The best hikes in Europe, according to a wilderness-loving writer

Sep 16, 2019    /    get off the beaten track, wild adventures

If you know me, you know that for the last seven years, I’ve been on the road full-time, mostly in Europe. You also know that the top two things on my bucket list at any location are food and hikes

Which is why today I thought I’d gather up the best hikes in Europe based on my travels so far – all in one place for your vacation-planning pleasure.

The hikes run anywhere from half an hour (Rasnov Fortress in Romania) to several months (the EuroVelo 6 cycle and walking trail across France) and span all difficulty levels. 

I’ll be back to update this page with more great hikes as I find them, so feel free to bookmark! You can use the country links below to navigate by place. Or just browse for something that strikes your fancy. (I plan whole trips around taking a single hike or visiting a single restaurant, so I assume some of you do too.)

Without further ado, then – the best hikes in Europe, according to a very outdoorsy writer who spends most of her time on this side of the pond.


Belgium  /  Croatia  /  Czechia  /  Estonia  /  France  /  Italy  /  Malta  /  Montenegro  /  Slovenia  /  Switzerland 

Belgium

Bourgoyen (Ghent)

Hiking time: 1.5 hours

Location:
 Surprise! This is hidden behind some buildings in the city of Ghent.

Difficulty: Easy

This hidden gem of a park is swampy and mystical and completely unexpected. You literally walk down a busy city street, step behind some buildings, and enter this wild, spider-webby labyrinth.


Croatia

Omiš to Starigrad Fortress

Hiking time: 1 hour

Location: Omis, Croatia (Dalmatian Coast, just south of Split)

Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

This relatively short uphill hike leads to a hilltop fortress with stunning coastal views. Expect to meet other travelers on the trail (it’s pretty popular) and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the top. 

Solta’s coastal path

Hiking time: Varies (I spent a couple hours wandering the paths in both directions along the coast)

Location:
The island of Solta, just off the coast from Split, Croatia.

Difficulty: Easy

Take the ferry from Split to the tiny, unassuming, un-touristed island of Solta and walk either direction along the coast for something really unusual and beautiful. I loved the rocky little inlets with their beached boats, the unexpected cliffs that loomed around one turn, the lights of the mainland in the distance, and the quiet all around.


Czechia

Dolský Mlýn: Czechia’s abandoned wilderness mill

Hiking time: 3+ hours

Location:
Bohemian Switzerland, Czechia

Difficulty: Moderate/difficult

Tucked away among the towering rock formations and sandy pathways of Bohemian Switzerland—the national park on the northern border of Czechia—you’ll find a series of hiking trails leading down to a river and, along that river, an abandoned mill. The mill dates back to at least 1515 and was abandoned in 1945. And the spot is a popular one, so expect to share it with other tourists if you’re hiking in high season.

Pravčická brána, Bohemian Switzerland

Hiking time: 2.5+ hours
Location:
Bohemian Switzerland, Czechia
Difficulty: Moderate

A steady climb through deep woods will bring you to the top of the bridge and the strange, beautiful, rocky landscape around it. 


Estonia

Pääsküla Bog Study Trail

Hiking time: 1 hour

Location:
15 minutes south of Tallinn via train and a 30-minute pre-hike walk through a pretty suburb

Difficulty: Easy

This small, lushly green square of bog and forest alternately follows raised wooden paths and springy forest floor. It’s an easy hike and a quick way to get out of the city bustle and into quiet nature.

Viru Bog

Hiking time: 2 hours

Location:
1 hour east of Tallinn by bus

Difficulty: Easy

This easy trail through a strange and beautiful bog landscape follows a series of wooden walkways with viewing platforms scattered along the way, each with at least one plaque explaining more about the mysterious landscape of bogs. 


France

Clisson, France

Hiking time: Varies (I meandered along the paths for a few hours)

Location:
Clisson, France

Difficulty: Easy

The rambling trails along the river and through an expansive riverside park in Clisson, France, are a peaceful rambler’s dream. Quiet, lushly green in summer, and dotted with interesting features (like an abandoned mill with its old brick tower stretching into the sky), it was my favorite hike I did in that part of France. 

Eurovelo 6 path from the Swiss border to the Atlantic coast

Hike time: One day to two months, depending on how much of the trail you plan to cover

Location:
 Across France

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

I didn’t walk these paths, but I did cycle the entire distance from Basel, Switzerland, to the Atlantic Coast along the Eurovelo 6 (about 1,500 kilometers or 932 miles). The landscapes are varied, but all of them are worthwhile, and the path is mostly walker-friendly as well as cyclist-friendly. A walking trip along this same route would be a stunning one and you could easily do a small section as a day hike or choose a longer section for a distance hike.

