When travelling, do you like to visit famous tourist attractions or do you prefer to get off the beaten track? For many people, it’s a bit of both, so I’m sharing some of my favourite European hidden gems in association with Pearlshare.
This handy app features a multitude of useful information, based around the idea of “pearls”. These personal tips make travel planning a whole lot easier. And once you’re in a city, the app proves invaluable for last minute suggestions. It’s like having a local with you every step of the way!
You can search by town and also by area, and the app pulls up a map with lots of recommendations.
Not only that, it’s a platform to collect your own personal tips, to find them again quickly and easily and to share with others or to keep private if you prefer.
Creating a pearl or a complete guide is really simple. I used it to save some of my top tips for a number of cities, starting with my home-town, London. I’ve included a few here but I recommend that you check the app for more!
Best European Hidden Gems – London
Did you know that there’s a secret garden in Regent’s Park? Tucked away behind an unmarked entrance, The Garden of St John’s Lodge, in Regent Park’s Inner Circle, is a relaxing spot with some beautiful statues.
You’d never find J&A Café by chance – it’s hidden inside an unremarkable narrow alleyway in Clerkenwell. Walk through to the sunny courtyard, however and you’ll find this former jewellery workshops. They specialize in Irish cooking and their chocolate Guiness cake is to die for.
Originally a church, these days the Grade II listed Tabernacle in Notting Hill is a performing arts venue. It has an attractive courtyard café that is open to anyone, whether you’ve come here for a theatrical or musical performance or simply want a break from the hustle and bustle of Portobello Market.
Best European Hidden Gems – Hamburg
The city of Hamburg itself is something of a hidden gem, less well-known than Berlin or Munich. However, it’s an elegant town with much to enjoy, including one of the top ballet companies in the world and many outdoor pursuits such as sailing.Arriving in Blankenese, you’ll find it hard to believe that you’re so close to the city. This beautiful suburb on the banks of the river Elbe is full of picturesque cottages bedecked with flowers. Many of the streets can only be reached on foot, giving a real sense of calm, and there’s a fantastic panoramic view towards the river from the top of Süllberg.
One of the best places to eat in Hamburg is 2 Michelin starred Jacobs Restaurant in five star Hotel Louis C. Jacob. However, if you haven’t secured a reservation or if you’re on more of a budget, then their sister restaurant, Weinwirtschaft Kleines Jacob, is a brilliant find. Their wine list is extensive and their desserts really stand out. I loved their marinated forest berries with foamed quark cheese.
Where better to enjoy a beer in Hamburg than at the Craft Beer Store, with its huge choice of 250 rare and unusual beers. There’s a quiet courtyard where you can sample the beers at the rear. You can find it on the appropriately named Lager Street aka Lagerstrasse!
Best European Hidden Gems – Paris
Paris is close to my heart as I lived there for several years. The Passages are a series of attractive 18th and 19th century covered arcades. Galerie Vivienne is one of my favourites, with a pretty mosaic floor and unique shops such as Jean Paul Gaultier. Head to Le Pas Sage restaurant (it’s a play on words, meaning the Naughty Boy) in Passage du Grand Cerf for tasty bites in a casual atmosphere.
You can’t come to Paris without savouring a patisserie. Amongst the very finest are those from Stohrer, the oldest patisserie in the city. Located on rue Montorgueil. popular with Parisians for its outdoor cafés, it specializes in puits d’amour cakes, beloved of Queen Elizabeth II. In fact she made a surprise visit here in 2004, asking for these in perfect French. Stohrer also invented the famous baba au rhum cakes, so do try those too!
If it feels like you’re visiting someone’s private house at Musée Jacquemart-André, that’s because it was the home of Nélie Jacquemart and Edouard André, two important art collectors. The Second Empire 19th century building is stunning and the 15th and 16th century Italian sculptures are very impressive.
Best European Hidden Gems – Rome
There are some fascinating hidden gems in Rome, Once you’ve seen famous attractions like the Colosseum and the Vatican, make time for some of the lesser known sights. In the courtyard of Palazzo Spada, a clever optical illusion will make you feel like your eyes are deceiving you. Borromini’s Perspective was designed by Francesco Borromini, and features a rising floor, gradually converging columns and a descending ceiling. All of this gives the impression that the gallery is a lot longer than it really is. Even the clipped hedges at the end are an illusion, they’re actually made of stone!
Who would have imagined that there’s a large pyramid in central Rome! The Pyramid of Cestius was most likely built around 12 BC in the reign of Augustus. It differs from the Egyptian pyramids in that its sides are a lot steeper. Originally built as a tomb, it has long since been ransacked but is still a striking sight.
Head to the Villa Medici for one of the best panoramic views of Rome. The Renaissance palace was originally built for Cardinal da Montepulciano in 1540, then acquired by Ferdinando dei Medici before being purchased by Napoleon for the French Academy. The cardinal’s painted apartments and the villa’s beautiful gardens are as impressive as the view.
Best European Hidden Gems – Seville
One of the most charming cities in Andalucia, Seville may be famous but you can easily get off the beaten track. For an unbeatable view of the cathedral, head to the rooftop bar in Hotel Doña María. Terraza Doña María is a great spot for enjoying an Aperol spritz.
Probably the quirkiest hotel in Seville, Las Casas de la Juderia is actually made up of 27 historic townhouses. Located in the former Jewish quarter, it has a series of interconnecting courtyards. The rooftop bar and pool are the place to be on a hot day in Seville, though you’ll need to stay at the hotel to enjoy them.
Seville’s most atmospheric bridge, Puente de Isabel II, may not seem like a hidden gem in itself. Linking the city with the cool neighbourhood of Triana, it was the first solid bridge in Seville when completed in 1852. However, the secret is to get there at sunset, when the locals gather here to admire the sunset. Afterwards, take a stroll into Triana for a casual meal in one of the many eateries beloved of the inhabitants of Seville.These are just a few of the hidden gems awaiting you on the Pearlshare app, but there are lots more guides for you to check out on the Pearlshare app, including Pokemon Sightings and London restaurants with a view, so download it today to get started.
What are your favourite hidden gems in your home-town? I’d love to hear your tips.