17 Beautiful Small Towns in Europe You Must Visit

There’s something magical about European small towns, and I feel like they should be on everyone’s itinerary. I’m listing the 17 small towns in Europe that have inspired me the most, and some hidden gems that I’ve been dying to visit for years. If you’re heading that way and only have big cities on your list, consider adding some of the smaller guys, too. You won’t regret it.

Small Towns in Europe

Once you see how much charm and beauty there is outside of the big cities in Europe, you’ll never travel the same. Now whenever I plan a trip, I make sure to add in several of these idyllic towns to my journey. The destinations I’ve listed below range in size and population, but are still considered smaller than the neighboring main cities.

Haarlem, Netherlands

1. Dingle, Ireland 

Dingle, Ireland was my first taste of a European small town. Jorge and I visited Ireland for our 1-year wedding anniversary back in 2012. We decided to road trip throughout the country and Dingle was our second stop. Dingle inspired my future travels. I realized how much more there is to see when you go deeper into a country.

Dingle is GREEN and vibrant. You’ll find colorful homes, sheep grazing, cows napping, and the most beautiful peninsula drive out there. B&B’s will welcome you with the friendliest hosts around. From all our travels, Ireland has had the friendliest locals (followed closely by Italy and Puerto Rico).

Read More: Things to Do in Dingle

2. Cesky Krumlov, Czechia

Cesky Krumlov is one of the most enchanting places to visit in the Czech Republic. The locals in Cesky were friendlier than those of Prague (in our experience). The prices were cheaper, the streets felt safer, and the views were out of this world.

Read More: Things to Do in Cesky Krumlov

3. Burano, Italy 

Anytime anyone visits Venice (my favorite city in the world) I always recommend a stop in Burano. This unique town is a must-see for anyone anywhere anytime. Burano bursts with color and endless inspiration. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put your camera down. This town receives a lot of visitors, but there’s enough space to feel like you have it all to yourself at times. Consider staying the night if you really want to have the local experience.

Burano Venice Italy

Read More: Things to Do in Burano

4. Beilstein, Germany

Beilstein is located in Germany’s Mosel Valley. It’s a tiny little town you can easily get to by ferry from the equally beautiful town of Cochem. The Mosel Valley is full of storybook places, remarkable castles, and home to some of the best Riesling out there. Beilstein is also close to the popular Burg Eltz Castle. You can rent a car from Cochem and make the drive up! I’m excited to visit this area soon, so a full guide will be coming shortly after.

BEILSTEIN:

source: lapping from Pixabay

COCHEM:

source: Kai Pilger from Pexels

5. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany 

Germany is full of charming small towns, and Rothenburg tops a lot of lists. For my first visit to this country, I know Rothenburg is a must. This medieval town is one of the best-preserved in Germany and looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale. It is popular among tourists, but I still think it’s worth a visit. A good way to avoid the crowds is by planning an overnight stay.

source: Maurice LE BAIL from Pixabay 

6. Haarlem, Netherlands

Haarlem can be overlooked by visitors, especially with a neighbor like Amsterdam. But this smaller and equally lovely town is worth the 13-minute train ride over. Haarlem offers gorgeous architecture, lush greenery, windmills, and it all comes with a small-town vibe. Don’t miss the old city gate or their main square! The featured photo on this post is of Haarlem’s square.

Read More: Things to do in Haarlem

7. Rye, England

I already know that the U.K. is a country that I’ll be returning to frequently. There’s too much to see and experience to only go once. With the route of my last trip, I wasn’t able to make it to Rye. I’ve been inspired by Mermaid Street (shown below) for a while now and dream of visiting one day. England, in general, has such magnificent looking towns that deserve a visit outside of London.


source: David McKelvey Mermaid Street via photopin (license)

8. Coimbra, Portugal

Did you know that Coimbra used to be the capital of Portugal before Lisbon stepped in? This beautifully preserved medieval town should be on everyone’s Portugal list. It’s actually one of the bigger cities, but its historical area has a small-town feel, and is sometimes referred to as a “mini Lisbon”. If you’re a fan of layered architecture, pastel hues, and uncrowded streets definitely check out Coimbra.

Read More: Things to Do in Coimbra

9. Bellagio, Italy 

There’s something special about Bellagio. Located in Lake Como, Italy, Bellagio is known for its good looks and is loved by many. It’s one of my favorite places in Italy! Bellagio comes with an abundance of picturesque nooks, amazing food, and plenty of places to do some wine tastings. It’s also surrounded by other beautiful small towns that are only a ferry ride away.

