23 Small Secret European Towns You Must Visit

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I’m making it my mission to travel to each of these charming towns in Europe. The big cities are always a treat, but getting away from the crowds to discover small European treasures is where the real culture resides. Most of them remain unspoiled by tourism and frozen in time, which makes them all the more magical.

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1. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

The southwestern castle city of Cesky Krumlov is one of the Czech Republic’s finest mediaeval sites. Its Old Town is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, a maze of twisting alleys built around the extensive Cesky Krumlov castle.

Colmar, France

2. Colmar, France

Colmar is the third-largest commune of the Alsace region in north-eastern France. Wonderfully preserved from the ravages of time, its homogenous historical centre is classed as a ‘protected area’ and has benefited from careful restoration and ongoing improvements for more than 20 years. Colmar retains a country town atmosphere which contributes to its charm.

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3. Kotor, Montenegro

Located on a beautiful bay on the coast of Montenegro, Kotor is a city steeped in tradition and history, with remarkable scenic views. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the old city was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and is filled with medieval architecture and historic monuments.

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4. Hallstatt, Austria

Nestled between the edge of Hallstätter See and the towering Dachstein mountains, Hallstatt is Austria’s oldest and possibly most photographed village. With pastel-coloured houses that cast shimmering reflections onto the glassy waters of the lake and with towering mountains on all sides, Hallstatt’s beauty alone would be enough to guarantee it fame.

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5. Staufen im Breisgau, Germany

This enclave on the edge of the Black Forest, in southern Germany, is the ideal destination for a wine weekend. Think hills covered with terraced vineyards, pastel houses, and a Town Hall with gothic inscriptions leading back to 770.

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6. Giornico, Switzerland

Giornico is an Italian-speaking municipality in the district of Leventina in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland. Descend into the valley and arrive at a trickling little river crossed by two arching stone bridges, and the most charming family-run restaurants.

Dinant, Belgium

7. Dinant, Belgium

Dinant is a historic town spectacularly sited along impressive stone cliffs near the confluence of the Meuse and Lesse Rivers. The region of Dinant is the tourist heart of Wallonia, with Dinant serving as its main hub.

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8. Mostar, Bosnia and Hervezoga

Mostar is a city and municipality in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Inhabited by 113,169 people, it is the most important city in the Herzegovina region, its cultural capital, and the center of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton of the Federation.

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9. Giethoorn, Netherlands

Giethoorn is in the province of Overijssel in the east of the Netherlands, a few hours out of Amsterdam. It’s nicknamed “Dutch Venice” because there are no roads in this magical little village. Related: Guide to Giethoorn.

gruyeres-switzerland

10. Gruyeres, Switzerland

Gruyères is a town in the district of Gruyère in the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland. The historical town of Gruyères, Greyerz in German, has preserved its Medieval character up until today. The old comital residence lies on a hill above the river Saane with a castle that dates back to the 13th century.

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11. Marsaxlokk, Malta

Marsaxlokk in Malta is a traditional fishing village in the Southpart famous for its fish market, colourful boats and fish restaurants.

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12. Pucisca, Croatia

Pučišća is a municipality in Croatia on the island of Brač in the Split-Dalmatia County. It’s filled with red-roof, old-stone houses that sit prettily on the water front.

Manarola-Italy

13. Manarola, Italy

Manarola is a small town, a frazione of the comune of Riomaggiore, in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northern Italy. Like all Cinque Terre towns it sits cliff-side with a gorgeous array of rainbow coloured houses.

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14. Bled, Slovenia

Bled, a Slovenian resort town in the foothills of the Julian Alps, is set along the glacial Lake Bled, one of Europe’s most beautiful and celebrated lakes.

Lake Annecy, France

15. Annecy, France

Annecy is an alpine town in southeastern France, where the River Thiou meets Lac d’Annecy. It’s known for its Vieille Ville (old town), with cobbled streets, winding canals and pastel-colored houses.

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16. Albarracin, Spain

Albarracín is a beautifully preserved medieval village in Northern Spain. Down Albarracín’s narrow alleys and winding lanes await ancient stone towers and ocher-hued castles and chapels.

German-Rothenburg

17. Rothenburg, Germany

Take a trip back in time and explore one of the best preserved medieval towns in Germany. Rothenburg is also the very place that inspired Walt Disney to create Pinocchio.

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18. Lošinj, Croatia

Another Adriatic island to add to your bucket list is Lošinj. It’s a natural harbour ringed by graceful, gently weathered Mediterranean town houses and green surrounding hills. A real Croatian beauty.

