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18 Europe Places You Must Visit in 2018

18 Europe Places You Must Visit in 2018

Exploring the best spots in Europe often means cheap flights on Ryanair, heading off the main path or simply finding yourself somewhere totally unexpected. 

Some people call that inconvenient. I call it winning.

I love hunting out the hidden gems of Europe, the places still waiting for the crowds to descend and those destinations that unexpectedly capture your heart. If you are like me and would rather point to a random village called Arisaig on a map and drive there on a whim, then this list, my friends, is for you.

Here are 18 unique places in Europe worth adding to your travel list…

Silves, Algarve, Portugal

1. Lagoa & Silves, Portugal

While the Algarve is now famed for its sun-kissed beaches and pristine golf courses, you don’t have to stray far to find some of the Algarves best-hidden gems.



The two municipalities of Lagoa and Silves sit alongside each other and provide the perfect mix of history, culture, cuisine and those sunny all year round beaches that gained the coast its fame.

Silves was once the capital of the Arab kingdom here in the Algarve, and its well preserved red castle, perched above the colourful streets and squares below, is still the largest in the region. Surrounded by green hills and orange trees, Silves town has an impressive local market, an ancient Mosque (converted to a church) which boast both Gothic and Baroque features and plenty of traditional coffee shops lining its small cobbled streets. It feels a world away from the bar filled roads at the beach resorts.

Beaches and walking trails in the Lagoa district

Lagoa has grown hugely in the past 30 years and has become one of the most respected wine regions in Portugal (read: vineyard tasting/drinking is compulsory). The postcard-perfect village of Carvoeiro sits alongside that of Ferragudo, still very much a local fishing village. With a clifftop boardwalk, plenty of beaches and the famous Benagil caves, these two destinations provide the perfect mix of culture and relaxation in the Algarve.

Why visit in 2018
The Silves Medival Festival, from the 10th to 19th August will take the town back in time while a new craft beer/winery/restaurant/accommodation combo, Quinta Dos Santos, in Lagoa has just opened and the old Adega cooperative barn has converted into a funky gallery come wine sample venue.

How to get to Lagoa and Silves
Silves is around one hours drive from Faro airport. It’s also served by an out of town train station connecting to Lisbon and the local lines, whilst busses offer access to Lagoa from the capital and across the coast.

© Jacob Riglin / www.slovenia.info

2. Piran, Slovenia

One of the best spots in Europe, Piran is sometimes called the Venice of Slovenia, partly due to its enviable position on the Adriatic coast.

The city itself is a mix of red rooftops and white houses, and it provides a more relaxed alternative to other Adriatic destinations such as Dubrovnik. Being part of the small Slovenian coastline the beaches are popular, and with the outstanding Portorož beach not far away, its another great mix of history and sun loungers. The countryside around the city feels completely different, with vineyards, olive groves and an old-world vibe, day trips are accessible from this base in small, but perfectly formed Slovenia.

Why visit in 2018
Slovenia is not going to be a Europe hidden gem for long; Lake Bled has already become a star. A new mobile app in the city, Nexto, uncovers the Legends of Piran and allows you to explore the city uniquely and see its history through pictures and text by pointing your camera at buildings around the city.

How to get to Piran
You can drive from the capital Ljubljana in 1.5 hours. Alternatively, fly into Trieste in nearby Italy and take the scenic 30-minute ferry or drive.

 




3. Lake Komani, Albania

In the north of Albania, you can find a hikers and nature lovers paradise. The one day hike from Valbona to Thethi in the Accused Mountains is just breathtaking and for now remains a pretty secret spot in Europe. Lake Komani shouldn’t be missed before or after your outside adventures, depending on which direction you come from.

This relatively flat lake made me think of Norway, cutting through the valley with the rising green cliffs on each side. You can directly take the passenger ferry to go across to the other side but for some real R&R book a stay at the stone house in the middle of the lake, free from electricity but complete with homemade cheese, honey and liquor. The day tours provided by Molla Molla also arrange excursions and stays at the farmhouse.

Why visit in 2018
Albania has been billed as Europes next big beach destination, so get in quick before the norths secrets get discovered too. The International Airport of Shkodra is also due to open soon which will increase visitors to this currently tranquil destination.

How to get to Lake Komani
Lake Komani is around a 4-hour drive from both Tirana airport and also Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.

The colourful reflections of Weymouth canal

4. Weymouth, England

Weymouth is a town on the south coast of England in Dorset, and it has reinvented itself since I visited as a kid. Think bright coloured beach huts, fish and chips on the beach and Georgian townhouses with bunting floating outside. You get the picture: it’s British through and through. It’s also an excellent base for exploring the 150 million years of history, such as dinosaur fossils, that can be found along the Jurassic coast stretching from Dorset to Devon.

