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Looking for hidden gems in Europe but don’t have the cash to splurge on an off-the-beaten-path adventure? Is it even possible to find the hidden gems of Europe anymore?
Sometimes I feel like there are no parts left of the world to explore. With the popularity of blogs and social media, it feels as if the world knows all there is to know about travel now.
Every destination seems to have been photographed and shared a million times.
But trust me, there are still non-touristy places in Europe to explore, and they don’t have to cost you a fortune to visit, either.
In this guide, I’ve listed all the top hidden gems you can visit in Europe on a budget.
- Top Hidden Gems in Europe on a Budget
- 1. Asturias and Covadonga Convent, Spain
- 2. Mdina & Zebbug, Malta
- 3. Salzkammergut region, Austria
- 4. The Azores, Portugal
- 5. Perast, Montenegro
- 6. Lednice-Valtice, Czech Republic
- 7. Pag Island, Croatia
- 8. Saaremaa Island, Estonia
- 9. Volos & Pelion region, Greece
- 10. Kamnik Alps, Slovenia
- 11. Isle of Skye, Scotland
- 12. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 13. Rauma Old Town, Finland
- 14. Kotor, Montenegro
- 15. Theth, Albania
- 16. Brasov, Romania
- 17. Alkmaar, Holland
- Before You Go
- More Europe Travel ideas
Top Hidden Gems in Europe on a Budget
I’m grateful I was able to travel at a time when postcards were the norm as I feel I had the chance to experience many hidden gems in Europe.
Places like Portugal, Sumatra, Croatia, Namibia, and the Czech Republic which are now hugely popular destinations were once so exotic back in the late nineties.
But what about today? Here are some of the best destinations in Europe on a budget for those looking to get off the main tourist trail.
1. Asturias and Covadonga Convent, Spain
In the middle of Spain’s north coast near the Bay of Biscay, is the Asturias region. It may be small in space, but it’s big on travel value. One-third of the Asturias region is protected and UNESCO has recognized four biosphere reserves within it.
The beaches are uncrowded, there is plenty of hiking in complete wilderness as well as cities to explore and cultural highlights. The Covadonga Convent is is a must see and considered one of the most important historical locations in Spain.
2. Mdina & Zebbug, Malta
Malta has been on my list since I first started remembering. My mother’s best friends are Maltese and every time we’d visit they’d sit us down to a gigantic feast of delicious food. We were not to leave the table until we ate it all.
They were full of warmth, love, and constant laughter, and chitter chatter. And that has never changed as I’ve gotten older. That’s a culture and country I want to know more about.
A Mediterranean jewel and the ninth smallest country in the world, Malta attracts travelers with breathtaking landscapes and a stunning coastline, a rich medieval heritage, and of course delicious food.
In Mdina, you can visit grand palaces, cultural treasures, and baroque architecture. Zebbu has a fascinating Arabic influence and is famous for a three-day (or more) “festa” that draws in hundreds of people in celebration.
3. Salzkammergut region, Austria
Austria has alpine goodness well wrapped up. Hidden in the Salzkammergut region is Lake Hallstatt, one of the most beautiful Alpine lakes in Austria. It’s an outdoor adventure playground in both summer and winter and, with those stunning views, you’ll want to return again and again.
A mountain railway connects Hallstatt to a historic salt mine, while the Dachstein Ice Caves and the Mammoth Cave in Obertraun can both be reached by cable car.
Check out the most extreme water park in the world at Area 47 Otztal in the Tirol Region of Austria.
4. The Azores, Portugal
Portugal is definitely the hot flavor for Europe travel in 2017. I recognized its sparkle all the way back in 1998.
The Algarve is no longer a hidden secret or a budget destination in Europe, but the Azores is and it sounds just as divine.
The Azores is an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the mid-Atlantic 800 miles off the coast of Portugal.
Breathtaking landscapes, volcanoes, crater lakes, fishing villages, and waterfalls are waiting for you. No wonder UNESCO listed the Abores as a Biosphere Reserve in 2009.
