For many people, visiting Europe is a dream. From quaint streets to iconic tourist locations, this continent is the most visited one on Earth. Cities like Rome, Berlin, and Budapest top many travelers’ bucket lists, and the thought of visiting them would excite just about anyone.
While Europe’s major cities are indeed incredible, another aspect of Europe that should not be overlooked is its smaller towns. Places like Urbino, Italy and Colmar, France deserve a spot on your bucket list just as much as major hubs like Copenhagen and Venice. These places are often filled with nothing but quaintness, and they are in many ways the most relaxing and tranquil places on earth.
While I am a big advocate of visiting these smaller towns, you need to go with the understanding that your experience will naturally be a bit different. Going to a small town often means sacrificing the conveniences that a major city might offer. Smaller towns are less likely to have many people that speak your language, there are probably less international stores and restaurants there, and your daily itinerary might be a lot less packed. After all, very few towns have a Statue of Liberty! (Colmar, France actually does, though)
1. Practice the Local Language
While this is true for major cities too, it is even more important when you visit small towns. Small towns are simply going to have less people that speak English (or any other non-local language), and you will likely need some language skills of your own to get the most out of your experience.
You don’t need to be fluent in German to enjoy a town like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, but knowing some key phrases goes a long way. Beyond just ordering food and getting directions, learning the local language can unlock stories and invitations that you would have otherwise missed out on.
2. Spend Time In The Local Gathering Spaces
If you’re visiting a place like Urbino, Italy, there is no better way to figure out the lay of the land than by starting in the main square, or the Piazza della Repubblica. This is the center of life and culture in the town, and it is where are things begin.
While each town will call it something different, starting out in the central square is the best way to get oriented, meet locals who have great recommendations, and start to build out your itinerary.
I recommend coming to this area frequently to grab a coffee, meal, drink, or snack, as the more time you spend here, the more likely you are to meet someone who can really transform your experience.
3. Follow The Locals To The Best Spots In Town
In this case, you really want to do as the Romans do.
In a small town, there are likely less exciting and inviting options when it comes to things to do and places to eat. However, while the offering may be less, that doesn’t mean the quality is worse!
The locals will know where the best places to eat, relax, drink, and hang out are. If you follow the crowds or the passersby to where they are going, you’re likely to stumble upon some really great things. There are fewer travel guides written online about these small towns, and as a result you may not know the best things to do when you’re there.
Following the locals is often the best way to find quaint streets, hidden gems, and stellar restaurants in small European towns.
2. Take A Trip To The Local Market
I’m not talking about the supermarket! Trying to find a local farmers market is often one of the best things to do in a small European town.
In Europe, the produce is very fresh and very affordable. Making your way to the local market enables you to try some really fresh produce, as well as try and local specialties that you might not be able to find at home!
While you can get bananas anywhere, you might be able to find a kind of berry, vegetable, or even a prepared dessert that you can’t find anywhere else. If you are visiting a small market, be sure to bring cash, as many places will not accept cards.
5. Pop Into The Cathedral Or Main Local Church
Whether you are religious or not, there is no denying that the big, grand churches of Europe are stunning. On top of that, they are also often very important to the life of the town.
Churches are often the centers of organized activities and charity events, and there is usually a very involved community around them. Visiting the local main church is usually one of the best ways to get to know the town, its culture and vibe, and learn about the best things to do while you visit.
6. Build In Some Time To Do Absolutely Nothing
While the tips I have listed above will help you to find the best things to do and the best hole-in-the-wall places in a small European town, my last piece of advice is to take some time to yourself to relax.
One of my favorite things to do is just sit back, sip a coffee, and read a book at a café, seated outdoors in a small European town. The air is crisp, the coffee is freshly ground, and the overall feeling is so relaxing. In my opinion, one of the best ways to enjoy a small European town is to do nothing at all.
Just soak in the tranquility that others have been soaking in for over a thousand years.
Thanks for reading my post with tips for enjoying your visit in a small European town. I have found that small mountain getaways are often my favorite trips, and I hope that your experience is similar!
Are there any small European towns you recommend visiting? Let us know by commenting them below!