Read More: Things to Do in Bellagio

10. Castle Combe, England 

Back to England for the postcard town of Castle Combe! Castle Combe is located near the Cotswolds and should be added to the agenda if you’re visiting that cluster of towns. It’s an easy drive from the colorful city of Bristol (our route), or you can do a day trip tour from London or other nearby cities. I’ll link some of those below.

DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON

Read More: Weekend in the Cotswolds

11. Riquewihr, France

If you’re visiting the more famous Strasbourg and Colmar, make sure to stop in Riquewihr. Unfortunately, the weather ruined my trip to this picturesque town when I was visiting Strasbourg. Similar to Colmar, but with its own flair, you’ll find Riquewihr offering cobbled paths, half-timbered houses, and delicious wine. Bonus, it’s part of the Alsace Wine Route.


Riquewihr / Alsace 2019 via photopin (license)

12. Hallstatt, Austria 

Hallstatt has been on my list for so long. This small town and its Alpine houses are snuggled between the mountains of Austria and I cannot wait to see it with my own eyes one day. Hallstatt looks gorgeous during any time of the year. To avoid crowds it may be best to visit during the colder seasons. Try staying overnight to experience the quiet evenings and peaceful mornings in this magical little town.

source: Rahat Ali from Pexels

13. Atrani, Italy 

Considered the smallest town in Italy, Atrani is a treat for the eyes! It’s located on the Amalfi Coast, a 30-minute walk (or quick ferry) from the town of Amalfi. Another layered beauty with a beach that is much less crowded than the neighboring towns of Amalfi or Positano. You don’t need an overnight stay in Atrani because it’s incredibly small, but don’t miss it if you’re following the Amalfi Coast route.

Read More: Amalfi Coast Towns

14. Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is the reason I’m visiting Belgium this year. I’ve been swooning over photos of Bruges since Pinterest was born. As you can probably tell by now, I have a thing for cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Bruges offers all that on top of delicious waffles and fries. I already love it and haven’t even gotten on the plane.

source: Pixel2013 from Pixabay

15. Antibes, France

Imagine taking a road trip through the South of France and running into a town like Antibes in the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur). Antibes is known for its old town. It offers inspiring streets and was once home to Picasso. If it’s good enough for Picasso, it’s good enough for me. I’ve always wanted to visit the lavender fields in southern France, but I never realized how much that area had to offer. Diana from InBetweenPictures.com travels through there frequently and has inspired some new itineraries in me.

Read More: South of France Road Trip

16. Ronda, Spain

Ronda sits on the mountains of southern Spain. What caught my eye was the dramatic deep gorge that separates the old town from the new town. One thing we regret not being able to do while visiting Spain is taking a road trip through Andalusia on Spain’s southern coast. We had our heart set on Ronda and neighboring towns, but since we had an issue with the car rental we never made it. We still hope we can return to Spain to finish our route one day.

source: Photo by Tomáš Malčo Malík from Pexels

17. Chefchaouen, Morocco

Okay, okay, I know this isn’t in Europe but I couldn’t help it. Chefchaouen needs to be on every small town list. I’m not even sure if it’s considered a small town, but I seem to be breaking all the rules on this post anyway so add Chefchaouen in Morocco, Africa to your bucket list.

It’s easier to reach Chefchaouen if you’re visiting Spain. It’s a short flight from Madrid (or wherever you may be in Spain) or even a ferry ride from Southern Spain to Tangier, Morocco. After you arrive in Tangier, you can take a private car straight to your riad in the blue city. I recommend a private car over a taxi in this scenario. I talk more about the logistics in my post that I’ll link below.

Read More: Visit the Blue City in Morocco

I’m sure this blog post will continue to grow the more I travel and learn. I’ll be updating as it happens. If you’re looking for some great itinerary ideas mixed in with some bigger cities, check out this post for 24 one-week itinerary ideas!

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47 Comments

  • Reply Anonymous January 28, 2024 at 3:20 pm

    We spent 4 weeks driving around Europe and found this was the best way to see so many lovely towns and villages that don’t get tourists. Rothenburg Ob der Tauber on your list was one of my favourite places we went to, as was Burano and Bruges, as well as all the bigger touristy places. But my advice would be to never ever ever go in the summer as the crowds of tourists, the queues and the heat does take away a little of the joy of these places.