The Azores has been referred to as Europe’s answer to Hawaii. Out of this list of destinations in Europe on a budget, this is the most exciting to me.
5. Perast, Montenegro
MasterCard are calling Perast – Beauty at a Bargain! This is the place to go deluxe without overspending. Perast, a quaint town on the coast of Montenegro, is just waiting for beach enthusiasts to discover this hidden European gem.
This is the place to go deluxe without overspending. Perast, a quaint town on the coast of Montenegro, is just waiting for beach enthusiasts to discover this hidden European gem.
Just offshore are two spectacular settings: the island of St. George, and the Adriatic’s only artificial island, Our Lady of the Rocks. Perast is also known for its Venetian-heritage buildings.
6. Lednice-Valtice, Czech Republic
I’ve been hearing about travel gems in the Czech Republic for years. I didn’t make it past the charm of Prague – which back then was an ultra-budget European destination. 20 pence for a beer. Hello, Czech Republic!
Did you know that the 200 km Lednice-Valtice region in the Czech Republic is Europe’s largest artificial geographical area and known as the Garden of Europe?
One of the main attractions is Lednice Castle, a palace built on a Renaissance chateau and Gothic fort. You can take a fairytale walk and enjoy the stunning views after climbing the 60-meter-high minaret or relax on a boat trip down the river.
Valtice Chateau is known for its beauty and long tradition of winemaking. The grape vines are said to be brought by the Romain legion of Marcus Aurelius.
7. Pag Island, Croatia
Croatia was once a hidden European destination, but now it’s very popular with tourists. There are still some areas you can visit on a budget that aren’t as popular yet.
The island of Pag is one of the most striking and unique spots on the Croatian Adriatic coast.
Known for its moon-like landscapes and salt, lace, and cheese production, the heat of hot summer days is helpfully reduced by a light sea breeze. And look at the color of that water!
8. Saaremaa Island, Estonia
Estonia is a destination in Europe that has been getting a bit of attention lately. While most people think of its capital of Tallinn and its famous medieval old town, a true hidden gem in Europe is Saaremaa Island.
If you like beer and windmills this island (Estonia’s largest) located in the Baltic Sea is for you. The famous local homebrew and windmills are Saaremaa’s symbols. I love it!
Apart from that, Saaremaa has the Kaali craters – the result of several meteorites that impacted some 3,500 years ago – the largest forming the unique, green-colored Kaali Lake.
Kuressaare is the island’s only town and features a medieval and bishopric castle dating from the 13th century.
9. Volos & Pelion region, Greece
If you loved the movie Mamma Mia then you already have an inkling of what is in store for you in the Volos & Pelion region of Greece. The movie was filmed in Damouhari, the only natural harbor on the East Pelion coast.
Volos is halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki in the Pagasetic Gulf. It has rich historical and architectural sites, good restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife, and is bordered by beautiful beaches on one side, and by Mount Pelion on the other.
10. Kamnik Alps, Slovenia
Slovenia may be tiny but there are many beautiful places to visit. The breathtaking Velika Planina uplands in the Kamnik Alps are one of those.
Velika Lanina is just an hour from Ljubljana or the wooden huts of the oldest preserved herdsmen settlement in Europe which will give you the illusion of time travel.
Plus, Slovenians love to party – there are numerous festivities and events, and the Kamnik Alps region hosts over 60 festivals in just one season!
Another hidden gem in Slovenia is the Triglav National Park, which lies on the Eastern side of the Julian Alps.
11. Isle of Skye, Scotland
While many people consider Edinburgh in Scotland a hidden gem, it’s not really hidden…
However, there are some off the beaten path locations in Scotland worth venturing out of the way for. The Ilse of Skye is one of them. This stunning island is connected to the North of Scotland by a bridge, and much of it remains pretty much untouched by humans.
It’s one of the most majestic hidden gems in Europe with a rugged landscape, full of cliffs, mountains, and narrow lochs.