With a pretty hectic event calendar all year round, a plethora of new gastropubs and restaurant along the colourful harbour and a host of watersports available (inspired from the Olympics being held here in 2012) it’s fast becoming an alternative Europe destination when visiting England.

Why visit in 2018
This year marks the 700th anniversary of Weymouth Carnival on the 14th/15th August and promises to be a lively event. Additionally, thanks to Brexit the pound remains slightly down which could save you a little on your visit compared to previous years.

How to get to Weymouth
From Bournemouth airport, it’s around a one hour drive to Weymouth. Trains from London take about 3 hours.

5. Camogli, Italy

The smaller and lesser known neighbour to Portofino and not far from the rugged landscape of Cinque Terre, Camogli has it all and in the off-season, it is still a relatively undiscovered gem compared to the more famous destinations around it.

This traditional fisherman town with its colourful houses, long history, impressive hotels, small bakeries and laid-back vibe is perhaps my favourite place in Italy and given what an amazing country it is, that is no mean feat! If you do visit Camogli then be sure to check out the historic and impressive Cenobio Dei Dogi hotel.

Why visit in 2018
Famous for its 28-ton pan, the Fish Festival in Camogli will be serving up 30.000 dishes, and although it happens every year, it’s still a great time to visit and see the fishing village in full swing. (13th May: Info)

How to get to Camogli
From Genoa airport it’s around 45 minutes by car or train.

6. Skadar Lake National Park, Montenegro

From Kotor to Durmitor National Park, Montenegro has been wowing the international tourism stage more and more each year. In the south of the country, and shared with neighbouring Albania, Skadar Lake National Park is one of my favourite lesser-known gems in Europe.




Designated on the Ramsar Convention list of Wetlands of International Importance this sprawling park is home to around 300 bird species, 40+ fish species and whats more, many of those are found nowhere else. Put on some hiking shoes, admire the views and take a small wooden boat across the lake. This is mother nature doing her finest work.

Why visit in 2018
Some say it’s great news, others are crying out at the build. A new, and rather large eco-resort, Porto,is being constructed on the lake and local experts are concerned it will harm/scare off much of the local wildlife, so get in a visit now.  I personally think it’s a shame to build within the park, there are some adorable little local homes for rent on AirBnB if you want to stay amongst nature on the edge of the lake.

How to get to Skadar National Park
From the capital airport in Podgorica, it’s around a 30-minute drive to the edge of the park.

7. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Before my two visits to the city I pictured Luxembourg city as a mix of modern architecture, men in suits and fat wallets splurging on champagne and yes, that’s true. But there is another side to Luxembourg city too.

Cycling is a big deal here, and when you visit and see just how green the landscape is you will understand why. The old town is a charming mix of stone houses, steepled churches and small canals, all constructed on various levels which makes it perfect for the ‘gram. The food and drink scene is also second to none and with historic buildings and castle converting into restaurants and hip bars and microbreweries on the rise, it’s a great romantic long-weekend break that combines old and new in perfect measures.

Why visit in 2018
The recently opened Ramborn Cider Haff is the first Luxembourgish cider producer here, and last year they opened up a visitor centre on the new farm offering tours and tastings.

How to get to Luxembourg
Flights to Luxembourg airport are becoming both cheaper and more regular, it’s a short bus or taxi ride into the city.

Chateau de Chenonceau © FranceIntense / Pixabay

8. The Loire Valley, France

With more Chateaus than you can shake a stick at, fresh crisp wines ripe for tasting and some fantastic cycle paths, The Loire Valley is an ideal mix of culture, history, fresh air and art. If you want a trip to Europe which combines all of that with the incredible cuisine of France, here is a winner.

From April to October, a light festival runs which illuminates some of the star Chateaus throughout the region in nighttime projections. In Chenonceaux (pictured) you can boat underneath impressive architecture, while the old world charm of Saumur is postcard perfect at night. If you swing by Vouvray, go sample my favourite Chenin Blanc at one of the vineyards. Cycling here is the dream, and the local trains make it easy to take a break from the bike when you’ve sampled one too many wines.

Why visit in 2018
Is there ever a bad time to go wine tasting? Alternatively, start planning your visit for 2019 when the Loire Valley, often considered the birthplace of the renaissance will be celebrating 500 years with plenty of exciting events.

How to get to the Loire Valley
The TGV offers regular and high speed (1 hour) connections to Paris while Tours airport provides an international gateway. Once in the Loire Valley take advantage of the train/bike system where you can board trains with bikes for free with the assistance of the train staff.

9. Ramsko Jezero, Bosnia & Herzegovina

To be honest, I could likely include the whole country on this list. Often misunderstood and near always underrated, BiH is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe and it stole my heart.

