Today, we’re taking you on a journey through the most beautiful towns in Europe. These aren’t just your typical tourist destinations – we’re talking about the hidden gems, the towns that exude an undeniable charm and hold a world of history in their narrow streets and quaint squares.
It’s one thing to visit Europe and spend time in Paris, Berlin, or Amsterdam. It’s a whole difference experience to visit these off-the-beaten-path destinations and enjoy their cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and whitewashed buildings.
What We Cover
Most Beautiful Towns in Europe to Visit
When most people visit Italy, they head to a big city like Florence, Venice, or Rome. But Positano, a tiny Amalfi Coast village, is worth a detour. People from the northern coast have considered it a vacation destination for thousands of years—the ancient Romans had holiday villas in Positano, where they could enjoy the cool sea breeze, mild climate, and lush landscape.
In the 20th century, it became a luxury destination for the rich and famous. American author John Steinbeck once wrote that the city “is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”
Today, Positano remains a beloved but underappreciated gem with a pleasant climate throughout the year and at least three cliffside beaches. History lovers will also enjoy exploring this tiny village, which features historic churches, unique artwork, and ancient ruins open to tourists.
These include one-of-a-kind Roman crypts and the remainder of a first-century villa famous for its preserved bright colors. If you dream of escaping to a seaside oasis, Positano could be the perfect destination.
See Related: Italy Itinerary: How to Plan 7-10 Days in Italy
When you arrive in Interlaken in Switzerland, you might feel like you’ve stepped into a fairy tale. The charming village lies amid the Alps, between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
Surrounded by peaceful waterways and overlooking some of the most breathtaking scenery of the mountains, Interlaken became popular in the 19th century as a destination for landscape painters. Eventually, it became a spa resort for wealthy European visitors who needed the fresh mountain air.
Today, the town is a major destination for sports enthusiasts. Skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing are popular throughout the year, and watersports are on the nearby lakes or river Aare. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a paragliding lesson over the mountains, seeing the Alps from a viewpoint that most people never had the opportunity to.
For those who don’t love the outdoors, Interlaken also offers tours of the town square historic monastery, cable car rides to the top of the mountain, and cultural festivals throughout the year. The Greenfield Festival is a large music festival held every year on the outskirts of town.
Sometimes called the “Capital of Burgundy Wines,” Beaune is the epicenter of a whole network of winemaking towns.
Wine lovers won’t want to miss this famous and fascinating spot with centuries of history behind it. There are more than a few tasting opportunities to find, which is an even bigger draw than the area’s history.
With a population of just over 20,000, this town in northeast France isn’t exactly tiny. But with hundreds of years of fascinating culture, art, and history, Beaune will make you feel like you’re in another world.
In addition to the fantastic wine culture, the town has some exceptional dining and shopping opportunities. Every Saturday features an open-air food market, where tourists and locals browse stalls of the finest locally-made goods.
See Related: Best Wine Tours in Burgundy
The town of Volendam in the Netherlands looks like it may have come out of a storybook. This famous place, which has made a name for itself in classical art, is all too real.
Volendam is a picturesque town of about 22,000 people, standing on the shore of the North Sea in the Netherlands. Here, you’ll see everything that makes the Netherlands so beautiful: flowers, ancient architecture, windmills, and lots of wooden shoes.
Volendam’s physical and cultural beauty made it a popular subject in classic art throughout the 19th century. There are countless spots to explore, from the colorful houses to the historic fishing village.
Today, tourists are still drawn to the beauty and cultural expression of the region, especially the distinctive traditional costumes. You might not see them walking down the narrow streets much anymore, but they’re on full display yearly during the Volendam Festival.
If you know anything about the Alps, you’ve probably heard of the town of Zermatt. It’s the site of one of the most famous mountain resorts in Switzerland, drawing countless tourists every year for skiing, mountaineering, or simply relaxing with a fantastic view.
Resting in the Matter Valley, Zermatt is at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet, offering scenery that you can’t find anywhere else in the world, including the famous Matterhorn.
