The best European itineraries have a mix of big cities and small towns. After a few days of intense sightseeing in a bustling city, it’s nice to visit a place with relatively few sights. You know the kinds of places where sitting in the square and sipping coffee are considered a day well spent. Whether you are planning a long-term trip across Europe or heading on a week-long vacation, here are five charming small towns in Europe to add to your travel itinerary.
1. Hallstatt, Austria
An easy day trip from Salzburg, this fairy-tale town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site only accessible by boat. It’s surrounded by the rugged Salzkammergut Mountains and a gorgeous lake bustling with sailboats, paddle boarders and water skiers. Hallstatt is filled with dozens of cafes, restaurants and shops. It’s also well-known for its salt mine, Salzwelten. The view from the top alone is worth the admission.
Read more: A guide to Salzburg, Austria
2. Cinque Terre, Italy
If you’re traveling to Florence, the five seaside villages of Cinque Terre are an easy train ride away. And they are the epitome of charm. These quaint villages are linked together by hiking trails, which offer spectacular views of the Italian coastline, the colorful houses and the hillside vineyards.
Cinque Terre is often compared to its southern rival, the Amalfi Coast, yet it is so different. Spend a day swimming in the water in Manarola before watching an unforgettable sunset from the rocks along the water in Riomaggiore. Manarola (in my opinion) may be one of the best small towns in Italy and maybe even one of the most romantic places in Europe.
Read more: A travel planning guide to Cinque Terre
3. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Experience the natural beauty of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, one of the most beautiful towns in Germany. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is only a 60-minute car ride from Munich. After a few days sightseeing in the beer capital of the world, this area is the perfect spot to unplug, de-stress and connect with Mother Nature. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is filled with stunning mountain views, authentic Bavarian restaurants, ample hiking trails … oh, and close by to a really, really famous castle.
It’s also home to Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze. The panoramic views at the summit showcase the beautiful mountains of Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Be sure to bundle up!
4. Korčula Island, Croatia
Korčula Island is one of Croatia’s 1,000+ islands. Only a 2 1/2-hour catamaran ride from Dubrovnik, it’s the perfect spot to simply relax. The old town is filled with incredible restaurants, the beaches are lovely, and the locals are overwhelmingly friendly. Start your morning with a coffee in the old town. Bike to the beach in the afternoon. Finally, enjoy a sunset dinner by the harbor and watch the sailboats return from sea. It’s perfection.
5. Interlaken, Switzerland
Whoever said “half the fun is in the journey” may have traveled through Switzerland. The train ride into Interlaken is just as beautiful as the small town itself. Interlaken sits between two lakes with a river connecting the two bodies of water. The town is a popular spot for adrenaline junkies. Sky-diving, paragliding, canyoning, you-name-it, it’s all offered here. There are also many fantastic hiking trails, with summits that offer the most spectacular views of the Swiss Alps and the town below.
Read more: A budget traveler’s guide to Interlaken
If you liked this, you may also like these other small towns, itineraries and planning guides:
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- 5 ways to save money to travel more
- A Day Trip to Newport, Rhode Island
- Things to do in Falmouth (Cape Cod)
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