10 Hidden Gems in Europe to Visit in 2023
Europe is a continent filled with history, culture, and natural beauty, attracting millions of visitors each year. While the famous landmarks and cities are undoubtedly impressive, there are also many hidden gems worth discovering. In this blog post, we've listed 10 of these beautiful hidden gems to visit in Europe that you may not have heard of before. From small towns with a rich history to natural wonders that will take your breath away, these spots will surely surprise and delight you.
This guest blog post was written by Joop & Mika from KIPAMOJO WORLD
1. Toledo, Spain
The medieval city of Toledo, located in central Spain, just south of Madrid, is perched on a hill overlooking the Tagus River. The city dates back to the Roman Empire. Its historic center has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986. and is home to many well-preserved buildings. When wandering through the narrow streets of Toledo, you'll be greeted with history everywhere.
One of the city's most impressive landmarks is the Alcázar of Toledo, a massive fortress that sits atop the highest point in the city. In the 3rd century, the fort was used as a Roman Palace, and over the centuries, it has played essential roles in different wars. It currently houses the Museum of the Army. Another must-see attraction is the Toledo Cathedral, a magnificent Gothic structure that dates back to the 13th century. It is home to many works of art and relics, including paintings by El Greco, the famous artist who lived and worked in Toledo at the end of the 16th century. Something you can't miss in Toledo is trying the city's famous marzipan. Toledo's marzipan originated in 1212 when nuns created the sweet treat out of necessity due to the scarcity of wheat to make bread. The nuns crafted a pasta-like mixture with abundant sugar and almonds to make the first marzipans. There are many places throughout the city where you can get your hands on marzipan. It's not only a delicious treat but also a perfect souvenir to bring back home to friends and family.
2. Giethoorn, the Netherlands
Giethoorn, a small village in the Netherlands, is often called "Little Venice" due to its network of canals and waterways that wind their way through the village. There are no roads in Giethoorn, but plenty of waterways to make up for that. As a result, most of the activities revolve around water. One of the best ways to experience Giethoorn's charm is by renting a boat and taking the picturesque scenery from the water. Alternatively, you can also do a guided boat tour. The village itself is filled with souvenir shops and restaurants. After exploring Giethoorn from the water, walking around the village is recommended too. Did you know that there are 176(!) bridges in Giethoorn? You will definitely cross some of them.
Summer is the best season to visit Giethoorn, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, it's your best chance of pleasant weather. As most activities in Giethoorn revolve around water, it's nicer to be on a boat when it's not raining. However, be aware that summer in the Netherlands can still be very unpredictable. Secondly, the gardens in Giethoorn are filled with hydrangeas, and these flowers are in full bloom from June until September. Witnessing the colorful blooms is an experience not to be missed. However, it's worth noting that summer is also the busiest season in Giethoorn. Despite the crowds, visiting in summer offers the best chance to soak in the fairytale vibes of the village.
3. Begur & Cala Sa Tuna, Spain
Begur and Cala Sa Tuna are two beautiful hidden gems located on the Costa Brava in Spain. The village of Begur dates back to the 11th century, and its narrow streets and alleys are lined with historical buildings. However, the highlight of Begur is the Begur Castle Ruin. It’s located at the highest point in Begur and offers fantastic views of the village, the surrounding countryside, and the sea.
Cala Sa Tuna is a tiny coastal village located just a few kilometers from Begur. The small pebbled beach is surrounded by charming colorful houses. On a hot summer’s day, the crystal-clear water is very inviting to take a dip in. It’s a lovely village to walk around or spend a few hours at the beach.
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4. Veules-les-Roses, France
Veules-les-Roses is a charming coastal village located in the Normandy region of France and is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. The origins of Veules-les-Roses can be traced back to the 4th century. It has served as a bustling fishing village and trading hub throughout the centuries. The village is situated on the banks of the Veules river, which is only a little over a kilometer long and the shortest river in France. You can walk all the way along the river from the source until the sea while admiring the historic water mills and charming houses along the way. After this leisurely walk along the river, you can relax at the pebbled beach. If you’re into some more activity, you can also hike the surrounding white-stoned cliffs that the Alabaster Coast is famous for and admire the stunning views along the way.
5. Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Lake Bohinj is a hidden gem located in the Julian Alps of Slovenia. This stunning Alpine lake is surrounded by rugged mountains, dense forests, and crystal-clear water, making it one of the most beautiful and peaceful destinations in Europe. The lake is situated in the heart of Triglav National Park, the largest protected area in Slovenia, and the lake is the starting point of some amazing hiking trails in the area.
