England is an incredible country to explore. We’ve got some stunning history, beautiful villages and gorgeous national parks that dotted all across the lands. That being said, sometimes, the best places in the north of England are forgotten in lieu of amazing cities like London or the pretty spots in the south of England.
That being said, the north of England is pretty vast, with a whole heap of beautiful places to explore. This is exactly why I wanted to share some of my favorite and best places in the north of England to visit on your next trip.
Now, for clarity, there’s no real defining line of what constitutes, north and south England, it seems like everyone has their own cutoffs of where this border exists. To make things simpler, I’m going on the notion that anything lower than the Peak District National Park is south.
With that in mind, take a look below at the best places in the north of England to see. Have the best trip around England, we really have a beautiful country.
1.) The Lake District
One of the UNESCO protected national parks, the Lake District is one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you love the countryside. Consisting of around sixteen lakes, the Lake District is filled with stunning mountains, rolling hills and a heap of lakes that are nestled within the countryside.
Now, with the Lake District, you do have ‘popular’ lakes and some that are much quieter. For me, I prefer the quiet ones like Ullswater Lake that is totally pristine.
Here, you can head out paddle boarding, hiking and even take the historic Ullswater Steamer that crosses the lake itself.
That being said, don’t forget Windermere Lake, too. It’s probably the most famous lake in the Lake District with plenty of little places to explore around the shores.
Perched on the north-east coast of England, Whitby is a pretty historic fishing town to visit.
The town’s skyline is overlooked by the historical ruins of Whitby Abbey, a gothic structure which inspired Bram Stoker to write his classic horror masterpiece, Dracula. They’re incredible to see and easily one of the best places in the north of England to see if you love history.
Afterwards, pop over some classic fish and chips from the Magpie Cafe. For dinner, don’t forget the Star Inn (the harbour) for some yummy fresh seafood and local treats.
Finally, if you fancy a little jaunt from the town itself, head over to Robin Hood’s Bay, it’s a stunning little smugglers village that is so beautiful to see.
3.)The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Nestled on a small tidal island off the coast of Northumberland, the holy island of Lindisfarne is beautiful to see.
First off, to get here, you have to pay attention to the tides, each day, the island gets cut off from the mainland when the sea washes over the road. Only ever attempt to travel this road when it is safe to do so as your car can get washed away.
Once you’ve got over to the island, make sure to spend some time exploring the historic abbey, head to the Lindisfarne Castle and have a tipple of Lindisfarne Mead that has been made on the island for centuries. The island itself is steeped in history and is considered the starting point for the Viking Age in northern Europe.
It really is one of the best places in the north of England to explore ancient beauty and history.
York is one of the oldest cities in England and easily one of the best places in the north of England to visit whilst you’re here. Honestly, York itself is absolutely teeming with history and dates way back over a thousand years.
Once you arrive, make sure to visit and explore York Minster, a cathedral that dates back to the 13th century. Here, you can even climb the stairs to the roof, with a lovely view across York itself.
Also, don’t forget Clifford’s Tower and the Castle museum nearby. Afterwards, rent your own little red boat and charter the river that runs through the city. Afterwards, take a little road down the medieval street called the Shambles and explore the totally quaint side of York.
Finally, for some amazing food, head over to Skosh or Roots that both have some of the tastiest grub in the city. You won’t be disappointed with either of them.
Oh yeah, and if you fancy a little jaunt from the city, head across to Castle Howard that is about 25-minutes in the car from the center. It’s huge and totally magnificent to see.
Nestled on the pristine coastline of Northumberland, Bamburgh is a tiny little place that has some of the best coastline and castle around. Only about 60-minutes from the Holy Island, it’s quite easy to partner a trip to Bamburgh with a wider trip across Northumberland.
As soon as you arrive, make sure to wander around the little town and make reservations for dinner at the Potted Lobster. It’s so yummy and they serve the best local seafood. Afterwards, head on over to Bamburgh Castle itself and explore the ancient history of this gorgeous place. Finally, take some time to enjoy the stunning beaches around the castle, too. They’re totally pristine and offer some gorgeous views over the castle itself.
Finally, if you fancy going on a little adventure, pop over to the uninhabited Farne Islands on a boat. You might even see whales or puffins during your trip.
Honestly, if you love castles, you’ll easily find Bamburgh one of the best places in the north of England to visit.
6.) Peak District
The Peak District National Park is the oldest national park in the UK and one of the best places in the north of England to explore.
