Share on Facebook

A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Small European Towns You Never Thought to Visit (but Should)

They may be relatively under the radar, but they're certainly captivating and well worth a detour.

1 / 13
Beautiful view of the historic town of Colmar, also known as Little Venice, with tourists taking a boat ride along traditional colorful houses on idyllic river Lauch in summer, Colmar, Alsace, Francecanadastock/Shutterstock

Colmar, France

Also known as the “Little Venice,” this small town is situated in Alsace, a historical region in northeastern France along the Rhine River on the German border. The picturesque old town dazzles, with cobblestone streets running alongside canals and half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings stacked above. Check out the Unterlinden Museum in a former 13th-century Dominican convent building for local art and history, and enjoy an aperitif of local white wine and cheese at L’Un des Sens wine bar. These are the 13 underrated European cities everyone should visit at least once.

2 / 13
Hallstatt, Austria. Mountain village in the Austrian Alps.emperorcosar/Shutterstock

Hallstatt, Austria

Nature lovers with a yearning for coziness will absolutely thrive in the quaint village of Hallstatt, a charming lakeside town that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Austria’s mountainous Salzkammergut region. Dotted with 16th-century Alpine houses and snug alleyways with cafés and shops, the town is full of hidden ins and outs that you could spend hours exploring. For more adventurous folk, take the funicular railway that connects to Salzwelten, an ancient salt mine with a subterranean salt lake, to Skywalk Hallstatt viewing platform. Continue on to the trail leading to the Echern Valley Glacier Garden where the Waldbachstrub Waterfall awaits. For a more relaxing experience, chill out at Gasthof Simony, a restaurant that offers delicious regional specialties in its peaceful garden. You probably don’t know about these European destinations. 

3 / 13
Church of the Assumption, Bled, SloveniaIstvan Csak/Shutterstock

Bled, Slovenia

The resort town of Bled sits at the foothills of the Julian Alps, with the main attraction certainly the glacial Lake Bled. For a dose of local history, tour the 11th-century Bled Castle, perched on a cliff overlooking the lake. It houses a museum, chapel, and printing press. In the lake’s center, you’ll find the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria, where you can still attend mass. The lake is surrounded by mountains and forests, and crystal clear waters offer swimming, whitewater rafting, and bungee jumping. For a blend of Slovenian, Mediterranean, and international cuisines surrounded by the Alps and under the Bled sky, dine at FineFood Penzion Berc.

4 / 13
BIBURY, ENGLAND, UK - JULY 9, 2014: Arlington Row traditional Cotswold stone cottages in Gloucestershire on JULY 9, 2014, England. Bibury it the most depicted village in the world.iLongLoveKing/Shutterstock

Bibury, England

A village and civil parish located in Gloucestershire, England, and situated on both banks of the River Coln, Bibury looks like an Old World painting come to life. From the rows of ancient cottages to the picturesque old church and the river leading to the main street, there’s just something entirely fairy tale-like about this small town. Grab a bite at The Swan Hotel, a stunning 17th-century inn, and pop into the Old Silk Mill on Sheep Street, which, today, houses the workshops of local artisans. Get a look at some more real places that look straight out of a fairy tale.

5 / 13
View of Chora on Ios island early in the morning. Santorini island can be seen on the horizon.Milan Gonda/Shutterstock

Chora, Greece

Set high on a hill on the island of Alonissos, Chora offers breathtaking sea views and unequivocal peacefulness—the whitewashed clifftop town is traditional Greece at its best. There are crooked streets winding up to flower-filled squares, with the most popular being Pounta Square. Here, you have an impressive view of the Aegean Sea, various shops and terraces, and a footpath to the monastery of Panagia Prousiotissa. Diners should put The Nest at the top of their list, as most of the dishes are prepared at home by the mother of the brothers who manage the restaurant. Check out these 12 other European islands you never thought to visit.

6 / 13
Gent, Belgium at day, Ghent old townTTstudio/Shutterstock

Ghent, Belgium

Located in northwest Belgium, Ghent is a university town and cultural hub that offers medieval architecture, like the 12th-century Gravensteen castle and the Graslei, a row of guildhalls beside the Leie river harbor. Take a small boat along the river to the castle, visit a museum, and, if you come during July, be sure to enjoy the Gentse Feesten, a renowned music and theatre festival.