The Mostnica Gorge is a must-visit in the surroundings of Lake Bohinj. The impressive gorge stretches two kilometers over and through rocks. The unique about this gorge is that you’re allowed to get very close to the water; you can even sit on the rocks right next to the water. At the end of the Mostnica Gorge, a trail continues to the Voje Valley, a gorgeous bright-green (in summer, at least) valley with typical Slovenian Alpine huts. Another thing you can’t miss is swimming in Lake Bohinj. You’re allowed to swim everywhere in the lake and on a warm summer’s day, the crystal-clear water looks very inviting. There are plenty of spots surrounding the lake that are perfect for taking a dip in. Be aware that the northern side of the lake is a nudist area.
6. Dune du Pilat, France
Dune du Pilat is a beautiful hidden gem on the West Coast of France, near Arcachon. This massive dune is the tallest one in Europe, reaching heights of up to 110 meters. The dune is formed by sand blown in from the nearby beach and is constantly shifting and changing shape due to the wind and weather. You can climb to the top of the dune and enjoy breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding forest. The best time of the day to visit Dune du Pilat is during sunset. It’s absolutely magical to watch the sun set into the sea from up the dunes. However, it's important to note that the top of the dune can be quite windy, so it's recommended to bring an extra jacket or blanket, even if the temperatures seem warm.
7. Kinderdijk, the Netherlands
Kinderdijk is a hidden gem located in the Netherlands, near the city of Rotterdam. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its 19 iconic windmills that all have the same purpose: keeping the land dry. The windmills in the area ensure that the water level remains just right, as the entire region is situated below sea level. Two of the windmills are museums, where you can learn more about how the windmills work and what it’s like to live in one. To this date, people actually live in the windmills!
You can stroll or bike along the scenic paths throughout Kinderdijk, which provides stunning views of the windmills. These paths are open to the public and completely free to enter. Additionally, during the opening hours of the Visitor Center, you can take a boat tour to witness the windmills from a different perspective.
8. Cadaqués, Spain
Cadaqués is a charming coastal town located along the Costa Brava in Spain. The town is famous for its white buildings and narrow, winding streets leading to the Mediterranean Sea's sparkling blue waters. One of the best ways to explore Cadaqués is by strolling through the picturesque streets and alleys. Also, don't forget to soak up the sea breeze at the beach and have something to eat at one of the many beach-side restaurants.
The town has been home to Salvador Dalí, who was born in nearby Figueres and spent much of his life in Cadaqués. One of the highlights of Cadaqués is visiting Dalí's former home, which is currently a museum. Over 40 years, Dalí bought different fisherman's huts in Portlligat Bay and connected them to each other to create his house. When visiting Dalí's House Museum, you can experience how Dalí lived and see where he got his inspiration from. Throughout the house and the garden, pieces of his work are showcased.
9. Spello, Italy
Spello is a true hidden gem in Europe that is located in the Umbria region of Italy. This small ancient town is perched on a hill overlooking the stunning countryside. Spello is known for its charming narrow streets and alleys, and in spring and summer, the medieval houses are adorned with plants and flowers. The town's historic center has been largely unchanged since the Middle Ages, which makes it feel like you're walking in the past. When strolling the streets of Spello, you'll stumble upon many sightseeing spots, such as Santa Maria Maggiore Church, which dates back to 1159, the Old Town Hall that dates back to 1270, and the Porta Consolare, a gate that was built in the 1st century BC. Don't forget to indulge in the delicious Umbrian cuisine at one of the restaurants in Spello, you won't regret it!
10. Aveiro, Portugal
Aveiro, Portugal, is a hidden gem that is often overlooked by tourists visiting Europe. Often referred to as the "Venice of Portugal," the city is known for its charming canals, colorful boats, and stunning architecture. It's a place where the old meets new, and tradition and modernity coexist in perfect harmony. Aveiro has a rich history that dates back to the Roman era. A prime example of its historical significance is the stunning Art Nouveau architecture that can be found throughout the city. In fact, Aveiro has one of the largest collections of Art Nouveau architecture in Europe. Of course, no visit to Aveiro is complete without a trip on a traditional moliceiro boat. These colorful boats, which resemble gondolas, were once used to collect seaweed. Nowadays, the boats are used for boat tours along the canals of Aveiro, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
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