Once here, make sure to explore Winnats Pass and discover the underground river on a tiny boat. Afterwards, head across to the plague village of Eyam and learn about this isolated community during the plague.
Afterwards, check into your own safari-style lodge that is just so cozy with the wood burner roaring.
Nestled on the coast of the North Sea, Scarborough is a gorgeous town to visit for a weekend trip.
Once here, head on through Peasholm Park and also explore the historic harbour that makes this spot so picturesque. Also, make sure to explore Scarborough Castle and visit St Mary’s Church where you can also see Anne Bronte’s final resting place.
Finally, for a good spot of lunch, head over to the Green Room Brasserie which has some of the freshest dishes around. If it’s a traditional fish and chips you’re after, pop into the Lifeboat Fishbar – they serve some of the best on all the east coast. Scarborough really is one of the best places in the north of England to visit.
Leeds is a pretty cool city to visit in the north of England and an easy spot to explore when heading further north.
Once here, make sure to explore the city Centre and head to explore the Corn Exchange with all their little eateries and shops. Afterwards, head across to the arcades which are totally beautiful and really gorgeous to see.
If that’s not your thing, head to Kirkstall Abbey (one of the largest in England) or even Harewood House (out of the Centre) that was built in the 1700s. Finally, for some tasty grub, head across to The Swine That Dines for a gorgeous dinner.
That being said, if you want something quick and easy, pop into the Station House Café for some of the best Italian food in the city. It really is one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you like a little city break.
The Market town of Malton is not too far from York and pretty easy to visit on your trip around this area.
Now, one of the things that makes Malton so special is its foodie heritage. It might be a relatively small town but it’s got some of the best independent food spots in Yorkshire. Once here, head over to Roost for some of the best coffee in town and find McMillans for a tasty bottle to take home.
Afterwards, head to Florian Poirot (near Roost) for an incredible french bakery. They make the most delicious sweet treats. Malton is certainly one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you’re a foodie.
10.) Hebden Bridge
A whimsical little market town, Hebden Bridge’s Rochdale Canal is nothing a totally gorgeous spot to visit.
While, like most of northern England, the weather can be a little unpredictable (take your umbrella), Hebden Bridge is easily one of the best places in the north of England to explore.
Once here, head out on the 15-miles of footpaths and walkways around the Hardcastle Crags. That being said, if you’re feeling a little lazier, head to the Heptonstall Museum which has far less walking.
After strolling the canal, pop over to Sowerby Bridge and gorge at Engine. The tapas-style plates are just so yummy.
Being one of the larger cities in England, there’s a whole heap of amazing things to see and do whilst in Manchester. Plus, it’s one of the best places in the north of England to explore if you want a vibrant city.
You see, Manchester has a long history, which makes for some totally gorgeous places to explore. Once here, make sure to explore the Science and Industry Museum, see Old Trafford (if you’re a footie fan), or check out the Manchester Art Gallery. The latter is totally stunning and a great thing to do if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Oh yeah, and if you fancy some nightlife, Canal Street is famous for being one of the oldest LGBT+ neighbourhoods in Europe, while the Northern Quarter has loads of trendy bars to explore. Also, for a tasty and juicy steak, pop into Fazenda Rodizio Bar which is totally gorge-worthy. You’ll leave stuffed.
Also, for a great place to stay, check into Hotel Gotham that is totally unique.
An absolute must-visit for any literary lover, Haworth is home to the longtime home of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Ann.
While the girls worked under pen names, they released some tremendous successes which continue to resonate with readers today, including the classics Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. You can visit the gravesite of the majority of the Bronte family at the Haworth Parish Church as well.
Although Haworth is pretty small, it’s a great place to spend a pit stop on your way further north (or south) for an hour or two.
Of course, most people know Liverpool as the hometown of the Beatles, right? Liverpool is certainly one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you love the Beatles! That being said, there’s so much more to this city to experience.
After arriving, make sure to explore the waterfront (marked by a trio of buildings popularly known as the Three Graces). If that doesn’t float your boat, the Liverpool Cathedral is worth visiting for its stunning Gothic architecture, too. Finally, head across to the Royal Albert Dock, visit the Beatles Story and visit the Walker Art Gallery, too.
Oh yeah, there’s also a shed load of yummy spots to grab a bite to eat, too! From high-end spots to a pint and some fish and chips at the local pub, Liverpool has a spot for everyone.
Now, for a tasty dinner, head across to the London Carriage Works. Once you arrive, make sure to try their incredible cocktails and seasonal menu. Their salted cod with clams is so good.