A road-trip is the best way to explore, with incredible blues and bridges all over the country. Get away from Mostar, and to some degree Sarajevo, and you have unlimited hidden gems sans crowds, even in the summer months.

This particular lake, which was a result of man-induced flooding, is part of the Prozor region and it’s the perfect place to re-connect with nature. Visit the small village of Ripci before continuing to explore the Monastery at Šćit in the middle of the lake. The views looking down on the lake are incredible so find a tiny guest house and book in to this beauty for a slice of mother natures finest.

Why visit in 2018
New flight routes are now serving Sarajevo which makes it much easier to get in. Various new tour companies and adventure sports activities are also launching as the tourism market grows. Go and enjoy BiH while it remains relatively untouched.

How to get to there
Around a two hour drive from Sarajevo, but be sure to allow time to visit, or stay in Konjic, and for all the amazing nature you will want to stop and admire.

Camusdarach Beach, Morar © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins

10. Morar and Arisaig, Scotland

When you think of Scotland, it likely isn’t beaches that come to your mind. With the Atlantic Ocean on your doorstep, views across some of Scotlands smallest islands and azure waters against silver sands, this is a true hidden gem in Europe.

The film sets of ‘Highlander’ are just as impressive in real life and nearby Mallaig is the starting point for ferries and the terminus for one very famous train journey. On the west coast of the Highlands, you can get in some great R&R and enjoy the slow village pace here before continuing on your Scottish road trip. Arisaig is a great spot to hire a Kayak and get that fresh Scottish air into your lungs on the water.

A tiny B&B with just a couple of rooms, ‘Fair Winds‘ in Morar with windows looking across the sands was one of my favourite places I got to call home for a night last year.

Why visit in 2018
As the Isle of Skye continues to battle its overcrowding issue in the summer months, head to The Silver Sands and Morar before taking the ferry from Mallaig to some of Scotlands smallest islands: the Isles of Rum, Eigg and Muck for a different vibe.

How to get to Morar
You can get here via road tripping after flying into either Edinburgh or Glasgow, although some may prefer to take the Jacobite train to Mallaig from Fort William. This is basically the Harry Potter train and another of the worlds great train journeys.

11. Sintra, Portugal

While the fairy-tale like Pena Palace, with it’s red, blue and yellow facade has become a hit on the ‘gram and there is no denying Sintra is shooting in popularity, the sheer range of palaces, castles and estate houses here that go unexplored is criminal.

While most people will simply take a day trip to Sintra, by staying one or two nights you will be able to explore much more of the park, especially if you opt to hike the hills rather than make use of the bus. The impressive Quinta Regaleira gardens, with their underground tunnels and water ponds, and the Palácio de Monserrate, a beautiful building with far fewer visitors, are highlights you shouldn’t miss. Many of Europes best hidden gems can be found in Sintra, and by staying the night you will see it minus the day trippers at its most peaceful.

Why visit in 2018
With some heavy investment going into restoring many of the closed off rooms over the past couple of years and new exhibitions opening, now is an ideal time to visit. Try to visit outside of summer when it is much quieter in the park.

How to get to Sintra
Sintra is around 45 minutes by train from Lisbon.

Looking down on the city of Bergen

12. Bergen, Norway

One of the first places I travelled solo, Bergen always brings back happy memories of taking the photo above from the top of the cable car stop. Shortly after, my tripod snapped from the freezing cold. As well as the funicular, the colourful food and shopping area of Bryggen is a must but the real magic lies in the untouched nature outside of the city.

Being Norway’s second largest city it’s likely a push putting it on a list of Europe’s hidden gems, but with incredible hiking trails, stunning day trips by boat to the Fjords and the Flam Railway you don’t have to go far from the city to discover some.

Why visit in 2018
Cheese. The World Cheese Awards 2018 will be taking place here on November 2nd (No, I haven’t made this up). Additionally, the Hurtigruten cruise ship is celebrating it’s 125th birthday, not that you need any reason to take this 34 port of call, 11-day journey from Bergen along the coast to the north of Norway.

How to get to Bergen
You can fly directly into Bergen but I really recommend taking the train from Oslo to Bergen or vice-versa. Often referred to as one of Europes greatest train journeys, the snow-capped mountain views are the best-extended movie you will ever see.

13. Berat, Albania

This UNESCO listed town was one of the highlights of Albania for me and I quickly fell in love with the wide windows that these white houses are famous for.

Divided into old and new parts, the city received its current name during it’s Ottoman rule and the ranging architecture and historic buildings around the city are a testament to its history. If you spend the night here, which you should, check into Guest House Kris where you can actually sleep in the walled castle looking down on the city.

The new town also had an infectious buzz to it and feels completely different from the old stone buildings. With a buzzing plaza along the waterway, it’s a great place to grab a beer, some Cevapi (local sausage dish) and people watch or make conversation with the locals.

