Europe is the perfect vacation destination, but the major cities always seem to have the crowds. Why not do yourself a favor, visit smaller (and in our opinion, more charming) towns, and enjoy some time away from the tourist madness? We’ve partnered with family and lifestyle blogger Kirsten Maxwell from Kids Are A Trip, who has visited over twenty European countries. She asked her fellow Gnational Gnomads to share their favorites too. Here are their choices for smaller cities in Europe that need to be on your travel radar.
Killarney is located in southwestern Ireland and is the gateway to many popular tourist attractions. It is home to Killarney National Park, featuring over 26,000 acres of mountains, forests, lakes, and waterfalls. The Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula can both be reached from Killarney, offering stunning coastline views, historic destinations, and charming villages along the way. Killarney in itself is a charming town with a fabulous dining and nightlife scene, shopping, and attractions such as Ross Castle and Muckross House. Come for nature, but stay for the people. Killarney welcomes all visitors with open arms and you’ll never want to leave.
-Kirsten Maxwell of Kids Are A Trip
Basel is a quaint, pastel colored town in Switzerland with a larger than life art scene. Home to Art Basel, over 30 museums and two major festivals in spring and summer, there’s lots of history, culture and art to keep visitors busy. A quick walk through the Marktplatz, the city’s medieval city center, is like a step back in time with its red sandstone Town Hall, pastel shuttered homes and 12th-century Gothic cathedral. Basel is split by the Rhine River and also closely borders France and Germany, so it makes a great base to explore Europe!
-Sher Jordan of Sher She Goes
Although this small town only has 10,735 inhabitants, it is famous for its unique and absolutely stunning trullo buildings. This town is situated in the most eastern region in Italy, known as Puglia. Alberobello has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996. The limestone conical structures are examples of dry-stacked construction and date as far back as the 14th century. You won’t find any gnomes in these houses, instead they are filled with tourist shops offering a strange variety of knick knacks from new age crystals to kids toys. But you won’t be disappointed by a few hours spent wandering these streets and photographing the gorgeous white and grey structures.
-Erin Holmes Bender of Explore with Erin
Česky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Český Krumlov is located in the southern part of the Czech Republic, near the Austrian and German borders. This small, central European medieval town has remained intact thanks to its peaceful evolution over more than five centuries—it’s a place that is easy to fall in love with. The town is situated on the banks of the Vltava river and its fortified castle is the focal point… a must when visiting Český Krumlov. While exploring this beautiful part of the country, don’t miss the Fotoatelier Seidel Museum, a unique place where photography sprang up in the 19th century, and where time has stood still. A lovely restaurant near the town square for lunch or dinner is Jakub restaurant. The cuisine is based on dishes inspired by ocean and freshwater seafood, with a dash of Czech influences. The food is not the only attraction at Jakub, so too is the building, which dates back to the 14th century.
-Mike Shubic of Mike’s Road Trip
The Castillon-du-Gard is a charming medieval village situated in the heart of Provence. Visitors will love strolling the quiet cobblestone streets and mingling with the locals as they take in the views of the surrounding countryside. It is the perfect home base for exploring many of the area’s attractions. Nearby is the famous Pont du Gard aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage site built by the Romans in the 1st century. Nîmes is also within reach with its 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheater and ancient temple. Take time to explore the city’s gardens, take a tour of the Arena, and sample the local food and wine for a quintessential day in Provence.
-Susan Lanier-Graham of Wander with Wonder
The little town of Regensburg along the Bavarian edge of Germany is beautiful with its old world charms. This somewhat unknown destination in Europe should be on every traveler’s bucket list with its rich history as a member of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Split in two by the Danube River, it has a 12th-century Old Stone Bridge that has been here since the Roman Empire. This sixteen arched bridge connects two villages together, Regensburg with Stadtamhof, which are famous for the bratwurst and hand-crafted beer they have produced for centuries. It is also the perfect setting for the Christmas markets that you see spread out along the Danube River. Be sure to put this on your list of places you must see in Europe.
-Cacinda Maloney of Points and Travel
The town of Cascais sits less than thirty minutes from the capital city of Lisbon, but feels like an entirely different world. Cascais was a small fishing village until the early 1800s when the Portuguese king decided to make it his summer home. There is still evidence of the fishing village today as fishermen still bring the day’s catch to the local market. Take a stroll through the downtown area and admire the bakeries with their pasteis de nata and enjoy the smell of grilled seafood from the local restaurants. Spend the day at one of the town’s beaches, museums, churches, or the 15th-century Cidadela de Cascais fort. Cascais was made for relaxation, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it here.
-Kirsten Maxwell of Kids Are A Trip
Kirsten Maxwell of Kids Are A Trip is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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