Originally constructed as a Roman fortress (almost two-thousand years ago), Chester still maintains some of its Roman past in what remains of the city’s walls. Now, with a city that’s so steeped in history, it’s easily become of the best places in the north of England to see. Plus, it’s really easy to get to from the likes of Manchester or Liverpool.
Once here, make sure to explore Chester’s gothic cathedral and stroll along the Groves that are totally lovely. Oh yeah, the Old Town is worth a visit to gaze upon the black and white Tudor-style homes that line the streets too.
Afterwards, head across to visit the Grovesnor Museum or walk the city walls themselves. It’s the perfect thing to do before gorging at The Yard for their tasty seabass.
Based just west of Newcastle, Durham is pretty easy to get to from most places in the UK, especially by train. Now, although Durham is a relatively small city (as cities go), it’s still got a shed load of history and gorgeous things to do.
After stepping off the train, head across to explore Durham Cathedral in all its glory. It’s so imposing and can’t be missed when visiting the city. Afterwards, stop over to Durham Castle and learn more about the ancient history of this place. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the quaint Palace Green and see Finchale Priory (that sits outside the centre).
While these iconic stops are definitely worth your attention, there are others that might not have as much search traffic, but can give you a whole new perspective on a place and its people. These little-known wonders — most of which are not-so-far from larger metropolitan areas — will add depth and dimension to your getaway, offering a unique opportunity to see and experience something beyond the usual circuit.
Below, seven underappreciated European gems you need to know about.
Scotland’s Outer Hebrides
Your next vacation might not be as expensive as you think. In some of the destinations below, the U.S. dollar will go further in 2019, with unexpectedly reasonable rates for lodging, activities, and dining; in others, I’ve unearthed hidden gems that are actually affordable. And while the cost of flights is never as low as most travelers want it to be, I’ve even found budget-friendly flights to many of these spots. Plan your next escape to one of these surprisingly cheap places to travel.
Affordable airfare is making the everyman’s bucket list trip a reality for 2019 (and we’re not just talking about flights from the West Coast). According to Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site, some flights to Hawaii actually cost less than $500 from East Coast and Midwest cities in 2018. The reason? Multiple major airlines announced new routes to Hawaii, creating fierce competition for the best fares—a trend that’s expected to continue in 2019.
Hawaiian Airlines will soon offer Basic Economy fares, while budget carrier Southwest Airlines is expected to launch service to Hawaii soon. And while you can easily spend a pretty penny at luxury resorts, you can just as easily save with vacation rental properties steps from the beach.
Where to stay: Enjoy affordable accommodations at the Aston Waikiki Circle Hotel, located across the street from world-famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia offer an exotic vacation destination with a not-so-exotic price tag. “Although the country is relatively more well developed than its neighbors around Southeast Asia, the Malaysian capital has some of the world’s cheapest rates for five-star hotels,” says travel blogger Bino Chua of I Wander. You can stay at luxe hotels for under $200 a night—and at three- or four-stars for even less.
Currently, one Malaysian ringgit is equal to 24 US cents, which means your dollar will go a long way when it comes to meals and activities, too. And in many cases, you won’t even need to pull out your wallet—admission-free museums, walking tours, religious sites, and parks make it easy to save. As for transportation, “a 10- to 15-minute car ride within Kuala Lumpur will cost around $3 USD (or even less),” says Chua. If you hop on one of the purple GO KL buses, you’ll pay nothing.
Where to stay: You can regularly find rates under $100 per night at the newly opened Hyatt House Kuala Lumpur, which offers accommodations with kitchens and complimentary breakfast.
London is calling in 2019. “The fall in the value of the British pound means foreign visitors get more bang for their buck when visiting the U.K., with competitive prices on hotels, attractions, and shopping,” says Freddie Julius of Tourist England. “The U.K.’s political instability, the result of a lack of clarity in the Brexit negotiations, means this situation is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”
Airfarewatchdog predicts more flight deals to the U.K., too, noting that airfares have been decreasing with competition from low-cost carriers and the introduction of basic economy pricing. London also offers a wealth of free museums and parks that have always made a trip across the pond a decent deal.
Where to stay: The Ibis London Shepherds Bush – Hammersmith Hotel offers above-average breakfast at no additional cost, and is about a 10-minute walk from the nearest Tube station.
