The old continent is immensely-rich in landscapes, world-cities, and marvellous, centuries old architecture. These charming mountain towns are concentrated epitome of the relative country for definite bucket-list on the next trip to Europe.
Annecy is set-surrounded by the peaking French Alps on the banks of the namesake lake, third largest in France. It is the source of many waterways, also running through the beautiful town in meandering canals. The idyllic town is known for churches and love bridges surrounded by some of the nation's most-unspoiled environment. It is a traditional French old town with vibrant Alpine streets of markets and balconies adorned with flowers. The picturesque lakefront locale is beloved by kayakers, sunbathers, and hikers for the trails around.
There is skiing and snowboarding at Le Semnoz during winter, same time that Annecy's most-famous attraction, the Palais de l’Isle gets covered by snow in a shimmering spectacle. The medieval castle is surrounded by canals with easy access by boat from Lake Annecy. The charming old town inspires with scenic architecture to enjoy from one of the cozy cafes. There's also the Fontaine des Tritons and Chapel des Macchabées with a platform for best views, while the Annecy International Animation Festival takes place in April followed by flowers in early May. The rich in culture and history, Annecy offers the loveliest fall foliage for an imminent visit or for the most atmospheric holiday season in the South of France.
Berchtesgaden brims with charm from below Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze near the border with Austria. The alpine scenery stuns from first glance, with cross-country skiing, hiking, and sauntering the rolling hills, Heidi-style. The freshest mountain air that can make one drunk seeps into the lovely townscape with lots of places to lunch on authentic grub. The salt baths at the Berchtesgaden Spa with pool treatments are wondrous following a tedious hike. The streets are laden with cozy cafés and unique shops, while the historic Rococo town center features a church and royal palace to discover on a tour with the town's "night watchman".
The scenic streets are lined by old Bavarian cottages, while the notable St. Bartholomä is set on the breathtaking Königssee lake. April brings by one of Europe’s biggest Easter egg hunts, followed by June and July festivals, and September wine festivities. There is great downhill skiing during winter, along with Snow Cup Races in late February. The Zugspitze is a summertime climber's dream with blooming meadows and lowlands for charming picnics. The town has been visited by kings and noblemen, while World War II fanatics will appreciate the Airborne 101 Division's presence upon liberating Germany from the Nazis. Berchtesgaden's beauty has inspired artists for centuries, and many flee today to find their long-term respite.
The town surrounded by alpine mountains is nestled in the foothills of the Julian Alps in Slovenia. It is one of Europe’s precious hidden gems and the most popular destination for tourists in the country. The tiny, charming townscape spreads along the scenic shores of the glacial Lake Bled, in a fairy-tale resort setting. The mountainous location offers ample hillsides and trails for hikes and picnics, while backpackers love trekking the scenic scape on days-long ventures. Summertime calls for a hike down the 1.6 kilometer (1 mile) Vintgar Gorge boardwalk through incredible scenery along the river.
It is hard to miss the dominating presence of the 11th-century Bled Castle, domineering from a mountain cliff on an island at the center of the lake. One can attain spectacular views of the valley below from the castle, as well as boat to the Pilgrimage Church on its own island. The castle is a magnet for photographers and artists from around the globe to capture its grand moodiness during sunrise and sunset when the golden light plays with shadows. Thousands of tourists and romantics come to spectate, and feel part of the medieval vibe. It is also a treasure cove with a museum collection, a castle printing works, and a cellar that lets one, bottle and seal the wine with wax. Its restaurant offers atmosphere for dinner like nowhere else in the world.
The charming mountain town spreads scenically along the banks of the glistening-emerald, vast lake with mountains to all sides. It is a go-to small-town getaway for the country's residents, and a tourist trap with an Austrian fairy-tale vibe. The streets are right-off a storybook page, with overshadowing peaks that are highly desirable by the tourists-climbers. There are numerous caves within the sky-reaching granite walls to explore, including the famous Ice Cave that is one of the few easily-accessible of its kind in the world.
There's also the popular trekking locale to the Mammoth Cave accessible throughout the year in complacent weather, along with the 5 Fingers Lookout to feel on top of the world "dangling" from the mountain edge. The ancient and beautiful Hallsatt boasts a, magnificent historic church, quaint 16th-century chalets, and a fantastic funicular railway. The ride into clouds is an unforgettable experience, followed by a descent into the fascinating, subterranean salt mines.
The charming town in the Pyreneans is a holy grail for the Greek Catholics and a getaway into the stunning Pyrenees National Park. The southwest town opens-up in varied scenery of palm trees and mountains upon stepping out of the hillside-set train station. The medieval fortress crowns a rocky outcrop on the edge of the lovely town-full of attractions and colorful, historic buildings. The hilly, atmospheric streets come in all width and styles, including shortcut stairs to the higher reaches. There's the local favorite swanky "Le Comptoir" for coffee before work and dining, and the next-door neighbour "Van Gogh Brassiere" serving delicious pizza and other cuisine along the small atmospheric plaza crowned with a fountain.
The local legend states that a girl Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the first of her 18 visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858 at Massabielle, one of the nearby grottos or caves. On her ninth vision, she was told to wash the grotto, with the spring now considered healing, and Lourdes, the largest pilgrimage site in Europe. One must check-out the sacred grotto along with one of the world's most breathtaking church areas, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. The active will love reaching the Pic du Jer summit via a moderate, scenic three-hour trek. There is an illuminated cross at the top, breathtaking views, and a cute cafe serving coffee, beer, and snacks at the start-point of the extreme mountain bike races. One can also access Pic du Jer via a 120-year-old funicular over a 15 minute ride-up through a forest-line, while watching the mountains embrace the town below. The beautiful Lake Lourdes is only 10 minute away by car, with town vistas to the left and passing the charming Ukrainian Catholic Church on the right.
