If you’ve been to Europe before, it’s likely you’ve been to either France, Germany, England, Spain or Italy. While there’s so much to see and do in these places, and they make for some great holiday destinations, there’s a lot more to Europe than meets the eye. In fact, Europe is home to some of the most unknown countries in the world.
The continent, sprawling as it is, is scattered with many a tiny nation, most of which are sandwiched between two far-better-known destinations. As a result, these little gems often fall off the radar, which is unfortunate as there’s so much to see in these little nooks and crannies.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, or ideas about where to travel next in Europe, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of our five favourite obscure European countries that will provide some fresh ideas for your next trip overseas. Many of these little known countries have specific travel and currency requirements, so be sure to read carefully.
Now, let’s get into it and take a look at some of the true hidden gems of Europe!
Situated high up in the Pyrenees mountain range, squeezed in between France in the north and Spain in the south, sits Andorra, a beautiful little sovereign state. It remains unknown to most, despite having gained its independence twice, once in the 1200s and again in the 1800s. This makes it an ideal destination for anyone looking to see a different side of Europe.
Andorra is home to Andorra la Vella, which is the highest capital city in Europe. It’s best known for its skiing and snowboarding, which really doesn’t come as a surprise as its location in the Pyrenees means fantastic snowfall all the way from the start of winter until late spring.
Andorra is also known as somewhat of a tax-haven to its small number of frequenters. In fact, most of the shopping there is tax-free, and those who are in the know are often found shopping for designer brands, luxury perfumes and alcohol there. Luckily, Andorra operates on the Euro, making it stress-free to hit the shopping district for a few select purchases.
There are also a number of fantastically preserved Romanesque historical sites that you really must see when you visit Andorra. If you’ve visited either France or Spain before, you’ll be able to pick up parts of familiar styles of architecture, design and art, which evolved into the Spanish and French styles we know so well today.
Liechtenstein is another small, very unique little monarchical country, surrounded by Austria on its north and east sides, and Switzerland on the west and south. It’s the fourth-smallest country in Europe, and surprisingly enough has one of the highest GDPs per person, in the world. Not a bad feat for a nation that’s only 160 square kilometres of land (that’s a mere 40 or so square bigger than Ireland’s capital city of Dublin).
Like Andorra, Liechtenstein is also in a high-altitude, mountainous region, making it popular for winter sports. Vaduz Castle, situated in the capital city of the same name, is where the ruling prince lives, and is visible from all around the city in its position atop a steep hill.
The Städtle is another popular attraction in Liechtenstein, a pedestrian main street bustling with shops, cafes and restaurants, and museums. The Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein is their world-famous museum of modern and contemporary art, with special exhibitions and plenty about the history and art of the nation. A real little gem in this area is the 500-year-old rural lifestyle museum.
So, if you’re a fan of the Rhine River and the Alps, a visit to Liechtenstein should be high up on your list of priorities. After all, being the second-least visited country in Europe in 2016, it makes for a great stop off for eager travellers, and those looking to get a rare passport stamp.
3. North Macedonia
Deep in the Balkans, The Republic of North Macedonia is a country formed in 1991 which was formerly part of the communist state of Yugoslavia. As one can imagine, the nation has been through a tumultuous history of war and previous lack of identity, causing it to often fall just short of your usual lists of countries to visit in Europe.
It’s bordered by Serbia to the north, Bulgaria on its east, Greece in the South and Albania in the west. This is a pretty accurate representation of the unique people and culture that North Macedonia holds. It’s also one of the original Romany areas, from where the Roma travellers originate.
Skopje, North Macedonia’s capital city, is a beautiful gem of a city, far outshining many of those located in more popular and frequently-visited European nations. It’s got a beautiful blend of refined European modernity, life and culture; combined with an old Ottoman Quarter which dates back hundreds of years into the Ottoman Empire.
The cuisine in North Macedonia has a similarly rich mix of heritage and cultures, as well as flavours. Thanks to the incredible farmlands – they have some of the best selections of fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables, and are renowned for their wines, dairy and coffee. If you’re a foodie travelling Europe, looking for something new, then a trip to North Macedonia is going to be your number one target.
It also makes for a year-round holiday destination thanks to its fantastic snowfall and winter sports, and lush, warm summers that look like something out of a North-Western Pacific summer season. Just don’t forget to convert your Euros into Noth Macedonian Denars!
Georgia isn’t just a state in America, but also a beautiful little country sitting at the furthest end of Europe, just before the start of western Asia. They have a gorgeous alphabet called Mkhedruli which looks like something out of a Tolkien novel, and their culture is just as unique and special.
Tbilisi is the capital city of Georgia (one of the most underrated European cities), and in the past years has gone through somewhat of a facelift, or modern renaissance, geared towards authentic, family-run art shops, restaurants, guest houses and more. The currency in Georgia is the Iari, which you’ll get a good exchange rate on coming in with Euros.
In the countryside, in the province of Svaneti, lies Georgia’s Caucasian mountains, home to some incredibly well-preserved medieval structures of watchtowers and outposts – an ancient defence against would-be invaders. The mountains are also a great place to head for a hike of just about any length – with small, welcoming towns dotted all along the way, you won’t struggle to find a warming meal after a day in the brisk and sunny hills of the mountain range.
To top it all off, visiting Georgia in the summer is as much of a treat as any other time of year, with the beaches in Batumi. There are pebble beaches of the black sea, and present a very unique take on summer in this region, offering something uniquely different to what you’ll find elsewhere in Europe.
A small country situated between Belgium, France and Germany, Luxembourg is a relatively well-known nation when compared to the rest of the spots on this list. However, most people seem to assume that it is in fact just a city in one of its three neighbouring nations. Luckily though, like their neighbours, they use the Euro, so you won’t encounter any currency issues here.
The most commonly known feature of Luxembourg is the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral. Built in the 17th century, this cathedral is a great spot to visit for some Neo-Gothic and Renaissance architecture. There’s also a somewhat-haunting crypt in which the Luxembourg Grand-Ducal Family are buried.
The Museum of Modern Art (MUDAM) is a more contemporary spot to visit in Luxembourg, and one of the many fascinating and well-maintained museums in Luxembourg City. The museum was designed by the same Ioeh Ming Pei who created the Louvre Pyramid and features regularly updated exhibits of modern and contemporary art of a world-class level.
If you’re looking for something a little more nature-oriented and less city-centric, however, the Mullerthal region has it all. It’s also known as Little Switzerland and is centred around a small town with a population of less than two hundred – the perfect place to head for some quiet and seclusion. Mullerthal has plenty of long-distance hiking trails to explore, of various difficulties and lengths, as well as forests, caves, and mountain biking trails to explore if you’re feeling adventurous.
All in all, a trip to Luxembourg, while not quite as off-the-beaten-path as some of the other spots on this list, is a great way to see one of the least visited countries in Europe without having to travel too far. There’s plenty to do there and can be easily accessed from Germany, France, Belgium, or wherever else your plane might land.
Don’t let your next trip be repetitive – try something new! There’s a whole world out there of countries that deserve your time and attention and will most certainly give back to you what you put into it. Whether hiking in the mountains of Georgia, exploring the Ottoman Quarter of North Macedonia, or skiing in Andorra, the perfect spot is waiting out there for you.