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From the Alps to the Mediterranean, these frozen-in-time European villages will make you appreciate the beauty of taking it slow.
22 Postcard-Perfect European Villages Straight Out of a Fairytale
A slice of medieval Iberia has been preserved within the crenelated walls of Óbidos on a hilltop near Portugal’s western coast. Since enchanting Queen Isabel in the 13th century (the town was a gift from her husband, King Dinis), Óbidos has continued to impress visitors who pass through its formidable fortifications. Inside the ramparts is a warren of whitewashed villas draped with bougainvillea, plus cobblestoned walkways and plenty of bars serving ginjinha, a local liquor made with sour cherries.
The notion of postcard-perfect villages steeped in old-world charm has inspired centuries of travelers to fan out across Europe, seeking its secluded hamlets.
As a result, the continent’s scenic spots rarely remain hidden for long. It doesn’t take much to make a charming village feel uncomfortably popular. Consider the five fishing villages that make up Italy’s Cinque Terre, where an evening summertime stroll often feels like shuffling through a packed amusement park, complete with overpriced restaurants and souvenir shops.
But just a few miles down the coast from those crowds is Tellaro, another beautiful seaside village that is less accessible and thus blissfully unspoiled. A similar sense of discovery is the major draw in overlooked regions that house pint-size gems like the Alsatian village of Colmar, France, where bakeries sell both croissants and kugelhopf.
Related: 25 Secret European Villages
The first requirement of a beautiful village is a scenic location, whether among the Norwegian fjords or the sun-splashed Greek isles. But the finest also have distinctive features like the plaza ringed with high-gabled pastel façades in Telč, Czech Republic, or the unforgettable Victorian castle rising above the thatched roofs of Cong, Ireland.
Reaching some of these European beauties requires extra effort, yet the rewards are dazzling. Your eyes will thank you.