Of all the towns I have visited in my travels, I often find those that stick with me most are the quintessential, fairy tale towns in Europe. Not only do they look as pretty as a postcard, but I have also found that these towns have a way of transporting you to another time and place… quite literally as if you had stepped foot into a fairy tale picture book and exited the real world. As I have made this somewhat of a goal over the past few years to continue finding places that teleport you elsewhere, I’ve made quite the collection of fairy tale towns below. I promise you that if you visit one, two, or all of them… you won’t be disappointed!
One of the first fairy tale towns I visited in Europe was Bled in Slovenia. I had seen images of this picturesque lake and immediately wanted to transport there. The lake is understandably the biggest attraction in the town, with plenty of water activities on offer like hiring a row boat for an hourly rate (an activity that revealed my shortcomings in the sport).
Read more: The most romantic lake in the world; Lake Bled
One of the more recent towns I fell in love with has long been on my radar, but only a couple of months ago did I finally make my way to the most gorgeous French town; Colmar. Words can’t even describe the charm of this place — I’m telling you, you can’t make this stuff up!
Another French town visited on the same trip to France hasn’t been on my radar for nearly as long, but I think (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), it is my favourite town in all of France and perhaps even Europe! If that doesn’t give you any more reason to go, I don’t know what will. wink
On my first solo trip to Europe I had my heart and travel plans set on visiting Hallstatt, a small lakeside town in Austria… not too far from Salzburg. It turns out this town is a little trickier to visit, especially if you’re short on time, so I’d suggest reading the post below if the picture makes you want to jump right in (to the picture, of course, ‘cos the lake would be quite cold I should imagine).
Stop. Everything. Now. Isn’t this place just so idyllic!?!? If you’re not already on a separate tab loading a flight compare site to book your flight to Italy, let me plead my case for the Amalfi Coast a little further. Positano is hands down the most picturesque town on the coast, although if I’m to be completely transparent there are more enjoyable towns to stay in when visiting the region. Sorrento is a great place to base yourself as it is bigger, has great restaurants, and is your chance to mingle with locals (Positano is a tourist haven an while you will meet other travellers, you won’t meet the locals which would be a shame as they’re so charismatic!)
Read more: A Quick Guide to Positano
Another little town I found earlier in my travels is gorgeous and still somewhat under the radar town of Gent in Flanders. Belgium gets a bad wrap for some reason (don’t be dismissive of a place until you have actually been), but in my eyes, it is one of the best countries to visit in Western Europe. If you’re into Gent you will also love Brugges, which is also given a place on this list.
Read more: 48 Hours in Ghent
Some adventures have a way of sticking with you forever and since I constantly reference my trip to Scotland at dinner parties, I suppose it had a lasting impression on me! I travelled throughout the Scottish Highlands in May when the weather is, in full disclosure, miserable. Aside from the weather I really enjoyed my time in Scotland and it is still to this day one of my all-time favourite countries in the whole world. The people are also much more memorable than the food ;)
Read more: The Top 10 Places to Visit in Scotland
Počitelj, Bosnia & Herzegovina
If I could tell you my biggest travel secret in Europe it would be to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina. I would recommend dragging along a friend or travel buddy for this one, as tourism is still relatively low and as such travel is a little harder here (as it usually is in the East of Europe). Bus transport is the best way to get around the country and believe me when I say the people are some of the loveliest you will meet all over Europe. I can’t wait to return one day soon – Bosnia has my heart!
Read more: 10 Reasons to visit Bosnia & Herzegovina
Ahhh, Sintra. The gorgeous little town just a short drive away from Portugal’s capital; Lisbon. I only had a few hours to explore Sintra and with thick cloud coverage, couldn’t go for that iconic view at the castle. Nevertheless, I really adored this city and its’ colourful buildings lining the hillside. This is a great day trip from Lisbon when matched with Cascais.
Read more: Mystical Sintra and Charming Cascais
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
For a really (really, really, really) long time “Krumlov” as it is affectionately known to locals, was my favourite small town in all of Europe. Over the years the secret has gotten out on a large scale, so nowadays I find it a little overrun by crowds. The best way to avoid this is to visit during winter and cross your fingers for a thick layer of puffy snow!
Probably my favourite location in England is to travel (by road trip) through the Cotswolds. This area of England is a time warp of sorts, with gorgeous thatched houses, small lakes, cute gift stores and really lovely people. I’d recommend spending a few nights in the area so you can visit numerous towns.
Read more: Visiting the Cotswolds
In many ways my trip to Ireland was my favourite “me time” adventure. I rented a car, hit the open road, and spent way too many hours singing to the radio as I rolled around Ireland from one town to the next. While Ireland is absolutely bursting with cute towns to visit, it is hard to go past Cong. Isn’t the picture tempting you already!?
Read more: 8 Places you Must Visit in Ireland
Image: F1online digitale Bildagentur GmbH / Alamy
Of all the countries left on my list to travel I believe Norway is a strong contender for most desirable. Because the small fishing village called Reine is so idyllic and mesmerising, I just couldn’t leave it out. There is perhaps no single place I want to teleport to more… who’s coming with me!?
Image: Harvey Barrison
Last but never least, I don’t think this list would be complete without another gorgeous Italian coastal town – this time a little further north in Cinque Terre. World of Wanderlust contributor Faye headed there last summer to catch a glimpse of why this is one of Italy’s most sought after holiday destinations – drool!!!
Read more: A Guide to Cinque Terre
Image: Faye Bullock for World of Wanderlust