A fan of the ‘gram? Here are some hidden gems in Europe that are bound to stand out on your feeds
Hidden gems in Europe aren’t few and far between. As a matter of fact, they’re in abundance. From ancient structures in Bulgaria and Bruges to wildlife-rich islands off the Welsh coast, here are some amazing treasures across the continent that’ll fill your heart – and your camera roll. Take a look.
1. Windmills of Bruges: Bruges, Belgium
Tourists in Bruges usually flock to its old town, chocolatiers and Belfry first… and while these are all amazing sights, you don’t want to overlook Bruges’ iconic windmills. Circling the city borders, these fascinating structures are a core part of the city’s history, with roots back to the 13th century.
Though there used to be 25 framing Bruges, now, there are just four main windmills to peruse, each with their own unique features and quirks. In the Sint Janshuismolen Mill, find a small museum and watch flour being ground in real-time. The Nieuwe Papegaai Mill is one you can’t miss, either – an astonishing, tomato red structure that’s bound to inspire gasps of appreciation from those skimming through your holiday albums.
Head to the Kruisvest to experience them all, before returning to your Belgian home away from home, Hotel Flanders. Close to many of the city’s major attractions and boasting some captivating spaces inside – including a centuries-old Dominican monastery – you couldn’t ask for a better hideaway in this historic city.
2. The Chinese Palace: Palermo, Italy
The Chinese Palace in all its splendour. Image credit: Wikimedia
The king Ferdinando IV di Borbone designed Palermo’s incomparable Chinese Palace at the end of the eighteenth century, with the help of the famous architect, Venanzio Marvuglia. Now, this building functions as a museum with five floors of wonder to discover. Stroll through a large ballroom, formal hall, private royal rooms, mezzanines, neoclassical corners and a space designed as an observatory from the top to toe of this spectacular place.
Its exteriors are something to behold, too. At this most ornate of hidden gems in Europe, gaze up at marble columns, a pavilion roof and walls of burnished orange and gold, nestled in a bed of greenery. The Chinese Palace is located right in the middle of La Favorita Park, so there are plenty of places to sit and soak in the sun in-between taking snaps to show your friends.
Just 500 metres away from it all is our historic hotel, Principe Lampedusa Boutique Hotel. Contemporary features meet a classic ambience in this impressive property, which includes two restaurants, a range of plush accommodation options and a dreamy ‘Garden of Scents’ on-site. There’s a lot to love.
3. Plovdiv Amphitheatre: Plovdiv, Bulgaria
In exhilarating Plovdiv, you can find one of the most intact ancient theatres around. Marvel at 28 rows of marble seats and a stunning stage – set against a backdrop of city lights – during a trip to one of the best-placed hidden gems in Europe. The views here are astounding from the top of the monument’s steps: a tapestry of city roofs and blue skies. From this vantage point, you’ll also find an outdoor cafe, allowing you to sit and admire the breathtaking landscape at your leisure.
If you’re lucky and plan your visit right, you might even get to attend a concert at the Plovdiv Amphitheatre. This ancient structure, which can seat up to 7,000 people and was once used as a venue for gladiator fights and hunting shows, now plays host to a variety of concerts and performances today. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Regarding where to stay, we’d recommend Hotel Hebros: one of the newest hotels in our Collection, but a long-established hospitality staple in Plovdiv’s old town. Enjoy food from its multi-award-winning hotel restaurant and close proximity to extraordinary sights and activities.
4. Ljubljana Botanical Garden: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Budding and professional photographers alike can’t help but be captivated by the fruits of nature… whether that’s the curling leaf of a tree or the vibrant appeal of a flower. If these are the kind of things that inspire you, you’ll fall head over heels for Ljubljana’s Botanical Garden, which has been operating since 1810.
Filled with over 4,500 different species and subspecies of flora and fauna, this sweeping tribute to the natural world is sure to fill up your camera feed in no time. Wander through a tropical glasshouse – which contains over 380 tropical plant species alone – an arboretum and more during an inspiring and colourful afternoon, here. Priced at only €2.80 per adult ticket, this sight is a surefire win for travellers on every budget.
Another crowd pleaser, you’ll be enchanted by the world-class service and elegant bedrooms tucked away in Antiq Palace. This historic hotel was once the city dwelling of nobles, and delivers a range of sumptuous lounge areas, private garden and courtyard to its modern-day guests.
5. Skomer Island: Pembrokeshire, Wales
Pembrokeshire is one of the most idyllic places in the UK and a hotbed of hidden gems in Europe… and just off the coast, Skomer Island is no exception. This sweeping reserve is a particular treat for bird lovers, as it’s home to puffins, razorbills, short-eared owls and potentially the largest colony of manx shearwaters in the world: a fluffy, feathery delight in hues of black and white. You’re likely to see seals during a trip here, too, as well as a wealth of other mammals and wildlife.
A biodiverse haven, you’re able to stay overnight on the island if you book in advance – but don’t forget to bring your own food and appropriate outdoor wear, as there are no cafes or shops once you get here. That said, this is a magical retreat away from everyday life that’ll throw you into the heart of nature, and have you up-close to some of the world’s most amazing animals. Get a trip here on your agenda: it’s open April through to September.
Back on the mainland, rest your head at Roch Castle, a castle hotel built in 1195. If its fascinating story to tell and first-class service weren’t enough to entice you to book a room, its closeness to nearly 200 miles of National Park coastline is sure to impress those seeking more adventures before or after their Skomer Island trip. The whole of Wales is at your door.