7 / 13
Tall sail boat enters the harbor of old Venetian town of Rovinj, CroatiaInu/Shutterstock

Rovinj, Croatia

Located on the Istrian peninsula, Rovinj is an ancient fishing port. The tower of St. Euphemia Church marks the highest point. If its bell tower looks familiar, it’s because it was built in homage to St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice. Colorful houses create a stream of intriguing architecture down to the seafront and the bustling harbor. The steep pedestrian streets are filled with art galleries, restaurants, and lively bars. Try Barba Danilo for creative seafood dishes. Find out the most underrated travel destinations in the world.

8 / 13
Cathedral and colored houses in Cobh, IrelandGiancarlo Liguori/Shutterstock

Cobh, Ireland

Pronounced “cove,” this Irish town offers picturesque painted hillside cottages overlooking a quaint harbor and waterfront promenade. The town is perhaps most famous for being the Titanic‘s final port of call. You can take a boat trip of your own on one of the local tour operators; this is the world’s second-largest natural harbor, after all. Other must-sees are the wildlife reserve at Fota Wildlife Park and the Spike Island prison-fortress, called the “Irish Alcatraz.” Atop the harbor, you can enjoy al fresco dining at Titanic Bar & Grill. Don’t miss these other undiscovered gems of Ireland.

9 / 13
The small mountain village of Tschiertschen, Switzerlandrazzel/Shutterstock

Tschiertschen, Switzerland

This picturesque Swiss village is tucked amid mountain slopes above the left side of the Schanfigg Valley. Once simply a farming settlement, today it has become a popular “secret spot” for skiers and hikers. In the summer, it’s painted with phenomenal fields of flowers, broad pastures, sunny terraces, and deep woods. The town makes for a quaint and quiet escape, where you’re immersed deeply in the beauty of nature and simple life. Stay at The Alpina Mountain Resort & Spa, which offers 1920s elegance, 27 rooms and suites, two restaurants, a stylish cocktail bar, and an exclusive spa.

10 / 13
A Winter Village View over Lech, AustriaSABPICS/Shutterstock

Lech, Austria

Skiers, snowboarders. and cross-country skiers will feel right at home in Lech. Known for its A-list alpine charm, the mountain village is a splendor in summer as well, with plentiful hiking opportunities at the Tannberg trail and in the Zugertal valley. With international events including the Lech Classic Festival, the Lech Jazz Stage, and the 22nd Philosophicum Lech, it’s a draw for cultural travelers from around the world. Be sure to end your day of activity digging into fondue at Rud-Alpe.

11 / 13
evening view of mountains town in Aragon. Albarracin, TeruelIakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

Albarracín, Spain

Two hours outside of Valencia, you’ll find this charming Spanish village. Nestled above the curve of the Guadalaviar River, Albarracín is full of history, from the towering medieval walls to the 10th-century Andador Tower and the ruins of an alcázar, a Moorish castle. For a local favorite, dine at El Buen Yantar or Rincón del Chorro for a buzzing atmosphere. Stroll La Plaza Mayor, a tiny plaza with a mix of locals and tourists, where you can grab an al fresco seat for a drink and some people-watching. You should also check out these cheaper alternatives to Europe’s expensive cities.

12 / 13
Night view of Amalfi cityscape on coast line of mediterranean sea, Italyproslgn/Shutterstock

Atrani, Italy

Located within the province of Salerno in the Campania region of southwestern Italy, this town is the hidden secret of the Amalfi Coast. Sandwiched between two cliffs with a vast view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Atrani is tiny but bold with beauty around every corner. Stunning churches, cozy piazzas, and delicious trattorias like A’ Paranza make for the perfect Italian getaway.

13 / 13
Pena Palace in Sintra - Portugal - architecture backgroundTatiana Popova/Shutterstock

Sintra, Portugal

Located just outside of the country’s capital of Lisbon, Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its 19th-century romantic architecture. Magical palaces, castles, and manors will make your jaw drop as you explore the town. Experience the mystery of the Quinta da Regaleira, a 20th-century Gothic architectural masterpiece, home to many an owner over the years. Indulge your sweet tooth at the Casa Piriquita pastry shop. Read on for more amazing European vacations for under $400.

Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine, and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty, and scientific news. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected], and check out her website: