective walls. The walls, once erected for defensive purposes, now separate it from the sea which is right on the outside, creating a very particular effect that makes you forget you are on the coast.
Kotor is strategically positioned on the scenic Kotor bay, an inlet of the Mediterranean Sea with mountains that almost drop into the sea and create an excellent backdrop for postcard photos.
Kotor is certainly one of the best places to stay while in Montenegro and to visit the pretty villages that dot the bay such as Perast or Risan, or to go on excursions further afield to admire the Skadar lake or the Ostrog monastery.
Kayaköy - Turkey
By Mog and Dog Travel
The village of Kayaköy (formerly known as Livissi) in Southwestern Turkey is a place with a complicated history. Located close to the tourist resorts of Hisaronu and Olu Deniz, Kayaköy was a thriving village inhabited by Greek Orthodox Christians and Turkish Muslims.
According to records, the community lived together in harmony, attended each other's weddings, and socialized together despite their religious differences. However, in 1923 after the end of the Greco-Turkish War, Kayaköy became a ghost town as the Greek Christian population was expelled from Turkey and Turkish Muslims were deported from Greece.
Many of the returning Turkish people did not want to settle in Kayaköy and so the village never regained its former prosperity. Schools, churches, shops, and businesses were abandoned and an earthquake in 1957 further destroyed many of the stone buildings in the area.
Today Kayaköy is a popular tourist attraction and for a small fee of 10TL ($1) visitors can wander around the narrow cobbled streets of the old town and explore the weathered and abandoned buildings. The old churches still feature remnants of the frescoes and wall paintings as well as detailed pebble mosaics on the floor.
Whilst the sight of a hillside covered in dilapidated, abandoned buildings is a little eerie, Kayaköy is also incredibly beautiful. Nature has started to reclaim the area and many of the structures (most of which are roofless) have trees and bushes growing out of them. Visitors should definitely stay into the evening to watch the spectacular sunset over the hillside and imagine the village in its former glory.
Hallstatt - Austria
Probably one of the most beautiful towns in Europe is the picturesque village of Hallstatt in Austria! It is in a breathtaking location on the shores of the black Hallstatt Lake, where the imposing high mountains in the background conjure up a true postcard scenery. Whether it's summer or winter, the atmosphere here is always magical and it's not for nothing that this place is probably the most photographed in Austria.
Although the town is relatively small, there are still numerous attractions to visit in Hallstatt. Especially worth seeing is the historic marketplace with the beautiful Holy Trinity Column and the many colorful houses. In summer, the townhouses are decorated with colorful flowers, and in winter, a beautiful Christmas market is held here. Another special feature in Hallstatt is the Bone House, which houses a historically important collection of 600 colorfully painted skull bones in the cemetery. If you like to take beautiful pictures, you should definitely visit the Hallstatt lookout, where you can enjoy the most beautiful view of the snow-covered Hallstatt.
But also in the surroundings of Hallstatt is worth a visit. Absolutely worth seeing is the 5-Finger-Skywalk at the high Dachstein-Krippenstein mountain, from which you can experience a breathtaking view of Hallstatt and the lake. The nearby Gosau with the lake and the numerous possibilities for hikes is also beautiful and worth a trip.
As an accommodation tip we can recommend the Seehotel Grüner Baum, one of the best hotels in Hallstatt
Uman - Ukraine
By Fearless Female Travel
If you found yourself teleported to Uman, Ukraine, you could be forgiven for not even realizing you were in Eastern Europe. Looking around, you’d probably think you were in Israel, as many of the signs are exclusively in Hebrew, shops advertise kosher food, the streets are full of men in traditional Hasidic Jewish clothing, and in some places, you can only pay with US dollars. Uman is a unique city in Ukraine because of its close ties to the Hasidic Jewish community in a country where almost 70% of the population identifies as Orthodox Christian.
Uman is home to the burial site of Rabbi Nachman of Breslev, who founded the Breslov Hasidic movement in the early 1800s. The burial site is open to the public and the staff, who speak excellent English, enjoy explaining their faith to visitors (who must be modestly dressed). At Rosh Hashanah, Uman becomes a major pilgrimage site. Approximately 40,000 people (almost entirely men, actually) come to Uman over two days, with the event now considered the biggest economic force in the city.
You should visit Uman if you're interested in learning more about Judaism in Ukraine or want to see how people of different faiths live together in harmony.
Southern Europe is home to the Mediterranean countries that first come to mind when you think of Europe; Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal. They are perhaps the most popular holiday destinations for Brits, and for good reason!
