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Trip List by JenC-7

Best small(ish) towns in Europe

Jan 18, 2008  
4.0 of 5 bubbles based on 13 votes

best places to visit that are not major cities... some are bigger than others but all have great charm and are easily walkable

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: Bayeux, York, Bruges, Sitges, Positano, Dingle, Mittenwald, Lucca, Ronda, Salisbury
  • Category: Best of
  • Traveler type: Culture, Sightseeing, Never been before, Repeat visitors
  • Appeals to: Couples/romantics, Honeymooners, Singles, Families with teenagers, Seniors, Students, Budget travelers, Tourists
  • Seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
  • 1. Bayeux, France
    Bayeux, Calvados, Basse-Normandie

    This is a lovely small town with a gorgeous Gothic cathedral, cobblestone streets and timbered houses. The famous Bayeux Tapestry is on display here, and seeing it was a highlight of my trip to France. It was truly amazing! This town makes a perfect base for exploring the area. Day trips can be done to various châteaux, Rouen, Mont Saint-Michel, Giverny, and of course the D-day beaches. Bayeux was the first town to be liberated from the Nazis in World War II. If you have a car, the Route des Abbayes and the Route du Cidre are nearby, where you can visit ancient abbeys or sample local cider and calvados.

  • 2. York, England

    I don't know why this town doesn't get more great "pub"... It's got loads of history, tons of charm, lots of things to do...To make it even better, it's on the main rail line between London and Edinburgh, so it would make a great stop if you are visiting either or both of those cities. York Minster is a beautiful gothic church, and the town has several small but excellent museums. In addition, there is the medieval shopping street known as the Shambles, and there is much of the original Roman wall remaining as well as remains from when the Vikings ruled the city.

  • 3. Brugge, Belgium

    This is a perfectly preserved medievel town. It was a major port, but it's canals were silted up in the mid 1500's, so the town went into decline. It was re-discovered as a tourist destination in the 20th century. Between being silted up and escaping damage during the World Wars, it is one of the few cities in Europe to look much as it did 400 years ago. It could be seen on a day trip from Brussels, but it definitely deserves more time. Climb to the top of the bell tower for a fantastic view of the town, go see the only Michelangelo sculpture outside of Italy at the Church of Our Lady, and take the Staffe Hendrik brewery tour... And make sure to try some frites and some chocolate!

  • 4. Sitges, Spain

    This beach town is just south of Barcelona and an easy day trip by train. Even though it has beautiful beaches and is so close to the city, it has retained it's quaint atmosphere. You can wander through the narrow winding streets of the historic town or just hang out at a beach cafe.

  • 5. Positano, Italy
    Positano, Amalfi Coast

    No, it's not a secret, but this town has to have some of the most dramatic scenery in the world. The buildings literally are built into the sides of cliffs which plunge down into the Mediterranean. Positano is roughly in the middle of the Amalfi Coast, arguably the most scenic drive in the world!

  • 6. Dingle, Ireland
    Dingle, Dingle Peninsula

    Charming small fishing town on the West Coast of Ireland, a perfect spot to do some shopping and hang out at the local pubs. Use it as a base to explore the Dingle Peninsula, which is also one of the world's great scenic drives.

  • 7. Mittenwald, Germany
    Mittenwald, Upper Bavaria

    Exactly what a fairy-tale like little town in the Alps should be. I went in December and it was truly a winter wonderland. Not far from Neuschwanstein Castle.

  • 8. Lucca, Italy
    Lucca, Province of Lucca

    The picture-perfect Tuscan town. Climb to the top of the Torre Guinigi (the tower with the tree on top), hike the perfectly preserved city walls (built in the 16th-17th centuries), and walk through town to see the ancient Roman amphitheatre and several beautiful churches.

  • 9. Ronda, Spain
    Ronda, Costa del Sol

    One of the whitewashed hill towns of Andalusia, Ronda is built on the steep cliffs on top of a river gorge. The Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) spans the gorge and offers fantastic views. The bridge is the spot in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls where Nationalist sympathizers were thrown into the gorge. The town is not far from the Costa del Sol, but a million miles away in terms of it's tranquil atmosphere.

  • 10. Salisbury, England
    Salisbury, Wiltshire

    This is on everyone's radar because it is the closest town to Stonehenge, but it is SO much more than that. Give it at least a full day to explore it in it's own right. Salisbury Cathedral is my favorite in Britain, and the Cathedral Close that surrounds it is a wonderful space.