When you are planning your trip around Europe, it’s easy to get obsessed with the big cities. After all, they are the destinations that get all of the press and attention.
Of course, you’ll want to visit the museums and theatres of London, take a photo with the Eiffel Tower in Paris and throw a coin into the Trevi fountain in Rome. However, it’s also worth taking the time to get out of the big cities and visit some of Europe’s smaller communities.
Visiting small towns in Europe gives you a different insight into the local culture of the country. Lesser known and not as tourist-focused, these towns will give you a more authentic idea of what it’s actually like to live there. Also, they are quieter, less crowded and more laid back – which makes for a more relaxing getaway.
Here are some of the loveliest and most charming small towns in Europe – make sure you add them to your itinerary!
Make sure that you have an extra memory card for your camera before you head to Aveiro, Portugal – it’s easy to take hundreds of photos in one day of the candy-hued houses, Art Nouveau storefronts, lush gardens and quiet canals. Life moves at a slower pace here and it’s all about yummy food, soulful traditional music and good conversation.
This charming seaside town looks out over the Atlantic and is only minutes away from sweeping golden beaches – you’ll want to sit and gaze at the sea while sipping local wine and nibbling on Portuguese pastries. Take a stroll along the Jardim do Rossio, an elegantly landscaped garden along the waterfront.
This bewilderingly pretty little spot near Salzburg is known as one of the most beautiful lakeside towns in the world. The old town is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and it dates back to the 12th century.
The fairytale architecture looks even more picturesque with the shimmering lake and the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. Hallstatt is an easy hour’s drive from Salzburg or a three hour drive from Vienna, so it makes for a perfect day trip when you want to escape the city and enjoy some lakeside peace and quiet. Better yet, visit in the winter when the historic old town looks even more magical under a dusting of snow.
There have been a lot of fights over the small town of Albarracin throughout history and it’s easy to see why. This tiny community, perched on the edge of a stony valley overlooking a river, is a truly stunning spot. Plus, it’s only a two hour journey from Valencia which makes it a perfect day trip or weekend getaway.
The main landmarks of the town are the elegant 16th century cathedral and the Moorish fort perched on the ridge. The old town is a characterful collection of crumbling terracotta houses, each with a killer view of the valley.
Although the town only has a population of 1000 people, the locals really know how to party. The best time to visit is September when the Fiesta takes place – the sky comes alive with fireworks and everyone is in costume during the week-long festivities.
This unbelievably picturesque town consists of a collection of whitewashed houses perched on a cliff overlooking the sea on the island of Folegandros. It’s difficult to reach – you’ll need to fly into one of the nearby islands (such as Santorini), catch a ferry to Folegandros and then hop on the bus that will take you up the zigzagging road into the town.
Wandering through the pretty streets almost feels like walking through a dream – squares filled with flowers, welcoming little taverns, houses with unique and artistic doors, patios where you can sit and sip a beer in the sunshine. Plan to enjoy a meal here – even though the town has a population of less than 1000, it’s home to several superb restaurants.
Castle Combe, UK
Castle Combe has been named the “Prettiest Village in England” due to its quaint medieval riverside cottages, stone bridges, cobbled lanes and babbling brook. It looks like something straight out of the pages of a fairytale book.
It’s a popular attraction for history buffs, just five miles northwest of the town of Chippenham in the county of Wiltshire. It is thought that this area was originally settled by the Celts in ancient times and its name comes from a wooded hill where a castle once stood.
These days, little remains of the castle itself but it is still possible to see a footprint of where it would have been. Castle Combe really flourished in the 14th century, when it became renowned throughout England for its excellent wool and beautifully woven clothing.
This tiny town in the Cappadocia region of Turkey is surrounded by a surreal and otherworldly landscape, marked by beautiful natural rock formations known as “fairy chimneys.”
This unique village is an example of People living within homes hollowed out of the rocks, in complete harmony with nature. The exact time when this village was settled is unclear, but it is thought to date back to the Hittite era between 1800 and 1200 BC.
Since the village was built in a central location between empires in conflict, the Persians and the Greeks, the locals tunneled into the rock for safety. The prominent religion was Christianity and many stunning rock churches have been carved into the hills.
The best way to see this remarkable village is to float over it in a bright-colored hot air balloon – especially if you can plan your flight for just before sunrise.
Which small town in Europe do you love?
These are just a few of the most irresistible picturesque small towns to explore during your travels in Europe. Do you have any other favourite small towns in Europe? Tell us about it in the comments!