Before ‘Brexit’ and the recent visa changes, Brits could travel around Europe indefinitely. Making it a hotspot for people looking for the summer sun. Aside from this, these countries are cheap, warm and the people are super friendly.
Southern Europe is a great choice at any time of the year but it’s worth noting that despite their popularity for the Mediterranean climate, the inland parts of these countries do get snow in winter.
Traveling around Southern Europe is easy, with plenty of budget airline options flying in and out of one country to another is the most popular way to get around Southern Europe. However, if you really want to make the most of the beautiful scenic roads in this part of the country, we recommend hiring a car and taking a road trip.
Galera - Spain
Galera is, in my opinion, one of the most unique areas of Southern Spain. Mostly, because of the unique way people live here.
They’re some of the oldest forms of accommodation in the world and while most people in other areas of Europe live in brick houses, Galera remains a bustling town built up of mostly cave houses, with some of the original digs being at least 1000 years old.
Your first impression of a cave house is probably wrong though. They’re not living in plain stone holes with the bare necessities. Some of these cave houses would rival modern villas, with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, and roof terraces.
If you do venture to this part of Spain, there’s plenty of unique things to do in and around Galera too because the land here is rich with history. From Parque Megalítico de Gorafe, an archaeological site home to ancient megaliths, Tutugi Necropolis which is an old burial ground for old-time Iberians to the more scenic Negratin Reservoir.
For unique accommodation, check out Airbnb. There are plenty of modern style cave houses for rent there!
Bussana Vecchia - Italy
By Carry-On Chronicles
Bussana Vecchia is what European fairytale dreams are made of. Balanced upon a hilltop in Northern Italy’s Liguria region, this quirky artists’ village has true hidden gem status.
Carefully restored by a community of artists after the 1887 earthquake, Bussana Vecchia charms visitors with its ivy-covered facades and whimsical boutiques. A stroll through the intimate village center yields a peaceful atmosphere, save for a few purring cats who have laid claim over this “open-air art laboratory.” The pedestrian-only town is a charming – if not curious – maze of tunneled alleyways, the sort of place suitable for Alice’s eccentric adventures in Wonderland.
Although the village is small, visitors can easily dedicate a day here to lavish its charisma and ogle the spectacular panoramic views over the Northern Italian countryside. Bussana Vecchia is a short, albeit adventurous, 20-minute drive from the neighboring city of Sanremo.
Travelers should make sure to save room in their bellies for a tasty meal at La Casaccia Ristorante, an irresistibly sweet pink bistro that appears to have fallen out of a children’s storybook.
Kalambaka - Greece
By Top Travel Sights
The town of Kalambaka in Greece is one of the most unique destinations in Europe that you can visit. Just next to it, you can find strange rock formations with the famous monasteries of Meteora.
From the center of Kalambaka, you can already see St Stephen's Monastery, which towers on a cliff above the town. One of the highlights in the area is to see all six monasteries. Each of them sits on top of a rock column, and while you can now hike or drive on a road that connects them, the area used to be one of the most inaccessible ones in Greece.
Before the arrival of tourists, the only way of reaching most monasteries was through wooden ladders or by getting pulled up in a net. The process could easily take an hour, and imagine dangling from a rope for that long!
These days, you can reach all of the monasteries by stairs from the main road.
While in Kalambaka, don't miss the Byzantine Church. It is the only church in the world with an ancient pulpit in its middle (as opposed to on the side), and it's famous for its 11th- and 16th-century frescoes.
Kalambaka is also a fantastic place to try traditional Greek food, with the best restaurants located near the tourist information.
Nazare - Portugal
By Museum of Wander
Those looking for a slightly off the beaten path city in Portugal to explore should give Nazare a try.
Situated on the Costa da Prata, about halfway between Porto and Lisbon, Nazare offers visitors the perfect balance between cultural sightseeing, incredible nature and simply relaxing.
Nazare is most famous with surfers hoping to ride the world's highest waves. The stunning and wild Praia do Norte is where all the action is, and the Nazare Lighthouse is the best spot for spectators to watch the surfing action and gigantic size of the waves.
The beach in town is calm, and the long stretch of sand is popular with young and old. Here you will also see traditional fishing boats on the beach while women dry the catch in the sun.
For the best view in town, ride the funicular up the cliff to the neighbourhood of Sitio. From here, you'll have a panoramic view across the red-tiled roofs and the Atlantic below.
After taking in that fantastic view, walk across the square to visit the Igreja Nossa Senhora da Nazaré. This church is a center of pilgrimage as it is believed they have a woodcarving made by Joseph from Nazaret. That is also where the city got its name from.
