If you plan on visiting Europe and want to experience some of its most picturesque small towns, offering old-world charm, striking scenic beauty, or maybe even both, these are some of the very best destinations, including Reine, a tiny fishing village on the island of Moskenesoya in Norway, pictured above – it was voted the most beautiful village in the entire country.
French and German influences commingle in this well-preserved Alsatian village, where local bakeries sell both croissants and kugelhopf, and restaurants specialize in foie gras and sauerkraut (or choucroute). A range of architectural styles, from German Gothic to French Neo-Baroque, can be spotted in the old town, which was spared destruction during World War II—thanks in part to the historical beauty of its cobblestoned lanes, quiet canals, and half-timbered houses.
One of Italy’s Cinque Terre towns, Manarola is filled with a brilliant array of rainbow-colored homes that are carved right into an impenetrable wall of stone along the rugged Mediterranean coast.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany
This charming Bavarian mountain resort town dates back to 15 AD, and is filled with narrow, cobblestone streets lined with historic buildings in Bavarian gasthaus style which feature facades painted with pastel-hued imagery, including pastoral, regional and religious scenes.
The hilly Cotswold region is a designated “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” in southwestern England, and one of its loveliest villages is Bibury, where verdant meadows abut ancient stone cottages with steep pitched roofs. The River Coln, which bisects the village, teems with trout, but the most scenic area is Arlington Row, a lane of sepia-hued cottages built in the 17th century to house weavers from the nearby Arlington Mill.
This Dutch town located in the province of Overijssel has no roads. Instead, it’s connected by a network of old-world canals, creating small private islands for each home.
Santorini, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century B.C.E., forever shaping its rugged landscape and villages. The whitewashed, cubist houses of its 2 principal towns, Fira and Oia, cling to cliffs above an underwater caldera (crater). They overlook the clear Aegean and beaches made up of black, red and white lava pebbles.
Last, but certainly not least, Portmagee, found along the Ring of Kerry on Ireland’s southwest coast is a picture-perfect fishing village renowned for its vibrant colored buildings, rich history and gorgeous views. It’s also the departure point for boat trips to Skelligs Rock, the home of preserved monastic settlements that date back to the 6th century.