Wintzenheim to Eguisheim (Alsace)

Hiking time: 1 hour

Location: Alsace, France

Difficulty: Easy

This is less of a hike and more of a lovely stroll. Follow the cycling signs toward Eguisheim and then head into the vineyards to walk surrounded by vines. Bring a map; signage is limited.


Italy

Assisi to a former nunnery down the hill

Hiking time: 2 hours or less

Location: Assisi

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Down the hill from the majestic cathedral, a path leads through the forest, the olive groves, the old metal doorways…past waterfalls and old villas in the distance…and to a former nunnery that now sells local products. Turn to look over your shoulder for a view of Assisi rising in the distance, often draped in fog in the winter.

Lago di Fusine

Hiking time: .5 hours or more

Location: Northern Italy, near the Slovenian border

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

The walk around this stunning mountain lake only takes about half an hour, but you can extend the hike on plenty of nearby trails. We cycled from Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, and hiked around the lake, but you could walk the whole distance if you wanted. It’s stunning at every turn, particularly once you reach the lake.

Taormina center to the castle on the hill

Hiking time: 1+ hour

Location: Taormina, Sicily, Italy

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Make your way up a series of staircases, sometimes half crumbling, to the half-ruined castle that overlooks Taormina from the top of the hill. The hike is uphill, but not particularly difficult, and the views are well worth the climb.


Malta

Gozo coastal path

Hiking time: 10 hours

Location: Gozo, Malta

Difficulty: Easy/moderate


A series of pathways wind around the entire island of Gozo, weaving you past goatherd shelters, towering cliffs, small seaside towns, bright yellow stone, and vast salt flats. If I ever make it back to Malta, completing the circuit will be my first order of business. The full route is 50 kilometers and you can easily do it in segments, returning by bus to wherever you’re staying at the end of the day.


Montenegro

Kotor’s Fortress (the free way)

Hiking time: A couple hours (apologies – I didn’t track our time)

Location: Kotor, Montenegro

Difficulty: Moderate

Follow a series of switchbacks partway up a mountain and then split off into an abandoned village and tourist-loved fortress overlooking Kotor. Most travelers take the official route to the fortress, which is also very pretty. But if you prefer a slightly less crowded (and free) version of the hike, this is it. 

The Ladder of Kotor, Montenegro

Hiking time: 3 – 4 hours

Location: Kotor, Montenegro

Difficulty: Moderate/difficult

This lengthy series of switchbacks leads up the mountain above Kotor and to the edge of the national park. Expect sweeping views of the Bay of Kotor at every turn and then plunge into the forest for the last kilometer for a shady hike that emerges on a mountaintop road near a high-mountain zip line. 

Kotor (Muo) to Vrmac Fort (an abandoned hilltop WWI fort)

Hiking time: 3 – 4 hours

Location: Kotor (Muo), Montenegro

Difficulty: Moderate

If abandoned places are your jam (they’re mine), this hike’s for you. Starting from Muo, just outside Kotor, you’ll follow a series of tight switchbacks that wind up a mountain to an abandoned military village and WWI fort, draped in vines and overgrown with trees and shrubs. 


Romania

Cetățuia de pe Strajă, Brasov

Hiking time: 45 minutes

Location: In the heart of Brasov, Romania

Difficulty: Easy

A short, easy hike through a small forested area leads up above Brasov to a pretty fort and some sweeping city views.

Rasnov, Romania

Hiking time: Less than 1 hour

Location: Rasnov, Romania

Difficulty: Easy

From Rasnov center, follow a road into the cool forest and then up to the fortress above the city. The hike is uphill, but not difficult, and mostly on paved walkways until you reach the fortress. 


Scotland

Water of Leith Walkway (Edinburgh)

Hiking time: 7+ hours

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Difficulty: Easy

The walkway feels like it’s part of the wilderness, when it’s actually right in the middle of Edinburgh. Climb staircases overtaken by bright-green weeds. Wander past statues that seem to be in the middle of the forest (but are really only a few blocks from the city world). And wind along the river, through the forest, and occasionally across a neighborhood street.


Slovenia

Lake Bled

Hiking time: 1.5 – 2 hours

Location: Bled, Slovenia

Difficulty: Easy

If it’s summer, there will be plenty of other tourists around, but don’t let that stop you. The views are different and beautiful from every angle and the whole walk only takes about an hour or an hour and a half if I’m recalling correctly. And do make sure to walk up to the castle as well (which takes an additional 15 minutes or so), for views of the lake from above.