“Israel—which had its best year ever thanks to more than four million visiting tourists in 2018—meets the needs of every type of traveler, including the budget-conscious visitor, because of its delicious yet inexpensive food options, wide range of hotel choices, many free historical sites, and wonderful outdoor activities,” says Ellen Shapiro, North America PR Director for the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
Explore the ancient biblical sites and colorful flea markets of Jerusalem; stroll Tel Aviv’s vibrant neighborhoods; go for a hike and sample wine in the north; or float in the Dead Sea (the lowest point on earth) and Red Sea in the south—all of it can be done on a budget. Another way you’ll save? Many of the Holy Land’s hotels offer lavish, complimentary buffet breakfasts so you can eat shakshuka to your heart’s content (and, of course, you can fill up on cheap and delicious hummus and falafel everywhere you go).
Where to stay:Tal by the Beach Hotel Tel Aviv is a boutique hotel that won’t break the bank. Complimentary amenities include happy hours with hors d’oeuvres and bike rentals to explore the city.
Curacao is seriously underrated, and not just because of its beautiful beaches and candy-colored capital of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Dutch-Caribbean island is also affordable, especially during the summer, when you can score round-trip flights in the $300 range from many major U.S. cities. Luxurious beachfront resorts are surprisingly affordable, too—think less than $200 per night. The food is surprisingly cheap as well, considering the island has one of the best culinary reputations in the Caribbean.
Where to stay: The Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort has a Four Diamond rating from AAA, yet it offers rates under $200 per night almost year-round. It also offers an all-inclusive option.
Lake Como, Italy
You don’t need to bring home John Legend’s and Chrissy Tiegen’s paychecks to vacation in Lake Como. Save by staying in the historic city of Como, which offers reasonably priced lodging and is the area’s transportation hub. “The Romans first identified Como as a holiday destination,” explains Shelley Clark, spokesperson for Como-based Lario Hotels. “Today, in addition to being the gateway to what many consider the world’s most beautiful lake, Como remains a world-class destination loaded with quaint charm and an impressive array of historical, cultural, retail, and dining options.”
Free and low-cost activities include exploring the nearby nature trails and fairy-tale villages that surround the lake and riding the inexpensive Como-Brunate funicular to the Brunate, the “balcony of the Alps.” You can even enjoy a bit of luxury for less at the Lido di Cernobbio, which offers a glamorous poolside experience for less than $25 per person.
Where to stay: You can find reasonable nightly rates at the hip Posta Design Hotel, located in Como’s medieval old town just a short stroll from the waterfront promenade.
Did you know the official currency of El Salvador is the U.S. dollar? Not only does this take the guesswork out of budgeting for a vacation, but everything is also very affordable in El Salvador, Central America’s smallest country. Admission to two of the country’s most famous sites—Joya de Cerén, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (known as the “Pompeii of the Americas”), and San Andrés, a pre-Colombian site—costs less than $5.
You can also hike the country’s highest volcano, take an inexpensive surf lesson at Playa del Tunco, and learn about the country’s coffee culture at El Carmen Estate. Bonus: More than a dozen U.S. airports offer direct flights to El Salvador; from New York, it’s only five hours.
Where to stay: The luxe Sal & Luz Hotel comes at a reasonable price, with a quiet location and fabulous on-site restaurant.
While Iceland is a relatively short flight from the East Coast, its pricey reputation has also kept many travelers at a distance. But that should change in 2019. “Right now, the U.S. dollar is worth 20 percent more than it was in early 2018,” says Mero Geesey of Carpe Mundo, a travel agency that specializes in Iceland. “There have also been a lot of new hotels and guesthouses that have opened up within the last year, and several new tour operators offering glacier hikes, snorkel tours, and more.”
Hidden Iceland, for example, provides travelers with intimate alternatives to overcrowded and overpriced experiences. “Instead of the Blue Lagoon, you can explore an ice cave as part of a two-day trip to a glacier lagoon that also includes searching for the northern lights,” says Ryan Connolly, cofounder and marketing manager of Hidden Iceland. “In the spring, travelers can play with newly birthed lambs at an authentic farm guesthouse.”
Where to stay: About an hour outside of Reykjavik, Lambastadir Guesthouse is located on a farm and features an outdoor hot tub and sauna.
Looking to get away from it all? Science has proven that nature travel can improve almost every aspect of your wellbeing, from increasing your attention span to improving your mood. To get the most benefit, it’s worth seeking out places with minimal noise, artificial light, and air pollution.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy. Quiet places are disappearing fast, even in protected areas; nighttime light pollution covers nearly 80 percent of the planet; and there are no places left that are entirely free of air pollution.
