Europe is my love language. I love everything about it. I like the big and bustling capital cities down to the teeny tiny, quaint, small towns and villages. I adore getting up early in the morning, walking narrow cobblestone alleys until I find a coffee shop that serves freshly baked bread and croissants. I adore sunset drinks on rooftops looking out over medieval towns. And I even adore not being able to understand what others are saying around me. Europe is so beautiful and diverse and you can visit so many different countries in a short amount of time. The continent is absolute perfection! And while I like just about everything about Europe, I have a special place in my heart for the small and quaint towns that lie outside of the bustling capital cities. Below you’ll find a list of my very favorite small towns in Europe, each place I encourage you to add to your bucket list!
The Very Best Small Towns in Europe
Bath is just a short train ride away from London (an hour and a half) and can easily be explored in a day! (Although I highly encourage you to slow down and stay for longer than that). The city of Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its natural baths that the Romans discovered hundreds of years ago. It’s said that the baths have healing properties making Bath a common place to visit for people looking to treat their ailments.
Read more: 10 Things to See and Do in Bath
I happened to stumble upon Bled when I was visiting the capital of Slovenia – Ljublijana, as a solo traveler several years ago. Then, Slovenia wasn’t mentioned much and Bled was certainly a hidden gem. Although the country has started to garner a lot more attention, I still believe Bled to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in all of Europe. Lake Bled is stunning and the mountains surrounding it create what feels like a “haven” for those who are visiting.
Another one of those towns that just happens to take your breath away is Brugge. Brugge is a bustling medieval town on the western side of Belgium, just an hour train ride from Brussels (it’s also a popular day trip from Amsterdam!). Here you can spend your days wandering cobblestone streets, taking a boat ride through the town canals, and dining on frites and waffles at every corner. It’s a romantic little getaway that still somehow manages to cater to people from all walks of life.
Read more: Discovering Bruges in 48 Hours
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Located about three hours south of Prague (near the Austrian border), Cesky Krumlov is what fairytales are made of. This medieval town is surrounded by a moat (likely to keep invaders out back in the day), and still retains a sense of originality. The town denied welcoming Starbucks and McDonald’s which is one of my favorite things about it. It still feels authentic. While every small town in Europe that I manage to visit charms me to no end, Cesky Krumlov holds an extra special place in my heart.
When I visited Colmar, it was my first taste of a small European town. I took the train from Paris and had no idea how hard I would fall for Colmar. They say that it’s a town that inspired Beauty and the Beast (I don’t doubt it) and it also happens to be a perfect, quiet escape from the busy city of Paris. Colmar is part of the Alsace wine region and borders Germany so there’s quite a bit of German influence in Colmar.
Belgium is filled with quaint towns waiting to be explored and Ghent should be on your bucket list! Near Brugge, Ghent is also easily accessible by train from Brussels. It houses a college so the town is young, fun, and vibrant. Similar to Brugge, spend your days wandering around the old alleyways, exploring Ghent’s old castle, or taking a boat ride through the town canals.
Read more: 24 Hours in Ghent
Gjirokaster is located in Southern Albania and is an old Ottoman town founded in the 13th-century. Known as the “City of Stone”, Gjirokaster has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2005, boasts an incredible and expansive castle complex, and still has historic houses standing that you can tour and learn about the history of Gjirokaster. While Albania may seem off the beaten path, I urge you to give it a try!
Read more: The Best Things to Do in Gjirokaster
It’s said that Kotor is the crown jewel of the Adriatic and it’s easy to see why once you visit. Located on the coast of Montenegro, Kotor is a well-preserved medieval, fortified city. In the summers Kotor becomes uncomfortably crowded tourists who are dying to see for themselves what makes the town so popular and special. I highly recommend coming in shoulder season when the crowds die down and the temperatures let up a bit.
Read more: A Guide to Visiting Kotor Montenegro
Located on the western coast of Portugal, north of Lisbon and south of Porto, you’ll find this charming, fairytale town – Óbidos. The historic center of Óbidos is contained within old castle walls, dating back to 713. With only 3,000 residents living in Óbidos, walking around town is a pleasant surprise from the bigger Portuguese cities. If you plan to travel to Portugal, I highly suggest adding Óbidos to your itinerary.
Located in Romania’s spooky (but beautiful) Transylvania Region, Sighisoara is straight out of a medieval fairy book. It’s perhaps the most impressive small town I’ve visited – with colorful homes that line cobbled streets and lead up to the main clock tower in town. It’s even considered to be the most beautiful and well-preserved inhabited citadel in Europe! (Impressed?). Although Sighisoara is very small, it’s worth a quick stop-in to marvel at the beauty.
Located in the heart of wine country, Sighnaghi is known as Georgia’s most romantic town and is also referred to as “the city of love”. Its viewpoints over the Alexander Valley, proximity to incredible vineyards around the Kakheti wine region, and general atmosphere make it a must-see if you’re ever in Georgia – or Europe in general.
I must have a thing for small romantic cities because Verona is another place that has managed to steal my heart. Verona is where Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet so to say it has a reputation for being romantic is the understatement of the century. Verona is located only 2.5 hours west of Venice and just north of Florence and Rome. While all of Italy is incredible – the food, culture, atmosphere – Verona tickled me just a bit more than the other places I had the chance to visit. Its colorful homes and old amphitheaters made my heart sing, and I hope that it’s a town I’ll return to once again.
Read more: Pictures of Verona to Inspire Your Visit
As I continue to explore Europe, I’m eager to continue running into quaint towns along the way. The best trip is one filled with good food, good wine, and of course a stop in an off-the-beaten-path, small European town.