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6 of the best non-touristy places to visit in Europe in summer

From compact countries to stunning islands, read on for six surprising locations to head to so that you can avoid the crowds this summer and be wowed with the delights of these lesser-known gems.

By Natasha Heard  |  January 13, 2022
Sanmarine castle

When the time comes to start planning your next holiday, you may already have a destination in mind, or you might just be looking for the next big trip that is going to surpass all expectations.

Perhaps you’ve seen all there is to in Rome, you’ve taken THAT photo in Santorini, the delights of Pairs have done so for long enough, and the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam has done enough to encourage you to seek out a more relaxed or less hectic destination for your next trip.

No one really wants to be standing in a queue in the heat trying to get into a sightseeing hot spot or struggling through a crowd to take the perfect photo of that famous monument, so why not change it up and head to one of the less busy places for your next summer Europe trip? From compact countries to stunning islands, read on for six surprising locations to head to so that you can avoid the crowds this summer and be wowed with the delights of these lesser-known gems.

Liechtenstein

Vaduz castle in Liechtenstein
Often overlooked due to its tiny size and location nestled between Austria and Switzerland, the 25km long principality of Liechtenstein is set to enthral any new visitor to this German speaking delight

Often overlooked due to its tiny size and location nestled between Austria and Switzerland, the 25km long principality of Liechtenstein is set to enthral any new visitor to this German speaking delight. Boasting majestic medieval castles, visit-worthy villages and landscapes perfect for skiing in winter or hiking in summer, this compact country will surprise. Head to the capital, Vaduz, and take in the collection of artefacts in the National Museum and Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein and gaze at the 12th century castle, which overlooks the castle and still houses the country’s royal family.  

San Marino

The Cesta Tower on Monte Titano in San Marino.
The least visited country in Europe, San Marino is a small republic nestled amidst the northern-central regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche in Italy, on the slopes of Mount Titano

The least visited country in Europe, San Marino is a small republic nestled amidst the northern-central regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche in Italy, on the slopes of Mount Titano. Its less-popular label is probably due to its size as any visitor to the 61sqkm microstate will quickly learn that this place is worth seeing. Full of history and character, capital city San Marino boasts a walled town, cobbled streets and three towers showcasing its interesting past. Head high to visit the towers for incredible panoramic views.

Latvia

Panorama view of Riga Cityscape Old Town, Dome cathedral, Cathedral Basilica of Saint James, Riga castle and River Daugava from Saint Peter church, Riga, Latvia
The beautiful city of Riga is the capital of Latvia

From wide beaches stretching along the Baltic Sea to expansive forests inland and a thriving capital city on the coast boasting beautiful At Nouveau architecture, Latvia has plenty to please any traveller. Capital Riga plays host to museums, concert halls, a medieval pedestrian-only old town, and a large food market that is a must-visit. Outside of this you’ll find Gauja National Park, resort city, Jurmala, and so many more places in the country’s regions that are worth a visit to discover the culture and natural beauty that is so abundant here.   

Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Faoghail a' Chaolais & Cottages at Newtonferry Port nan Long North Uist Outer Hebrides
The Outer Hebrides have a diverse, fascinating history and heritage and something to interest everybod

Visitors to Scotland may stop at the country’s inviting more southern cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and the visual delights of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, but venture further afield and you’ll find some absolute gems. A set of islands of the Northwest coast of the country, in the Atlantic, are known as the Outer Hebrides and are a joy for visitors in search of beautiful beaches, arts, wildlife, stunning scenery and Gaelic culture.

North Macedonia

North Macedonia
The second most mountainous country in the world, North Macedonia, which sits north of Greece and gained independence in 1991, also happens to be one of the oldest inhabited regions in Europe

The second most mountainous country in the world, North Macedonia, which sits north of Greece and gained independence in 1991, also happens to be one of the oldest inhabited regions in Europe. Boasting a beautiful lake resort, mountainous national parks, Ottoman landmarks and many other historical attractions to keep you busy, this is one for the history buffs. Head to capital Skopje to visit the 12th century Old Bazaar, ancient Skopje Fortress and Canyon Matka, the perfect spot for some outdoor activities in beautiful surroundings.

Moldova

Capriana monastery, one of the oldest, established in medieval Moldova.
Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova emerged as an independent republic following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Image credit: TomaszWozniak/Bigstock.com

Having gained independence from the former USSR and established itself as its own country in the early 90s, this young Eastern European country may not be brimming with wealth, but its natural landscapes and plentiful vineyards are certainly worth visiting. Head to the capital, Chisinau to discover more of its history, art and culture in the National Museum of History, take in the 19th-century Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity and pay a visit to the popular Cricova winery. Oenophiles will be happy with the range of wine tours and experiences that can be undertaken here and will no doubt enjoy learning about the varietals from the four wine regions of the country.