The Most Quiet and Picturesque Villages of Europe

Europe is home to some of the world's most enchanting villages; small, rustic towns where time seems to slow down and travelers can explore narrow streets, ancient buildings, and farm-fresh country taverns to really soak up the local flavor. Europe is also home to some of the most unusual villages found anywhere on Earth, many of them packed into impossible nooks and crannies or perched high upon treacherous rocky cliffs, locations once used for surveying the surrounding lands and protection from attacks. Some of them are below.

1. Riomaggiore, Italy
Riomaggiore is the easternmost village of Italy's fabled Cinque Terre, a UNESCO-recognized stretch of coast whose five colorful cliff villages have helped make the region one of the most iconic in the country. Luckily, Riomaggiore has escaped some of the natural catastrophes of neighboring town of Vernazza and is still intact in all its charmingly precarious glory. Make sure to also check out the Via dell'Amore ("Lovers' Road"), a breathtaking coastal walkway connecting the five villages, which begins in Riomaggiore. 

2. Rocamadour, France
Rocamadour is, in many travelers' opinions, one of the top destinations of all of France, not surprising, given the village's jaw-dropping location against a massive cliff wall over the Alzhou River. Rocamadour, however, doesn't owe its fame to just its striking setting; it's been a place of pilgrimage for centuries, with devotees flocking to see the legendary Black Madonna of Rocamadour, and, more recently, with curious foodies eager to try the village's famous goat cheese. 

3. Hallstatt, Austria
The town of Hallstatt looks like the kind of Austrian town that the Sound of Music might have been set in. On a beautiful forested mountain, next to a perfectly blue lake, filled with charming 19th century houses, the town is a perfect vision of cheer. Hallstatt was the site of an early Iron Age culture from 800 to 400 BC, which is known as the Hallstatt Era. It is considered to be the oldest still-inhabited village in Europe.
In addition to its ancient history, Hallstatt is spectacularly picturesque, due to its location on a narrow rocky west bank of the Hallstätter See with the sheer rising mountains behind it. Considered by some to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, Hallstatt is sometimes called "the pearl of Austria".

4. Giethoorn, The Netherlands
Giethoorn, the region's highlight, is a town with no streets, only canals, walking paths and bike trails (inevitably it's tagged the 'Dutch Venice'). Contrary to most Dutch geography, Giethoorn is built on water crossed by a few bits of land, and farmers even used to move their cows around in row boats filled with hay. This is a sentimental place for the Dutch as it was the setting for Fanfare, a popular, funny 1958 film about the local folk, and one of the first to dissect the Dutch psyche.
Hugely popular in summer, at other times it has an almost mystical charm as you wander its idiosyncratic waterways.

5. Juzcar, Spain
Juzcar is a small town and municipality in the autonomous province of Andalusia, 113 km away from the city of Malaga and 25 km from Ronda. Once a traditional White Towns of Andalusia with whitewashed buildings, the picturesque hamlet changed its look in the summer of 2011, when it was chosen by Sony Pictures as the setting for the premiere of their new film “The Smurfs 3D". As a part of the campaign to promote the movie, Sony came up with an innovative idea to paint the whole village blue. That summer a team of 20 painters painted Júzcar's 175 buildings including the church, the town hall and gravestones. On July 23, ten days before the film hit movie theaters, the new "Smurf Town" hosted the special premiere with great fanfare. After the promotion was over, Sony arrived at Júzcar to once again repaint the village white, the way it has always been, only to be refused by the village folk. The media exposure had such a positive effect on the village’s economy that the residents decided to keep the change permanent. An overwhelming 141 residents voted in favor to 33 against, that their homes should stay painted entirely in the unique hue.

6. Bled, Slovenia
This small Alpine town in northwestern Slovenia rings the shore of Lake Bled, whose glacial blue waters surround a tiny island and its small Baroque church. After a two-hour stroll around the lake, hike to the medieval hilltop castle for panoramic views or recharge with a slice of the local specialty: kremšnita, a sugar-topped pastry filled with cream and custard that has been served for decades at the Hotel Park.

7. Reine, Norway
North of the Arctic Circle, Reine is a pretty fishing village in the Lofoten archipelago, an area of starkly beautiful Nordic wilderness, where sapphire bays punctuate fjords and mountains. Many of the bright red fishermen’s cabins (called rorbuer) have been converted into comfortable cottages for visitors that offer direct access to the Norwegian Sea. Settle in for a front-row view of the night sky and its mesmerizing entertainment, from summer’s midnight sun to winter’s northern lights.

8. Colmar, France
French and German influences commingle in this well-preserved Alsatian village, where local bakeries sell both croissants and kugelhopf, and restaurants specialize in foie gras and sauerkraut (or choucroute). A range of architectural styles, from German Gothic to French Neo-Baroque, can be spotted in the old town, which was spared destruction during World War II—thanks in part to the historical beauty of its cobblestoned lanes, quiet canals, and half-timbered houses.

9. Bibury, England
The hilly Cotswold region is a designated “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” in southwestern England, and one of its loveliest villages is Bibury, where verdant meadows abut ancient stone cottages with steep pitched roofs. The River Coln, which bisects the village, teems with trout, but the most scenic area is Arlington Row, a lane of sepia-hued cottages built in the 17th century to house weavers from the nearby Arlington Mill.

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