10 of the Most Beautiful Small Towns to Visit in Europe

16 August 2015

Tags:travel, europe travel, accommodation Sydney, corporate travel,


If you’re dreaming of visiting one of those picture-perfect European towns filled with old-world charm, incredible scenic beauty, or perhaps both, where do you begin your search for the best destinations? From the Norwegian fjords and the magnificent Alps to sun-splashed Greek isles and everything in between, here is a look at 27 of the most beautiful small towns in Europe.

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1. Manarola, Italy

Manarola, Italy is one of the famed Cinque Terre towns, filled with an array of vibrant rainbow-colored homes carved right into an impenetrable wall of stone along the Mediterranean coast.  This charming fishing town is famous for its fabulous wine, particularly Sciacchetra, and the paintings of Antonio Discovolors, an artist who fell in love with Manarola and devoted much of his later works to the region. There are no cars here, no traffic lights, no screeching of tires, and no blasting horns. You can drive to Manarola, but you’ll have to park just outside the town and then take a shuttle bus or walk in on foot.

2. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany 

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is an enchanting Bavarian mountain resort town, just 80 minutes by train from Munich. Once two separate towns, one Roman and the other Teutonic, the 1936 Winter Olympics forced them to combine, though the two sides still have distinct personalities. Partenkirchen dates back to 15 AD, filled with narrow, cobblestoned streets lined with historic buildings in Bavarian gasthaus style: three or four floors, swept open shutters and facades painted with pastel colored imagery or pastoral, regional and religious scenes.

3. Portree, Scotland 

Portree is the largest town on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, a bustling port as well as a thriving cultural center, though the population is less than 2,500. The harbor is the focal point, featuring a number of pubs, seafood restaurants and spectacular views across the bay. It’s one of the best places to base your stay if you plan to explore this incredibly scenic wild region, due to its close proximity to some of the most breathtaking and unique attractions, including rock formations like the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, and the extraordinary pinnacles of the Quaraing.

4. Reine, Norway 

Reine is a tiny fishing village on the picturesque arctic island of Moskenesoya with a population of just a little over 300, though it was rightfully voted Norway’s most beautiful village. Set north of the Arctic Circle in the Lofoten archipelago, this remote wilderness region features sapphire bays that sit at the edge of breathtaking mountains and towering fjords. Many of the bright red rorbuer, or fishermen’s cabins, have been transformed into cozy visitor cottages with direct access to the Norwegian Sea as well as amazing night sky vistas, including the mesmerizing northern lights.

5. Colmar, France 

Colmar, France dates back to the 9th century. Since then, it’s often been referred to as “Little Venice” due to the waterways that wind through medieval streets. This well-preserved Alsatian village is also considered the capital of wine in the district, known for its exquisite aromas. It has both German and French influences – you’ll find local bakeries selling kugelhopf and croissants, while eateries often specialize in sauerkraut and foie gras. Various architectural styles can also be seen, from French Neo-Baroque to German Gothic.

6. Marsaxlokk, Malta 

The vibrant trading port of Marsaxlokk was established in 900 BC when the Phoenicians first landed on Malta. Today, this picturesque town is the main supplier of fish to the island nation that sits in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s well known for its massive markets that are stocked with an extensive array of fish, including the local favorite, Lampuki. This is a rare Maltese seaside village in that it has no modern buildings to spoil its appeal. With such tranquil surroundings, including the traditional luzzu’s (fishing boats) that are built according to a design that dates back to the time of the Phoenicians, it’s a particularly charming place to visit.

7. Portmagee, Ireland 

In a country filled with beautiful towns, Portmagee, is a standout, sitting on the Ring of Kerry on the southwest coast of Ireland.  This postcard-perfect seaside fishing village features a row of brightly colored buildings along with a rich and colorful history. At The Bridge Bar, you’ll find live music many nights of the week along with fantastic food and a fine pint of Guinness. Portmagee is also the departure hub for trips to the awe-inspiring Skelligs Rock, the home of preserved monastic settlements dating back to the 6th century.

8. Bled, Slovenia 

Sheltered by magnificent mountains, Bled was established in 1004, and considered so beautiful by the Holy Roman Emperor that it was gifted to the Bishop of Brixen.  Bled Castle sits in the center of picturesque Lake Bled with its glacial blue waters surrounding the tiny island and bordering the town of about 5,000, renowned as the home of some of the most beautiful health spas in the region. Hiking to the medieval hilltop castle provides especially stunning panoramic vistas.

9. Hallstatt, Austria 

Hallstatt is one of Austria’s oldest settlements, originally founded in 5000 BC in order to exploit the vast salt reserves in the mountains surrounding this storybook town. Thousands of years of salt mining translated to enduring prosperity for Hallstatt, which can be seen in its beautiful square ringed with ivy-covered buildings. The town still mines salt, but it is also considered a treasure trove of human history and one of Austria’s most picturesque towns, with its gorgeous setting on the bank of the Hallstätter See, between the pristine lake and a lush mountain, dramatically rising from water’s edge.

10. Bibury, England 

Bibury, which sits among the hilly Cotswold region, is often called England’s most beautiful town, and it certainly holds a place among Europe’s best and brightest. It was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, retaining a place in the past ever since. Most of Bibury still stands as it did hundreds of years ago, with the River Coln continuing to dominate the main street, while lush meadows abut ancient stone cottages with steep pitched roofs. Arlington Row, is known as the most scenic area in town, with its lane of sepia-hued cottages built in the 17th century to house weavers working at Arlington Mill.

Tags:travel, europe travel, accommodation Sydney, corporate travel,

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