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.
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.
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.
source: lapping from Pixabay
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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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.
Yes I mentioned it was in Africa, but thank you for the recommendations!
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.
You should visit Dinkelsbühl Germany. It’s a picture postcard come to life.
Sounds like my kind of town, need to check it out!
Love this list! Small places especially as a solo traveller are fantastic!
Estupendas sugerencias. Muchas gracias. Agregaría Vence y Saint Paul de Vence en el sur francés.
Muchas gracias 🙂
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.
Thanks for reading, Bibi! I’m glad you found the list helpful 🙂
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.
Ooo thank you! I’ll need to put that one on the list too.
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!
I finally got to see Belgium in 2019! Truly loved it.
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.
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.
LOL!! I couldn’t help myself that town is stunning.
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!
The Cotswolds are out of this world, highly recommend! And I can’t wait to visit Rye one day!
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!
Burano is a favorite of mine too!! Glad you enjoyed the list, thanks for reading!
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!
Yes, you’ll love them! I just got back from Beilstein and Cochem and my love for small towns grew even more.
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!
Burano was an absolute dream, I hope you get to explore it soon! And small towns can certainly charm your socks off😍
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!
Thanks, Kelsey!! I can’t wait to visit Hallstatt either!! And yes Dingle was incredible, hoping to return!