When we travel we love visiting big metropolis, but we love even more the quietness and authenticity of the rural villages that can be found in the middle of nowhere. By driving far from the crowds we have discovered amazing towns in our old continent.
It has been a long time thinking about writing a post on our 5 favourite villages in Europe to spread the word about them. Of course they are our own selection among all the villages that we’ve visited together to date, but there are still plenty of villages awaiting for us to visit them! The order in this post is merely chronological, since we wouldn’t be able to choose among all those little wonders 🙂
We start in our own land, Catalonia. Besalú was part of our first weekend break together. Located inland in the province of Girona, Besalú can be easily reached from the Costa Brava by driving around 30 minutes.
Besalú is placed in the Garrotxa region, the best volcanic zone in the Iberian Peninsula, with 40 volcanic cones and more than 20 lava flows. Garrotxa is located 1 hour and 30 minutes driving from Barcelona and it deserves a visit if you love nature, hiking and little medieval villages like Besalú. The most beautiful corner in Besalú is its famous Romanesque stone bridge that crosses over the Fluvià river.
Hallstatt always uses to be in the lists of the most beautiful villages in Europe and when we visited it in 2014 we understood why. With only a bit more than 800 inhabitants, this small town has become so popular all around the world that in Luoyang, Boluo County, China, the China Minmetals mining company has been building a housing project which is modeled after the village of Hallstatt.
But Hallstatt is a fairytale village not only due to its nice architecture, but thanks to its amazing location. Placed in the Austrian state of Upper Austria, Hallstatt was built in front of the Hallstätter See. The views of the village and the lake are just incredible. That, together with the importance of Hallstatt in the salt production industry, have made it one of the World Heritage Sites in Austria.
Thus, Hallstatt is a must-see in the Salzburg region, together with the Eisriesenwelt ice cave.
Let’s go back to the Iberian Peninsula, particularly, to the west, because Portugal is full of beautiful villages that deserve a visit. Obidos is a good example of it: there you will find the typical Portuguese white houses, mixed with a bit of blue and yellow painting.
Obidos is located 1 hour driving from Lisbon, quite close to the coastal town of Peniche and halfway through Fatima and Tomar. Obidos is a charming fortified village. Walking around the village and over its stone walls is really a pleasure. The walls surround the village and lead to a beautiful medieval castle.
In Obidos you can test a local liqueur, called ginjinha, which is made out of cherries and served as a shot in small edible chocolate cups. When we drank ginginha we found it so tasty that we obviously bought a bottle for home!
4. San Gimignano
We have already written about San Gimignano when we explained in this blog our short road trip through Tuscany. The small World Heritage village of San Gimignano was built at the top of a hill and nowadays amazes visitors with its perfect skyline. During medieval times families competed among them to build the highest towers and it is said that 15 out of 72 towers have survived to the test of time.
San Gimignano is used to receive lots of visitors and thus they have enabled different parking areas in the town. The streets towards the Piazza del Duomo are full of shops where you can buy typical products of the Tuscany region and once in the main square you will find the two core attractions of San Gimignano: the Collegiata di Santa Maria Asunta (the former cathedral), which is decorated with beautiful frescoes, and the Torre Grossa (part of the Museo Civico), which is the highest tower in the village (54 meters high) and offers great views.
Last but not least, we move to the French region of Alsace, which we could visit last Easter. The small village of Eguisheim is full of history in every street. You can visit it in a short time by following the round tour that the town proposes to visitors. You will enjoy the quietness and authenticity of its narrow streets until you will reach the Saint-Leon Fountain.
As we have already explained in this blog, the people in Eguisheim seem to be really proud of their wine and their pope: Eguisheim was the hometown of the Pope Leo IX (born Bruno of Egisheim-Dagsburg). A chapel next to the Saint-Leo Fountain is devoted to him.
But the region of Alsace is full of other beautiful little villages such as Riquewihr and Obernai. And what about you? Which are the most beautiful villages you’ve been to? 🙂