Even if you aren’t into winter sports, Zermatt is worth a visit. With a thriving tourism industry, the town offers countless things to do. Standard cars aren’t permitted, so cable or electric cars provide rides through the city.
There are plenty of world-class dining and shopping spots around Zermatt, making it a great place to explore at any time of the day. Of course, breaking out your skis is worth it. After all, this is some of the most famous terrain in the world!
See Related: Best Hidden Gems in Switzerland
The Austrian town of Hallstatt might have affected your life already, even if you’ve never been there. That is, it might have been flavoring your food. The town’s salt mine dates back to prehistoric times and produces 12 million tons of salt yearly.
It is also one of the oldest working salt mines in the world. That’s not the only thing that attracts visitors throughout the year – the breathtaking scenery and unique history make it worthy of a vacation.
Visiting Hallstatt is worth it just for the views, rumored to have inspired the kingdom of Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen. Just be forewarned: you might have a hard time getting access to the fairy tale town.
Since 2020, the village has been cracking down on overtourism, bringing up to 10,000 tourists daily for years. These days, numbers are kept much lower, and only a certain number of buses are allowed into the old town square daily. Take the opportunity when it arises!
See Related: Day Trips from Salzburg, Austria
The Dutch city of Giethoorn prefers to do things a little differently. Instead of roads here, you’ll find walking paths and fascinating small waterways that run through town. You won’t find cars here unless it’s a special occasion. All transport happens on boats via the canals, on foot, or on bicycle.
So it should come as no surprise that Giethoorn feels like a unique place. Its small canals that wind through the village have earned it the nickname “the Venice of the Netherlands.” The town itself can only be reached by boat and is home to a whopping 176 bridges, many of which are historic.
Many homes and shops here are centuries old and still feature the classic Dutch thatched roofs. The tiny town is also known for its lush flowers, such as hydrangeas, making it one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the Netherlands.
One thing to know: the scenery is the main attraction worth visiting here. The small town of under 3,000 people doesn’t even have a coffee shop!
See Related: Things to Do in Groningen, Netherlands
Many of the world’s most beautiful places are small towns in Europe to visit—hidden gems among the continent’s countless historical and cultural riches. Then there are towns like Bruges, Belgium, popular tourist destinations that live up to the hype.
This town—one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country—is a hub of stunning architecture, fascinating history, unique culture, and fantastic nightlife. Bruges has been around since the Middle Ages and is one of Europe’s best-preserved towns.
Walking down the street is a walk through centuries of history, with cobblestone cobbled streets, historic bridges, and medieval buildings on every side. The town is canal-based, so you’ll almost always walk along the water.
It’s also one of the most incredible places to take in rich Flemish art and culture, which many tourists might have yet to experience. You’ll want to take a few days out of your schedule to see all that Bruges has to offer.
See Related: Day Trips from Brussels, Belgium
The town is situated in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. The whole valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With a population of roughly 1,800, Bacharach is undeniably a hidden gem. It stands on the section of the Rhine River known as the Romantic Rhine, thanks to an abundance of medieval castles, charming small towns around, local vineyards, and other beautiful scenery.
Filled with crooked houses dating back to the 1500s, Bacharach is a charming place to stroll. The town is overlooked by Stahleck Castle, which dates from the 12th century and now serves as a hostel for visitors. Some of the historic buildings are even ancient ruins built in the Gothic style and are open for tourists to explore.
It will surprise no one that our list includes Capri, one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. This island nation has been one of Italy’s most popular holiday spots since Roman times.
Today, Capri’s beautiful climate, stunning scenery, and fantastic history draw thousands of visitors annually from mainland Italy and worldwide. In addition to its natural beauty, Capri also has some of Europe’s most stunning architecture.
The island has 12 churches and many historic sites, including the Blue Grotto, a seaside cave with breathtaking natural blue light. The grotto is also known for its ancient Roman art, including statues and graffiti.
