If you’re looking to swap the big city bustle and tourist scams for a more authentic experience during your next trip to Europe, look no further than this list.
There are endless places to visit and see in any major European city, but to a certain extent, these scrambling metropolises are much the same. For a more genuine experience, visit the tiny towns that dot its countrysides. The most precious European towns may vary in their histories, sizes and cultures, but they do all share one characteristic: charm.
In these often overlooked pockets of Europe, you’ll find winding canals, peaceful pastures and cobblestone roads with rows of quaint little inns and cafés. Visiting these tiny treasures is the best way to soak in the traditions and cultures of a region, as well as cultivate newfound appreciation for a place you had likely never heard of.
Prepare for the eye-opening trip to Europe you never knew you needed, and head to one of the beautiful towns below.
1. Alberobello, Italy
There is something special about this quaint little town, made a UNESCO world heritage site for its trulli, or buildings with conical roofs made without mortar. Because it is less accessible from the tourist-heavy west coast, Alberobello is not overrun by tourists, and visitors are free to enjoy the quiet charm of this fairytale-like town.
2. Gruyères, Switzerland
Nestled in the foothills of the Swiss Alps, this town (which, yes, gives its name to the well-known Gruyère cheese) is both cozy and scenic. You’ll find yourself in awe of the centuries-old castle, one of the most prestigious in Switzerland, that towers majestically above this medieval town.
3. Eguisheim, France
Eguisheim is a village in northern France surrounded by vineyards and nestling in rows of green hills. This medieval town, voted France’s favorite village in 2013, is best appreciated in one of its charming outdoor cafes with a glass of this region’s world-renowned Alsace wine.
4. Giethoorn, Netherlands
Also known as the “Venice of the Netherlands,” Giethoorn sits about 75 miles from Amsterdam and will steal your heart with ease. To add to its old-world charm, there are about 180 bridges that cross over adorable canals and no cars allowed on its streets.
5. Reine, Norway
Reine is a tiny fishing village located on the northern island of Moskenesøya. Deemed by a local magazine as the most beautiful town in Norway for a reason, this northern European gem will coax you to retreat to its quaint waterfronts and stay in fishermen’s cabins on the fjord.
6. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Between its Gothic architecture, fascinating history and majestic castle, there’s nothing not to love about this historic Czech town. Visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site in the off-season, and you’ll see why it has become the country’s second busiest tourist destination.
7. Bibury, England
You’ll be glad you brought your camera to the picturesque village of Bibury in Gloucestershire county, England. Among Bibury’s most notable features are its delightful tea houses and ornate, 700 year old cottages of Arlington Row.