15 of the most beautiful villages in Europe
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While the draw of cosmopolitan European cities includes culture, gastronomy and nightlife, there’s nothing quite like the charm of a forgotten Sicilian village or a tiny townlet set at the base of snow-capped mountains. Europe has intriguing small settlements at every turn, from storied medieval cobblestoned hamlets to clifftop whitewashed villages. Although the options are plentiful, here is TPG’s pick of some of Europe’s best villages.
1. Arcos de la Frontera, Spain
One of Andalusia’s famous whitewashed villages, Arcos de la Frontera, is balanced on the edge of a cliff towering high above the Guadalete River. After admiring its white buildings, visit the Castillo de los Arcos, a castle that was once occupied centuries ago by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon.
2. Alberobello, Italy
The Puglian village of Alberobello is one of Italy’s most original tiny towns, known for its hundreds of whitewashed huts that have conical-shaped roofs (Italians call the huts trulli). Wander the Rione Monti neighbourhood where you can sample Puglian wine and cheese, shop for souvenirs or even spend the night in a trullo hut.
3. Cavtat, Croatia
This picturesque village on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast is just a short car ride away from Dubrovnik. Admire the red roofs overlooking the glimmering Adriatic Sea, flanked by hills and pine forests and discover the old city’s Renaissance architecture. Then, hire a sailboat for the day and relax on the glistening sands of the beach.
4. Grindelwald, Switzerland
The village of Grindelwald sits delicately at the bottom of the Bernese Alps. Though many use it as a base for trekking the surrounding peaks, there are plenty more leisurely routes to take throughout the village and its hilly pastures. Consider experiencing the village and other idyllic Swiss spots with a ride on the Jungfraubahn train, one of Europe’s most epic railway adventures.
5. Riquewhir, Alsace, France
The quaint wine-making village of Riquewhir is only a 30-minute drive from one of France‘s most famous villages: Colmar. The romantic, charming settlement boasts a number of traditional Alsatian half-timbered houses with oriel windows and beautiful courtyards. Make sure to wander the cobblestoned streets and stop at the famous Musée du Dolder, pausing to sip Alsatian wine along the way.
6. Knaresborough, U.K.
This Yorkshire village emits international charm with its striking viaduct and castle. Looming high over the River Nidd, Knaresborough has one of the oldest attractions in England: Mother Shipton’s Cave. Make sure to visit on Market Day (Wednesday) in order to shop for culinary delights at the outdoor market in the main square.
7. Dinant, Belgium
Sitting quietly in the shadow of a magnificent, fortified citadel, the village of Dinant also rests on the banks of the Meuse River. The French-speaking village in Belgium is famous for its 13th-century Gothic cathedral and is also known as the birthplace of the saxophone — the jazz instrument’s creator, Adolphe Sax, was born there.
8. Kinsale, Ireland
The vibrant fishing village of Kinsale in Cork is not only enchanting but also has some of Ireland’s most delicious seafood. TPG U.K. Features Editor Hayley Coyle hails from the village and says that visitors should definitely include a visit to Charles Fort, one of the two forts that used to guard Kinsale. “Walking from the Spaniard Inn across Scilly Walk to Charles Fort for a picnic is both a beautiful stroll and a great spot for the best views of the town”, Coyle said.
Related: Most beautiful beaches in Ireland
9. Talasnal, Portugal
Talasnal is one of central Portugal‘s famous Schist villages. Its buildings, which sit high in the Serra da Lousã mountain range, are made entirely out of Schist rock. The hilly, stone village is practically hidden among pine foliage and is best explored in between hikes.
10. Cochem, Germany
The half-timbered, slate-roofed and colourful houses that line the Moselle River are a sight to behold. The winding, cobblestone streets lead up to the Reichsburg Castle. This castle isn’t the original structure but is still worth exploring. The surrounding area is filled with hilly woods perfect for hiking and wineries where you can sip an aromatic Riesling.
11. Ragusa, Sicily, Italy
This hilltop village in southern Sicily is simply spectacular. Ragusa Ibla, the old city centre, is filled with Baroque architecture and art. The whole setting is so idyllic, you won’t even notice you’re traversing hundreds of stone steps or ascending the small, stone streets. For further Baroque discoveries in the Val di Noto area, visit the nearby towns of Modica, Scicli and Noto.
12. Cudillero, Spain
Spain’s northern region of Asturias may not be on the typical Costa del Sol or Canary Island tourist route, but the area’s hidden beaches and woodsy allure are beyond quaint — especially the seaside village of Cudillero. There isn’t much to do besides wander through the red-roofed village and quiet beach except enjoy traditional Asturian tapas like chorizo marinated in sidra (apple cider).
13. Oia, Santorini, Greece
Oia is what people dream about when they picture Greece: whitewashed, blue-domed buildings rising over the sparkling Aegean Sea. Located on the island of Santorini, visitors can view some of the most epic sunsets in the world from this village — but hotels and rentals aren’t cheap, so be ready to splurge for a stay in this village.
14. Sigtuna, Sweden
Sigtuna is one of the oldest villages in Sweden, known for its pastel-coloured buildings, medieval churches and Viking ruins. The town, just a quick ride on the train from Stockholm, is located on Lake Mälaren where you can canoe or kayak. Several castles are located nearby once you’ve wandered the village from top to bottom.
15. Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
If Prague was a tiny village, it might look something like Český Krumlov. Similar to Prague, Český Krumlov is intersected by a river (in this case, the Vltava River) and also features a castle. This village, which is nestled among the hilly southern Bohemia region, is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site with Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque architecture abound.
Sometimes it feels right to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy city for a quieter holiday. Europe is full of beautiful villages from the Swiss Alps to Yorkshire to the Aegean Sea. Combine a village trip with a seaside getaway, hiking adventure or a National Park visit and you’ve got the perfect getaway.
Featured photo of Santorini, Greece by Murat Taner/Getty Images.