Europe is the most visited continent in the world. In fact, did you know that France and Spain are the two countries that receive the greatest amount of tourists in the world each year? But while most people tend to visit Europe’s greatest and biggest cities – such as Barcelona, Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Rome -, there are thousands of tiny villages spread all throughout the continent that are also worth visiting. In this list, we will show you 22 of Europe’s most charming villages, that seem as if they came straight out of a fairy tale.
#22. Cong, Ireland
The storybook town of Cong is located on an island located in the border of the Irish counties of Mayo and Galway. It is found in a region of lakes, streams, and lively green meadows, which obviously explains why it’s so famous among tourists. The town counts with a great number of stone bridges as well as thatched-roof cottages. But this is not all.
Photo: Courtesy of F1Online Digitale Bildagentur GMBH
Cong is also home to the ruins of the former Augustinian abbey that dates from the 13th century, and which constitutes one of the country’s finest examples of medieval ecclesiastical architecture. Apart from this, Cong is famous for its Ashford Castle, a Victorian estate which has been converted into a romantic 5-star hotel.
#21. Giethoorn, Netherlands
Netherland’s capital city of Amsterdam is without a doubt a must-visit, but for those of you who wish to reprieve from city life and enjoy some peace and serenity, then we definitely recommend the rural village of Giethoorn. This town is 100% car-free and it barely has any roads; in fact, the main means of transport is by boat.
Photo: Courtesy of Get Your Guide
So row through the village’s narrow canals and visit the many thatched-roof farmhouses and cottages, all encircled by blooming gardens. But watch your head, since you don’t want to bump into the wooden bridges that connect each grassy plot of land. Even though the town’s summer climate is perfect, winter also has its charm, since you’ll see plenty of ice skaters sliding on the frozen canals.
#20. Colmar, France
Receiving around 85 million tourists per year, France is the most visited country in the world. But as you can imagine, the capital city of Paris is not the only place worth visiting. As a matter of fact, the country is filled with charming little towns with unique architecture. The village of Colmar, located in the Alsace region in north-eastern France, is definitely one of them.
Photo: Courtesy of Werner Dieterich
This Alsatian town offers a blend of French and German influences, mainly reflected in its architecture and culinary traditions. In this sense, this town is famous for its bakeries – which sell one of the country’s best croissants and kugelhopf – and restaurants – which specialize in foie gras and sauerkraut. Moreover, if you walk through the town’s streets, you will find from German Gothic houses as well as French Neo-Baroque buildings.
#19. Banská Štiavnica
The historical town of Banská Štiavnica is located in southern Slovakia, and due to the well-preserved state of its many medieval buildings, it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is quite close to the Hungarian border, thus constituting an easy day-trip from Budapest. But what does this town have to offer?
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If you walk along the cobblestoned alleys, you’ll come across several castles and churches built in Gothic and Neoclassical styles, as well as enormous palaces and beautiful squares. This area is extremely rich due to the minerals found in the surrounding mountains. Several centuries ago the town was famous for its silver and gold mines, which have now been converted into an open-air museum.
#18. Bled, Slovenia
Even though Slovenia is not as popular as most of the nations of Western Europe, it is filled with enchanting little villages that you must learn about. Amongst these, the tiny Alpine town of Bled in northwestern Slovenia is one of the most beautiful of all. This town is located on the shore of Lake Bled, famous for its glacial blue waters as well as by the tiny island that is found on its center.
Photo: Courtesy of Christian Kebber
Lake Bled is surrounded by the striking Karavanke Mountains, thus making it a great spot for trekking. After a two-hour hike around the lake, you can reach the medieval Bled Castle, which is located on a hilltop and thus offers a panoramic view of the whole town. Lastly, don’t forget to try the local specialty of kremšnita, a sugar-topped pastry stuffed with cream and custard.