Though swimming is banned in the cave, visitors can still take tours on a boat. Whether relaxing on the warm beach beside the famous harbor, touring an antique museum, or encountering rare native animal life, there is something in Capri for every visitor.
11. Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small town in Bavaria in southern Germany. Like many other towns in Europe, it dates from the Middle Ages.
But unlike many of these towns, Rothenburg ob der Tauber has the unique feature of having immaculately preserved architecture. That includes ancient stone towers and the city wall, which has existed since the 13th century.
Even today, visiting this town is like stepping back in time. It also has countless historic buildings and museums, including some of the most famous in Europe. History buffs will enjoy touring the old town; there’s a famous criminal museum, exhibits of ancient weapons, and a historic dungeon.
The city is so picturesque that it’s become a popular spot for filming movies or modeling animation, including Pinocchio and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The nearby scenery of forests, farmland, and the Tauber River that gives the town its name are worth seeing, too.
See Related: Family Vacation Ideas in Germany
Caen, the second-largest city in the French region of Normandy, has been populated since Roman times and began developing as a city in the 1000s. The city is a treasure trove of fascinating history, from the Hundred Years’ War to battles in World War II.
Caen is a port city, though it’s officially about 15 kilometers from the Normandy coast. One of the visitors’ biggest draws is the city’s historic sections, which have castles, museums, homes, and churches dating back 1,000 years or more.
The area is also a beloved spot for outdoor sports and nature enthusiasts, thanks to the untamed stretches of coastline. Caen is often just one stop on a tour of Normandy, known for having some of the most beautiful towns in France.
One nearby attraction is the tiny island town of Mont-Saint-Michel, located on the bay of the same name. This historic town has been around for over 1,000 years and is full of breathtaking history and stunning views of the Normandy coast.
See Related: Things to Do in Normandy, France
Slovenia might not be at the top of your bucket list, but believe us when we say it should be. This country is a stunning destination that is becoming increasingly popular with tourists from all over the world.
One of the best places to visit is the town of Bled, located in the mountains of northwest Slovenia on Lake Bled. The landscape here has some of Europe’s most beautiful and unique features.
The Julian Alps provide an otherworldly backdrop, as do the forests of the nearby plateaus overlooking the lake. The glacier-formed lake, crisp mountain air, and mild climate made it a popular resort spot for the upper crust in the 20th century.
Today, Bled welcomes all kinds of tourists to enjoy its one-of-a-kind culture, food, history, and outdoor sports such as hiking and boating. The town is also famous for Bled Castle, which has towered over the lake since the 1000s.
Ask anyone who has traveled to France, and they’ll tell you that the real magic can be found in the towns lining the French countryside. One of these is the charming small town of Annecy, which, with a population of 50,000, is less of a town and more of a small city. Unsurprisingly, so many people want to call this beautiful place home.
Annecy is a canal city, earning it the name “the Venice of the Alps.” The Thiou River, which winds through the oldest part of the city, provides a beautiful backdrop as visitors stroll the cobblestone streets.
It’s surrounded by several mountains visible from Lake Annecy, which has made the town a popular tourist destination. In addition to the lovely natural scenery, Annecy is home to many historic buildings, including Annecy Castle, which now serves as a museum.
It has become a popular tourist destination, particularly for outdoor sports enthusiasts who head to the mountains yearly to enjoy hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and other activities. The lake is also a major attraction during the summer, mainly thanks to Annecy’s warm, pleasant climate.
Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway, only beaten by the capital city, Oslo. It has incredible things to do, see, and learn, from historic architecture and tourist attractions to unique museums and fascinating culture.
So, what makes Bergen so special? The main reason comes down to its unique natural surroundings.
The city—populated for at least a thousand years—is known as “the city of seven mountains.” These surround Bergen, providing a breathtaking view no matter where you are in the city.
It is also built on a series of fjords, a significant tourist attraction. You’re never far from a fjord or bay at any point in Bergen.
