You’ve got Rome, you’ve got Paris, you’ve got London — but let’s not forget about the little guys.
Discover the most charming and best small towns in Europe on your next travels, from historic pastel houses lining narrow cobblestone streets to mountain-top towns, quaint cafes serving up local cuisine, itty bitty medieval towns, sparkling stretches of beach, and magical green rolling hill backdrops.
You won’t find culture and authentic experiences as rich as these in the larger tourist-soaked hot spots.
Tick these 16 small towns in Europe off the bucket list.
1. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
The dreamy landscapes of Switzerland are something out of a fairytale, and we’d be happy to visit again and again.
Lauterbrunnen fits right in among the scenery with chalet-style houses, small churches, and surrounding mountain peaks making up the perfect quaint Alpine town. There are 72 waterfalls throughout the valley here, the most famous being Staubbach Falls, and plenty of adventure activities to fill your soul from mountain excursions to picnicking on alpine pastures and panoramic views you won’t soon forget.
2. Eguisheim, France
Often dubbed one of the most beautiful villages in France, Eguisheim is pretty picture-perfect.
A stroll here reveals brightly coloured old houses lined with timber, cobblestone streets, hanging greenery, and stunning medieval churches. The town itself is nestled between rolling green hills and countless vineyards producing some of the world’s best wine. It’s the perfect vacation spot to perch up at a charming cafe and sip on some fine local drops.
3. Mdina, Malta
If you want to go really small (we’re talking a population of about 243 small) then this little city in the centre of Malta’s capital city of Valletta is your calling.
The old area is filled with breathtakingly extraordinary Medieval and Baroque architecture featuring churches, catacombs, and palaces for visitors to explore. It’s quite like a step back in time wandering the quaint streets here, and highly recommended is a visit to the famous Fontanella Tearooms.
Fun fact: Mdina has had its brush with modern-day fame, too, featuring in the first season of Game of Thrones as the entrance to King’s Landing.
4. Ronda, Spain
Set high in the mountains on the edge of a 400-foot cliff, the town of Ronda is no stranger to regular flocks of tourists who have discovered its beauty.
The jaw-dropping views and sensational location are just the beginning here — take the winding, narrow streets through the historic town to the Puente Nuevo bridge, head to one of Spain’s oldest bullrings, dine on tasty tapas, or explore the ancient underground Arab Baths.
5. Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
This town in South Bohemia is like something out of a medieval storybook.
Red-roofed houses, plazas complete with trickling water features, cobblestone roads, small artisan stores, and a Gothic castle overlooking the Vltava River — the beauty of it all simply can’t be captured with words. It’s a very popular day trip among tourists from Prague, but we’d recommend taking a few days to really experience all of it, from the coffees and sweets to the local culture and rafting down the river.
6. Počitelj, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Located in the hills of lovely Bosnia & Herzegovina, you’ll have this magical little place all to yourself on a visit.
Untouched by the masses, Počitelj is one of Mostar’s best-kept secrets. It’s a small, highly preserved Medieval town perched up on a mountain with a very small population of friendly locals who often line the old streets selling local fresh fruits, textiles, and art.
7. Oia, Greece
Ah, Greece. The home of all our Mamma Mia dreams. Rarely does a day go by we don’t wish to release our inner Donna and set off to live out the rest of our days here.
You’ll undoubtedly frequent the more popular destinations, and if heading to the island of Santorini, make sure to check out the clifftop village of Oia. Miles of path walk you up and down among white-washed houses with striking blue rooftops and unbelievable views over the rugged coastal landscape. Catching a sunset here is like something out of a dream.
8. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges has been growing in popularity, and it’s pretty easy to see why.
It’s about an hour’s train journey out of Belgium’s capital, Brussels, and is most famous for the many winding canals and striking architecture. The best way to soak it all in is on a boat tour by water, and while you’re here, you may as well sample some droolworthy famous waffles or head to the main square for live music, restaurants, and lively markets.
9. Positano, Italy
Positano should absolutely make the cut when planning your Italian trip itinerary.
Many travellers doing the Amalfi Coast affectionately refer to this place as one of their favourites. Days here look like floating in crystal clear waters, late afternoon pizza lunches, browsing through boutiques, wandering colourful streets, sitting on the beach with a gelato in hand, and watching the sky turn pink over the harbour.
10. Annecy, France
On the hunt for a charming French town? You’ve found it.
Annecy is backdropped by mountain tops and surrounded by a crystal clear lake lined by pastel houses and blooming flowers. You can go from lake cruising the totally cute-French-town-vibe streets (slightly similar to that of Venice) to browsing farmers’ markets, local shops, and exploring the medieval castle of Chateau de Menthon all in a day.
11. Brașov, Romania
Brașov is the gateway to Transylvania — aka, the land of legendary Dracula myths and roaming werewolves.
Surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, this town — in true Romanian style — is home to towering Gothic-style churches and houses, lively cafes, colourful baroque buildings, and medieval Saxon walls. Make sure to stop in at Piata Sfatului, the historic centre, to get a real feel for the place.
12. Salzburg, Austria
Not too far from Hallstatt, Salzburg is just oozing small-town charm even with its large population.
Famous as the setting for Sound of Music, the city is quite the musical lover’s oasis. Its streets are filled with buskers and all manner of talented performers, while cultural events and festivals are often few and far between. While getting lost in the whimsical sounds, you’ll also need to walk Getreidegasse (a shopping mile) and see the historic palace of Schloss Leopoldskron.
13. Bergen, Norway
Bergen is often overshadowed by Oslo when en route to Norway, but don’t be so fast to dismiss it.
The colourful houses that dot the old wharf location are surrounded by a picturesque backdrop of mountains and fjords, including the Fløyen Mountain which can be accessed via trails for panoramic views. If you lean more towards the great outdoors, this is your paradise, with endless hiking opportunities, ziplining, paragliding, and nature-filled day trips.
14. Otranto, Italy
We’re pretty sure Otranto was copied and pasted directly from a beach postcard.
Boasting very Caribbean and South Pacific beach vibes, this small town is the sparkling sun-soaked heel of Italy’s boot. Be enchanted by stretches of the bluest beaches, rocky coastal cliffs, seafront restaurants, and a historic centre with medieval cathedrals featuring stunning mosaic floors.
15. Pyrgi, Greece
Referred to as the ‘painted village’, what sets Pyrgi apart is its detailed black-and-white geometric designs (known as Xysta) covering buildings, arches, and balconies.
The designs provide a totally unique backdrop down the narrow stone paved streets, and the medieval architecture and churches give that distinct storybook village feel among flower-filled balconies. It’s also involved in the cultivation of mastic, historically used to make liqueurs, drinks, foods, and chewing gum.
16. Zermatt, Switzerland
To be honest, we almost wanted to not put Zermatt on the best small towns in Europe list so that we could try and keep it all to ourselves.
With a population of approximately 6,000 and positioned at the foot of the Matterhorn, you will be hard-pressed to find another town that is as quaint and majestic as Zermatt.
However, it is around Christmas time when Zermatt really shines. Considered one of the best winter Christmas destinations, Zermatt seems like the place Santa would live (outside of the North Pole of course). The main streets are covered in Christmas decorations, horses sporting jingle bells as they move up and down the street, and in New York City fashion, a giant Christmas tree is dropped into the town centre and decorated.
Also, it is home to some of the best winter ski slopes in Europe.
Feature Image: Annecy, France
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