Photo taken by Declan Officer. Read HERE for more things to do in Nazare
Balmaseda - Spain
By Far Away Worlds
Balmaseda is a beautiful, historic town nestled in the Pyrenees in Basque Country, Spain. The medieval old town is beautifully preserved, and you can still see traces of its deep-rooted traditions. The town is peaceful, with mountain and cathedral views and it’s easy to imagine what it would have been like in medieval times. Walking around the town is fascinating in itself, and the church is well worth visiting, as is the old watermill.
If you choose Balmaseda as your base, there are a few places worth seeing in the surrounding area. Not far from the old town is the Casa de Juntas (Assembly House) of Avellaneda, which has beautiful surroundings and a museum about the history of the area.
The de facto capital of Basque Country is only about a half hour drive and there are plenty of train connections too. Otherwise, Armañón Natural Park, home to Torca del Carlista Cavern, is also nearby and it’s only around an hour to the beaches on the Basque Coast. If you’re looking for a peaceful and scenic place to spend summer in Spain, Balmaseda and Basque Country is an excellent choice.
Turin - Italy
By The Best of Turin
Turin is the 4th biggest city in Italy, it was the country's first capital, and it has an incredible royal past and industrial heritage. No doubt, one of the unique cities in Italy and Europe to add to your travel list.
Being the first capital of unified Italy, Turin (and its surroundings) houses over ten castles, royal palaces, and magnificent residences, and most of them are UNESCO heritage sites. The art scene in Turin is marvelous. The city has many galleries, theaters, museums, and historical sites to visit. Most of them are a heritage from the royal past, like the Turin Egyptian Museum - one of the biggest in the world. Others are buildings/areas from the industrial boom Turin lived in the 20th century that are now becoming public spaces like open-air galleries and parks, like Parco Dora.
Turin is also the capital of the Piedmont region, famous for its Barolo wine, Vermouth, truffles, coffee, hazelnuts, and chocolate (The brands Martini, Lavazza, and Nutella are from here). You can taste all these flavors at Turin's restaurants, especially at its beautiful cafés near the Royal Palace or Piazza San Carlo.
Different from the other Italian cities, Turin has a small old quarter with medieval architecture. The city was well planned, so don't be surprised to see many boulevards with impressive classical and baroque facades, huge parks, and a beautiful river that crosses the city.
Another positive aspect about Turin is that it sits at the feet of the Italian Alps, close to the French and Swiss borders. The scenery is stunning all year round, and in winter, you can go for a day trip to one of the ski resorts near Turin and enjoy the slopes.
As you can see, Turin is a unique destination in Europe. However, because of its industrial past, most people only know the city as the birthplace of the Italian car company FIAT. Also, because it's close to Milan and Florence, it doesn't get the attention and number of visitors it deserves, which can be good, as you can still enjoy the streets of Turin without the crowds.
Western Europe is the landing pad for most Brits who travel from England to Europe, either via the ferry or the Euro-tunnel. As with the other regions in Europe, train, plane, and road-tripping are the most common ways to travel around Western Europe but hitchhiking is still common here, and you’ll easily find a lift to your next stop if you’re hitching in a populated area. This isn’t surprising since many of the western European Countries rank high in the G.P.I
Western Europe includes; France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria.
The cost of living in Western Europe is considerably higher and while you can find great travel deals here, and it’s still much cheaper than the likes of Australia or New Zealand, you can still expect to pay a little extra for accommodation or tours than you would further East.
Le Havre - France
By ZigZag on Earth
When thinking about traveling in France, Le Havre is not the first town that comes to mind.
It has none of the traditional buildings you expect to see in beautiful and historical France.
However, it is a Unesco site because of its architecture.
It is such a unique blend of elements.
First, you have the Perret architecture - The town was almost entirely destroyed during WWII and he ingeniously constructed new buildings quite fast, thanks to prefabricated blocks (reason for the Unesco status). The Masterpiece of this architecture is the church of Saint Joseph with its immense concrete tower and many small stained-glass windows.
Second, you have more modern architecture offering an impressive contrast with the grey-looking square buildings. This is the case of “The Volcano” theater by Oscar Neimeyer. While walls and all in curves…
And finally, there are many pieces of art sprinkled throughout the city that bring life to the town. The most photogenic is “la Catène”, 2 arches made of colorful containers (Le Havre is a large harbor).
Le Havre cannot be compared to any other towns in Europe.
St. Emilion - France
By Guide Your Travel
St Emilion is a beautiful little town located close to the city of Bordeaux in France. You can easily reach the town via train or even join a guided tour if you’re looking for a more convenient option.