  • Reply Anonymous January 12, 2024 at 1:25 pm

    My husband and I visited his sister in Luxembourg last May and did a 2 day stay in Bruges, Belgium. We just finished a 1000 piece puzzle I bought there as a souvenir. We loved it SO much!! Every side trip we did was wonderful and I just want to go back and do it all over again but stay longer in each place!! That was my first trip overseas and I’m almost 64. I’ve been thinking of doing the Hildegard Way for the past 4 years and, after looking at your suggestions for other German towns to visit, Germany may be our next destination. Thank you to you and everyone else here who has shared their experiences and enthusiasm!

  • Reply Anonymous January 10, 2024 at 2:33 am

    Try Cookham / Bray / Marlow along the Thames west of London.

  • Reply Anonymous November 19, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    I Love travelling to the smaller towns and Villages. Thank you for this list. I visited the Isle of Skye many years ago and that was the highlight of that trip.

    • Reply Lily November 19, 2023 at 1:34 pm

      The Isle of Skye is magical! I dream of returning soon.

  • Reply Miguel Gouveia November 5, 2023 at 10:06 am

    Hi,
    Lovely list.
    If you come to Portugal you should visit small towns like Óbidos, Aveiro, Sintra, Estoril or Cascais.

    • Reply Lily November 13, 2023 at 5:19 pm

      Hi there! I’ve visited Sintra, and óbidos was on my itinerary but we weren’t able to make it. Definitely need to check out the rest. Thank you for your recommendations!

  • Reply Anonymous October 16, 2023 at 11:08 am

    I am so glad to have found your blog from Pinterest. This post had such great information! My husband and I have been traveling in Europe for years and have been to very few of these cities. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Reply Lily October 16, 2023 at 11:19 am

      Thank you so much for reading the blog and for your kind words!

      • Reply Jozef October 27, 2023 at 2:16 am

        Hi,
        add Ribeauvillé (Alsace), Matera and Alberobello to your next trips. Maybe Cinque Terre. Stay at Porto Venere. Add Annecy and Bonifaccio… good luck and happy journey. jm

        • Reply Lily November 13, 2023 at 5:23 pm

          Thanks for the tips! We’ve been to Cinque, but will need to check the rest out.

        • Reply Lanice December 30, 2023 at 2:28 am

          Absolutely agree with you, Jozef on all of those places! Been to all but Porto Venere and Bonifaccio. All are beautiful!

  • Reply Anne September 23, 2023 at 6:07 am

    Go to Spoleto and Spello in Umbria (Italy)

  • Reply S. T. September 15, 2023 at 6:21 am

    Do NOT visit or recommend Hallstatt. They have an enourmous problem with overtourism there, thousands of people crawling through a 800-inhabitants-village every day. You are NOT welcome there.

    • Reply Lily October 2, 2023 at 2:19 pm

      Tell us how you really feel, S.T.
      Either way, I had no idea it was so bad because I’ve never been, but it’s been on my list for years now. Hopefully the village can put some boundaries up for overtourism like Venice is trying to do.

  • Reply Emma November 30, 2022 at 1:19 pm

    Many of the cities seems lovely. Just a side note though Morocco is not a European country, it is part of Africa. You could instead include Stratford Upon Avon in the UK or Henningsvær in Norway.

    • Reply Lily December 27, 2022 at 2:59 pm

      Yes I mentioned it was in Africa, but thank you for the recommendations!

    • Reply Anonymous November 2, 2023 at 4:52 am

      Nice Recommentation

  • Reply Anonymous November 21, 2022 at 1:53 am

    Another small town that deserves to be visited in the Venice area is amy hometown, Pordenone. The historical centre is small but amazing. It’s a mix or medieval and Venice Republic architecture. Not far from there. towards the pre-Alps it’s the village of Poffabro with the typical houses. It’s considered one of the most beautiful “borghi” in Italy. Completely different feel but also worth a visit: Vicopisano in Tuscany. A small medieval village, not crowded by tourists as San Gimignano but equally beautiful with all it’s levels, stairs and towers. I’d still visit San Gimignano though.

  • Reply P.K. Bowen October 26, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    You should visit Dinkelsbühl Germany. It’s a picture postcard come to life.

    • Reply Lily October 26, 2022 at 6:08 pm

      Sounds like my kind of town, need to check it out!

  • Reply Michelle January 12, 2022 at 5:38 pm

    Love this list! Small places especially as a solo traveller are fantastic!

    • Reply Graciela September 24, 2022 at 4:18 pm

      Estupendas sugerencias. Muchas gracias. Agregaría Vence y Saint Paul de Vence en el sur francés.

