20 Unique Places in Europe to add to your Bucket List for 2024
By The Headlines, December 31, 2023 | 06:50 PM
It's true that first-time visitors to Paris and London often enjoy seeing the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. But if you're looking for a more off-the-beaten-path trip with fewer crowds and more magical moments, check out the 20 unique destinations in Europe on this bucket list by top travel bloggers. Or visit in the coming year!
Top 20 Europe travel destinations
1. South Coast of Iceland: Gasp at waterfalls
If Iceland is on your bucket list, don't just go to Reykjavik and the Golden Circle: add the south coast near Vik because it's one of the most beautiful places in Europe.
Going to Iceland is a must-do while in Europe. It features some of the continent’s most breathtaking natural wonders including Seljalandfoss and Skogafoss, two of the renowned waterfalls located on its south coast
Take the opportunity to walk behind the falls at Seljalandfoss, or if you’ve got longer, head a little further up the track towards Gljufurarbui for the Secret Falls.
It is highly recommended to climb the steep steps to the top of Skogafoss. The view is breathtaking and absolutely worth it!
Further down the coast, stop at Dyrholaey. It's a rocky peninsula whose sea cliffs look down over black volcanic sand beaches. If you keep an eye out, you might be able to spot some adorable puffins too!
That black volcanic beach that you gazed down on from Dyrholaey is Reynisfara. So make sure to spend some time walking along the sand there
Finally, head up to the beach and admire the unusual step-like rock formations.
It is always advised to be careful when taking a dip in the ocean and the waves are quite strong here. It is not unheard of that swimmers get swept away by the undertow.
2. Scotland's Cairngorms: Best place for stargazing in the UK.
Cairngorms National Park is a wide swath of natural beauty to the northeast of Scotland, not far from Scottish Perthshire. Definitely add it to your list of must-see travel destinations in Europe!
Calming villages are found at the edge of the park, leaving the centre area with its water features and trails to enjoy activities like hiking, skiing or relaxing during summer months by swimming in lakes.
Visit Aviemore where you'll find a wide variety of good eats such as the food at The Old Bridge Inn and pastries from Asher's Bakery.
Follow the winding road to Cairngorm Mountain. Stopping along the way to visit lochs, moors and Britain’s only free-roaming herd of reindeer.
In order to have a chance to join in on a hike, arrive early at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. It will allow you to see the herd and experience the beautiful hills from a different perspective.
Historic sites in the area like Blair and Balmoral Castles share histories of the region while dark sky parks--like Blairfindy Farm--offer awe-inspiring stargazing opportunities on a clear night. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see the aurora!
3. Gdansk, Poland: For the best epic WWII history
It's surprising how much Gdansk has to offer as a travel destination. Once you get into the centre of the city you can find a gorgeous historic town with plenty of things to do.
It has so many beautiful buildings, with colours and decorations that are just stunning. The architecture ranges from ornate and sculptural to grand and majestic. It's also home to the biggest brick church in the world, as well as a medieval crane powered by human treadmills.
Gdansk has managed to maintain a sense of its history with its tumultuous past. It dominated medieval trade but was also the object of power struggles between Poland and Germany.
Gdansk used to be a Free City until Germany took it back. The first shots of WWII were fired at a Polish military base just outside Gdansk
The city was heavily bombed during the war and it took a lot of rebuilding in the 1950s to restore the city to its former glory.
Poland's Old Town offers a lot of history and spectacle, but to explore the country for its landmarks you don't have to stay there. You can go see the Lech Walesa Memorial and Park Oliwa's botanical gardens. And aside from the scenic views, Poland also has some lighthouses like those at the harbour in Gdansk
And in Gdansk, you can find plenty of interesting museums. If your taste for unique, off-the-beaten-track places is growing and you're looking for some bucket list destinations, consider the city!
4. Crete, Greece: See the Cradle of Civilization
If you’re looking for the best bucket list island in Greece, be sure to head over to Crete! It was the epicentre of the Minoan culture in its early days but was also a part of The Roman Empire, Byzantium, The Arabs, The Ottoman Empire and Venetia.