Go to These Places to Avoid Noise, Light, and Air Pollution
But there is hope; there are several well-organized resources for finding the darkest, quietest, and cleanest places left on Earth, including dark skies associations, noise experts, and the World Health Organization’s survey of air conditions worldwide. I combined them all to pick 10 of the best places to find clear skies, bright stars, fresh air, and the purest sounds of nature.
Flagstaff was the first city named an International Dark Sky City by the International Dark Sky Association, and was in the top five for cleanest air in a recent State of the Air survey by the American Lung Association. This small city isn’t particularly quiet, but active civic measures to keep down noise pollution mean that it’s easy enough to find peace in the surrounding areas at places like Meteor Crater and Walnut Canyon.
Roisey, located in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region of France, has been determined by the World Health Organization to have the cleanest air in the country. Thanks in part to its location in a national park as well as altitude over 4,200 feet in some places, skies are also often very clear. Add to that an official population of just 909 people, and you have a great choice for getting away from it all right in the middle of Europe.
Te Anau, New Zealand
Global testing by the World Health Organization has found Te Anau to have some of the cleanest air worldwide. Its location at the entrance to Fiordland National Park makes it a basecamp for hikers and “trampers” who can see night skies so clear that there’s a small cottage industry offering night sky tours in the area. The presence of helicopter touring companies means it might not always be the quietest spot, but if you are hiking into the fjords or along the Kepler or Milford Tracks, you can escape the noise as soon as the heliports shut down each evening.
The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve in Mt. Cook National Park is another superb New Zealand option, free of most air pollution and attracting stargazers from around the world.
Located about 100 miles north of Madrid, Campisabalos is another city that sits high on WHO’s list of the best air in the world. Dark sky maps put it solidly away from most light pollution; if you want even darker, travel a bit southeast to the Parque Natural de la Serrania to the west of Cuenca, which also includes the Enchanted City, a geological wonder created by natural erosion approximately 90 million years ago.
Mojave Desert, California
Trevor Cox, a professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford and author of a book on natural sound phenomena, recommends the Kelso Dune area in the Mojave Desert. Cox visited the spot specifically because there are interesting sounds—the dunes make a growling or bellowing sound when you move the sand around that gives them the name “singing sands”—but Cox notes that the area is extremely quiet.
“Kelso Dune in the Mojave Desert … has no flights and no cars, and actually no sound at times because there is very little wildlife,” he says. “It is a special place.”
The dunes are also located in a formidable area of dark skies, and the National Park Service’s “half the park is after dark” motto definitely applies here.
Lapland Region, Finland
Way up in the northern Lapland region of Finland, the municipality of Muonio topped WHO’s most recent clean air list. While you pull in the fresh air, you can take in some superb views of the northern lights; Finns often ski or snowshoe into the countryside to see the lights, but VisitFinland.com has put together a list of more comfortable options, including heated tents and glass igloos.
Muonio has the longest snow season in all of Finland, so if you don’t get clear skies right away, strap on some skis while you wait for a good night to see the lights.
San Pedro de Atacama Region, Chile
Clean air, high altitude, and the driest desert in the world combine to put the San Pedro de Atacama region at the top of the list of the darkest, clearest places on Earth. Don’t believe me? Check out this timelapse video. In addition to being free of light and air pollution, the desert environment also offers minimal sound from wildlife.
Grasslands National Park, Canada
Gordon Hempton, founder of One Square Inch of Silence, did an acoustic survey at Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park and found that it has “the quietest, purest sounds,” he said. And much of the park is nearly absent of light pollution, according to Dark Site Finder. You won’t find much air pollution here either; the air in Canada is some of the best in the world, according to WHO.
Canary Islands, Spain
Mountainous geography and a location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean make La Palma and Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands among the purest destinations on the planet. Teide National Park on Tenerife includes the highest peak in the Atlantic Ocean for peak baggers, not to mention stargazers.
Haleakala Summit, Hawaii
Hawaii has some of the most consistently clean air on Earth—even bustling Honolulu gets good marks from WHO—and the ability to get up above the clouds into thinner, cleaner air on top of Haleakala, in Maui, means there is even better stargazing here than at sea level. Visitors can stay overnight to see the stars and take in the sunrise, giving you the best of both worlds. The Mauna Kea observatory on the Big Island is another superb option, although staying overnight is not possible there.
