Most Underrated Countries in Europe
When people organize trips to Europe, usually the countries that see the most visitors are those known for their incredible culture, history, and cuisines, such as France, Germany, and Italy. When we think about Europe, it’s easy to think only in terms of the larger cultural players that have imported their traditions around the world. However, there are tons of unique countries that make up the continent, including tiny countries that don’t have as much of an international presence.
In many of these countries, your dollar goes a lot farther than in the more popular European tourist destinations. Moreover, there are always opportunities for unique experiences and amazing adventures. So, here are some of the most underrated countries in Europe.
Croatia attracted some publicity during the run of Game of Thrones when it was revealed that close to a dozen areas in this beautifully scenic country served as filming locations for the hit HBO show.
Even if you’re not into Game of Thrones, there is lots to enjoy in Croatia. A large part of the country faces the Adriatic. This means that the temperature is more moderate and pleasant in the summer months. Croatia is also packed with unique historical monuments and cultural sites. One such site is the incredible Roman ruins in Pula, which include a beautiful amphitheater that’s still in use today.
If you’re looking for areas of astounding natural beauty, head to Plitvice Lakes National Park. This park has become famous for its cascading lakes that end in a beautiful waterfall.
Even though neighboring Germany is much more popular with international tourists, travelers should consider visiting Poland instead. It’s a country with a rich heritage, plenty of historic monuments, and interesting natural features. Even better, food and accommodations tend to be less expensive than in neighboring countries. Plus, their public transit and tourist infrastructure are improving every year.
Although you’ll likely fly into Kraków or Warsaw, don’t forget to visit smaller towns like Wroclaw or Gdańsk. In particular, the latter is a Baltic coastal town that has incredible architectural features scattered throughout — especially along the riverside pedestrian walkway.
If you’re looking for some summer relaxation, head to the Masurian Lake District.
If you’ve never heard of Andorra before, you’re not alone. Tucked between France and Spain in the middle of the Pyrenees mountain range, this tiny country is only home to around 77,000 people. However, an unbelievable 8.3 million tourists visit Andorra every year. That’s roughly 108 times the population of the country. Since the area is so mountainous and the country has no airports, you’ll have to drive in from Spain or France if you want to visit.
Andorra is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for an adventurous, outdoor vacation. There are plenty of beautiful hikes around Soldeu. To soak your sore muscles at the end of your trip, pay a visit to Caldea, a popular spa complex in Andorra la Vella.
Montenegro is a small Balkan country known for its rugged inland mountains and sandy coastline. Although tourism declined dangerously during the Yugoslavian civil war in the 1990s, improvements to infrastructure and stability have encouraged many local and international tourists to visit.
One of the most popular areas for tourists is the Bay of Kotor, a gorgeous bay that wraps around four smaller gulfs. The bay contains several medieval towns, in which Kotor and Herceg Novi are the most popular. These two towns are full of incredible ruins and fortifications.
If you want to continue into the country’s interior, head towards Skadar Lake National Park, home to the largest lake in the Balkans.
Another Balkan country that doesn’t see as many tourists is Bulgaria. The country is rich in outdoor beauty and architectural wonders.
Starting in Sofia, the nation’s capital city, you’ll be able to see tons of unique Communist-style architecture. This includes the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the largest orthodox churches in the world that dates back to 1882. You can also visit the famous Sofia Public Mineral Baths to partake in the Eastern European tradition of taking the waters. Another popular city to visit is Plovdiv, which is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in Europe.
If you’re interested in perfume, head to Kazanlak. This town is surrounded by rose farms that produce Bulgarian rose oil, an essential ingredient in many of the world’s most popular perfumes.
Malta is a small island archipelago that lies in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Tunisia. Its unique location has led to continual battles throughout history for dominance over this tiny bit of land. The result of this continued global attention is that Malta’s history is rich and varied. Plus, the architecture found on the three islands of Malta, Comino, and Gozo reflect the various influences that have come and gone.
The biggest city in the country is Valletta. This UNESCO World Heritage site is full of unique historical buildings like the St. John’s Co-Cathedral and the Palace of the Grand Masters.
To get to Malta, you’ll need to fly from a European hub or take a ferry from the Sicilian port of Pozzallo.
Although it’s not a small country, Austria is often forgotten in favor of nearby countries like the Czech Republic and Germany. While Austria has a reputation for being more sedated and formal than the other countries of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, the truth is that this history gives Austria a great foundation on which to modernize and adapt.
The capital city of Vienna is where most tourists spend their time. Vienna’s incredible Imperial architecture and art scene is a major draw. There are amazing restaurants to be found, and the coffee shop culture is legendary.
Although it’s tempting to stay in the city for most of your stay, two-thirds of the country is taken up by the magnificent Alps. Also, there are lots of rural towns, like Zell am See and St. Anton, that caters to tourists year-round.
Although many people pass through Slovenia — it’s a major European thoroughfare — not a lot of people stick around. Slovenia was the first EU country to adopt the Euro. Since then, it has enjoyed a stable period of political and economic growth.
To start your visit, head to the capital of Ljubljana. While there, make sure to take in the Old Town, as well as Ljubljana Castle, which offers remarkable views of the surrounding city from the turrets.
Once you’re finished looking around the city, use Ljubljana as a hub to access the rest of the country. One place to check out is the Savinja and Šalek Valley. This mountainous area is filled with plenty of rolling meadows. Also, it hosts the annual Pippi Longstocking Festival.
Formally called the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, this tiny country is the second-smallest in Europe. Despite its size, it’s also one of the three richest countries in the entire world.
The benefit of touring such a small country is how easy it can be to see most of the sights within a few days. In fact, almost all of the country is accessible from the capital city. Within the capital, make sure to check out the Grand Ducal Palace, where you may be able to spot Grand Duc Henri, the current constitutional monarch.
Even though Luxembourg has been influenced heavily by German and French culture over the years, they still have their own distinct cultural identity.
One of the most northerly countries in Europe is Finland, a technologically advanced country obsessed with healthy outdoor pursuits like hiking and swimming. Finland has an unbelievable 187,888 lakes and 179,584 islands, which means that there’s room for everyone to have a little cabin where they can escape city life.
The biggest city is its capital, Helsinki. Founded in 1550, it would be rebuilt 300 years later by the Russian tsars as a summer retreat.
Make sure to visit during the summer. Finns celebrate the end of the long winter by biking, dining, and walking outdoors along the waterfront.