One thing you can guarantee on a trip to Europe? Charm, and plenty of it, especially if you venture a bit further outside the major cities you know and love. (Not that Dublin or Prague are lacking in storybook character.) Our point is that there are tons of enticing destinations worth discovering.
If centuries-old castles, towering turrets, and traffic-free squares ignite wanderlust, consider adding these atmospheric towns to your upcoming travel itinerary.
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Once a wealthy hub of the English wool trade, Lavenham continues to delight visitors with its old-world ambience. The quaint timber-framed cottages and medieval churches are enough to charm the pants off just about anyone. Other well-preserved reminders of its prosperous past include Lavenham Guildhall, a former workhouse turned museum.
Croatia is suddenly on everyone’s travel bucket-list. And with gems such as Motovun in the mix, we’re certain its marketability will only continue to rise. Perched on a hilltop in central Istria, this handsome village is renowned among gourmands for its truffles. Beside feasting on big-ticket fungi, foodies can look forward to sampling extra virgin olive oil and terrific vino.
Considered by many to be the crown jewel of the Bohuslän Coast, Marstrand has long dazzled tastemakers and sailing aficionados. Like an envy-inducing postcard, red-roofed buildings encircle a glittering marina. This seaside community also hosts the annual Marstrand Regatta and Match Cup Sweden. Further inland from the waterfront restaurants and shops, you’ll find a 300-year-old stone fortress.
Agios Nikolaos, Crete
Dreaming of a Grecian getaway? We implore you to consider Crete, specifically Agios Nikolaos (pronounced eye-yoss nikor-lowse). Removed from the throngs of tourists, it possesses an almost mythical blend of scenic splendor, cultural heritage, and contemporary flair. Spend the day touring the Gulf of Mirabello or sunning on the resplendent beaches.
Despite being just an hour from Avignon, Gordes feels pleasantly removed from the frenetic pace of the city. Life in this Provençale commune is simple and unhurried. It’s a place where hours pass as you stroll through the fragrant lavender fields that inspired painters like Marc Chagall, and the most pressing decision is what seasonal products to buy at the farmers market.
Celebrated for its cliff-clinging gardens, grand villas, and vast sea views, Ravello is arguably the most arresting town on the Amalfi Coast (though it does have some stiff competition from Positano). This lyrical locale has effusively welcomed artists, writers, celebrities, and honeymooners for centuries. Glamorous yet gloriously unpretentious and alluring as ever, Ravello will steal your heart.
In-the-know travelers have oft sung the praises of Cudillero. This romantic secret on the cove-studded Asturian coastline holds tightly to an authenticity that so many vacation spots eventually lose. Its Viking legacy is still very much alive. There are colorful boats, shutter-clad houses, meandering alleyways, and an utterly enchanting string of fisherman’s taverns.
A decade ago, you could absolutely make the case that Comporta was Portugal’s best under-the-radar beach town. Though the word is out about this beguiling destination, the unspoiled beauty and breezy vibes that lured folks here in the first place remain entirely intact. Rice fields, sand dunes, clusters of cute little huts—this is (and, we hope, forever will be) Comporta.
Situated in the Eifel region of western Germany, Monschau retains a strong sense of medieval history. Think: cobblestone lanes and half-timbered houses. For a taste of tradition, head to Senfmühle Monschau, a family-run mustard mill that dates back 120 years. Of course, not everything is completely frozen in time. Monschau Castle, for example, now serves as a hostel and concert venue.
Giornico seems quite different from the rest of Switzerland (well, beyond the canton of Ticino). That’s because of the indelible Italian influence. You can’t bring up Giornico without mentioning the Swiss victory over Milanese troops in 1478—nor the monument dedicated to the battle. Equally significant is the exquisite Romanesque church of San Nicolao.