From the curves of the Colosseum to the twinkle of the Eiffel Tower, the spires of St Mark’s Basilica to the crown of Lady Liberty, there’s nothing more satisfying than ticking the globe’s most snapped silhouettes off your ‘to-spy’ list. That is of course, until now.
We’ve scoured every higgledy-piggledy cobbled old town, peeped into every button-sized boutique and munched in more restaurants than you can shake a credit card at in order to bring you a list of the best hush-hush hidden gems around.
So, are you all set to send your ‘to-see’ list into a spin? Here’s our guide to Europe’s best tucked-away treasures. But shh, best to keep these little beauties between us…
1. It doesn’t get better than Valletta
Diamonds, rubies, pearls… if these aren’t proof that precious things come in small packages, we don’t know what is. Then, when we wandered into a petite place called Valletta – our suspicious were confirmed. Malta’s honey-coloured capital is spellbinding and then some. Marvel at twirling wrought iron gates that tower between palace pillars, gaze wide-eyed at wooden-shuttered balconies and feast on tangles of tagliatelle in side-street bistros. Trust us, we were wowed and you will be too.
2. This way to pocket-sized Petrcane
This teeny tiny fishing village in Croatia’s Zadar region is utterly enchanting and amazingly unspoilt. It’s flanked by fuzzy pine forests and pebbly plots of beach, with a long promenade that has ‘sunshine stroll’ written all over it. Nela Beach Club’s a popular postcode, with a beach volleyball court, wicker-covered seating and a stunning setting.
3. Captivating Kaleici is calling
10 seconds in Kaleici = heart stolen. Antalya’s bougainvillea-cloaked Old Town is a time capsule of Turkish charm. We’re talking terracotta rooftops, turreted walls and a glistening harbour to boot. An amble along the narrowing alleys brings wonder at every turn, with pops of colour from traditional glass lanterns, chunky tasselled rugs and flags flickering in the warm summer breeze.
4. Hunt down the joys of Jandia
Balancing on Fuerteventura’s southernmost tip is a little place named Jandia. It seems all that glistens is gold in this serene stretch of the island, with velvety sands that’d leave the Caribbean quaking in its boots in a best-beach contest. Nature reserves and historic marvels make it a region prepped for discovery, while the surrounding volcanic landscape is simply out of this world.
5. Uncover the amazing Amalfi Coast
Oh Italy – you little show off, you! The Amalfi Coast (Sorrento Area) was first in line when they were doling out charm. The first thing you’ll notice is the colours, from the pastel villages spilling down the hillsides to the chic striped sun loungers that dot the curves of sand – this whole stretch of coastline offers palette-popping perfection – and we can’t get enough.
6. Swoon over Sintra
Name a more majestic setting than Sintra on Lisbon’s glimmering coast, go on, try it. Now we’re all agreed, let’s see what all the fuss is about. If lemon-yellow palaces, embellished mansions and castle walls weren’t enough to leave you starry eyed, how about the fact it’s had the UNESCO seal of approval? To put it simply, Sintra is spectacular, so holiday like royalty in this princess-worthy plot of Portugal.
7. Seek out Sao Vicente
If fairytale bliss is top of your list, then your search for a story is over. Hidden away within a jungle-like valley and crowned by palm-flanked pathways, this magical Madeiran village will take your breath away then capture your heart. Fancy a day trip? Don’t miss the chocolate-box village of Santana with its triangular thatched houses in white, red and blue. Say hello to your sunshine sanctuary.
8. Kolios = a piece of authentic Greece
About as Greek as Greece itself, let us introduce you to Skiathos’ southern sweetheart. Whitewashed and wonderful, Kolios is a web of blissful boutique hotels like Theodora Studios, itsy-bitsy shops and traditional shorefront tavernas, crowned by jade-green woodland. Looks like ‘Greece’ really is the word, after all!
9. Fall head over heels for Frigiliana
High up in the hills above the Costa Del Sol classic of Nerja, sits a secret by the name of Frigiliana. Get right to the roots of authentic Andalucía as you climb the sloping mosaic-cobbled streets of this unspoilt village, passing door fronts in lilac, teal and turquoise. Thought it had reached peak charm? Wait until you hit the little artisan shops run by proud locals showing off their handmade jewellery, clothes and crafts. That’s it, our bank balances are done for.
10. Once upon a Provence
We can’t think of a better place to draw this post to a close than Provence. In fact, you can just leave us here. This lavender-scented pocket of France is a blanket of purple thanks to this flourishing floral crop. Make a beeline for Avignon’s market, where locals bustle about with their morning’s spoils, crates spill sun-kissed vegetables, and aromas of fragrant herbs fill the air. Then, swing by a street-side café and watch bouquets of sunflowers in brown paper bags bob by.
Posted: 8th Jan 2020.