There's a lot of history on this island, from one civilization that has left its mark to the next. That's why it has thrived with the culture over the years.
Get to know the Venetian harbour of Chania and the pink-coloured sand at Elafonisi.
Take a photo at Balos Lagoon. Afterwards, continue your exploration southward to Preveli, where you can admire the most perfect beach in Greece: Skinaria.
End your journey in the capital of Heraklion, where you can find things such as minotaurs and ancient palaces.
Crete is a Mediterranean island with visitors coming for all kinds of different reasons. Whether you're into outdoor adventures, culture, or festivals, Crete has something for everyone!
5. Alps, Austria: Adventure in Every Season
One of the best European bucket lists should have at least one Austrian location - It is recommended to visit Saalbach-Hinterglemm.
There is no better place than the mountains to escape city stresses, breathe fresh air and be one with nature.
You feel immediately relaxed and it has that classic “Sound of Music” vibe. But it’s not too peaceful because there are so many possibilities for winter sports near your door. After a day of snow, you can close the day in front of a cozy fire with friends.
Saalbach-Hinterglemm may be known for its winter skiing and snowboarding, but it also offers summer activities such as hiking or mountain biking. You can see the mountains from up close or walk along the picturesque valley that leads through the mountain range.
You can try a lot of other adventure sports while you're here. They have the longest and fastest zip line in the world, just one of our many different high-ropes courses you can get involved with.
Children will not feel bored in this town! They have many playgrounds, activities and sports events to choose from.
Also Read: Top 50 Bucket List Items to do in your Life
6. French Riviera: the Lemon Festival
The French Riviera has been welcoming international travellers for decades.
But while everyone goes to the typical tourist hotspots, try going hyper-local. This will really give you an idea of what makes the destination so unique. Right next to Nice, there’s Villefranche-sur-mer. A beautiful and quaint fishing town, it takes just one scooter ride away from the city centre.
The commune sits on a hillside so you’ll get plenty of wandering streets and steps, as well as locals milling about.
There are many restaurants to choose from in Copenhagen, and there are those particularly picky travellers who will be able to find a place to eat. Driving the French Riviera? Be sure to stop at the charming medieval town of St. Paul de Vence. It offers a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside.
Saint-Paul de Vence has always been popular among painters. That's why there are so many art galleries in this charming Somme village.
Don't forget Menton! This small city is famous among locals for its annual Lemon Festival in February when the whole town celebrates with a lemon parade and a flurry of lemon-based decorations.
7. Tromso, Norway: Catch the Northern Lights
Tromso, in Northern Norway, is home to the famous Northern Lights. It is 217 miles inside the Arctic Circle and one of the last places on Earth that you can try and catch a glimpse of them while they’re still visible.
Having been unsuccessful in Iceland, you should decide to try again with Tromso. You can watch a documentary on it and surprisingly it's not that cold. In fact, it is more beautiful than one could have ever imagined.
Tromso is an expensive city but it's well worth the cost.
There's plenty to see and do in Tromsø, from the Polar Museum to the Arctic Cathedral. Could you imagine driving a husky sleigh? Or taking a polar fjord cruise? But during the night is when the magic happens: You can usually see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.
So far from the city, it’s best appreciated from a dark sky outside of the city. Book a tour of Tromso, and you will see them at their most beautiful.
8. Italian Lakes Region, Italy: Gondolas and Gardens
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For those with a European travel bucket list, exploring the beautiful northern Italian lakes region should be high on it. It can be easily discovered from Milan and features scenic lakes in Italy that are filled with surprises.
Lake Como is always a favourite, but don’t miss Lake Maggiore. It is Italy's largest lake and has the snow-capped Italian Alps as a backdrop.
When in Stresa, use the ferry as a convenient way to visit Isola Bella and get around to Motarrone for beautiful views of Maggiore.
