Americans have been drawn to Europe for decades. The region’s cultural richness, extensive and powerful history, divine cuisine, fashion and more attract people from all kinds of backgrounds.
U.S. tourists are coming over in greater numbers each year. According to the Official Airline Guide, there’s been a 40% increase in flights from the United States to Western Europe in the last decade.
Starting next year, 2024, all U.S. nationals traveling to Europe will need to get an Electronic Travel and Information Authorization to enter the countries within the Schengen Area. The ETIAS application will be available online, and all U.S. travelers need to do is enter their personal and passport information, and pay a fee with their debit or credit card.
Europe is a land of culture and history. From the Inquisition, Black Plague, French Revolution, the Age of Enlightment, Napoleonic Wars, Industrial Revolution, to the Fall of Berlin Wall. History is written in every street wall of Europe’s cities and towns.
The Old Continent has been home to some of the greatest artists of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Francisco de Goya, Pablo Picasso among many others. The same is true for musicians, such as Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and Debussy.
There’s not a single corner of Europe that isn’t worth exploring. And while most visitors often pick famous capital cities, we have gathered a list of destinations within the continent that will surprise and enchant even the most demanding traveler. This article aims to unveil these gems – splendid locations in Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Estonia, and Lithuania – which beg for exploration.
While Budapest undoubtedly charms travelers, the historical city of Eger, located in Northern Hungary, should be on every culture-loving traveler’s list.
The city of Eger’s grand castle, opulent baroque buildings, and 17th-century minaret are testimony to a rich historical tapestry. Additionally, the region produces famous wine brands such as Bull’s Blood (Egri Bikavér).
Banská Štiavnica, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a hidden treasure. Nestled in the heart of Slovakia, this town’s medieval architecture, picturesque landscapes and scenic calvary built on a grand hill deliver a delightful mixture of nature and history.
Don’t miss out on exploring the Old Castle and the Mining and Forestry Museum which reflects Banská Štiavnica’s historic significance as a mining center.
Veering off the Mediterranean allure of Piran, Kranjska Gora in Slovenia is an alpine paradise waiting to be discovered.
This quaint town is a hiker’s dream, boasting stunning trails in the Triglav National Park. During winter, it transforms into a ski resort. The picturesque Lake Jasna, located nearby, offers postcard-like views that captivate the senses.
In addition to Kraków and Warsaw, Poland has another city that’s worth visiting: Lublin.
Set in the heart of Poland, Lublin beckons travelers with its timeless charm and a tapestry of sights that transport you to a bygone era. As you stroll through the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, the well-preserved medieval architecture, adorned with colorful facades, tells stories of centuries past.
The imposing Lublin Castle stands tall, a symbol of strength, offering breathtaking views of the city below. You’ll encounter locals in traditional attire, warmly welcoming you to artisanal markets where the scent of freshly baked pierogis fills the air. The city comes alive with a vibrant arts scene, bustling with cultural festivals, lively music performances, and captivating theater productions that celebrate Poland’s rich heritage.
Away from Tallinn’s busy streets, Pärnu, the summer capital of Estonia, offers a unique blend of seaside tranquility and a vibrant cultural scene.
The main draw is undoubtedly its beautiful sandy beaches, stretching for miles along the Baltic Sea, providing the perfect setting for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports.
Beyond the coastline, it boasts picturesque parks, well-maintained promenades, and a vibrant town center with quaint cafes and shops. The town is known for its lively cultural scene, hosting numerous events and festivals year-round, providing a taste of local Estonian traditions.
Additionally, Prnu is a renowned spa destination, offering a range of wellness treatments and relaxation experiences.
While Vilnius and Kaunas get much of the attention, the port city of Klaipėda, located on Lithuania’s Baltic Sea coast, is a revelation. Its Old Town, with beautifully preserved half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, and the compelling Sculpture Park, enthralls visitors.
Also, the nearby Curonian Spit, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its landscapes of sand dunes and forests, offers an unforgettable experience.
Often dubbed the ‘Switzerland of Latvia’, Sigulda is a breathtakingly beautiful city located in the Gauja National Park.
Allure Sigulda, nestled amidst the scenic beauty of Latvia, offers a unique blend of natural and cultural experiences that truly set it apart. With its historic castles and enchanting caves the area provides ample opportunities for outdoor exploration.
Add to this the thrilling adventure sports like bungee jumping, cable car rides, and skiing, making it an exhilarating destination for thrill-seekers. Allure Sigulda also offers rich cultural experiences, with its annual events, local craft markets, and authentic Latvian cuisine.
Beyond Helsinki, Rovaniemi in Finland is the gateway to the Arctic. Known as the official hometown of Santa Claus, it offers unique experiences like reindeer sleigh rides, ice fishing, and witnessing the ethereal Northern Lights.
Rovaniemi is not just a winter wonderland, though. Its summer days are filled with endless sunshine, offering opportunities for hiking, canoeing, and wildlife spotting in the pristine Lappish wilderness.
While Malta is relatively well-known, its sister island, Gozo, offers a quieter, more serene experience. With its crystal-clear waters, Gozo is perfect for diving and snorkeling. It’s also home to Ġgantija, one of the world’s oldest free-standing structures.
The island’s rural landscape, dotted with centuries-old churches and rustic farmhouses, is a perfect retreat for those seeking tranquillity.
That’s our list! Hidden gems of Europe await! Before your trip, be sure to check the entry requirements for the Schengen Zone in 2024. Your passport needs to be valid for at least 3 months beyond your expected return date. ETIAS will launch soon! Applying will be easy, and it will be valid to enter all Schengen countries. You only need to apply once.