20. Mo’orea, French Polynesia
Mo’orea is a volcanically formed island in the French Polynesia, reachable from nearby Tahiti by high-speed Cataraman. Expect pristine white powder sanded beaches, bright turquoise waters, staggering emerald green cliffs and luxury hotels with over-water bungalows. Mo’orea is ideal for honeymooners who want a lesser known destination. Recommended hotels include Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort (pictured) & Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora.
18. Boracay, Phillipines
17. Waiheke Island, New Zealand
16. Capri, Italy
15. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
14. St Lucia
13. Whitsunday Islands, Australia
10. The Dalmatian Islands, Croatia
9. Bali, Indonesia
8. The Cook Islands
6. Palawan, Phillipines
5. Mauritius, Africa
4. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
2. Maui, Hawaii
By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA
Consultant, Strategist, and Writer
Cisterns and stones; the fig-tree in the wall
Casts down her shadow, ashen as her boughs,
Across the road, across the thick white dust.
Down from the hill the slow white oxen crawl,
Dragging the purple waggon heaped with must,
With scarlet tassels on their milky brows,
Gentle as evening moths. Beneath the yoke
Lounging against the shaft they fitful strain
To draw the waggon on its creaking spoke,
And all the vineyard folk
With staves and shouldered tools surround the wain.
The wooden shovels take the purple stain,
The dusk is heavy with the wine’s warm load;
Here the long sense of classic measure cures
The spirit weary of its difficult pain;
Here the old Bacchic piety endures,
Here the sweet legends of the world remain.
Homeric waggons lumbering the road;
Virgilian litanies among the bine;
Pastoral sloth of flocks beneath the pine;
The swineherd watching, propped upon his goad,
Urder the chestnut trees the rootling swine
Who could so stand, and see this evening fall,
This calm of husbandry, this redolent tilth,
This terracing of hills, this vintage wealth,
Without the pagan sanity of blood
Mounting his veins in young and tempered health?
Whu could so stand, and watch processional
The vintners, herds, and flocks in dusty train
Wend through the golden evening to regain
The terraced farm and trodden threshing-floor
Where late the flail
Tossed high the maize in scud of gritty ore,
And lies half-buried in the heap of grain
Who could so watch, and not forget the rack
Of wills worn thin and thought become too frail,
Nor roll the centuries back *
And feel the sinews of his soul grow hale,
And know himself for Rome’s inheritor?
Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA –
Consultant, Strategist, and Writer
From the Alps to the Mediterranean, these frozen-in-time European villages will make you appreciate the beauty of taking it slow. Reaching some of these European beauties requires extra effort, yet the rewards are dazzling. Your eyes will thank you.
The storybook town of Hallstatt in central Austria enjoys a gorgeous setting on the bank of the Hallstätter See, between the pristine lake and a lush mountain that rises dramatically from the water’s edge. A history of salt mining dating back thousands of years has translated into enduring prosperity for the town, which is most evident in the beautiful square ringed with ivy-covered buildings.
Manarola is a small town, a frazione of the comune (municipality) of Riomaggiore, in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northern Italy. It is the second smallest of the famous Cinque Terre towns frequented by tourists.
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.
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.
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.
The buses and cruises that stop along Croatia’s sunny Dalmatian coast unleash tourists eager to experience the charms of Dubrovnik and the ancient island village of Hvar. Fewer visitors find their way to Pučiśća on the island of Brač. The reward is a seaside village with outsize appeal: white-stone villas with terracotta roofs, narrow cobblestoned alleys, and a stone-paved square. Bask in its relative solitude and the many prime spots for swimming in the turquoise Adriatic Sea.
Telč, Czech Republic
Residents of Telč, a small town in south Moravia, were once quite competitive about the beauty of their homes, as is evident today on the elongated main square, where one building is lovelier than the next. The Baroque- and Renaissance-style façades, featuring high gables painted in pale pastels, now support small shops and cafés. A grand Renaissance-era château and large fish-filled ponds surround the square.
Encircled by streams, the picturesque village of Cong straddles the border between County Mayo and Galway—a region of lakes and vibrantly green meadows dotted with grazing sheep. Cong counts numerous stone bridges, the ruins of a medieval abbey, the occasional thatched-roof cottage, and Ashford Castle, a grand Victorian estate that has been converted into a romantic luxury hotel.
Gruyères is famous for its namesake cheese, whose mild, nutty flavor melts so well in fondue. But few are familiar with the town itself, a medieval hamlet in the upper valley of the Saane River in western Switzerland. A wide, stone-paved street leads up to the magnificent 13th-century Gruyères Castle, with its imposing fortifications and expansive views of the surrounding Alpine foothills.
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.