- 2019 -
These 12 European destinations you might not have considered are poised to be some of the hottest travel spots in 2019, according to our all-star panel of travel experts.
Photo by Joel Sparks
Get ready for a serious case of wanderlust as we explore 2019's hottest emerging travel destinations in Europe.
How'd we select such an awesome list? We took dozens of nominations from tourism boards around the world, pared them down to the best, and then a panel of the world's top travel bloggers picked these winning 2019 European destinations.
Which of these destinations won our annual Reader Award? You'll have to read here to find out!
For this article, our awesome judges were: The Blonde Abroad, Nomadic Matt, Wandering Earl, My Life's a Travel Movie, and Be My Travel Muse. You can read more about these amazing bloggers at our Judges Page.
This is the first in our annual series of the best emerging destinations by continent: you can see the full series here. Can't get enough? Click here to browse last year's list of winners. Oh, and if you're on Pinterest, click here to pin this post for later.
Winner of Our 2019 Judges' Award
The winner of our Judges' Top Choice Award - and the only destination to be picked on every single judges' ballot - the Faroe Islands beckon visitors with mythical mountains, homes covered in hobbit-like turf, and miles of still greenery dotted by only the occasional grazing sheep. With a population of just 50,000 people and a remote location far off the continental shore, these magical islands may be one of the last few unspoiled travel destinations in Europe. That may change soon, though, as the word is out about the Faroe Islands - the perfect playground for your senses in 2019.
A repeat winner worth visiting again and again
The only destination making a return from our list of 2018 European destinations, you'll have a hard time not falling in love with Slovenia (it is, after all, the only country in the world with the word "love" in its name). From the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea, Slovenia's landscapes make for some of the most surreal vistas in Europe. And foodies will find themselves in paradise here, as Slovenia's culinary scene continues to win global accolades for its profoundly original yet utterly mouthwatering fare.
~ Judge's Take ~
"Slovenia simply has something for every type of traveler and it's all located in such a small area that's so easy to explore."
8 seasons (yes, 8) promise magical experiences
Located in the Arctic, Swedish Lapland is perfect for eco-conscious travelers looking for off-the-beaten path adventures. From midnight sun horseback riding, to bear spotting, to dog sledding, to forest safaris, there is something utterly unique to do here no matter the season. Oh, and speaking of seasons: there are eight of them to consider for your trip, from summer-fall until spring-winter (yep, it's a thing). Plus, if you're lucky, you'll have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights!
Tiny coves and medieval towns beckon
It's just up the Catalonian coast from one of Europe's most popular tourism destinations (Barcelona), but Costa Brava offers an authentic and quiet escape from the bustle of the city. You'll find sapphire waters lapping up against dusty coves, quirky medieval towns, and some of the best gastronomy the Mediterranean has to offer. Almost a third of Costa Brava is protected natural areas, making it a great place to explore wild beaches away from the crowds. It's hard to believe a destination this beautiful is still such a well-kept secret (though that may change in 2019!).
~ Judge's Take ~
The Blonde Abroad
"I've been lucky enough to visit quite a few of the destinations on the list and love Hvar and Costa Brava. Faroe Islands are high on my list to visit because of their insane natural beauty. I genuinely feel Serbia is an up and coming destination and would love to get to the Swedish Lapland for some reindeer kisses."
Island vibes with a splash of history
Perhaps the best known destination on this list, this tiny Croatian island will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its tourism society this year. If Hvar isn't on your radar already, it should be. It offers fascinating history at its four UNESCO World Heritage sites, sweeping vistas from dozens of points across the island, and some of the clearest turquoise water you'll find this side of the Maldives. Though once thought of only as a summer destination, Hvar is beautiful year-round and worth adding to your 2019 European bucket list regardless of season.
~ Judge's Take ~
"Most of my choices are places in the Balkans, which I love because of how equally quaint, yet up and coming they are. You can also see many of them in one trip, like I did during my Croatia roadtrip."
