The sheer variety of fairytale towns in Europe is enough to fill you with wanderlust.
Europe is dotted with an uncountable number of charming hamlets. Each exudes a different, unique character. Some display old stone walls, while others feature pastel houses.
In Europe, you can wander around steep cobblestone streets of a mountainous hamlet or walk along the shoreline of a coastal town.
You can enjoy a snowy winter with icy lakes and go hiking in summer between vast grasslands.
There is an abundance of choices!
This list of 10 most beautiful small towns in Europe will prevent the mind-blowing list of options from becoming overwhelming.
The most beautiful small towns in Europe
Bruges or Brugge is one of the prettiest small towns in Europe.
Located in Belgium’s northwest coast, the town looks like it popped straight out of a 19th-century novel.
It is distinguished by its medieval buildings, craft beer, ornate City Hall, and charming colorful houses. This alley-weaved town has cobblestone streets lined with great restaurants and many inviting tourist attractions. Enclosed with canals, Bruges is studded with a tall belfry in its Markt Square.
It is a must-climb to enjoy sweeping town views.
A great starting point for any day out in the town is it’s Burg Square.
The central plaza boasts many neo-classical buildings, the ornate Gothic City Hall, and a three centuries-old courthouse.
It is also the go-to hub to grab a waffle or delicious Belgian chocolate.
The most scenic spot of Bruges is the Minnewater Lake aka Lake of Love.
This dreamy place is also home to a lovely castle hid amid colorful trees.
Traversing the lake is a romantic Lovers Bridge. As you cross the bridge you can enjoy a spectacular view and it’s said that if you kiss your loved one on the bridge it will become eternal love!
A small 13-minute walk away from the lake is another gorgeous quarter of the town, Rozenhoedkaai.
It is nestled near the confluence of Groenerei and Dijver canals. You can take a boat trip or first explore the gothic buildings surrounding this area.
Bruges is stunning all year round but with the pretty canals, cobblestone streets and charming Christmas market it is one of the best places to visit in Europe during winter.
From Bruges, it’s only a 1h30 minutes drive to Brussels, Belgium’s capital and one of the prettiest cities in Europe.
Hallstatt looks fabulous in both winter and summer
Nestled on the west shore of Lake Hallstatt, its namesake town in Austria is as pretty as a picture.
It enjoys a beautiful backdrop of snow-sprinkled peaks. Cupped in a tranquil location as such, Hallstatt makes a perfect bolthole. Weaved along its narrow alleyways are 16th-century Alpine houses.
The streets are lined with small cafés and shops where you can go for a hot drink or buy souvenirs.
Seated on periglacial land, the town has trails leading to glacier gardens of the Echern Valley, Dachstein Caves, and Waldbachstrub Waterfall.
Spread across this town are several old edifices and archaeological artifacts.
There even is a skywalk as well as an ossuary! Its rich, old culture is one reason why Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the center of its old town, you will find the Market Square. Its centerpiece is a statue of the Holy Trinity, surrounded by vibrant buildings, restaurants, hotels, and shops.
Just 17km away from Hallstatt is another old market town, Bad Aussee. It is known for its health resort and saltwater spa with Kneipp treatment.
This scenic town also boasts several historical highlights like a 13th-century church, a 15th-century Gothic structure with octagonal towers, and two winged altars.
Colmar is among the most picturesque towns in Europe.
It was this Alsatian town that inspired the look of Belle’s village in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast.
The heart of Colmar is its cobbled Old Town.
Dotted with a 13th-century Gothic church, early-Renaissance mansions, and half-timbered houses, the town is a time capsule. You either feel sucked into traditional folklore or transported to the 1450s.
Weaved into this French town are bridge-laced canals, museums, and a postcard-perfect quarter called La Petite Venise.
Colmar is also home to some of the most unique architectural structures.
There is a 16th-century Renaissance-style Pfister House that showcases artistic biblical paintings.
Not far away from Pfister is the Maison des Tetes (House of Heads). Built during 1609, the building has a façade with 100+ sculpted heads peering down at the onlookers.
