Capitals of Europe like Berlin, Paris, Madrid, and London are steeped in history, art, and culture and will most likely give you some of the best nights out of your life. But Europe’s smaller towns and villages offer unique and compelling experiences, often with more opportunities to relax and appreciate their charm and character. Here we have rounded up a few of Europe’s most beautiful small towns, famed for their architecture and situated in impressive landscapes.
1. Estaing, France
Located on the Route of Santiago de Compostela, Estaing is one of France’s most beautiful towns. You access the town via a Gothic bridge that arches over the River Lot. Facades date from the 16th, 17th and 18th Century while the architectural crown is the town’s magnificent chateau; climb the terrace for stunning views over the whole town and surrounding countryside. To add to the medieval experience the town hosts a variety of costumed festivals and has a 15th Century church that holds the relics of Saint Fleuret.
2. Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy
This ancient town is nicknamed the “Jewel on the Hill” for its fantastical rock stacks that you reach via a seemingly precarious walkway. Founded about 2,500 years ago by the Etruscans, the town has been relatively untouched by the Renaissance period, which is unusual for just about anywhere in Italy. The walk up to the town is a fairly steep accent so be prepared for the climb. The amazing views over the surrounding rugged landscape are your reward.
3. Pucisca, Croatia
Often regarded as one of the most beautiful towns in Europe, Pucisca’s stone and terracotta houses, gorgeous bathing waters, and amphitheater-shaped bay are simply stunning. You can reach the Island of Brac with your rental car by ferry, giving you easy access to other stunning beaches nearby. The town is dotted with numerous monuments and churches and has a picturesque harbor that leaves a lasting impression as you enter by boat.
4. Reine, Norway
Reine is on the list because its quaint red wooden stilt houses are surrounded by some of the most dramatic scenery in Europe. The towering Lofoten Mountains jut out of the Arctic waters that surround this idyllic northern archipelago. Despite its remote location, tourists flock to the town every year to take in the breathtaking scenery. Activities are mostly outdoors. Visitors have a huge choice of hiking trails in the mountains, the opportunity to take kayak trips in the fjord as well as gazing up at the Northern Lights from September until April.
5. Bibury, England
Possibly the most quintessential English village, Bibury is set in the heart of the Cotswolds and was proclaimed by famous craftsman William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England”. The town has been used as a filming location for blockbusters including Bridget Jones’s Diary and Stardust. Make sure you see the Arlington Row’s infamous weaver’s cottages as well as the Saxon Church of St. Mary and the Chedworth Roman Villa. There are opportunities for hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the surrounding countryside. We also recommend sampling the fare at traditional teahouses dotted throughout the village.
Do check out our guide to Europe road trips for more interesting places to see and experience.