Travel forecasts are showing renewed interest in European travel, encouraged by cheap fares from some of the larger airlines. However, popular destinations may be different than they used to be as many travelers shy away from the hustle and bustle of large cities and tourist spots.
Europe is known for its food, culture, and history, but some of its picturesque small towns are a bit less traveled. Here are a few off-the-beaten-path towns to visit next.
RONDA, SPAIN – POPULATION: 33,978
High in the mountains on the edge of a 400-foot cliff, the views in Ronda are breathtaking. Three impressively engineered bridges span the canyon overlooking the valley hundreds of feet below. The city hosts remains of prehistoric settlements dating to the Neolithic age, Arab baths dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, and Moorish gardens designed in the early 1900s. The history and beauty of the city make it a must-see.
GIETHOORN, NETHERLANDS – POPULATION: 2,620
Known as “Venice of the Netherlands” and only accessible by boat, this idyllic village has no roads—simply bike lanes and canals. More than 170 small, wooden bridges connect tiny peat islands with thatched-roof farms, reed beds, flowers and forests, creating a picturesque setting along the water. Explore the canals by boat, or ice skating during the winter months. Only about an hour and a half drive from Amsterdam, it’s a day trip worth taking.
HALLSTATT, AUSTRIA – POPULATION: 780
Situated at the base of the Dachstein Mountains and along Lake Hallstatt’s western shore, Hallstatt is home to charming, colorful houses, winding cobblestone streets, and enchanting views. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the region has stood since prehistoric times. If you’re seeking an adventure, you can book an expedition of one of the world’s oldest salt mines, or visit the World Heritage Skywalk for breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding scenery.
RYE, ENGLAND – POPULATION: 9,041
Take a two-hour day trip from London to Rye, a medieval town nestled between the English Channel and green, rolling hills. Once completely surrounded by sea, Rye has been a port, naval base, fishing port, agriculture center, and market town, and is famous for its ceramics and art. The best view can be found at St. Mary’s Parish Church tower, one of the oldest buildings in town.
PORTREE, ISLE OF SKYE, SCOTLAND – POPULATION: 2,480
A bustling port city and thriving cultural center situated on the edge of Loch Portree and surrounded by cliffs, this beautiful spot can be your home base for exploring the entire island. With fishing and lobster boats in the harbor, and streets lined with colorful homes and pubs, you’ll find an abundance of shopping, boat cruises, theatre, concerts, and film screenings.
HVAR, CROATIA – POPULATION: 11,459
Hvar’s hillsides are covered in pine forests, vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards, and lavender fields. Called the “Island of Lavender,” it shares a fascinating history, mild climate, beautiful beaches, and gorgeous city center amidst marble stone streets. The island promotes itself as the sunniest spot in Europe, with nearly 3,000 hours of sunlight in a year.
ASSOS, GREECE – POPULATION: 100
Just north of Myrtos beach is the captivating village of Assos, surrounded by luscious greenery and crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea. Spend a few hours relaxing on the small pebble beach, enjoying the water and flowery hillside dotted with colorful houses, or hang out in the small harbor with the local fisherman. In the village square, dine on classic Greek cuisine at one of the small taverns or restaurants.
ÍSAFJÖRÐUR, ICELAND – POPULATION: 2,571
Located in the Westfjords peninsula, this beautiful ice town is surrounded by giant mountains and only reaches temperatures in the mid-50s in the summertime. An ancient church site and trading post since the 16th century, Ísafjörður inhabitants rely on the fishing industry to survive, but visitors can find a golf course, hiking, horse riding, bird watching, skiing, kayaking, and other activities. The stunning, mountainous views are sure to take your breath away.
VERNAZZA, ITALY – POPULATION: 852
The steepest of the Cinque Terre villages is an ideal spot for a low-key, stunningly beautiful getaway. The town slopes to a small, sandy beach along the Amalfi Coast, and is full of gelaterias and small restaurants with delicious, authentic Italian cuisine. You’ll find no vehicles in this quaint village, but the streets are lined with colorful, elegant homes and beautiful countryside.
COBH, IRELAND – POPULATION: 12,800
Situated on the Great Island in Cork Harbour, Cobh is the second largest natural harbor in the world. Rich in history, it was the departure point for nearly half of Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950, and the Titanic’s final port call before its maiden voyage. This charming town is defined by rows of brightly colored homes, Victorian architecture and old fishing boats, and dominated by St. Colman’s Cathedral (built in the late 1800s).