VACATION IDEAS

Photos: Europe's Coolest Small Towns

From pristine Alpine hamlets to foodie havens in the south of France, we've discovered that some of Europe's coolest towns are also some of its smallest. Eat your heart out, Paris!

  1. The most photographed spot in Bibury, England, is Arlington Row, a collection of 14th-century stone buildings that were converted into weavers' cottages in the 1600s.

    (Charlotte Leaper / Dreamstime.com)
  2. Located on the River Coln in hilly west-central England, Bibury was described by 19th-century artist-writer William Morris as "the most beautiful village in England."

    (Travel Pictures Ltd / SuperStock)
  3. Walt Disney was so taken by the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, that he used it as inspiration for the village in the movie Pinocchio.

    (Courtesy Berthold Werner/Wikimedia Commons)
  4. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, has all the pastoral views and scenery of the Romantic Road's other castle stops yet has a strong civic pulse, too.

    (Courtesy Tournachon/Wikimedia Commons)
  5. Years ago, the residents of the tiny Alpine town of Binn, Switzerland, decided to stave off development by preserving the surrounding valley as a park.

    (Switzerland Tourism-BAFU/swiss-image.ch/Lorenz Andreas Fischer)
  6. The 16th-century bridge in Binn, Switzerland, is traversed by hikers and goats instead of cars. 

    (Courtesy Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons)
  7. Up the Binna River from Binn, Switzerland, hikers will find even smaller hamlets and picture-perfect meadows.

    (Courtesy Loic Schulé/Wikimedia Commons)
  8. The town of Tenby, Wales, is always popular with holidaymakers, but it's getting an extra boost this year with the recent opening of the Wales Coast Path, an 870-mile meander along the country's edge that includes Tenby on its route. 

    (Geoffrey Kuchera / Dreamstime.com)
  9. The city walls of the seaside resort town of Tenby, Wales, might have kept attackers out during the Middle Ages, but today they can't quite contain the pastel Georgian buildings spilling right out onto the sand. 

    (Loop Images / SuperStock)
  10. On the banks of the Danube, in the shadow of a castle from the Middle Ages, Dürnstein, Austria, is an impossibly quaint little town. 

    (Gregor Semrad/Courtesy Durnstein Hotel)
  11. Everything in Dürnstein, Austria, from the red-tiled roofs to the baroque clock tower to the winding cobblestoned alleys, seems lifted straight from the Brothers Grimm. 

    (Courtesy Aryeh Goldsmith/Flickr)
  12. Dürnstein, Austria, is an under-explored retreat and a gateway to the surrounding Wachau valley, a grape region prized for crisp, dry Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners. 

    (Michael Guerriero)
  13. Founded in 1593 as a stronghold of the Venetian Republic, the UNESCO World Heritage town of Palmanova, Italy, was built in a unique, 18-sided octadecagon shape. 

    (Antos74/Dreamstime.com)
  14. In Palmanova, Italy, look out for the symbol of a leafy bough, or a frasca, hanging outside of restaurants to pinpoint ones serving regionally sourced food, such as the classic Venetian dish baccalà, made with dry-salted cod.

    (Courtesy ho visto nina volare/Flickr)
  15. The inhabitants of the port town of Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, are still mostly a mix of Norse and Celtic descendants. 

    (Catherine Karnow/Corbis)
  16. The principal industry in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, is commercial fishing, and the wharf is lined with unassuming seafood restaurants.

    (Courtesy Hansueli Krapf/Wikimedia Commons)
  17. One of the oldest villages in the Czech Republic, Cesky Krumlov is set in a valley in Bohemia south of the Blansko Forest and circled by the Vltava River.

    (Plotnikov / Dreamstime.com)
  18. The cobblestone streets of Cesky Krumlov's Old Town are lined with Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance buildings housing art galleries, cafes, and quaint B&Bs. 

    (Johnnydevil / Dreamstime.com)
  19. One of the best ways to experience Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, is to take a ride down the Vltava River on a wooden raft.

    (Mikhail Markovskiy/Dreamstime.com)
  20. North and south of the village center of Ericeira, Portugal, scalloped cliffs give way to white-sand beaches and-much to surfers' delight—consistent right-hand reef breaks.

    (Courtesy Paulo Juntas/Wikimedia Commons)
  21. Thanks to its seaside location, Ericeira, Portugal, is also well-known for its seafood. 

    (Courtesy Koshelyev/Wikimedia Commons)
  22. One of the quaintest towns in the Périgord Noir, Trémolat, France, sits on a horseshoe-shaped bend in the Dordogne River and is dominated by a fortresslike Romanesque church that dates back to the 11th century. 

    (Courtesy Janice Bowen)
  23. Trémolat, France, offers weekly cottage rentals at nearly half the cost of Provence—and the small-town experience is no less picturesque.

    (Courtesy Janice Bowen)

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