#17. Kazimierz Dolny, Poland
Kazimierz Dolny, the only Polish town included in this list, is definitely worth a visit. Particularly famous among artists, this well-preserved village is located less than a kilometer from the shores of the Vistula River in central Poland. It is a great spot for nature lovers since it features gorges as well as tunnels created from intertwined tree roots.
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But the untouched nature surrounding isn’t the only thing that makes this town special. The village itself is charming, mainly due to its stone-paved market square and its buildings and monuments which date from the Renaissance era. You’ll also find several art galleries of Polish art. What else can you ask for?
#16. Óbidos, Portugal
Just like its neighboring Spain, Portugal is famous for the medieval architecture of its many cities and villages. In this list, we’ll tell you a bit about the historical and picturesque town of Óbidos. This hamlet is located on a hilltop near Portugal’s western coast and is barely higher than 3,000. It is said that this town was gifted to Queen Isabel from her husband King Dinis somewhere around the 13th century. What a nice birthday gift, right?
Photo: Courtesy of Lisboa
Óbidos is famous for its ancient fortifications, its whitewashed villas filled with bougainvillea flowers, and its narrow cobblestoned alleys. Don’t forget to pay a visit to one of the town’s many bars which serve the local specialty of ginjinha, a liquor made from sour cherries. Last of all, don’t miss the Castle of Óbidos, a well-preserved medieval castle of Roman-style architecture.
#15. Tellaro, Italy
Italy’s western coast is filled with charming villages which combine stunning views with amazing and ancient architecture. The small fishing village of Tellaro, located in the northern coastal region of Liguria and on the shores of the Gulf of La Spezia, is one of such towns. It’s best to visit it in spring or in summer because during the winter months the days can get quite rainy and windy.
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Unlike the neighboring towns of Vernazza and Portofino, Tellaro receives very few tourists, especially due to its remote location. In order to get there, you need to travel several kilometers of cliff-top roads that take dozens of curves. But once you reach the village, you’ll come across a series of colorful and ancient buildings that lie on the edge of a rocky cliff.
#14. Folegandros, Greece
Santorini is not only Greece’s most visited island, but one of the most famous islands in the world. However, little do people know that just a few kilometers away, there’s a tiny island that is equally beautiful and home to a very similar architecture, but which receives way fewer tourists than Santorini. So if you ever travel to Greece, don’t miss the tiny island of Folegandros.
Photo: Courtesy of Discover Greece
Just like the rest of the islands located in the Cyclades, Folegandros is full of streets packed with slate, whitewashed buildings, decorated with colorful flowers and patches of blue painting. You’ll also find several traditional Greek Orthodox churches with their characteristic blue dome. If you’re into swimming, then trek all the way to Katergo, which is a sheltered beach that not many people know of.
#13. Telč, Czech Republic
Most people in the world are familiar with the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague, usually considered to be one of the most enchanting cities in the world. But how many people are familiar with the country’s smaller villages? Telč is a small town in the southern region of Moravia, and it’s so charming that it has nothing to envy Prague.
Photo: Courtesy of David Ball
The town’s main square, which can be spotted in the picture above, is filled with medieval houses and public buildings which boast both Baroque and Renaissance-style facades and high bright gables. Many of these houses have been turned into small shops and cafés, making it an ideal spot for tourists. Finally, the town is home to an enormous Renaissance-era château and to several ponds.
#12. Albarracín, Spain
With nearly 80 million tourists per year, Spain is the second most visited country in the world, only after France. One of the many things that attract so many tourists is the country’s many tiny ancient villages, and Albarracín is clearly one of them. This pretty little town is located in the autonomous community of Aragon, amid the mountain ranges of the Sistema Ibérico. It is one of the country’s most well preserved medieval towns, surrounded by fortified walls and barren hills.
Photo: Courtesy of Peter Adams
Albarracin’s steep and narrow alleys are packed with ancient stone towers, medieval castles, and beautiful chapels. Located on the town’s most elevated point, a beautiful cathedral built in the traditional Mudéjar style overlooks the entire city. The Mudéjar style is widely known for its ornamental details and it is greatly influenced by Islamic art.