Colmar is also neighbor to many other small towns that are cupped at the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. Of these, Riquewihr, Ribeauville, and Hunawihr are most popular among tourists. Their expansive vineyards and landscape are bound to leave you smitten. All these historic towns, including Colmar, offer several options for al fresco dining and drinking.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech republic
Located in Bohemia’s deep south, Cesky Krumlov is another one of the fairytale towns in Europe.
Dominated by a grand castle and lined with many historical buildings, it is accoladed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The quintessential orange-beige roofed houses turn it into a miniature version of Prague.
Read also: The best Christmas markets in Europe.
The Old Town sits at the heart of Cesky Krumlov. It is surrounded by quaint houses, restaurants, cafés, souvenir shops, and camera-toting tourists.
The photogenic Czech town is best explored on foot or with a bicycle.
You can walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes. But, that’s seldom the case. Flaunting fascinating architecture, the town puts its tourists on a stand-still for hours.
Walk through its narrow alleys to reach some hidden restaurants serving potato dumplings, sauerkraut, pork, and Pilsner Urquell beer. Do not leave without tasting the delicious cinnamon pastry!
Saunter a little more into this postcard-perfect town and you will reach the Vltava River. Overlooking the river is the town’s stronghold – Vltava Castle. Still ornate with furnishings, the castle is a sight for sore eyes! But it still has a gloomy side – the captive black bears.
Other spectacular sites of the town include Neptune Fountain and four museums. With the river flowing, water sports like kayaking and rafting are also available.
Monschau is one of the hidden gems in Europe.
Set in cobblestone streets and lined with half-timbered houses, it looks like an elderly German relative of Colmar.
It is voted as the most picturesque town of the country by Germans. Lording Monschau is the turreted Monschau Castle.
Settled centuries ago, the town still looks the same. Its eternal charm will transport you into an era you have yet to experience. A walk into its time-warp lanes will unravel a number of medieval walls, quaint houses, and family-run mustard mills.
At the center of Monschau is a romantic old town, the Altstadt. It flaunts rows and rows of timber-framed houses with their window flower-boxes overlooking the river. Whirling amid the town are several cobbled streets.
Tucked away in its alleys are quaint shops and cafés.
The town is best visited during Christmas when it is robed in twinkling lights, rows of stalls, and a festal vibe.
In addition to its architectural heritages like the Red House, century-old breweries, and the castle, the town also runs cruises.
There is no better way to enjoy sweeping vistas of the rolling mountains than from a cruise on calm waters of the Rursee. However, the cruises only operate from April through October.
Delft, The Netherlands
Delft is one of the prettiest cities in Europe.
Pegged on the River Schie, this 11th-century town is sited between The Hague and Rotterdam.
Its historic canal-ringed Old Town is home to a charming Market Square, churches, and several medieval houses. Its quaint character also boasts a modern side with a university, manufacturing companies, and traders.
One of its most popular items being manufactured in Delft is the worldwide known Delftware, also known as the Delft blue. These beautifully decorated blue tiles have been around since the 17th century and can still be found all over the town. Tourists can choose from a wide range of quaint souvenir shops where they can buy the iconic blue tiles as well as picturesque Delft blue tableware and more.
The city has served as home to many notable people. Residents include scholar and statesman Hugo Grotius, painter Jan Vermeer, scientist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and William of Orange.
Today, Delft is a vibrant tourist spot with a lot to do and see. It has museums galore! There is also a Saturday Flea Market to buy cheap trinkets.
A splendid 17th-century Renaissance City Hall stands proudly at the foundations of the long-gone 13th-century Town Hall. The grand structure still has a component of its predecessor, its ornate 15th-century stone tower.
Stroll through the town to come across a science center, a Vermeer center, a windmill, and a botanical garden.
A lovely European town, Sinaia teems with lush scenery, rich culture, history, and sports.
Perched in the Prahova River Valley, it enjoys sweeping mountainous views and makes a tranquil spot for a vacation.
Sinaia is popular for its landmarks and monuments.