Why visit in 2018
I don’t really have any specific reason, I just caught the Albanian bug 🙂

How to get to Berat
Berat is around a two-hour drive from Tirana and is also served by local and tourist buses.

Zadar © AbodeStock / DarioBajurin

14. Zadar, Croatia

In the north of Croatia, Zadar on the Dalmatian coast serves up the sunny beaches that you would expect. But this city, and region, is rich in culture, history and nature in equal proportions.

Walk through the old streets of the city before stumbling upon the more modern Sea Organ, a musical instrument played by crashing waves, or the Monument to the Sun, a glowing multicoloured light disk illuminated next to the clear blue ocean that draws in sun-seekers in the summer months. I personally preferred Zadar to some of the more popular spots in Croatia. Just a short journey out of the historic city and you’ll find plenty of nature, wine and local produce restaurants without the tourist vibe.

Why visit in 2018
In July 2017, Zadar was added to the UNESCO world heritage list so expect more people to start visiting here, especially as the world realises just how hectic Dubrovnik has become. Get your slice of the Adriatic without being stampeded by GOT fans.

How to get to Zadar
Zadar has its own international airport, though if you are coming to or from other parts of Croatia, the ferry services plying the coast are a breathtaking way to arrive and see more of the country.

Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

15. Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Whilst Prague may be one of the hottest must-visit cities in Europe at the moment, the historic and impressive city of Kutna Hora is still a relatively under the radar gem. It makes for a great day trip from Prague although spending a night there is never a bad idea.

Discover the cobbled streets, grand architecture, an incredibly impressive cathedral and pay a visit to the unique ‘Bone Church’ which is, as you might have guessed, adorned with bones. With lush woodland surrounding the city and plenty of Pilsner on tap, it’s a perfect slice of Bohemia without the crowds of the Charles Bridge.

Why visit in 2018
With the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the nation and plenty of celebrations are planned across the country.

How to get to Kutna Hora
Trains from Prague take around one hour.

Königstein Fortress © ProCopter / Thuringia

16. Saxony, Germany

In the east of Germany lies a whole host of European hidden gems, buried in forests and lush landscapes, there is an eclectic mix of art, nature and history on offer in this compact region.

Dresden, the capital of the region and main gateway will wow with its striking architecture, much rebuilt after WWII, but head a little further and you’ll be even more rewarded. The Königstein Fortress, perched on a hilltop outside the city is an easy day trip to appreciate the contrast between city and nature. Further afield, Saxony National Park is full of towering rocks and hikers are rewarded with historic stonework bridges built in. Adorable Bad Schandau, a small spa town, is a great end of trip detox before returning to the real world away from Bohemia.

Known as the Culture Capital of Germany, for those who love the arts, especially classical music, opera and theatre, this is a must-visit destination in Europe. For those more into their Glühwein, Saxony is also home to the oldest Christmas market in Germany.

Why visit in 2018
Saxony seems to be continually evolving and Dresden renovated both an old coal plant and a former GDR building to house the arts last year. Chemnitz is also celebrating its 875th birthday so be sure to swing by and join the celebrations.

How to get to Saxony
Saxony is easily accessed through Dresden airport and the great public transport across the region means you don’t need a car thanks to the busses and trains available.

Gdansk, Poland

17. Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk has the colourful houses, the stone paved streets and the affordable prices. It also has two other cities nearby (it’s known as the tri-city area) making it a great place for a short break in Poland. Gdansk itself felt like a really vibrant city with trendy bars and cafes sitting alongside historical monuments. There are usually cheap flights to be had here, especially from the UK, and as Poland still uses the Polish złoty not the Euro, it’s rather affordable.

Sopot, the seaside city with a ridiculously long pier is perfect for taking a dip and cooling off during the summer months. People always seem surprised when I start talking about Poland as a beach destination but there are plenty more surprises to discover here.

How to get to Gdansk:
The airport sits in the middle of the tri-city area and it’s quick and easy to transfer to any of them. A train connection runs to other main cities throughout Poland.

18. Port de Soller, Spain

When you mention Majorca (Mallorca) to most people, they will either be thinking of the popular spot of Palma or the drunken shenanigans at the resorts of Magaluf. But there is a whole other side to this island. Soller is a world apart from the party madness and the port with its whitewashed houses, boating harbour and a small town is completed by great restaurants and bars with a slower pace of life.
It is also a great starting point to trek the impressive old path through Sa Mola Mountains. If you want to know more about this quaint side of the Island, here is a handy guide to travelling in Soller, Mallorca.

How to get to Soller
It’s not the quickest route but I suggest heading into Palma and then taking the old battered train through lemon trees, rustic houses and mountains to Port Du Soller