15 Picturesque European Villages That Feel Straight Out of a Fairytale

Ditch the big cities for a dose of European history and charm, far from the crowds. Whether you’re looking to feel like you’re living a scene from The Sound of Music or want to unwind in a tiny Italian fishing village eating pasta by the water, these are the 15 most picturesque European villages to add to your itinerary.

Grindelwald, Switzerland

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Hidden among the peaks of some of Switzerland‘s most famous mountains – the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau – the small Alpine city of Grindelwald is among the most magical villages in Switzerland. Not only is it a haven for skiers in the winter, but its adventurous activities, stunning views, and spectacular scenery have made it a year-round destination.

Hallstatt, Austria

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Nestled beside a serene lake and surrounded by towering mountains, Hallstatt is a charming village in the district of Gmunden with colorful houses and a rich history dating back thousands of years. Its idyllic setting and quaint streets make it a favorite among visitors seeking fairytale-like landscapes in Austria.

Giethoorn, Netherlands

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Known as the “Venice of the Netherlands,” Giethoorn is a picturesque village characterized by its network of canals, wooden bridges, and thatched-roof cottages. Just over an hour from Amsterdam, Giethoorn is easily explored either by boat or on foot, allowing visitors to soak in its peaceful atmosphere and natural beauty even only as a day trip from the big city.

Bibury, England

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Situated in the heart of the Cotswolds, Bibury is famous for its honey-colored stone cottages and picturesque surroundings. The village’s quaint charm has attracted artists and writers for centuries, making it a popular destination for those looking to experience the English countryside life depicted in the movies.

Colmar, France

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With its half-timbered houses, flower-lined canals, and cobblestone streets, Colmar exudes old-world charm at every turn. The village’s well-preserved medieval architecture make it a must-visit destination in the Alsace region. Though its a popular desitnation year round, it’s also known for having one of the most charming Christmas markets in all of Europe.

Portree, Scotland

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Located on the remote Isle of Skye, Portree is a charming village with colorful buildings lining its picturesque harbor. It’s a bit challenging to get here, but it’s worth it; surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, Portree offers visitors a glimpse into the unrivaled beauty of the Scottish Highlands.

Riomaggiore, Italy

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One of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre region of Italy, Riomaggiore is famous for its colorful houses perched precariously on cliffs overlooking the Ligurian Sea. Visitors can wander through its narrow alleys, sample fresh seafood, and admire breathtaking coastal views. Avoid it during the high season if possible – its beauty attracts visitors from around the world and it can get uncomfortably crowded during the summer.

Reine, Norway

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Reine is a picturesque fishing village surrounded by towering Norwegian mountains and crystal-clear, pristine waters. Its vibrant red fishing cabins, known as “rorbuer,” dot the coastline, creating a postcard-perfect scene that makes it one of the most charming villages in Scandinavia.

Sintra, Portugal

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Amidst lush hillsides, Sintra, Portugal, is a town filled with romantic architecture, including the colorful Pena Palace and Moorish castle. Its misty forests and enchanting gardens have inspired poets and artists for centuries, earning it UNESCO World Heritage status.

Positano, Italy

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Perched on the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast, Positano is a picturesque village with pastel-colored houses tumbling down towards the azure sea. Visitors can wander through its narrow streets, shop at tiny boutiques, and relax on its pebbled beaches while enjoying breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. Like Riomaggiore, it is part of the Cinque Terre and can get impossibly crowded and busy during the high season of travel, so visit during the off-season if possible.

Český Krumlov, Czech Republic

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Located South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, Český Krumlov is a picturesque town known for its well-preserved medieval architecture. The town’s centerpiece is its impressive castle complex, which overlooks the Vltava River. It’s one of the most popular day trip destinations from the capital of Prague, though there’s enough here to warrant an overnight stay.

Oia, Greece

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On the volcanic island of Santorini, the village of Oia is renowned for its whitewashed buildings, blue-domed churches, and stunning sunsets over the Aegean Sea. Visitors can stroll through its charming streets, peruse local art galleries, and dine at cliffside restaurants while enjoying panoramic views of the caldera. Though all of Santorini seems to be constantly overrun with tourists, Oia is slightly less busy than the city where cruise ships dock in Santorini.

Gruyères, Switzerland

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Perched atop a hill in the Swiss countryside, Gruyères is a medieval village known for its well-preserved architecture and delicious cheese. Visitors can explore the cobblestone streets, visit the castle of Gruyères, and sample authentic fondue while taking in panoramic views of the surrounding valleys.

Portofino, Italy

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Nestled in the Italian Riviera, Portofino is a small fishing village renowned for its pastel-colored buildings, picturesque harbor, and oversized yachts. While many visitors know it for its luxury accommodations, it’s a destination that has something for everyone, including the spectacular viewpoint over the port from Castell Brown.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a well-preserved medieval town located in Bavaria, Germany, known for its winding cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and well-preserved city walls. Visitors can explore the town’s medieval architecture, visit the impressive St. James’s Church, and walk along the scenic town walls for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, though its Christmas market is its own attraction worth traveling for during the festive season.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.