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19. Qaqortoq, Greenland

Qaqortoq, formerly Julianehåb, is a town in the Kujalleq municipality in southern Greenland where you’ll be greeted by a wealth of visual impressions: colourful houses, rock sculptures and church ruins.

Amiens, France

20. Amiens, France

Amiens is a city and commune in northern France, 120 km north of Paris. The mostly pedestrianised city centre, rebuilt after WWII, is complemented by lovely green spaces along the Somme river. A lovely weekend getaway!

Ostuni Italy

21. Ostuni, Italy

Nicknamed the White City, Ostuni extends across three hills with the magnificent gem of a cathedral as its sparkling centrepiece.

Luxembourg City, Grund, bridge over Alzette river

22. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Built amid deep gorges cut by the Alzette and Pétrusse rivers, Luxembourg is famed for its ruins of medieval fortifications. Half the population of this capital city are foreigners, which gives it a distinctly cosmopolitan feel.

Bibury, England

23. Bibury, England

Bibury, nestled in the eastern hills of the Cotswolds, first earned its title of “the most beautiful village in England” from the artist and craftsman, William Morris, and for good reason.

  • I’d love to do a tour of Europe and visit all the pretty European countries. I went to Switzerland and Italy with school and they were so beautiful – I would love to return as I don’t think I appreciated them enough when I was young. xx

    Jessie | allthingsbeautiful-x

    • Would love to visit Switzerland one day! There is just SO much to see in Europe it’s crazy x

  • I agree, there are so many hidden jewels in Europe, I love stumble upon beautiful small towns. Thanks for the list! :)

    xo, Jessie | Bear and Berries | Instagram

    • Me too, it’s my favourite thing! Glad you’ve found it useful :) x

  • Manarola is one of my favorite places! I’d love to go back to Cinque Terre.

    Louise walkaboutbeauty

    • Cinque Terre is a magical place! x

  • Claire

    this is SO beautiful…thank you for sharing these pieces of paradise…it’s on my travel list now!!
    Cheers
    Claire

    https://thoseexistentialthoughts.wordpress.com/

    • So glad you liked it Claire! :) x

  • All of these look fab! Ahh I can’t wait to visit Europe! x

    TOUCHOFGUCCI // BLOGLOVIN

    • I’m excited for you! So many beautiful places! x

  • You got me: I am desperately crazy about small secret towns. Between those that you suggested I have just visited Annecy and I LOVED it: the lake is so beautiful! And the old town is like a fairy tale! If you wish I could suggest some others for your next trips!

    https://pandaonavespa.wordpress.com/

    • Annecy is straight out of a storybook! Of course, I’d LOVE to hear any suggestions you have :) x

      • So, if you ever watched “the sound of music”, you are going to love this one (and if you didn´t it´s ok, because it´s a stunning place): Mondsee, not far from Salzburg (Austria). Of course there is Salzburg as well. I would suggest ordeaux (France), Galway (Ireland), Bolzano (Italy), more or less every little city in Switzerland and Ludwigsburg in Germany (especially for the Christmas market!!!)

  • Lots of gorgeous places, would love to visit them all some day! I definitely have a few additions from beautiful Scandinavia, and I also feel like I must give you a heads up; Morocco isn’t in Europe – It’s in Africa :)

    • Scandinavia is so beautiful – so many little treasures over there! Oh I thought I had already fixed that, thank you for letting me know. x

  • Wow so many places to add to my bucket list! As someone said earlier in the comments; I can also recommend many places Scandinavia!

  • These places are on my bucket list! Have you heard about Sintra, Portugal before? It was such a magical place! Fell in love the mysterious town last summer!

    Miriam ♥ A whole lot of serendipity

  • They all seem so lovely! I went to 3 of them: Colmar, Ostuni and Luxembourg city. I loved Ostuni a lot, but my camera got stolen during my trip there so I lost all my pictures :(. I might have gone to Dinant as well since I’m from Belgium, but I don’t remember ahah !

  • I went to Rothenburg. I remember that there was a Christmas shop all year long, it was really cute with all the wooden decorations and those candle holders that whirl :)

    MsBubu

  • You’re right, they all look amazing! I want to go to all of them <3 x

    http://www.beckieeschle.com

  • All of these just look like a dream. Have you been to any of these personally?

    http://www.kelseymarie.co

  • Ilona von Wandernd

    Cesky Krumlov, Bled, Hallstatt and Rothenburg – SECRET? Seriously? They are croweded with groups of americans and / or japanese tourists. lol
    Especially Krumlov and Rothenburg…

    http://wandernd.wordpress.com