There’s nothing better than venturing off the beaten track and discovering hidden gems in a new city. The places that locals love and tourists don’t know about. When touring Europe, don’t just stick to the main attractions (although they’re must-sees for a reason, so don’t scrap them altogether), why not put the map away and take your own route? You’ll almost definitely stumble across some jaw-dropping places, and be baffled about how your guidebook never led you there! Otherwise, check out these 20 amazing off-the-beaten-track sights in Europe, some awesome and authentic spots that will be sure to make your trip unforgettable.
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Spreepark was once a place for thrill seekers to let loose, now it’s totally abandoned and full of its eerie leftovers. Find the old ferris wheel amongst the shrubs, the coaster tracks running through the tiger’s mouth and the old dinosaur statues that are dotted around the place, now making the park seem even more dead than it already does. Book onto a tour where your guide can take you to the best parts and tell you creepy stories from times it was in use. Some people have found ways to get in and explore without a guide, however do this at your own risk.
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PARQUE DEL LABERINTO DE HORTA, BARCELONA
For an off-beat afternoon out, away from the busy central Barcelona, Parque del Laberinto de Horta is perfect. It’s one of Barca’s most beautiful green spaces, yet tourists still haven’t made it theirs. Spend a while trying to navigate the labyrinth, stroll around the gardens and munch on a picnic under the Spanish sun. It’s the ideal place for some peace and relaxation, plus it’s free every Sunday.
ALKMAAR CHEESE MARKET, THE NETHERLANDS
Be one of the few visitors to the Netherlands who’s lucky enough to witness this spectacle every Friday morning in Alkmaar between April and September. The Alkmaar Cheese Market is a Dutch tradition that has been ongoing since 1593. Visit the town’s market square to see the hundreds of wheels of cheese stacked on top of one another. Once they’ve been sampled by samplers (and you’ve got a nibble as well), the cheery cheese bearers in their white overalls and colourful hats carry the hefty stacks of cheese over their shoulders to be weighed. It’s a show that you cheese lovers do not want to miss! The perfect day trip from Amsterdam.
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MARCHÉ BELLEVILLE, PARIS
Belleville is one of Paris’ districts that tourists haven’t really caught on to yet, but there’s no doubt that you could fill a whole day exploring everything it has to offer. Arguably the biggest highlight of the district is Marché Belleville. The market is packed with amazing smells and every colour on the spectrum in the form of fruits and vegetables, plus the clothes and trinkets make perfect souvenirs. Head here for a truly authentic Parisian atmosphere, and while you wander around you’ll feel like a real Parisian! The market arrives every Tuesday and Friday from 7am until 2:30pm, however make sure you get there well before closing time as they say 2:30, they mean they’ll have packed up and gone almost on the dot!
LITTLE COMPTON STREET, LONDON
At the traffic island at the junction of Charing Cross Road and Old Compton Street in Soho, look through the grates in the ground and you’ll see the century old sign of ‘Little Compton Street’ - giving you a glimpse into London’s Victorian past which is now partly buried underground. Hardly anyone knows about this secret part of London, not even the locals, so make sure you check it out if you’re in this central part of the city.
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PLATJA GRAN BEACH, SPAIN
On the southernmost tip of the Costa Brava, Platja Gran in Tossa de Mar is a real hidden gem amongst tourists. Most visitors to Barcelona tend to stay put on Barceloneta, or the nextdoor neighbours, but the trip here from the city by train and bus is definitely worth it. This beach is surrounded in historic architecture and the prettiest little Catalonian town you will ever see. A 12th century medieval castle (or Vila Vella) looks like a real life sand castle on the edge of the beach. It marks the start of the sandy Platja Gran, creating the perfect setting for stunning photographs. Take a boat trip out, discover Tossa de Mar’s history or stroll through the quaint, cobbled streets in search of a drink or bite to eat.
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ASSISTENS CEMETERY, COPENHAGEN
Assistens Cemetery is an old, peaceful graveyard that’s a real hidden gem in Copenhagen - not just because it’s home to famous Danes like Hans Christian Andersen, but it’s actually very pretty to cycle through, too. Head through the cemetery on your way from the city’s cool Norrebro neighbourhood towards the centre of town.
DEAN VILLAGE, EDINBURGH
You may find yourself stumbling across Dean Village during your stay in Edinburgh, but this area of the city isn’t a usual stop that tourists tend to put on their itinerary, although it definitely should be. Just a 5 minute stroll from Princes Street, Dean Village sits right by the city’s beautiful Water of Leith walkway. The village was once where water milling took place, which is still evident in its architecture, giving it a peaceful, country village feel that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Edinburgh.
MALTBY STREET MARKET, LONDON
While London’s tourists tend to stick to the likes of Borough or Camden markets for their street food fix, the food at Maltby Street Market gets a lot more attention from locals. Hidden down an alley about 10/15 minutes walk from London Bridge, Maltby Street Market is purely a food market, with street food stalls lined up the whole way down every Saturday and Sunday. You’ll find pretty much everything from fried chicken, gyozas, juicy burgers and epic chocolate brownies on your way down the street, and it all tastes delicious!