These natural sights are impressive enough, but it turns genuinely magical during the summer solstice when the sun never truly sets. It’s incredible to see a massive metropolitan area surrounded by such unique beauty, making Bergen one of our must-visit towns when you are traveling in Europe.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Norway & Things to Do
17. Český Krumlov
It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, thanks to its historic architecture and surrounding views of the Bohemian Forest Foothills. Much of the nearby countryside is protected land, meaning Český Krumlov sits amidst a metaphorical sea of unspoiled beauty.
However, one of the most fascinating things about the city is just how long it’s been inhabited. The remaining structures in the historic district date from the 1200s, though the area had been populated since the Stone Age.
Český Krumlov stood on a vital trading route throughout much of European history, bringing together architects and artists from all over the world. They left behind a unique blend of styles, making this small city a beloved tourist destination. If you’re a history lover, you won’t want to skip a visit to Český Krumlov.
See Related: Day Trips from Prague, Czech Republic
Some places go down in history because they’re so beautiful. They draw visitors from all over the world. That’s just what happened with Sintra, a city on the Atlantic Coast of Portugal. Sintra has been attracting visitors since antiquity thanks to its breathtaking scenery, both natural and manufactured.
One of the city’s most famous features is its colorful buildings, which turn Sintra into an explosion of brightness. The Palacio de Pena is a well-known one that overlooks the region from the nearby Sintra mountains.
The city’s architecture is a glorious combination of European, Gothic, and Moorish styles, making it a scene you can’t find anywhere else on earth. The nearby Montserrat Palace is also worth a visit, not just because of its fairy tale interior but also because of its famous botanical gardens among Europe’s best.
And, of course, the beaches are a paradise all on their own. Ranging from private coves to rugged bluffs overlooking the Atlantic, they offer all the best natural beauty of the Iberian Peninsula.
Regarding beauty, there’s almost nowhere in Europe as famous as Greece. The stunning architecture, contrasting with the enchanting Mediterranean landscape, makes the country a paradise. So, of course, we had to include one of Greece’s most idyllic and picturesque towns on our list.
That town is Kastraki, a former seaside village in the Greek region of Thessaly. Kastraki is known for its fascinating rock formations, which tower far above the town and serve as fascinating cultural symbols.
These rock formations, known as the Meteora, are home to several ancient monasteries. Now open to the public as tourist destinations, these offer unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains. Getting up to these “columns of the sky” might be a grueling trip, but many people think it is worth it just for that fantastic view.
See Related: Best Quiet Greek Islands to Visit on Holiday
20. San Sebastian
San Sebastian is a large city located on the Bay of Biscay in Spain, just a short distance from Spain’s border with France. With a large local population, the city is also a popular tourist destination, swelling its numbers even further.
But it’s no secret why it’s such a great place to visit. With a warm and mild climate, this beautiful city has at least three beaches and a hilly region that provides a stunning backdrop.
San Sebastian is in Basque country, which means you’ll hear both Basque and Spanish as you explore the charming city below. It’s been nicknamed “the Pearl of the North” thanks to its gorgeous culture and brilliant beaches.
Its architecture deserves mention—the city is renowned for its Belle Epoque buildings, such as the Palacio de Miramar and the Teatro Victoria Eugenie. As for things to do in this unique coastal region, food lovers will want to note San Sebastian offers a world-renowned culinary scene.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Spain & Things to Do
21. Castle Combe
The United Kingdom has so much to offer, from the bustling metropolis of London to the White Cliffs of Dover. But some of the country’s most stunning and fascinating spots are the small towns throughout the English countryside.
One of these is Castle Combe, a tiny village in Wiltshire with a population of less than 400. Despite its size, this magical little town has something special that merits being on our list.
The village has gained a reputation as “the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds,” a region in southwest England that has received legal protection because of its natural and historical significance. It’s widely considered one of the most stunning places in the country.
Castle Combe is a unique piece of history, as it hasn’t erected a new building in four hundred years. If you’ve ever wondered what England looked like in the time of King James, there’s no better place to find it than this charmingly picturesque village.