Secret European Villages: Europe is home to thousands of charming villages, many of which remain largely undiscovered by mainstream tourism. As travel writers, it’s our job to uncover these hidden gems so you can experience the continent in an authentic way. Here are five secret European villages you’ve likely never heard of but will want to visit immediately.
Gordes, Provence, France
The rolling lavender fields and olive groves of Provence hold many treasures, including the picturesque village of Gordes. Built on a rocky hillside, Gordes boasts cobblestone streets, cute cafes, and panoramic views of the Luberon Valley. Hardly any tourists seem to make it here, due in part to its isolated location and narrow, winding roads leading in and out of town which aren’t ideal for large tour buses.
Wander the peaceful streets, shop at family-owned stores selling local pottery and artisan crafts, and enjoy a long lunch with a glass of Provençal rosé. At sunset, climb to the Gardens of Abbey Sénanque for breathtaking views as the sky lights up in vibrant pinks and purples behind the ancient stone village. Gordes is Provence at its most authentic yet undiscovered, so catch it while you can before the crowds arrive.
Meschers-sur-Gironde, France | Secret European Villages
On the west coast of France along the Gironde estuary, a 90-minute drive from Bordeaux, sits the picturesque fishing village of Meschers-sur-Gironde. Whitewashed houses with red-tiled roofs are stacked across the hillside, there are centuries-old churches to explore, and cobblestone streets lead down to a harbor filled with colorful fishing boats.
Indulge in the freshest seafood, from oysters and lobster to sole meunière, at tiny bistros throughout town. Go for a stroll along the harbor to see the day’s catch as fishermen unload their boats, or walk further afield to discover the ruins of the Notre Dame de la Fin des Terres church, located on a cliff with stunning views across the estuary.
Meschers-sur-Gironde offers an authentic slice of daily life in a traditional French fishing village as one of the best Secret European Villages. Lose yourself wandering its picture-perfect streets, then toast to your unforgettable escape with a glass of crisp white wine as the sun sets over the sea. This hidden village is a true taste of secret France at its finest.
Cacela Velha, Algarve, Portugal
Along Portugal’s sun-drenched Algarve coast, you’ll find the picturesque village of Cacela Velha. Surrounded by beaches, lagoons, and orange groves, this once-fortified town has been perfectly preserved. Whitewashed houses with decorative green trim and red-tiled roofs line the narrow cobblestone streets, with hardly a tourist in sight.
Climb the hill to the remains of the whitewashed church of Nossa Senhora da Luz for panoramic views of the sea below. Explore the remains of the town’s fortifications, including a watchtower that dates back to the 8th century. Or simply wander the sleepy streets and enjoy a peaceful moment at the 16th-century well.
Two miles east of Cacela Velha you’ll find one of the Algarve’s most stunning beaches, Praia de Manta Rota. This secluded beach with soft golden sands and dramatic ochre cliffs feels like your own private paradise. Enjoy fresh seafood with a glass of chilled vinho verde at the beachfront bar, then take in one of the Algarve’s unforgettable sunsets.
A stay in Cacela Velha offers a perfect escape to secret Portugal. You’ll experience the Algarve’s natural and historic wonders with none of the crowds at more popular resort towns like Lagos or Albufeira. Untouched beaches, historic sites from Portugal’s Moorish past, and the relaxing cadence of coastal village life await you here.
Pucisca, Brac Island, Croatia | Secret European Villages
For an off-the-beaten-path escape in the Adriatic Sea, set your sights on the island of Brač in Croatia. Home to inviting beaches, ancient churches, and olive groves, Brač has remained largely undiscovered with the exception of the popular beach town of Bol.
On Brač’s western coast, you’ll find the picturesque village of Pucisca, hometown of acclaimed sculptor Ivan Rendic. This tranquil village of stone houses, narrow alleys, and a charming waterfront promenade is a perfect escape from the summer crowds. Spend your days swimming at the beaches of Pasika and Krivacica, sampling local cheese and olives at the village shops, or hiking in the hills surrounding town.
As the sun sets over the Adriatic, enjoy a few cocktails at Lampalo, a stylish beachfront bar housed in an art nouveau building. Pucisca’s natural beauty, artistic heritage, and slow pace of life provide a memorable taste of Mediterranean life as it’s truly meant to be lived. Head to Brač’s western coast for a secret escape in Croatia surrounded by olive groves, lavender fields, and quiet coves waiting to be discovered.