Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Top Ten Most Quaint Towns and Villages on our Euopean Road Trips So Far

Whilst recently scrapbooking our road trip to Isola d’Elba, Italy, I’ve found myself reminiscing about the cutest little towns and villages we have found along the way. Some of them are just so delicious! This has inspired me to blog my Top Ten Quaintest Towns and Villages that we have come across on our road trips so far. Enjoy!


1.    Annecy, France

Canal at night in Annecy, stone buildings lit up



Annecy Vielle Ville (old town) is a peeling, rustic, cobbly affair with a canal weaving through the centre, past the castle on the hill. The natural setting is incredible, giving you lots of outdoors things to do. All around are high mountains, sheer rock faces, and the clearest lake you have ever seen! Take in the restaurants, shops, patisseries and bakeries as you stroll around this wonderful little town and if the weather is good, hire a pedal boat on Lake Annecy.

Accomodation Suggestion
An excellent hotel for value, cleanliness and friendly staff is Hotel Alexandra (2/3 stars). It is right in the centre, and the shores of the lake are within a 2 minute walk. The rooms can be small and there is no lift, but rooms are ensuite and with a TV. The service is excellent and it's such a cute little one-off non-chain hotel. Expect to pay around 70 EUR per room, per night. Get a parking permit from reception if you've got a car.

2.    Lucca, Italy


Winding narrow alleyways within a tall, intact medieval wall, shop windows littered with gorgeous biscuits and cakes, and stunning Renaissance churches make this town both alluring and mysterious. The red-tiled roofs of the numerous buildings which are crammed within the walls, complimented by the surrounding rolling Tuscan hills and mountains can be seen if you climb one of the towers in the town (e.g. Tower Guinigi).

3.    Colmar, France




The streets and banks of the canal in Colmar’s Vielle Ville are lined with colourful beamed buildings, traditional Wistub restaurants, and all things Alsatian. This is an extremely picturesque town with various churches built in various types of colours of stone (such as pink sandstone). There are so many things to see. Colmar has a different feel in each of the seasons, but if you happen to be in this area over the holidays, don’t miss the Christmas and Easter markets which are set in the main square with its gloriously traditional surroundings. There are some lovely crafty bits on offer as well as some very tasty treats!

4.    Grindelwald, Swtizerland

This town is a little more on the tourist trail, due to its enormous famed ski domain, and hiking pilgrimage in summer. It is a delightful, majestic and traditional town with some lovely gift shops and awe-inspiring hiking trails ranging from easy to absolutely expert. Surrounded by the lushest of fields only fitting for Heidi or The Sound of Music, Grindelwald boasts the Eiger Alp as a dramatic backdrop, and the blueish tinged Oberer Glacier can be seen lying nestled among the mountains. It can be visited via over 100 precarious log steps up the mountainside, and a swing bridge over a gorge with a waterfall. It’s fantastic. In summer the glacier may have retreated significantly so for nearer views spring is better.

5.    Komiza, Croatia

This tiny little fishing port in the Adriatic sea, on the isolated island of Vis, is a bustling little town with a very local feel. The natural surroundings of the crystal aqua sea and steep olive and vine-cloaked hillsides are reason enough to visit. This tiny place really is somewhere to sit on a pebble beach and ponder, or take a walk up in the hills and drink in the view of the tiny sun-bathed town below. Typically Mediterranean, it is reliably sunny and dry in the months around summer.

6.    Thun, Switzerland

Thun is a university town and as a result it retains a hip, young feel. The cobbled streets, traditional buildings and turquoise (yes turquoise) river make this town visually stunning. The castle in the centre is a big attraction (housing a museum) and the shops in the main street and the side streets are individual and full of excellent gifts and trinkets. There is an excellent selection of restaurants, and the ones with the best setting for sitting outside are behind the main street towards the canal, over-looking the water.

Accomodation Suggestion
An good hotel for value and rustic Swiss charm is Hotel Emmental (3 stars). It has an atmospheric bar downstairs and big characteristic but simple rooms. It is a one-off hotel which doesn't belong to a chain. If you're lucky you'll get a room with a view of the castle! Hotels are expensive in Switzerland, expect to pay around 80CHF per room. This is a normal price at the time of writing.

7.    San Gimignano, Italy

San Gimignano is a medieval town home to a series of medieval stone and brick towers which used to belong to one family each. The families would build their towers taller and taller to exert their power. These plain, oblong constructions rise up into the sky with a slightly foreboding feel, and you can feel the history of the place, despite the tourist shops and abundance of cameras. This town is largely a tourist destination, but the shops house some exquisite art, pottery and sweet treats. Not to mention the attraction of the surrounding Tuscan landscape views from the edge of the town by the car park.

8.    Spittal An Der Drau, Austria

This colourful and picturesque town has such an ‘Austrian’ feel, for want of a better word! The architecture belongs in a picture-book and the beautifully kept Stadpark gardens further compliment this town. There are also some good gift shops and a good choice of restaurants in the main street.



9.    St Gervais-Les-Bains, France



This town is well-touristed due to its ski domain and its famous Mont Blanc Thermes (thermal spa), however this heavy tourist footfall is for good reason. St Gervais retains its old-town charm and it is a genuine place to be. Its cafes, patisseries, shops and magnificent church with murals all add to its appeal. The town is up the mountain from Le Fayet (where the main busses depart) and a short local bus ride up into St Gervais will only set you back a couple of euros. The town’s position on a valley edge makes the walk over to the cable cars for the ski domain, a spectacular one.

Accomodation Options
We stayed in a lovely apartment within a large chalet, about a minute walk from the town centre. It was booked through interhome who let a wide range of chalets and apartments all over Europe. Prices vary a great deal but expect to pay around £30-40 a night per person for a regular 3 star chalet or apartment.

10. Chaumont, France

This town is no big tourist hotspot. The draw is its genuine French feel and the fact that not many people speak English. It is a great place in France for practising your French and soaking up a genuine atmosphere. There is a selection of gift and clothes shops, and some good low-key restaurants and pizzerias (always expect good tasty food in France!) If you’re driving, on the way into the town from the North, there is a fantastic late 1800s viaduct.


Text and Images Copyright © Lise Griffiths, 2012
All Rights Reserved

These most authentic and quaint towns and villages are my favourites in Contintental Western and Central Europe that I have visited. I like their charm and quaintness as well as how pretty they are!

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