Tolmin Gorge

Hiking time: 1 – 2 hours

Location: Tolmin, Slovenia (near Kobarid)

Difficulty: Easy

Winding through a stunning, rocky gorge, this easy stroll meanders away from the city of Tolmin, deeper and deeper into the forest, before climbing upward and circling back toward town. 


Switzerland

Bernese Oberland

Grindelwald to First

Hiking time: 4 hours

Location: Grindelwald, Switzerland

Difficulty: Moderate

Meander through wildflower fields and shady forests up to the famous peak of First. If you’re feeling a bit wild, you can zipline partway back down.

Jungfraujoch to Mönchsjoch Hut

Hiking time: 1 hour

Location: Jungfraujoch

Difficulty: Difficult

This hike is only slightly uphill, but the high altitude ups the ante in difficulty. Go prepared for snow conditions (yes, even in summer) and only attempt this hike if you’re in good hiking shape. Depending on the day, you may encounter spooky fog or sweeping Alpine views.

Kandersteg – Ober Bärgli mountain hut – Oeschinensee

Hiking time: 3.5 hours

Location: Kandersteg, Switzerland

Difficulty: Moderate

Walk above and around one of Switzerland’s prettiest mountain lakes, passing waterfalls, steep drop-offs, and plenty of sheep along the way. 

Kleine Scheidegg – Männlichen

Hiking time: 1 hour

Location: The Bernese Oberland

Difficulty: Easy

This trail is a relatively easy one on a somewhat uphill slope, but keep in mind that it’s at a high altitude, so if you aren’t used to hiking this high up, expect to stop a few times to catch your breath. The payoff? Stunning high alpine views at both ends of the short trail and a beautiful, winding path in between.

Ruine Weissenau

Hiking time: 1 hour

Location: Interlaken, Switzerland

Difficulty: Easy

The stroll from Interlaken to this lakeside preserve and its abandoned castle is an easy, pretty one along a river and through the woods.

Lauterbrunnen to Wilderswil

Hiking time: 2 – 3 hours

Location: Lauterbrunnen/Interlaken, Switzerland

Difficulty: Easy

Follow the famed Lauterbrunnen Valley as it winds away from Lauterbrunnen and opens up in Wilderswil (just a short way from Interlaken). Expect sheer cliffs on both sides and an easy path that winds through shady forest and along a rushing river.

Lauterbrunnen – Stechelberg – Gimmelwald – Mürren

Hiking time: 4 – 6 hours

Location: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Take an easy walk through the valley that inspired Tolkein’s Rivendell, surrounded by its 72 waterfalls, cross a wooden bridge, and then climb up into the Alps, ending your day with cliffside views of the region’s highest peaks.

Murren to Schilthorn (the scenic way)

Hiking time: 5+ hours

Location: Murren, Switzerland

Difficulty: Difficult

Expect sweeping vistas of snow-capped peaks (pretty much year-round), cool dark forests, sunny mountaintops, perilous ridges, and seemingly abandoned, moon-like above-the-treeline landscapes culminating in 360-degree views.

Trümmelbach – Wengernalp – Kleine Scheidegg – Männlichen

Hiking time: 5 hours

Location: The Lauterbrunnen Valley

Difficulty: Difficult

Wind your way through watery gorges, up steep mountain trails, and past views like the one above until you reach two high Alpine towns with views of the region’s three most famous peaks. The first stage of this is a tough mountain trail, so wear good hiking shoes, bring plenty of water, and only take this on if you’re an experienced hiker.

Wilderswil to Schynige Platte

Hiking time: 3 – 4 hours, one way

Location: Wilderswil/Interlaken, Switzerland

Difficulty: Moderate/difficult

This shady forest hike goes up, up, up for three to four hours, passing through rocky high alpine landscapes and ending at a restaurant with panoramic mountain views. 

French cantons

Gorges de L’Areuse

Hiking time: 3 – 4 hours

Location: Noiraigue (near Neuchatel)

Difficulty: Easy

A good choice for a hot day, this hike follows a cold river through a shady gorge. Expect towering rock-faces, mossy boulders, and cool bridges.

Sentier des Toblerones

Hiking time: 3+ hours

Location: Near Nyon, Switzerland

Difficulty: Easy

This trail follows an overgrown anti-tank line, combining two of my favorite things: nature and abandoned human constructions. Expect Toblerone-shaped anti-tank fortifications, pillboxes, and quiet forest paths.


What are the best hikes you’ve done in Europe? Anything to add to my list?

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