      • Reply Lily October 26, 2022 at 6:07 pm

        Muchas gracias 🙂

  • Reply Bibi Hashim August 27, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful “off-the-beaten paths” locales. Love and appreciate your blog. I love small towns and I add to my itinerary when I travel. I did visit Brugge, Colmar, Burano, and I wish I saw your blog earlier when I was in Spain. I agree; I have made 2 trips to the UK but need to go again – so much to see. Thanks again and also to those you added a few more via comments.

    • Reply Lily August 28, 2021 at 3:38 pm

      Thanks for reading, Bibi! I’m glad you found the list helpful 🙂

  • Reply Ken Hart August 2, 2021 at 5:01 pm

    Suggestions is Quelingburg in Hartzen, Germany. Only 1 1/2 drive from Berlin. Amazing history and fairytale town. Another little pearl that survived the gruesome WWII.

    • Reply Lily August 4, 2021 at 10:04 am

      Ooo thank you! I’ll need to put that one on the list too.

  • Reply Anonymous April 21, 2021 at 8:19 pm

    Bruges is well worth the time . Lived in Belgium for five years and loved it…so much to do and see .
    Would go back in a heartbeat!

    • Reply Lily April 24, 2021 at 10:34 pm

      I finally got to see Belgium in 2019! Truly loved it.

  • Reply Ric Moss November 30, 2019 at 12:43 am

    Rothenburg tops my lists for an amazing stay, if you book accomodation early enough try to stay for a couple of nights when they have their medievel festival, were the locals and visitors dress in period costumes. The atmosphere is awesome, roving minstrels and groups playing ancient instruments. Knights fighting, Kings and Queens. All set in that amazing setting. We had 2 days there and if possible would have loved to have stayed longer.

  • Reply Eloise September 22, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Ahah you scared me a bit when I saw Chefchaouen on your list! 😉 All these places look stunning. Europe is really full of hidden gems.

    • Reply This Darling World September 22, 2019 at 7:24 pm

      LOL!! I couldn’t help myself that town is stunning.

    • Reply Sonia September 12, 2023 at 12:41 am

      Will go to Germany next year. Your article is very helpful. Thanks a lot

  • Reply brendaexplores September 22, 2019 at 5:56 am

    This is a great list! Rye seems really beautiful and I’ve been wanting to go back to England. Also, I would love to visit the Cotswolds. It looks so beautiful up there!

    • Reply This Darling World September 22, 2019 at 7:23 pm

      The Cotswolds are out of this world, highly recommend! And I can’t wait to visit Rye one day!

  • Reply Andrea Peacock September 21, 2019 at 11:48 pm

    Of all the towns on this list I’ve only been to Burano and Haarlem, and absolutely loved them both! Definitely saving this for some travel inspo for when I next return to Europe!

    • Reply This Darling World September 22, 2019 at 7:22 pm

      Burano is a favorite of mine too!! Glad you enjoyed the list, thanks for reading!

  • Reply Kay September 21, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Out of all of these cities, I had only heard of Burano and the blue city in Morocco! I can’t wait to see some of these in my Eurotrip!

    • Reply This Darling World September 21, 2019 at 10:23 pm

      Yes, you’ll love them! I just got back from Beilstein and Cochem and my love for small towns grew even more.

  • Reply catherinemryan September 21, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    All these small towns in Europe look so quaint and lovely. I’d want to visit each of them, but especially Burano. I love discovering places that are off the beaten track!

    • Reply This Darling World September 21, 2019 at 10:24 pm

      Burano was an absolute dream, I hope you get to explore it soon! And small towns can certainly charm your socks off😍

    • Reply Jozef October 27, 2023 at 2:20 am

      Make Murano, Burano e Torcello trip.

      • Reply Lily November 13, 2023 at 5:22 pm

        We’ve been to Burano but will need to check out the others. Thank you for your recommendations!

  • Reply Kelsey September 21, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    I loved this list – I haven’t heard of many of these places and they all look sooo adorable! I always favor small towns to larger cities when traveling, so this was so fun to read. I absolutely loved Dingle, too, and am dying to visit Hallstatt! And I’ve never heard of Rye, but OMG, it looks absolutely stunning!

    • Reply This Darling World September 21, 2019 at 10:25 pm

      Thanks, Kelsey!! I can’t wait to visit Hallstatt either!! And yes Dingle was incredible, hoping to return!

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