This is a guest post from Toccara Best of the inspirational travel blog ForgetSomeday.com, where she and her husband document their travels around Europe’s most charming small towns and off-the-beaten-path locations. They’ve personally been to each of these stunning medieval villages.
Many of Europe’s medieval towns are steeped in history and fascinating architecture. While perfect stops for a day trip, these medieval villages deserve more than just a few hours of attention.
Why not truly immerse yourself by spending a few nights within the town’s walls? Rather than stay in a modern hotel, choose a vacation rental that epitomizes the antiquity of the ancient town. Feel as if you’ve taken a step back in time by staying in a dwelling that very well could have been around since the town’s days of yore.
Come with us as we explore 10 of Europe’s most fascinating and downright magical medieval villages. And once you decide on a destination, you can book all your tours, activities, and attraction tickets right on TripAdvisor, too. Our new 24-hour cancellation policy means you can pre-book activities before arriving, but still have the flexibility to cancel if your itinerary changes.
Within the heart of Salamanca lies Spain’s oldest university (and one of the oldest in all of Europe), dating back to 1134. The city gets its nickname, La Dorada (The Golden City), from the beautiful glow of its sandstone structures. Boasting a remarkable collection of Medieval, Gothic, and Baroque buildings, this is a stunning medieval town not to be missed! And a tip for foodies: the freshly-made churros served with thick hot chocolate at Chocolateria Valor are to die for.
“Staying within the castle walls is the best way to visit Óbidos.”—TripAdvisor Rentals Reviewer
Located an hour north of Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon is the medieval village of Óbidos. Wander the cobblestone streets, admire the colorful doorways, explore a medieval castle, and walk along the city’s precarious fortified walls. Visit churches founded in the 14th century or stroll down Rua Direita, Óbidos’ main street, and sample the town’s local cherry liqueur—ginjinha (or ginja)—traditionally served in an edible chocolate cup.
We personally stayed in the Casa Maria d’Obidos from TripAdvisor, which offered an incredible experience to sleep within the city’s walls.
While many people simply pass by Radovljica on their way to Lake Bled in Slovenia, this is a medieval town worthy of exploration. It has the only still-existing moat in the entire country, dating back to the year 1500. Offering majestic views of the Julian Alps and boasting the highest amount of sunny days in the region, Radovljica is worth a visit on your next European escape.
“Easily one of the most beautiful rooms I have rented.”—TripAdvisor Rentals Reviewer
Despite its relatively small size, Cesky Krumlov is home to one of the largest castles in the country, second only to the massive castle complex in Prague. There are many unique experiences to be had in this medieval town, such as trying your hand at blacksmithing, or rafting through the center of town.
Resembling an enchanted village straight out of a fairytale, complete with winding cobblestone streets and colorful half-timbered buildings, Eguisheim is one of many adorable towns along the Route du Vin (Wine Route) in the Alsace region of eastern France. This medieval village is not only known for its picturesque alleyways, but also its resident storks and delicious wine!
Looking for another medieval town where you can walk the beautifully preserved city walls? In York, you’ll find the world’s largest railway museum, the oldest shopping street in Europe (The Shambles), and the second-largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe (York Minster), which took 250 years to build! If you believe in life beyond the grave, you’ll be interested to know that in 2002, the International Ghost Research Foundation announced that York is officially the most haunted city in Europe, so consider going on a ghost tour… if you dare!
“The best holiday we’ve ever had and Ingrid and her wonderful apartment had a lot to do with making it so great.”—TripAdvisor Rentals Reviewer
This picturesque lakeside village is said to be the oldest still-inhabited village in all of Europe. Located about an hour outside of Salzburg, Hallstatt offers some of the most spectacular views in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. For the best vistas, enjoy a scenic boat ride on the lake or take a three-minute journey to a height of 2,749 feet (838 meters) on the funicular train up to the famous viewing platform.
The pedestrian-only town center of Ghent is renowned for its medieval architecture, including the 12th-century Gravensteen Castle. For unique self-guided walking tours in this charming Flemish town, pick up a map for the Canvas Concrete Tour to admire a collection of impressive street art, and stay up past the sun to experience Ghent Illuminated, a magical late-night walking tour.
The villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore make up what is known as the Cinque Terre (or Five Lands) along the Italian Riviera. Trains run between the five colorful cliffside villages, though true adventurers navigate the hiking trails connecting these medieval towns along the Mediterranean Sea. Each town has its own unique charm and you can’t help but visit them all! See our Cinque Terre village guide on ForgetSomeday.com.
“This apartment was one of the highlights of our stay in Hvar…the balcony with a view over the harbour. Just stunning.”—TripAdvisor Rentals Reviewer
Old Town Hvar may be on an island in the Adriatic Sea, but that doesn’t mean this medieval town is difficult to get to. Ferry service regularly transports visitors from mainland Croatia and other nearby Croatian Islands. The Old Town contains a 16th-century fortress and a 15th-century monastery with a cypress tree in its cloister said to be over 300 years old! Stari Grad, a medieval village also located on the island of Hvar, is one of the oldest towns in all of Europe.
Much of what makes Europe a fascinating region to visit is its captivating history, with medieval tales ranging from dark and dismal to enchanting and romantic. If visions of your travels throughout Europe contain images of cobblestoned streets and fortified walls, visit some of these medieval towns to catch a glimpse into what life may have looked like centuries ago.
This is a guest post from Toccara Best of the inspirational travel blog ForgetSomeday.com. Toccara and her husband Sam left their life of comfort and security in California in June 2015 to travel the world. Much of their travels include small towns, outdoor adventures, and off-the-beaten-path locations throughout Europe—and they’ve personally been to each of these stunning medieval villages. ForgetSomeday.com is a documentation of their travels, including destination guides and planning resources to help inspire other travel enthusiasts to ‘forget someday’ and do whatever they can to make their travel dreams a reality.