#11. Reine, Norway
Although it’s not usually included in tourists’ itinerary, Norway actually has some of the world’s most amazing sights, especially due to its famous Fjords. For those of you that aren’t afraid of cold temperatures, we strongly recommend visiting the tiny fishing village of Reine, located North of the Arctic Circle in the Lofoten archipelago.
Photo: Courtesy of Patrick Pleul
This village is located in an area of stunning Nordic wilderness since it is home to pristine lakes and surrounded by fjords. Many old red wooden houses, which used to be fishermen’s cabins, were recently converted into comfortable cottages for tourists. So if you want to enjoy the view of the lakes or of the Norweigan Sea, then we recommend staying at one of these colorful cottages, just like the one shown in the picture above.
#10. Hallstatt, Austria
It is widely known that Austria has some of Europe’s most stunning views, especially due to the fact that it is home to the famous Eastern Alps. But amid the Austrian Alps, there are tons of secret storybook villages that are a must-visit. One of the prettiest ones is Hallstatt, located in the central region of the country. Not only is it surrounded by mountains, but it also lies on the banks of the majestic Hallstätter See.
Photo: Courtesy of West End 61
The Hallstätter See is a famous lake with pristine waters. During winter, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful view of the snow-topped Dachstein mountains that surround the lake, while during the summer months, you may go for a scuba-diving tour and spot the many species of fish that live underwater. Moreover, the town is home to a beautiful square filled with ivy-covered buildings.
#9. Bibury, England
Most people that travel to England only visit its capital city of London, but the truth is that this country is filled with enthralling towns with medieval architecture. The mountainous region of Cotswold is filled with these type of villages, and one of the most famous ones is Bibury. Traveling to Bibury is pretty much like traveling back to the 16th or 17th century.
Photo: Courtesy of Franz-Marc Frei
The town of Bibury is filled with ancient stone cottages with very steep pitched roofs, which are surrounded by bright green meadows. To add to its charm, the town is crossed by the beautiful Coln River. However, the most scenic area of Bibury goes by the name Arlington Row, shown in the picture above: it is a small lane of sepia-hued cottages that date from the 17th century.
#8. Pučiśća, Croatia
Croatia is becoming more famous as the years go by, especially due to the striking beauty of its sunny Dalmatian coast. But even though most people only go to the fortified city of Dubrovnik and the ancient island village of Hvar, Croatia is full of small villages that are equally worth visiting. Pučiśća is definitely one of them.
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Pučiśća is located on the small island of Brač. Not only is it surrounded by the beautiful turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, but it is also packed with white-stone villas with terracotta roofs and narrow cobble-stoned alleys. Last but not least, the town features an ancient stone-paved square surrounded by medieval buildings.
#7. Marsaxlokk, Malta
Malta is one of the least visited countries in Europe, but it actually has beautiful beaches as well as a rich cultural heritage. Somewhere along the southeastern coast of the country is the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, whose harbor is packed with old-fashioned fishing boats called luzzus. These colorful boats, just like the ones depicted in the picture below, reel in most of the tuna, swordfish, and lampuki served in the local restaurants.
Photo: Courtesy of Din I-Art Helwa
If you walk along the village’s coast, you’ll soon come across St. Peter’s Pool, a hidden cove ringed with limestone ledges. If you go there, don’t forget your swimming suit, as it is one of the best places to dive into the pristine waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, don’t forget to pay a visit to Tas-Silġ, a rounded hilltop overlooking the Marsaxlokk Bay.
#6. Rättvik, Sweden
The small village of Rättvik is one of the two Scandinavian sites included in this list. It is located in the middle of a huge forest, and right next to Lake Siljan, in the Swedish region of Dalarna. The town features tons of small and humble wooden houses, which are mostly painted in Falu Rödfärg, the deep red color originated in the copper mine of the nearby city of Falun.