Lake Orta is one of the most magical places you'll ever see. You can also see the beautiful Orta San Giulio and its narrow cobbled streets. Wisteria drapes over colourful walls here, too!
As you wander towards the main piazza, you'll see interesting views of the lake. And here is where you can enjoy lovely sights like Isola San Giulio and its stunning medieval monastery that stands above the water.
9. Dubrovnik, Croatia: Game of Thrones Sites
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Dubrovnik is known for its natural beauty. Located on the Adriatic sea with a backdrop of green hills, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and tourist numbers are growing.
A Walking Tour of Westeros: Fans can enjoy any number of excellent walking tours exploring the famous landmarks used in Game of Thrones
Dubrovnik was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 and it then experienced the heavy bombing.
One of the first things people notice about Croatia is its Gothic structures. However, after years of neglect, it has now been restored to its former glory by locals. The lanes and roads are a testament to Croatia's success here
Dubrovnik is a truly beautiful city for anyone who loves sightseeing. The Old Wall Walk, Onofrio’s fountains, and the Church of St. Blaise are some sights not to miss. Stradun is a really pretty street that has to be seen firsthand.
Join the many visitors to the Lovrijenac Fortress, Minčeta Tower, Rector’s Palace, Dubrovnik Cathedral and Lokrum Island. You will love it!
10. Galway, Ireland: Irish History and Music
Galway is for those looking for an authentic Irish experience. It has a long history rooted in exploration, and conquest, with Vikings, pirates and the Spanish Armada all visiting the city. The city was even visited by Barack Obama in 2016
All of these sites remain accessible to history lovers, who can pause and explore the foundation of a city that still brims with youthful energy.
Explore the history of Dubin by visiting the cathedrals, castles, halls, Spanish Arch and city walls. You can even visit the Galway City Museum to learn more about Dublin's past.
Kindly get out and experience the vibe at Galway, with locals at Eyre Square or near the River Corrib.
When evening rolls around, be sure to stop by the Latin Quarter and listen to some traditional music and buskers.
There will be plenty of craic, so they'll have a great time. They probably won't even mind the accents! Be sure to visit the Galway Farmer's Market on Saturdays, it's at St. Nicholas Church
When you're looking for a break from the city, Wild Atlantic Way is the place for you. There's plenty of clean Irish air to be found in Connemara National Park or at the Burren. Cliffs of Moher is also recommended when in Ireland.
Head to Portumna and go on a tour of the Portumna Workhouse, Museum, one of only three locations in Ireland where you can still hear the important story of how workhouses operated.
Also Read: Top 15 Best Beaches in Ireland
11. Krakow, Poland: 15th Century Charm
The city centre in Krakow is filled with buildings that are centuries old and still look absolutely stunning. You can admire them when you go for a stroll through the old town.
When visiting Rynek Glowny market you will undoubtedly see a lot of souvenirs being sold and not that much food. This site can be peculiar for foreigners, but it is still worth checking out.
You’ll find Polish food in every shape and form around the square. One of the oldest restaurants serving Polish food is over 500 years old. It’s an ever-changing culinary experience, so take some time to explore the tastes and flavours on offer!
Visitors can also explore the Wawel Castle, which was home to Polish royals for centuries and has a unique interior with fascinating architectural examples from different periods.
If you are looking to get out of the city, you can go on a salt mine tour in Wieliczka, just a few minutes away from downtown Krakow or visit Auschwitz.
The salt mines have provided the Polish economy for years and are home to sculptures made from salt that was mined in addition to an underground chapel.
12. Budapest, Hungary: Traditional Thermal Baths
As the capital of Hungary, Budapest should definitely be on your bucket list if you enjoy castles and hills. The Danube river divides this eastern European city into Buda and Pest.
The best way to get acquainted with Buda is by starting with a hike to Gellért Hill, which is home to the Citadella on its summit. Let your eyes enjoy the views from one of Budapest’s most iconic overlooks.
The Buda Castle is built atop of a hill and has some lovely cobbled roads. Additionally, visitors are welcome to explore the spellbinding network of caves beneath. Some excellent tours are also available.
