Most beautiful towns in Europe

(CNN) — Paris, Rome, Barcelona… Europe’s cities are bucket list destinations, and rightly so. But the continent’s small towns are a dream, too, with all the beautiful architecture and much of the culture you’ll find in the big hitters, only with fewer crowds to share them with.

Here are some of the prettiest small towns across Europe, from humble fishing towns to hilltop medieval power bases.

Giethoorn, Netherlands

Giethoorn is often called the Dutch answer to Venice.

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They call it the Dutch answer to Venice, but Giethoorn lacks one crucial thing that the Italian city has in spades: overtourism. As in Venice, life revolves around the water, here — there are no cars in the center so the only way to get around is on foot or on the water.

Take a boat tour around the thatched houses sitting on peat-filled islands. Hungry? Stop at the Michelin-starred restaurant Hollands-Venetië.


Guimarães, Portugal

Guimarães is sleepy today, but it was Portugal's first capital.

Guimarães is sleepy today, but it was Portugal’s first capital.

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Guimarães is crucial to Portugal’s history — it was named the country’s first capital in the 12th century, and its medieval core remains largely intact, full of convents, grand old palaces and a crumbling castle, perched on top of a bluff.

Like everywhere in Portugal, local bakeries make a mean pastel de nata, but here you should try the local speciality: torta di Guimarães — a pastry filled with squash and ground almonds.

Roscoff, France

Roscoff is one of the cutest port towns in France.

Roscoff is one of the cutest port towns in France.


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