By Jessica Russo
You've seen them in movies and you've heard about them in fairy-tales; now it's time to experience them for yourself. Quaint storybook towns may seem like "lands of make believe," but in Europe, they are quite easy to find, if you know where to look. Filled with colorful shops, adorable cafes, stone walking paths, and friendly locals, these beautiful small towns are waiting for you.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
No - we promise - this is not Disneyworld. Walking through this adorable storybook town, however, does feel like you're living a fairy-tale dream. Feel like a wide-eyed child as you stroll through stone pathways lined with colorful half-timbered shops and retaurants. Step inside, where you'll be warmly welcomed by locals serving up German classics, warm pastries, and locally-brewed beer! This well-preserved walled medieval town is a must-visit during your trip to Germany.
Photo by Instagram user @sennarelax
Hallstatt is, hands-down, one of the cutest villages in the Europe. Nestled between the sky-high mountains of the Alps and sparkling teal Lake Hallstatt, this enchanting village is an Instagrammer's paradise. Between candy-colored houses, small cafes, picturesque architecture, and breathtaking natural landscapes, you'll catch yourself "oohing" and "awing" from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave.
Pro-Tip: Like many of these small European towns, Hallstatt dresses up nicely around Christmas. While beautiful and bright in the summer, this alpine village boasts a whole different charm in the winter.
Photo by Instagram user @ig_serenity
Once called "the most beautiful village in England" by William Morris, Bibury boasts unmatched charm. Nestled in the green countryside of the Cotswolds, this quaint village will make you feel like you're in a 19th-century English movie. Stroll through streets of stone cottages and enjoy a spot of tea at a local cafe.
Photo by Instagram user @borgesalfeu
This hidden gem is a magical medieval town in-between Madrid and Barcelona. A maze of narrow stone streets, hidden alleyways, and amazing architecture, Albarracín is an orangey-pink old-world wonderland. A visit to this storybook town is a visit back in time.
Photo by Instagram user @suitcaseandi
This picturesque Portuguese gem is a feast for the eyes. Of course, immerse yourself in a real-life fairytale at the colorful Pena Palace, then discover Sintra's historic center and sparkling beaches. Just a short drive from Lisbon, Sintra is a must-visit.
Three words: color, color, color. This rainbow fishing village is filled with casual seafood restaurants and family-owned craft shops. Just a short boat ride away from the main city of Venice, Burano will be the icing on the cake of your Italian vacation.
Photo by Instagram user @namfon.mtp
This colorful French village may feel familiar. In fact, you may feel like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. After all, the town Disney created was based off of Colmar! You might not want to sing in the streets, but to each his own...
Located near the Germany-France border, you'll notice a German architectural influence, as you walk through streets of century-old half-timbered houses. This magical town feels like one big movie set, filled with trickling canals, quaint shops, overflowing flowerboxes, and an adorable town square.
Photo by Instagram user @worldexplore_now
Known as "the Venice of Holland," this water village is an idyllic pocket of peace and tranquility. Hop on a small boat and float through painting-like canals of thatched cottages, wooden walking bridges, lush greenery, and colorful gardens.
Photo by Instagram user @switzerland.traveler
There's way more to this medieval town than just cheese (but, let's be real, that's one of the best parts). Besides being Switzerland's cheese capital, Gruyères is a cultural playground of shopping, museums, dining, and architecture. A trip to this 800-year-old hillside town is a trip back in time. Follow cobblestone streets through charming storefronts and enjoy breathtaking mountain views of the neighboring Gruyere Pays-d'Enhaut Regional Nature Park.
Photo by Instagram user @lownadine
This little gem of a town boasts a unique blend of old-world beauty, delicious food, and... caves? That's right! Dinant is a geological wonder, and is home to some of the most fascinating caves in Europe. Above ground, find pretty river views, awesome restaurants, and a quaint town square. Below ground, well, you'll have to see for yourself!
Photo by Instagram user @paxtonvisuals
This traditional town in Rhineland-Palatinate is the Germany you've always dreamed of. Perched high in the lush slopes of the Moselle Valley, this riverside town is filled with half-timbered houses, welcoming shops and restaurants, and historic castles.
Photo by Instagram user @connor_brennan
Ah, Portree, the quaint pastel town on Scotland's magical Isle of Skye. From the harbor, gaze out at views of the glistening bay and surrounding sky-high mountains. Treat yourself to mouthwatering fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant, then head up to Somerled Square. Follow locals as they herd into traditional pubs for some local whisky and live bagpipe music!
Photo by Instagram user @hyunsook_h
Nestled in-between the Alps on bright blue Lake Bled, this storybook town is a little slice of color and culture in the middle of natural landscapes. Littered with cute cafes and charming shops, you won't know which is more beautiful - the town or its surroundings.
Located on the majestic Lofoten Islands, this breathtaking fishing village is a must-see. While Reine may be tiny in size, it is huge in character, culture, and beauty. While this quiet little gem boasts cozy village life, it also offers an incredible environment for kayaking and biking. If you visit Reine in the winter, you just might see the Northern Lights dance across the sky.
Photo by Instagram user @share.balkan
Think: a smaller Dubrovnik. Known most famously for the Stari Most, a 16th-century Ottoman bridge, this old city is a world in itself. Walk cobblestone streets lined with vibrant eastern-influenced bazaars, enjoy a drink at a riverside cafe, and treat yourself to a delicious Turkish meal. The ancient city of Mostar is surrounded by stunning waterfalls and breathtaking hiking paths, so it definitely pays to explore.