The Parliament Building and Church of St. Stephen are worth a visit when you cross the Pest bridges.
Ready for a break? It is recommended to visit the Great Market Hall where you can enjoy some local Hungarian delicacies.
It is suggested to try Langos and strudel. If you're a meat lover, you might also enjoy their rural blood-pork dishes.
You deserve a break after a busy day so why not explore the region and enjoy some time in the traditional thermal bath?
13. Helsinki, Finland: A Hipster Vibe
Many people aren’t too familiar with Finland, but Helsinki is the perfect place for those looking for a less-crowded city with a laid-back vibe to it.
People often overlook Helsinki when they visit Scandinavia because of Copenhagen, Stockholm and other Nordic countries.
Located on the Baltic Sea, between Russia and the Swedish Empire, Helsinki was historical of strategic importance.
The city of Helsinki still has many Swedish and Russian influences, which gives it a special charm. Helsinki’s most iconic sight is the Helsinki Cathedral, which was built to commemorate Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.
Insider's tip: On a sunny day, head out to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, a UN Heritage Site loved by locals. It has plenty to offer–you could learn about the history of the city and enjoy some relaxation time in the park or go for a swim at the beach.
Our one-day walking tour showcases some of the city’s best-designed buildings and exhibitions. Start in town at a popular café for coffee, Finnish pastries, or both!
14. Lisbon, Portugal: for the Views
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Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city and as such, its popularity with travellers has been growing steadily. It is a scenic coastal city that combines the best of Barcelona but with some added benefits of improved sea views
As a matter of fact, Portugal feels very different from Spain. The intense Latin vibe is replaced with a relaxed “life is good” approach and the welcome would make anyone feel at home. Lisbon is the capital of Portugal so it makes sense that there are more people exploring this historic city. Lisbon has a lot of similarities to Barcelona but without the famous Gaudi architecture. You can see stunning views of the ocean, water and Monte da Caparica coastline from its hills and parks.
This beautiful city was almost completely rebuilt after the Great Earthquake of 1755. It destroyed most of the architecture and population in the process.
Unlike most other European cities, you'll notice Lisbon's cobblestone streets and walkways are still polished (and slippery so bring a good pair of shoes).
You are going to love the ceramic tile facades you’ll see around town. If you want to learn more about them, don’t miss the National Tile Museum while you are in town...
Get ready to enjoy the best food, drinks and views in Lisbon. This city is a beautiful, vibrant city with an abundance of gorgeous viewpoints. Tourists can get a taste of Portugal’s varied cuisine while enjoying the picturesque scenery of Lisbon by day and night.
15. Regensburg, Germany: Medieval History
Less than an hour from Munich, Regensburg is the best-preserved medieval city in Germany and offers the charm of that era with a continued cultural richness.
That’s perfect for anyone without a car or public transportation since it’s right in the heart of the city.
You can tell where you are in the city by looking for the spires of Regensburg Cathedral. They're very visible from most places in the city.
From there, it’s just a short walk to the Tourist Information office in Old Town. One of the most interesting parts of this is the visit to the town hall, which also houses a fascinating torture chamber!
As an Imperial town, Regensburg (and its town hall) have been welcoming dignitaries from all over Europe since the 13th century.
Historians believe that the Old Stone Bridge has been in use for over 800 years. How old is it? Roman buildings in Castra Regina, a fortress, which was set up all the way back in 179 CE!
Have you ever wanted to go on a day trip? Walhalla Memorial may be the perfect spot for you. Founded in 1842, it is a series of sculptures and monuments in Germany that commemorates people who inspired the country throughout its history. There are more than 2,000 busts here to learn about!
Walhalla is just an hour's scenic bike ride from Regensburg along the Danube.
16. Bratislava, Slovakia: Quirky Eastern Europe
Bratislava is a small, picturesque city that's perfect for a weekend getaway. You'll find its old town is charming and fairytale-esque, but also off the beaten path.