The region is known for its delicious wines and stunning landscapes. St Emilion is a tiny little town that most people visit for the high-class wines and chateaux. Stroll through the historic center of town, enjoy traditional snacks and the breathtaking views. It’s highly recommended to take the little tourist train around the vineyards where you can join wine tastings and explore the miles of underground tunnel that connect each vineyard to the next. Saint
Emilion is a popular day trip destination from Bordeaux but you can stay the night at one of the little boutique hotels in town. It’s worth noting though that the area is quite expensive so it might not be the most suitable for budget trips.
Cochem - Germany
By Raw Mal Roams
Situated in southwestern Germany, Cochem lures its visitors with an undeniable small-town charm, medieval squares, colourful half-timber houses, and a beautiful riverside.
Perched on a hill stands Cochem’s biggest gem – the medieval castle – Reichsburg Cochem with fairytale-like towers dating back to the 12th century. Cochem is set in the picturesque and fertile valley of the River Moselle. The valley is famous for wine production, and you can taste wine everywhere in Cochem. On a sunny day, sit one of the sun loungers on the river bank and sip locally produced wine while watching the ships go by on the river.
Stroll along the Cochem promenade and continue through the bridge to the other side, where you can appreciate the beautiful half-timber colourful houses overlooking the river with the castle perched above the city.
For all the outdoor lovers, Cochem also boasts many fantastic hiking routes with excellent views over the entire valley, the most popular is the Moselhöhenweg. And, if you rather not hike, you can also take a gondola lift to the stunning Pinnerkreuz lookout point.
Maastricht - Netherlands
By Together in Transit
One unique town not to be missed on your European adventures is Maastricht in the Netherlands. Capital of the Limburg province, Maastricht is located at the very South of the Netherlands.
This interesting location is a great place to visit due to its history, cute cobblestoned shopping streets, plenty of restaurants, and unique things to do. For example, there are over 400km of underground caves and tunnels that can be visited with a tour. Interestingly these tunnels were once used to store treasure, holding valuable goods such as the famous Nachtwacht painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, which is now located in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Maastricht also has a much higher elevation than the rest of the Netherlands, making it feel more Belgium and German than Dutch. When you walk the streets, you will hear many languages, even the local dialect - but English is widely spoken too. Find yourself enjoying not only a visit to the city center but to enjoy the surrounding nature areas at places like St Pietersberg. It's a great place for a walk in all seasons, with a view of the city from above too!
Stein Am Rhein, Switzerland
By The Scrapbook Of Life
Located in the north of Switzerland a stone's throw from the German border, Stein am Rhein is one of the most unique places to visit in Europe. Wandering around the medieval town, it's impossible to miss the abundance of elaborate murals which decorate the external walls of the buildings there.
These intricate paintings are what the Swiss town is famed for, and combined with the half-timbered facades and picturesque position right alongside the mighty River Rhine, you could be fooled into thinking you have walked into the pages of a children’s fairy-tale book. Be sure to see the Rathaus which takes pride of place on the enchanting market square, and to take a stroll alongside the River Rhine.
If you are traveling to Switzerland, the nearest major city to Stein am Rhein is Zurich. But perhaps the best way to visit Stein am Rhein is to take a day trip from Konstanz in Germany which is one of the best summer city breaks in Europe. All you need to do is simply walk across the German/Swiss border and jump on a train from Kreuzlingen to Stein am Rhein (tip: make sure you have some Swiss Francs with you, as the currency differs in Germany).
British Isles - Western Europe
The British Isles is a funny one. It’s separate from continental Europe, no longer a part of the EU, sometimes considered Western Europe and other times a whole region of its own.
To further complicate things, Britain, The British Isles, and the United Kingdom are often used interchangeably; but there are mild differences.
Included in the British Isles are England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. Whereas the term ‘Britain’ or ‘Great Britain’ only includes England, Scotland, Wales, and thousands of other small islands. The ‘United Kingdom’ includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. While Southern Ireland, or The Republic of Ireland, remains a free state. Referring to anyone from Southern Ireland as being ‘from the UK’ will likely result in a heated debate.
Just like other parts of Western Europe, traveling around here is expensive. This is why many Brits choose to holiday in the South. A train journey from London to Scotland will cost you more than a flight from London to Portugal and driving anywhere around England will take you 10x longer than you expected if you stick to main roads and highways. Trust me, going ‘the long way round’ can often be the quickest option.
Hitchhiking isn’t commonplace, at all, in this part of the world so your most cost-effective way of traveling around would be through a Flexi train ticket or something similar. Hiring a car is a great way to see the countryside and smaller out-of-reach places.