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images
This remote rural town also harbors dozens of shops which sell handmade crafts such as the traditional decorative Dala horses. During holidays and festivals, the streets are crammed with locals boasting their folk dresses. If you want some peace, this is definitely the place to go, since the population is less than 5,000. Get ready for our top 5!
#5. Bosa, Italy
The Mediterranean island of Sardinia is one of the most amazing places in Italy. For instance, did you know that it has over 7,000 prehistoric archaeological sites, all dating from before 1,000 B.C.? Apart from this, Sardinia has 1,850 kilometers of coast, featuring some of the best beaches of the Mediterranean Sea. Bosa is one of the many Sardinian towns that are worth a visit.
Photo: Courtesy of Sardinian Beaches
While many beach resorts in Sardinia are overcrowded with tourists, the medieval village of Bosa still remains somewhat of a hidden gem. Located on the banks of the Temo River, Bosa has a beautiful riverfront brimmed with palm trees and palazzi painted in pastel shades. The center is filled with ancient houses, and it is crowned by a hilltop fortress that dates from the 12th century.
#4. Gruyères, Switzerland
I’m pretty sure that most of you are familiar with the fact that Gruyères is a type of cheese often sold at the supermarket, but how many of you knew that this cheese was named after a Swiss village? Well, to your information, Gruyères is one of the most picturesque towns in Central Europe. This medieval hamlet is located in the upper valley of the Saane River on the western area of Switzerland.
Photo: Courtesy of Prisma Bildagentur AG
This town is filled with wide stone-paved streets, and it is most famous for the 13th-century Gruyères Castle. This historical landmark is famous for its fortifications, and it offers a tremendous view of the surrounding Alpine foothills. However, this is not Gruyères only castle: the Saint-Germain Castle built by the surrealist painter H.R. Giger, is also worth a visit. Slide next to see the following Swiss village on this list!
#3. Guarda, Switzerland
The remote village of Guarda is located in the middle of the Alps, in the Lower Engadine region of eastern Switzerland. Apart from the towering mountains and the vibrantly green meadows that surround it, this town is famous because of its unusual architecture. Its houses are ornamented with traditional paintings, etched windows, and ancient inscriptions which are named sgraffiti.
Photo: Courtesy of Touropia
In 1975, Guarda has been awarded the Wakker Prize for the preservation of its architectural heritage. But here’s one last interesting fact: his town is so remote that it even has its own language. So while you roam the narrow and steep streets, listen to locals speaking Romansh, a dialect that only exists in this region.
#2. Cochem, Germany
The charming village of Cochem lies on the banks of the Moselle River, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. It is famous for its half-timbered houses and small cottages which surround the central square, not to mention its picturesque cobblestoned lanes. Surrounding the village is the Moselle Valley, where terraced vineyards cling to extremely steep slopes.
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This town is also home to the Cochem Imperial Castle, located in a hilltop and depicted in the picture above. The castle can be reached by a chairlift, and it obviously offers a panoramic view of the entire town. There are also plenty of ancient churches and chapels, such as Saint Roch’s Plague Chapel and Saint Remaclus’s Parish Church. Can you guess which village is first on our list?
#1. Dinant, Belgium
The Belgian town of Dinant deserved to be first on our list. It is located on a narrow stretch of land between steep cliffs and the Meuse River, in the middle of the Wallonia region. It is famous for being the birthplace of Leffe, one of the best and most famous of all the Belgian beers, which was named after Notre-Dame de Leffe, the local abbey where monks began brewing in the 13th century.
Photo: Courtesy of Expedia
The town features a beautiful riverwalk crowded with picturesque and colorful houses. But the town is most famous for its cliff-top citadel, which offers a panoramic view of the entire city, overlooking the famous Gothic-style cathedral and its bell tower. It’s definitely a must-visit!