The streets are clean and quiet. A lot of people seemed to have gone inside, which made sense considering that it was very late at night and the village felt like a city rather than a residential community.
As you explore Bratislava, you'll find attractions like the imposing white Bratislava castle, which overlooks the Danube river. The castle is classically designed with baroque elements and Gothic-style cathedrals.
You should also check out the Church of St. Elizabeth nearby, which is so photogenic and coloured in a perfect pastel blue.
Getting there: Bratislava is just a one-hour bus ride from Vienna, so it makes for a quick stop or two as part of a longer Europe trip.
17. Costa Brava, Spain: Catalan Cuisine
Costa Brava is a region stretching from the Spanish border in France to Blanes and Girona. It's near Barcelona and not too far away either.
This area of rocky coastline abounds with beautiful beaches, boasting some of the clearest waters in the world.
You can walk along a coastal path for 200 km, swim in hidden coves and make a snorkeling or diving trip.
Costa Brava offers a number of historic towns with medieval architecture. This includes stunning examples in just about every area on the map.
To really experience Tossa de Mar, you'll want to head for the impressive Fort, walk over the centuries-old Bridge in Besalú, and check out Girona's famous Game of Thrones sites.
Costa Brava is another location you should consider. It became home to renowned Spanish painter Salvador Dalí.
Dali designed the Dalí Theatre-Museum in his hometown of Figueres. Even after death, he's buried beneath the former stage inside a crypt.
In the end, you should get to try your hand at traditional Catalan cuisine.
Over the years, this place has adopted a variety of different flavours, which make it so you never get bored. There's a little something for everyone here!
18. Romania: the Painted Monasteries
It seems like everybody wants to go to Romania lately. With tourism increasing, the best time to experience rural life, and wildlife would be now before it gets too crowded.
When you’re looking for things to do in Europe, don’t forget about the hidden gems that this destination has to offer. The painted monasteries of Moldavia are a UNESCO World Heritage site and can be found in the northeastern part of the country.
Here's what makes medieval paintings on the outside walls so special: It's been done by professional painters in accordance with the Bible.
In Romania, there are eight churches famous for their own unique characteristics. Each one is famous for something different. One example is the Voronet Church which is known for its deep blue colour- called Voronet Blue- created from lapis lazuli rocks.
It's known as the Sistine Chapel of the East because of the impressive exterior frescoes.
Moldovita is also worth a visit, as its frescoes were painted in 1537. Regardless of your own personal beliefs, it's hard not to be moved by the work of art on the interior walls.
19. Kayserberg, France: Small Town Ambiance
One of the most charming villages in the beautiful Alsace region, Kayserberg is conveniently located between Colmar and Ribeauville at the edge of northeastern France. As you enter Kaysersberg, the Chateau de Kaysersberg is the first thing you spot high on a hill.
The town of Kazeribag has been protected since Roman times. Add it to the list of European travel destinations you should visit this year!
The town is situated in a valley with green hills all around it. This is one of the best places to get away from it all with an abundance of nature and working vineyards in the distance. Those who venture out to visit Kayserberg are in for a wonderful time. The small winding streets, beautiful architecture, and sound of the small water flowing through town will all make Kayserberg stand out as a unique destination
It's not uncommon for locals and tourists to bridge the canal to admire the view in Kayersberg.
There is a lot of Christmas spirit in the town if you visit during December. You can find tons of shops and stalls around every corner, with everything to make your visit extra special.
20. Zermatt, Switzerland: for the Matterhorn
Switzerland can be expensive, but it is a truly beautiful country. We could name 100 places that are gorgeous in this tiny country, but I'll take you to my favourite: Zermatt. It's an absolute must for any European getaway.
The worldwide famous mountain, The Matterhorn, has a unique shape. There’s so much more to Zermatt than just that though! You should take a stroll down the Vispa River for example.
You can walk through the cute little village centre of Zermatt and window shop various luxury watches. They are produced by companies in Switzerland which are also home to some beautiful mountainous regions.
Also Read: 10 Ideas for Bucket Lists for the Year 2024