The most common language here is English, but the currency is split between pounds (in England) and Euros (everywhere else in the UK).
Lerwick - Shetland
By Meandering Wild
Lerwick is the most northerly town in the UK and is located on Shetland Mainland. This is the largest island in this North Atlantic archipelago and Lerwick is the only town on the islands.
The town is where visitors first arrive on the ferry from the Scottish mainland. The town has a narrow main street that follows the shoreline with many of the older buildings being built into the sea wall. It is a maze of small streets and narrow alleys all with their own unique personality.
Surrounding Lerwick is the stunning countryside which is home to amazing wildlife including otters, gannets, and puffins. However, the wildlife is equally at home in the town with seals being residents in the harbour.
Lerwick and Shetland in general have a long history with ancient brochs and settlements to explore and a strong link to its Viking past. In January the town comes alive with the Up Helly Aa festival. This fire festival marks the end of the Yule season in style with the burning of a Viking galley and multiple celebrations across the town.
Bibury - England
By UK Travel Planning
Bibury is one of the most beautiful, charming, and picturesque villages in the Cotswolds. William Morris called it "the most beautiful village in England," and it's located a few miles from Burford in Gloucestershire, making it an excellent starting point for exploring the region.
Arlington Row is one of the main attractions in Bibury. The historic homes of Arlington Row were originally built as wool storage buildings in 1380 and later turned into weavers' cottages during the 17th century.
During the Middle Ages, cloth was hung to dry on Rack Isle. The meadow is located across from Arlington Row. The row of houses has become one of the most famous sites in the United Kingdom, with a photo of it even included in UK passports.
When you visit Bibury, it is best to go early in the morning or later in the day especially during peak season when finding a place to park can be tricky.
There are a few dining spots in the village, such as The Swan Hotel, which has a brasserie and bar. The Bibury Trout Farm (one of the oldest in Britain) is in the village, and it's a great place to visit if you have little kids who like feeding fish! The cafe is perfect for a cuppa and a sandwich or slice of cake.
Saltaire - England
By Helen on Her Holidays
Saltaire is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed model village in West Yorkshire, England, in an area that became famous in the 1800s for its textile mills. Most mills were dangerous places to work, and workers’ houses were cramped and unsanitary. Titus Salt, a mill owner, decided that his new mill would be different - he built Salt’s Mill outside the city for cleaner air and created a village for his workers to live in, with houses designed for ventilation and village facilities to take care of the residents’ health, education and spiritual wellbeing.
Today, Saltaire and Salt’s Mill is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Yorkshire and a much sought-after place to live. Parts of the mill are open to visitors, with several interesting shops and restaurants, as well as exhibitions and an art gallery. Outside the mill, you can see the rows of attractive workers’ houses and visit the park where workers could relax in the fresh air.
Visiting Saltaire is an easy day trip from Leeds, Bradford, York, or Manchester. The Leeds to Liverpool canal runs through the site, while the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway is nearby with steam trains to Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters.
Llanfairpwll - Wales
By The Happy Days Travels
Wales is a country in the UK that is less visited than neighbouring England and Scotland which makes it an off-the-track country as a whole so why not visit a town in the North of Wales for a very off-the-beaten-track place? There are many to choose from in Wales but the best has to be the longest place name of
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Yes, that is the place name. At 52 letters long, this town is often shortened to Llanfairpwll (for obvious reasons) and is proudly the longest place name in the UK!
In preparation for your visit, learn how to pronounce this long place name here and how to get there. Llanfairpwll is located on the isle of Anglesey in North Wales, about five hours from the capital city of Cardiff but just one hour from the England/Wales border. The best thing to do here is to find all the places that use the full place name in the sign and snap a picture, learn what the English translation is, or try asking a local to pronounce it for you. While on Anglesey, visit the long, lovely beaches, see the impressive lighthouses dotted around the island and eat some of the best seafood in Wales!
You’re probably wondering what the visa requirements are to travel Europe. Well, like with most things to do with this part of the world there is no one-rule-fits-all.
With what’s called the ‘Schengen area’, you can get one visa (depending on where you’re from) and be allowed to travel around this region hassle-free for up to 90 days. Where the complications arise is in the finer details of who is a part of that area because it mostly comes down to politics.
Below is a map of the current (At the time of this post being published) Schengen Visa regions. You’ll notice countries including the UK, Armenia, Croatia, and others are in grey. This is because while they’re European countries, they are not a part of the Schengen region. Therefore, you will need to look into other visa options for these countries.
You can see more information about the Schengen Visa here
What unique towns in Europe would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!