Newsletters  | Mobile

25 Secret European Villages

6 Lacock
In 1944, Matilda Talbot, whose family had lived in Lacock's well-preserved 13th-century abbey since 1539, donated her house and most of this medieval Wiltshire village to the National Trust. As a result, Lacock has remained in a time warp, with nary a satellite dish, telephone wire, or neon sign in sight. A favorite location for BBC costume dramas such as Pride and Prejudice and Emma, the village has also escaped infestation by the twee tourist trade, so you won't see a single T-shirt vendor along streets lined with leaning Tudor houses and limestone cottages.
POPULATION 300 HOW TO GET THERE Lacock is south of the Cotswolds in southwest England; the drive from London takes just under two hours. WHERE TO STAY Sign of the Angel (6 Church St.; 44-1249/730-230; doubles from $200), a half-timbered 15th-century inn, has 10 antiques-filled bedrooms. WHERE TO EAT The inn offers a classic British dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, served before a huge stone hearth lit with a blazing fire (dinner for two $94).

7 Kuressaare
When the Soviets closed the island of Saaremaa to visitors in the 1940's, mainland Estonians lost their favorite summer playground, the village of Kuressaare. It reopened to the public in 1991; 50 years of isolation had preserved its small-town charms. On market days, the cobblestoned square smells of salted fish, wool, and juniper wood. A 14th-century dolomite castle dominates the waterfront; wander the maze of Gothic halls and passageways up to the battlements for a view across 40 acres of rolling hills.
POPULATION 16,000 HOW TO GET THERE Kuressaare lies 134 miles west of Tallinn; the trip takes less than four hours via car and ferry (there are also daily flights to the island from Tallinn). WHERE TO STAY The modern Hotel Ruutli (12 Pargi; 372-45/48100; doubles from $70; treatments from $3.50)still offers mud and mineral baths, a Saaremaa tradition that dates from the 1830's. WHERE TO EAT Sample Estonian fare—marinated eel, herring salad—at Vanalinna Restaurant (8 Kauba; 372-45/33689; dinner for two $25).

8 Cantobre
It's hard to distinguish the stone buildings from the blocky dolomite cliffs in Cantobre, a sky-high village—some 1,800 feet above sea level—in the Midi-Pyrénées, where falcons and eagles outnumber people (at last count, there were 11 full-timers). Residents Inge Hill and Dietmar Hagen have converted two ancient barns and a ruined castle into the village's only inn. Their pool overlooks rocky outcrops—with wild orchids—and a confluence of river gorges, excellent for canoeing over rapids or paragliding with the raptors.
POPULATION 11 HOW TO GET THERE Cantobre is six hours south of Paris by car; the TGV can get you to Montpellier (60 miles away) in 31/2 hours. WHERE TO STAY Auberge de Cantobre (33-5/65-62-18-13; from $744 per week) has two three-bedroom houses, both dating from the 18th century. WHERE TO EAT The auberge's restaurant (dinner for two $43) serves Provençale cuisine made with local ingredients, such as cheese aged in the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, a few miles down the road.

9 Caseneuve
With its slender pedestrian ruelles stalked by tabby cats and fields of wild hollyhocks, Caseneuve is the last great virgin village of Provence's Lubéron Valley. Don't miss its annual rummage sale: on the last Sunday in July, locals lay out the contents of their attics, then gather for a communal lunch in the school courtyard. (Nonresidents are welcome, but reservations are crucial. Call 33-4/90-75-20-01.) Bring an empty wine bottle to fill with warm lavender essence drawn from a nearby still.
POPULATION 313 HOW TO GET THERE Caseneuve lies just beyond the market town of Apt, 40 miles east of Avignon in southern France. The TGV runs every hour from Paris to Avignon. WHERE TO STAY The village has no hotels, but to the west is La Bastide de Marie (Rte. de Bonnieux, Quartier de la Verrerie, Ménerbes; 33-4/90-72-30-20; doubles from $417), an 18th-century farmhouse with rooms designed by Jocelyne Sibuet, France's leading tastemaker. WHERE TO EAT Order the catch of the day at Bistro de France (67 Place de la Bouquerie, Apt; 33-4/90-74-22-01; dinner for two $50).

10 St.-Cirq-Lapopie
St.-Cirq-Lapopie is on a craggy escarpment high above the Lot River, and its stone-paved lanes, too narrow to accommodate any but the tiniest cars, wind steeply downhill from the village's ruined 13th-century castle. Surrealist poet André Breton lived here in the 1950's, but now only a handful of people inhabit the tile-roofed houses. Arched storefronts that once housed 19th-century artisans, mostly wood-turners, are again occupied by craftsmen, who still fashion boxwood into the spigots traditionally used in regional wineries.
POPULATION Under 200 HOW TO GET THERE St.-Cirq-Lapopie is 15 miles east of Cahors, in southern France. You'll need a car—a small one, of course—to reach it. WHERE TO STAY At the foot of the village is La Péllissaria (33-5/65-31-25-14; doubles from $90), a hotel in a 16th-century house; the 10 whitewashed guest rooms have leaded windows and canopy beds. WHERE TO EAT Not far from La Péllissaria is L'Oustal (33-5/65-31-20-17; dinner for two $44), a minuscule restaurant that serves seared foie gras caramelized with chestnut liqueur.


Sign Up

Connect With Travel + Leisure
  • Travel+Leisure
  • Tablet
  • Available devices

Already a subscriber?
Get FREE ACCESS to the digital edition