Europe undeniably has some of the most beautiful little villages in the world. These secluded, quaint, fairytale-like places are steeped with the old world charm travelers long to experience. Their unspoiled natural beauty, hallmark bridges, narrow cobblestone roads, and medieval buildings have been lovingly preserved for our exploration. Their fascinating history, rich and colorful folklore, and deep cultural roots are appealing and no doubt what inspire many fables, stories and legends. Step back in time with me as we explore some of these quaint villages.
Bled’s alpine beauty lures many visitors, honeymooners to backpackers, from all over the world. It’s a picture perfect charming resort town that’s nestled in the foothills of the Julian Alps, set along the emerald green glacial Lake Bled in Slovenia. The 11th-century Bled Castle resides on a rocky cliff which offers stunning panoramic views. A small island in the middle of the lake is home to Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church and the bell tower. Many ring the bell for good luck.
Giornico is a well preserved hidden jewel in the district of Leventina in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland. Giornico boasts an outstanding historical heritage that dates back to the 9th century. Among its attractions are its vineyards, chestnut forest and a small island in the Ticino river, which can be reached by two small Romanesque bridges. Other attractions are the medieval Torre di Attone, a six-floor residential tower, seven churches including the beautiful 12th century Romanesque Church of St. Nicholas.
Kotor is one of the most beautiful fortified towns partially hidden on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast. Its comfortably snuggled between an ancient bay and the limestone cliffs of Mt. Lovćen. Characterized by winding streets and squares, its medieval old town has several Romanesque churches, including Kotor Cathedral.
Visit the Maritime Museum, hike to the top of the fortress, visit the cathedral Sveti Tripun, and check out Sveti Đorđe, one of 2 tiny islands off the ancient town of Perast, which features a centuries-old church.
Less than 10 km from the Etruscan seaside you’ll find the precious little village of Bolgheri. Set amid the vineyards of southern Tuscany, any people flock here just to taste the wine. You must experience the infamous Viale dei Cipressi, also known as Cypress Avenue, which is a straight, 5km-long tree-lined avenue that stretches between Bolgheri and San Guido. You can visit the Bolgheri Castle with its storybook appearance, and take a tour in one of its many vineyards like the Chiappini Winery and sample the wine.
Enchanting rural Bibury is situated in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds on the River Coln. It’s a typical charming Cotswold village just a short drive from “The Capital of the Cotswolds”, Cirencester. Bibury was once described by William Morris (1834-96) as “the most beautiful village in England”.
Attractions and things to see in Bibury include Arlington Row, a row weavers cottages built of local stone next to the River Coln, the Bibury Trout Farm and the Saxon Church, the Church of St Mary.
The picturesque Arlington Row cottages were built in 1380 as a monastic wool store. They were then converted into a row of cottages for weavers in the 17th century. The cloth produced there was sent to Arlington Mill on the other side of Rack Isle. The cloth was then hung on wooden timber frames on Rack Isle after being degreased at Arlington Mill.
Annecy is a popular alpine town in southeastern France, situated on the north shores of Lake Annecy. Nicknamed ‘Venice of the Alps’, it’s known for its Vieille Ville (old town) charm, with cobbled streets, winding canals, and pastel-colored houses. Taking center stage is the Palais de l’Ile, also called the ‘old prison’. This turreted castle separates the Thiou into two canals and it the most photographed attraction. Formerly a stronghold built in 1132, the Palais de l’Ile became a courthouse and a prison, but now it houses the Architecture and Heritage Interpretation Centre. The medieval Château d’Annecy, once home to the Counts of Geneva, overlooks the city. It now contains a museum with regional artifacts such as Alpine furniture and religious art, plus a natural history exhibit.
Tourists can cycle around or boat across Lake Annecy and take in the stunningly surreal surroundings. Spend several days strolling around the whimsical canals and enjoy the pretty houses, bright flower boxes and charming coffee shops. Visit the Pont des Amours, the love bridge, where legend has it that if two lovers kiss on the bridge, their love will last forever. Or have a picnic in the European Gardens which is located in the heart of Annecy. Explore the historical churches that have beautiful stained glass windows, impressive organs and medieval paintings. And, don’t forget to spend time on the beach.
Pucisca is one of the prettiest resort villages hidden at the bottom of a deep cove on the island of Brac. Brac is the largest of three islands located in the Split-Dalmatia county in Croatia. This holiday oasis offers visitors a beautiful place to relax and soak in the sun on the beach. You can also tour the town on your own or take a guided tour that includes the islands major highlights. You’ll visit the Stonemason school, Olive Oil Museum, Village of Skrip, Brac Native Museum, and the Vidova Gora Mount.
Mostar is a staggeringly beautiful city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its scenery and romantic architecture could be the setting for many fairytales. It’s iconic medieval landmark, the Stari Most (Old Bridge), was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century. It spans across the serene turquoise Neretva Rivers and is at the heart of the old town. Although the Stari Most was destroyed during the civil war, it was lovingly reconstructed to its exact original specifications.
In the center of Mostar is its market, or čaršija, meaning Bazaar. The nearby alleys are full of shops and market stalls, and the Old Bridge Museum explores the bridge’s long history. A narrow staircase leads up to the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque’s minaret for panoramic city views.
Just south of Mostar are the Kravice Falls. The area is not well known amongst tourists yet, so you can enjoy the peaceful surrounding to yourself. There is a small boardwalk that will take you fairly close to the falls or you can swim under them.
Europe has thousands of hidden gems off the beaten path. From Annecy in France to Mostar in Bosnia, discover the finest unknown destinations. They’re so quaint, you can hardly believe your eyes!