Several tourists arrive at the town to admire its royal residences and the Sinaia Monastery.
Others travel to participate in winter sports such as downhill skiing and hiking. Its distinct climate, which is relatively warmer in summer and mild in winters, is welcoming throughout the year.
The 19th-century Peleş Castle dominates the town.
This neo-Renaissance masterpiece took 40 years, dozens of builders, carvers, and artists to finish.
The castle interior is as baroque as one can imagine. It brims with paintings, carved furnishings, an armory, an exhaustive library, and what not!
Situated about 100m uphill of the castle, is the art nouveau Pelişor Palace.
It was commissioned because Peleş Castle failed to impress Carol I’s nephew, Ferdinand. The palace flaunts imported Viennese furniture. It was in its gilded Golden Room where Queen Mary took her last breath.
Dotting the town are many famed eateries such as the Irish House and Restaurant Bucegi. You will find most bizarre dishes here like frogs’ legs and bear’s pastrami.
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Cupped in the Mosel River Valley, Cochem is known for its whitewashed houses with slate roofs and timber doors.
Its lording 12th-century medieval toll castle makes Cochem look like a fairytale town in Europe, tucked out from the pages of traditional folklore.
Look keenly enough and you might expect to see a dragon guarding the tower. The castle is a ubiquitous sight in the town.
No matter which route you take, you will find its octagonal towers watching over you.
The most charming and famed area of Cochem is its Old Town or Altstadt.
The distinctly-positioned houses, open boutique cafés, and enclosing city walls blend to create an artsy sight.
In this juxtaposition of the old and new is a colorful mosaic, an artful representation of the city’s rich history.
It can be seen on the bridge beside the tourist office. The intricate pattern takes away your breath!
Walk further to reach the Fuchsloch, a narrow passage that leads to the Moselle promenade.
Located on the foothills of Alps mountains, Appenzell is a hiker’s paradise.
The Swiss town is replete with cableways and trails leading to caves, cliffs, and summits. Surrounding the tranquil town are lush evergreen forests and views of the hills.
Sprawling across the canton are museums, pretty shops, photogenic houses, and expansive countryside.
Set against the backdrop of precarious mountains is Appenzell’s Altstadt.
It is made of fresco-covered gabled houses and eye-catching shopfronts. This centerpiece square is also host to the Landsgemeinde open-air parliament. This 13th-century tradition can still be witnessed in the month of April. Lining the square are rows of painted hotels and restaurants. Of these, the must-go-to restaurants are Glass 17 and Romantik Hotel Säntis.
The town is also dotted with many museums, the centuries-old Pfarrkirche St Mauritius, and a modern gallery.
About 38 km away from Appenzell is an unmissable village called Werdenberg. Founded in 1289, it is the oldest settlement of timber-made houses in Switzerland. It has over 40 homes dwelling between an oversized pond and a grapevine-covered, castle-pegged hill.
Often quoted as the most beautiful village in Norway and one of the most beautiful small towns in Europe, Reine is a scenic fishing community located on Moskenesøy.
Its fjord and mountain views have lured many painters and climbers over time.
Hike to the uplands of the village to get a glimpse of the Moskenesstrømmen.
Literati will recognize it from Poe’s short story called A Descent into the Maelström. Boat trips to the whirlpool are also available for the intrepid traveler.
Set in a promontory enclosed by granite peaks, the town offers unforgettable panoramas.
Read also: Natural wonders in Europe.
The town itself is made of bright red cabins that stand out in the snowy winter. It is also famed to be the home of Lofoten Islands’ only supermarkets.
Hiking on the Reinebringen trail is not the only sport available in Reine. Its list of adventures also includes kayaking.
Come winter and the town sky floods in red and green hues of the beautiful Aurora Borealis.
Nature lovers and photographers from all across the world flock to the town to admire the phenomenon.
The Northern Lights are best experienced from September through April.
Europe is brimming with many small towns – some hidden, others popular – but all picturesque.
Old and enveloped in nature, these towns are a world in themselves. Listed here are 10 of the most beautiful small towns in Europe that you just cannot miss visiting.
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