Lucerne is a world-renowned small-town destination for well-preserved medieval past and some of the highest mountains in Europe embracing Lake Lucerne. The gateway to central Switzerland boasts impressive panorama, fabulous shopping, excursions to the peaks of Rigi, Pilatus, and Stanserhorn, and covered wooden bridges. The town squares are lined with historic architecture, countless museums and monuments, while the historic buildings along the streets come decorated with frescoes that make one want to linger and call the town "home". The twin towers of the Hofkirche that make the townscape instantly recognizable. There's also the car-free, impeccable Altstadt old town with Weinmarkt’ square, and the notable Jesuit church, the first sacral Baroque structure in the nation from the 17th century.
The picturesque Reuss River offers banks for idyllic picnics, and stroll-along trail to the centuries-old Chapel Bridge. The iconic dying figure of a lion monument is one of the best-known in Switzerland; it was carved from a rock face and commemorates the heroic death of Swiss guards in an attack of the Tuileries in 1792. The 112-metre-long Bourbaki panorama is one of the few mammoth circular paintings in the world, while the Museggmauer wall is almost wholly original. Lucerne positions itself as a highly innovative town, with the futuristically-designed Culture and Convention Centre (KKL) landmark of "Lucerne: Festival City" that hosts regular cultural events.
The charming Metsovo is one of the many villages, scenically-dotting the landscape in the foothills of the Katara Col Mountain Range in Greece. The small town is an extremely popular destination for un-replicable natural beauty within high‑altitude atmosphere, set-surrounded by a dense fir forest and many wineries. The streets come lined with traditionally-charming stone and wooden houses, historic structures, and authentic eateries serving Mediterranean cuisine. The centrally-set town was an important 17th and 18th centuries’ wool-supplier for the region, the Balkans, and even north Africa.
Metsovo remains one of the most traditional Greek villages, known for unique and colorful hand woven textiles that have been perfected over centuries by generations of shepherds of the town's Vlach population. One will find the famed Averoff Winery Guesthouse in the center that is a beautiful traditional spa-hotel with a winery that produces nation-renowned wines to taste, buy, and learn about its history and wine-making. The village is celebrated for dairy-farming, with nation-famous products including the delicious “metsovone” cheese with a distinct, smoked flavor. The lead-up to town is a scenic new modern highway through the mountains of Ipirus, that continues on, to Thessaloniki.
The picturesque fishing village charms from first sight, perched on the Moskenesoya island in the Lofoten archipelago, in the remote northern Norway, north of the Arctic Circle. It is a spectacularly-hidden destination within extraordinary sapphire bays and dominating fjords, with town-set at the edge of soaring mountains. Reine is often considered one of the most beautiful mountain towns in the world, even by the weathered globe-trotters' standards.
The scenic home to only 300 locals boasts plenty of adventures and sights to enjoy without crowds and others marring the view. The red rorbuers original fishermen’s cabins let one set base to witness the astounding natural beauty any time of day from the doorstep. The traditional homes transformed into cozy cottages open-up to awe-inspiring views of the sea, incredible star-gazing opportunities at night, and even the Aurora Borealis not a stranger to the skies.
The third most-visited destination in southern Spain is split in half by the 100-metre (328 foot) deep El Tajo gorge and connected by the breathtaking 100-meter-high Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) from 1793. The beautiful town is one of the aptly named “pueblos blancos” or white towns, in the Andalusia region, greeting with a uniformly-picturesque scape. The streets-lined with Moorish architecture offer a scenic challenge of labyrinths and hills with views of the stunning mountains around. Ronda is set on the edge of a 400-foot cliff overlooking a valley and three, magnificent feats of engineering, bridges spanning the canyon.
The extraordinary location in Spain is former home to Ernest Hemingway that continues to attract countless photographers and artists with dramatic and vertigo-inducing vistas. There are ancient ruins, many authentic local experiences, and wandering the atmospheric streets for a visual overcharge that feels a world away. The spectacular cleft and landscape call for wonderful hikes, with a rugged path from the old town to the bottom of El Tajo, and to the foot of the stunning “New Bridge”. It is a perfect place for a picnic with jaw-dropping views of the dominating mountains and townscape hanging above.
Santa Magdalena, Italy
The incredible village shines with charm from a valley 1,339 meters above sea level. The charming townscape is tightly-packed with homes to some 400 locals. It is set at the back-drop of the Olde Mountains that put even the most-weathered travellers in stupor. Santa Magdalena is most known for the namesake church, as well as hikes through the mountainous location. The church at the foot of Rufen is a motif of the Dolomites mountain range that commonly appears on the covers of popular geographic and travel magazines. It commemorates the spot where the Fopal river washed up the miraculous image of Santa Magdalena, that some say, was a statue. The sacred temple is easily accessible via a scenic hike through town and up the hill.
The enclave is an idyllic resort for romantics and winter holiday destination into remote small-town setting, with many rental homes, apartments, and hotels in the valley offering a truly-Italian stay. The Puez-Odle Nature Park is the starting point to the region's countless hikes, with trails for all skill types, including the Adolf Munkel Trail, Rifugio Genova Circuit, and Tullen Summit. There is also a ski-lift to the slopes, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and horseback-riding through the quintessential snow-capped landscape. The visitors’ center offers a bird’s eye perspective of the region and “touching the mountains” to plan the next outing in the area.
These towns charm from the first glance, quickly pull-in to inspire, and make one wish to call the mountainous setting, home. Their magnetic presence unlike anywhere else in the world guarantees the most memorable small-town getaway in Europe.