The town of Portree is the base for exploring the island. It’s a small place with cute, colorful buildings and medieval pubs and bed and breakfasts.
If you’re visiting in August, be sure to check out the Highland Games which takes place here.
Check out these highlights on a road trip to Isle of Skye from Edinburgh.
12. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Located 129km south of the capital city of Sarajevo is the small town of Mostar. This town has been a true hidden gem in Europe for many years, but only recently came to public attention in 2022 after videos appeared online of people diving from its Old Bridge, Stari Most.
Both international visitors and locals come to this bridge to watch the adrenaline junkies jump from this unique spot.
The historic town sits on the Neretva River and is flanked by little shops and market stalls. It’s a quaint village with a slow pace of life.
It was built in the 15th and 16th centuries by the Ottoman Empire, and was occupied by the Austro-Hungarians in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The architecture here is somewhat unique to Europe, having more Middle Eastern influences than the classical styles you’re used to seeing in places like Paris in France, Munich in Germany, or in Tuscany and Venice in Italy.
13. Rauma Old Town, Finland
Finland is not known for being a cheap destination in Europe to visit, especially its capital of Helsinki. But if you venture out into the countryside, you can find some unique places that don’t break the bank.
Rauma is an old fishing village in Finland and is flanked by old wooden buildings that have been painted in bright colors. It’s one of the few surviving medieval towns in Finland and has over 600 of these wooden buildings still standing, and is even home to Finland’s oldest harbor.
Although most of the older buildings were destroyed and rebuilt over the years, the town is still considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.
14. Kotor, Montenegro
If you ever see pictures of Kotor, you would think you are looking at the Fjords of Norway. This historic town in Montenegro sits in the valley of the mountains next to a tributary that leads to the ocean.
The town itself is small, and nestled in a fortified wall. Inside you’ll find medieval churches and buildings, as well as small narrow streets with little courtyards and squares filled with cafes.
While it might look like Norway, it certainly doesn’t have the price tag. Kotor is one of the best hidden gems of Europe that you can visit on a budget.
15. Theth, Albania
Albania is another destination in Europe that many people don’t consider visiting. But this perception needs to change, as not only is Albania cheap to visit in Europe, but it’s also beautiful.
Outside of the city of Tirana, you’ll find many medieval towns and villages. Birat and Gjirokaster are two towns known for their medieval architecture, castles, and mountain views.
To the South, Saranda is a beach town that offers a cheaper alternative to Greece.
But the true hidden gem in Albania is Theth. This mountain village in the Balkan mountain range is a sleepy village of only a few houses and offers a base point for several hiking trails.
16. Brasov, Romania
Brasov is one of the best places to visit in Europe on a budget and even though it’s a popular destination, it’s still a hidden gem.
It’s the perfect place to base yourself in Romania for day trips, being the heart of Transylvania. You can visit Bran’s Castle and Peleș Castle, all within a short drive.
It’s surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains and is famous for its medieval Saxon architecture. If you’re looking for cheap and unique hidden gems in Europe, this is one to add to the bucket list.
17. Alkmaar, Holland
Located just 45 minutes out of Amsterdam is this cute little town known for its cheese market. Like Amsterdam, it is lined with canals and narrow buildings, but it’s much cheaper to visit.
It has a beautiful and historic city center, with many monuments, boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants. For culture vultures, be sure to check out the Stedelijk Museum, Beer Museum, Beatles Museum, and of course the Cheese Museum.
It’s a great place to base yourself for exploring more well-known parts of Holland such as Amsterdam but without breaking the bank. Plus, the beach is only 15 minutes away.
Before You Go
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to jump on a plane and travel to Europe. Writing this post on hidden secret destinations in Europe on a budget has inspired some serious European wanderlust within me.
Every time I think I’m ready to settle down, something comes along to show me, travel is the only lifestyle for me.
It blows my mind that you can visit stunning regions like this in Europe for less than €30 a night on accommodation!
More Europe Travel ideas
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Which hidden gem in Europe on a budget has inspired your wanderlust the most?