My Life's a Travel Movie
A cosmopolitan city ready for its moment
When you think of cultural capitals spilling over with funky arts scenes, vibrant nightlife, and world-class gastronomy, Kiev may not be the first European city that comes to mind. But perhaps it should be. It is, after all, the capital of Europe's largest country by area (and, yes, it is safe to travel Ukraine, by the way). And you'll find everything you'd come to expect from a city break in one of Europe's more famous cities, all without the crowds of fanny-pack-sporting tourists or the price tag. Add in a touch of Ukraine's unique culture, and you have all the makings of a great 2019 city vacation.
A dynamic university town on the upswing
The Czech Republic's student city is only beginning to find a spot on most travelers' maps. In Brno they'll find a creative hub filled with art, food, and culture galore. Trendy cafes line streets just around the corner from distinctive pubs and fashionable bistros. And music lovers will be in for a real treat, as only in Brno can you hear a jazz concert in a former 10-Z atomic bomb shelter!
A nature-lover's paradise locked in the Alps
Yep, Slovenia is on this list twice. And you know what? If anything, that's not enough. Because the awe-inspiring Soča Valley is worth a dedicated spot all by itself. This is a land carved by emerald green waters flowing between Alpine peaks, a natural paradise whose siren song is so strong that you may never be able to escape. Kayak or raft down swirling waters, para-glide over the tops of alpine peaks, or dine at one of the best restaurants in the world at Ana Ros’s Hisa Franko. Whatever adventure you choose, you're sure to be left with one question: "how does everyone not know about this place already?"
~ Judge's Take ~
"As someone who loves a good outdoor adventure, Soča Valley sounds like the perfect spot to be! "
First-class amenities on a budget
A country that has slowly crawled out of its dark past and opened its arms to the world, Serbia offers one of the best value travel destinations in all of Europe. In Belgrade, you'll find throbbing nightlife at floating river clubs, one of the best street art scenes in the world, and a charming old town inside a fortress. Outside of the capital, you'll find tranquil rivers cascading down lush green valleys, charming towns and villages, and loads of history at every turn. Best yet, Serbia's southern location means it can be visited whatever time of year you go to Europe.
A tiny mountain enclave that packs a big punch
Admit it, you probably haven't thought much of this country since your middle school geography (or spelling!) bee. Best known for its size (it's the sixth smallest country in the world), Liechtenstein is a place only the savviest of travelers have ever thought to explore. But take the leap and you'll be rewarded with imposing castles set against majestic mountains, top-notch ski resorts, and breathtaking panoramic vistas. And 2019 is an especially great year to visit Liechtenstein, when the country will celebrate its 300th anniversary.
Further off the beaten path than you might think
Sure, Copenhagen receives its fair share of visitors. But the entire country of Denmark is worthy of a spot atop your list of 2019 European destinations. Scandinavia's smallest kingdom is dotted by Baroque castles and palaces that are just calling out for a visit. Or you can travel to North Jutland and witness the unique natural phenomenon of two seas clashing into each other. Or just check out its white sandy beaches (see the video to the right if you don't believe me!). Whatever you decide to do on your trip to Denmark, you're sure to soon understand why its one of the happiest nations on the planet.
The Garden of England awaits just a few hours from London
Just a few hours from London, but a world away in pace, Kent is one of Great Britain's hottest emerging destinations for 2019, featuring charming seaside towns, expansive vineyards, and a booming arts and music scene. 2019 will also mark the 900th anniversary of the absolutely picturesque Leeds Castle (see the above photo - and try not to drool). Oh, and if you enjoy a drink or two, you're sure to be in heaven here. Craft breweries and cider mills are plentiful. Or oenophiles can check out Chapel Down Winery, famous for providing English Sparkling Wine for the Royal Wedding.
That's it for this year's list of the best emerging European destinations! Click here to see the winners for other continents. And if you're planning a Euro Trip, don't miss these 5 Tips for Traveling Cheaply in Europe as well as our Guide to Finding the Best Time to Travel Europe.
Which European destination is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
Note that voting for our 2019 Readers' Pick Award has now been closed. Winners of the award for each continent will be announced December 27th.
And if you're on Pinterest, be sure to pin this for later here (just click the image to do that):
Nate Hake has traveled to 65+ countries across six continents around the world and blogs about his travels at TravelLemming.com. He is from Denver, Colorado, recently concluded a six month stint living in Mexico, and is now currently traveling in Thailand.