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Thought that dingy bar in your hometown could set the pace as the world’s smallest disco? Well, it’s probably a fair bit bigger than the real winner here, and hardly anyone actually knows about it. It’s in Berlin, and it’s called Teledisko - literally a disco in a telephone box. There are actually two places in the city where you can party in a phonebox; Kater Blau, Holzmarktstr 25 and Auf dem RAW Gelände, Revalerstr 99. Just make sure you have €2 on you, then slot it in, choose your favourite song and party your heart out with as many people as you can fit inside! For an off-beat sight, this sounds pretty on-beat to us…
ELECTRIC LADYLAND, AMSTERDAM
Electric Ladyland is the brightest spot in Amsterdam. This psychedelic art gallery is all about the fluorescents including an entire room that glows from top to bottom. Most locals have never heard of this place, let alone foreign tourists, so next time you head to Dam make sure you stop to check it out and snap some pics - everyone will be asking where they can do the same!
CRAMOND ISLAND, EDINBURGH
Spend some time by the Scottish sea and take the 50 minute bus journey (or 20 minutes by car) out of Edinburgh to one of Scotland’s real hidden gems: Cramond Island. Not a lot of visitors really know that this island exists, making it even more of an adventure. Sitting 1.5km out to sea from the mainland, the only way to get there is from Cramond town by foot. Make sure to plan your trip well, as the walkway between the island and the mainland is only accessible during the low tide, but once you get there it will be more than worth it. The couple of hours that the tide remains low is the perfect amount to get to know the island, taking in it’s fascinating wartime history and breathtaking views.
DIVOKÁ ŠÁRKA, PRAGUE
Not many people are aware that although the main city of Prague is home to some beautiful parks, just a short tram journey out of the city you'll find an amazing urban woodland at a place called Divoká Šárka. The area is a true escape from Prague’s busy tourist sights, offering a gorgeous valley that lends itself perfectly for a day out of hiking, swimming, and even golfing.
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Although technically a town, Provins is without doubt a sight to see! Escape the city life in Paris and experience medieval France in this quiet, stunning village, just an hour’s train ride east of the capital. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has remained intact since the Middle Ages and does get its fair share of visitors, but the flocks tend to stick around in Paris rather than make the trip out. Roam the ancient cobbled streets, check out the medieval graffiti and head up the 12th century tower, La Tour César.
CAVE CHURCH, BUDAPEST
When most people think of Budapest, they probably think thermal spas and ruin bars. What a lot of the city’s tourists don’t know is that Budapest is home to a lot of underground caves, and one of the coolest is the Cave Church inside Gellert Hill. The cave belongs to the Hungarian Paulite order, and is named Saint Ivan’s Cave after a recluse who lived there and healed people. The place has a century-old feel about it, but what you wouldn’t expect is that is was actually constructed less than 100 years ago, founded in 1926. Find the church within a cave across from the Gellert Baths - you’ll be able to spot the huge cross over the entrance.
If you come across the Nyboder orange houses in Copenhagen, you won’t be able to resist hopping off your bike to take some photos. The houses on and around Delfingade Street were commissioned by King Christian IV, in order to house the country’s seafaring men and their families. All are painted in uniform: a bright orange with green window frames and pink shutters that line the cobbles and make for a really cool photograph. It’s unlikely you’ll find many (if any) other visitors stopping here, as Nyboder is definitely one of Copenhagen’s wonderful hidden gems.
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MAGIC MOUNTAINS, PORTUGAL
Portugal’s Magic Mountains are named so for good reason. The views over its green mountains, valleys and rivers are unbelievable and definitely a trip to take for hiking enthusiasts looking for something super offbeat. Sunsets over the mountains, jaw-dropping hiking trails and natural pools that are perfect for a refreshing dip between May and September - this area of Portugal will steal your heart from the moment you’re there!
JARDIN DE MOSSÈN COSTA I LLOBERA, BARCELONA
One of Barcelona’s best kept secrets, this garden doesn’t just have thousands of cacti posing ready for photos, but views of the coast are gorgeous, too. The cactus garden is free to visit however you’ll have to pay for a cable car up the mountain to get there. Spend a few hours up here looking around, taking amazing photos and looking out to sea. If this isn’t a hidden gem of Barcelona we’re not sure what is.
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MIRADOURO DA NOSSA SENHORA DO MONTE, LISBON
This is arguably the best place in the city for panoramic views over Lisbon, yet most foreign tourists still haven’t caught on yet! Located on top of the city’s highest hill, the tricky journey to get there is worth it for stunning views of central Lisbon and the castle while you relax under the shade by a quaint little church. To get there, take the number 28 tram, get off at Rua da Graca and walk up Rua da Senhora do Monte (it’s pretty steep, so prepare for your butt to hurt once you reach the top!).
LA QUINTA DE LOS MOLINOS, MADRID
La Quinta de Los Molinos is a hidden little park in the northeast of Madrid. Tourists and locals alike are hardly aware of how amazing this park is, especially when the almond trees in one part of the park are in full bloom, and the lilacs flood the place with a pop of purple. Head here during the right season and you’ll be transported to a place of pure beauty unlike anywhere else in Madrid!
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