NYC, London, Paris, Dubai, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney… the world is full of huge cities that are bustling with activity. Many tourists love visiting these cities for their history, culture, iconic attractions, museums, parks, nightlife, and street food. Of course, many of the largest cities in the world are also business locations, so there is always a constant flow of visitors. Luckily, the world is full of beautiful villages as well, which should always be on your travel bucket list.
There is something truly magical about the small towns and villages. They are scenic, laid-back, and are often more authentic because you will get to see the traditional lifestyle of the residents. These villages are also closer to nature.
Europe has some of the most beautiful villages and small towns you will find anywhere. Here is our top 10 pick from across the continent.
Bled is located at the base of the Julian Alps. It surrounds the glacial Lake Bled with tall snowy mountains in all directions. There is a small and scenic island at the center. The 11th-century Bled Castle overlooks the lake. It houses a chapel, printing press, and a museum. The Austrian and Italian borders are both very close. Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is only 50 kilometers away. Try the vanilla and cream pastries when you are visiting Bled.
Movie buffs may remember Cong from the 1952 Oscar-winning film The Quiet Man, which featured John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The movie was filmed in this scenic Irish village. It is a spectacular village with towers, castles, caves, open grasslands, and plenty of greenery everywhere. There are two huge lakes on both sides with many small islands. The village is 2.5 hours from Dublin. You can see Ireland’s most ancient circles and stone monuments that go back to the Neolithic times. See the Ashford Castle, colorful and rustic homes, and thatched-roof cottages.
A scenic island village in Greece on the edge of a cliff. It is located at the southern edge of Cyclades, with the Sea of Crete on the south. Folegandros is often considered to be a “hidden gem of Greece”. It is very close Santorini. But Folegandros has managed to remain untouched by international tourism. There are very few tourists, which means, it retains its charm and unique character. See the whitewashed houses, their colorful windows, and narrow alleys. Everywhere you look you will find traditional Cycladic architecture. Walk up to the Panagia Church, at the highest point of the island, for a stunning sunset view.
A fairy tale town in northeastern France. It is close to the German border. The Rhine River flows from one side. Colmar has cobblestone streets that are lined with buildings from the Renaissance and medieval times. Colmar is sometimes also called “Little Venice” because of the canals. See the painted waterside houses, shutters, and window-blooms. The locals like to decorate their homes and windows with pots and pans. You can do a canal cruise like Amsterdam or just walk along the quiet canal-side streets. The Gothic 13th-century, Eglise Saint-Martin church stands on central Place de la Cathédrale. There are many vineyards around Colmar that make Gewürztraminer and Riesling wines.
Bibury offers the best of the British countryside. Charming, it is often considered to be “the most beautiful village in England”. According to Fox News, it is “one of the world’s most picturesque villages”. See the honey-colored 17th-century cottages. Also see the Church of St Mary, Saxon Church, and the trout farm. The River Coln flows through the village. Bibury receives many day visitors from London, Oxford, Bristol, and Reading. But you can also stay overnight in the village at a farm, in one of the historic cottages, or the camping site.
Read our guides to the world’s most popular cities for tourists.
Estaing is a historic village in France nestled between hills and valleys. The village has picturesque streets, old houses that are made of slate gray stones, a Gothic bridge, and the famous Chateau d’Estaing. Admire the beautiful façades that go back to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The village center has the Cayron Mansion and Church of St Fleuret. Cayron Mansion has now been turned into the town hall. There is a guided tour of the Chateau d’Estaing. A procession is held on the first Sunday of July every year. The locals wear period costumes and pass through the village streets. It is a historical reconstitution and religious act.
A medieval village in the heart of Switzerland with rolling valleys and mountains all around. The main street, which is 300 meters long, runs through the center. You will find many cafes, restaurants, museums, and hotels along this cobblestone street. Les Grands Chemins is a scenic walking path that circles the village. The 13th-century St. Germain Castle is the highest point of the village. There is a small museum here. Also, see the Tibet Museum that displays Buddhist ritual objects and sculptures. Try fondues, röstis, soup de chalet, and cheese making.
A small fishing village in the Lofoten archipelago. It is surrounded by craggy peaks. You will have to stay in a fisherman’s cabin, the oldest cabin goes back to the 1890s. However, most of these cabins are now modernized. You even have internet. Rent a bike or boat. You can also try fishing or hiking. Visit between December and February for cod fishing. Or chose May, for the Elijazzen Festival. Click this link to find out how to reach Hamnoy and the Lofoten Islands.
Popeye Village, Malta
Also called Sweethaven Village, this unique village was actually a film set, which has now been turned into a fun park. The movie was not a huge hit, but its set became one of the top tourist attractions of Malta. You will find many rustic and colorful wooden buildings. Children can climb these buildings and explore the village. There are puppet and Jerry Sprinjer shows. The kids can meet the characters from the movie like Wimpy, Bluto, Olive Oyl, and Popeye. There are boat rides too. Adults can go on wine tasting tours while the kids enjoy the many attractions.
Hallstatt is one of the prettiest lakeside villages you will find. Its main attractions are the stunning lakes, the glacier on the southern edge of the village, and 16th-century Alpine houses with shades of bright yellow and red. Cobblestone streets connect the ornate churches, Alpine inns, and charming cafes. In the summer and spring, flower boxes decorate the windows. There are ivy and geraniums everywhere. Take the funicular to reach the Skywalk Hallstatt viewing platform for an incredible 360-degree view.