Europe’s Best Big-Time Small Destinations

VOTE for the best towns, villages and small cities Europe has to offer

Top 52-Europe's Best Big-Time Small Destinations has teamed up to with to feature some of our favourite European travel destinations in 2014. These are our picks for some of Europe’s best destinations off the beaten path with under 100,000 inhabitants.

Choose your favourite and get ready to plan your next trip to Europe’s finest and most picturesque towns and villages.

Pick the winner of Europe’s Best Big-Time Small Destination fan favourite with your votes! Be sure to show your love by voting in our online contest before the February 14th closing date.

After you are finished here, head to Global Grasshoppers for Part 2.
Point system explained:

  • Hotel Reviews- Weighted score of customer reviews of all hotels in destination
  • Picture Perfect- Weighted score of images found on the web
  • Likeability- Weighted score of Facebook Likes for the city
  • #Mentions- Weighted score of Instagram “#” mentions
  • Action- Weighted score of Foursquare top recommendations
  • Adventure- Weighted score of the km distance to the nearest airport

Vote Now for All of Your Favourites in the Head to Head Match-Ups

Bodrum, Turkey vs. Ordino, Andorra

Bodrum, Turkey

Bodrum is a glittering spectacle on the crystal clear stretch of the Aegean Sea with the Greek Island of Kos only 20 mins boat ride away. However, visiting Bodrum is not to be missed as you will tour this European style Turkish town to end in a special Turkish Bath called an Hamam where you will undergo a truly authentic experience of being massaged Turkish style! Relax afterwards with an epic boat trip along the islands and wonder in amazement at the beautiful coastline that is panoramic in its beauty or tuck into a local delicacy in the form of the traditional kebab. You will not be disappointed.

Ordino, Andorra

Ordino lies on a very popular cross-trail skiing route in Andorra from its main capital of Andorra La Vella. Faced with stunning snow covered landscapes, you will feel high up on the mountains looking down on the glory of the Iberian Peninsula. The small sleepy village is fantastic for a walk round and make sure you look at the iron ring in the square that was used to fasten public offenders to be exposed to the chilly air. This is a great alternative destination to visit should you decide not to do any skiing and browse through the small parish churches there.


Dürnstein, Austria vs. Sigtuna, Sweden

Dürnstein, Austria

Standing high and mighty in the Wachau Valley is the picturesque village of Durnstein clinging to the base of a steep cliff that adds a stunning view to the Alpine covered country of Austria. The ruins of Durnstein Castle overlooks the blue River Danube and stores the major historical fact that King Richard I (The Lionheart) was held prisoner and ransomed by Duke Leopold V of Austria. (That’s why taxes were high in England at the time!) Destroyed in the Thirty Years War, the ruins can be visited and observed from a beautiful riverboat ride below.

Sigtuna, Sweden

Sigtuna has the fortune to be Sweden’s first city reflected in its stunning history showcased in its streets of early Viking and Christian heritages. Known for its huge array of churches lining the main street, it was considered to part of a pilgrimage route offering alms at ruins of St Pers and St Lars. Pastel-painted and wooden framed buildings from the 1800s offers a visual feast of delights for strolling visitors. Considered so beautiful by the Chinese, they actually built a replica in their country. Culinary delights of Swedish meatballs is a must have as you duck into the warm and cosy cafes before strolling back out to visit the Sigtuna Museum.


Dubrovnik, Croatia vs. Toledo, Spain

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik is the jewel in the Adriatic Sea as one of the most beautiful walled cities in Europe. The roads are paved with marble since its rebuilding of the city from war-torn Yugoslavia has made it a UNESCO Heritage status city. The strikingly blue sea is so clear that you can almost see 40m below the surface and teeming with marine life later caught freshly and served in this best seafood destination of Europe where you can merrily eat with a bottle of Croatian Grappa! It is definitely a must be place to visit in the summer.

Toledo, Spain

Toledo is an iconic World Heritage site full of mysterious winding streets and still has the charm and character that still shows its history as Spain’s old capital city. Only a couple hours’ train ride from Madrid, the city combines beautiful architecture from Moors, Christians and Jews that combines all their cultures to a singular point that is unique to Toldeo. Sharing tapas and a couple of cervezas alongside the River Tajo overlooking the old city walls brings a opportunity to observe the beauty and spectacular experience of Old Spain.


Tabor, Czech Republic vs. Piran, Slovenia

Tabor, Czech Republic

On your way to Salzburg from Prague, why not stop in the Hussite town of Tabor that boasts to have the oldest reservoir in Central Europe and it is right in the very centre of town! Tabor’s interesting and unique historical core is a monument to urban restoration that includes the imposing Gothic Town Hall, the dark and spooky underground of the town, the epic ruins of the fortifications, the awe-inspiring Gothic Church and the architectural gems of the Renaissance Houses still in their pristine glory. Tabor is certainly a town you will not want to miss.

Piran, Slovenia

Piran is Slovenia’s best kept secret. The Church of St Francis of Assisi, a gorgeous Minorite Convent both has a courtyard has a stunning 500 year old indigenous olive tree called the Piran Buga that is appreciated from within as you hear the monks chanting calmly in this sun-soaked place. Piran’s Old Town is one of the best preserved historical towns in the Adriatic and you can truly marvel at the Venetian Gothic architecture as you tempt yourself with delicious seafood in one of their winding busy courtyards. You won’t be able to stop yourself from falling in love.


Winchester, England vs. Trencin, Slovakia

Winchester, England

Winchester is definitely the place that has ‘British Weekend Break’ stamped over it. The iconic Winchester Cathedral holds true British history in its hands and truly an architectural marvel that will have you in wonder for the whole day. From there at her grave, you can walk on the Jane Austen Trail throughout the city where she has penned many works including Pride and Prejudice. The trail will lead you onto another scenic and enjoyable walk called the South Downs Way that gives you pleasant rolling views of the quintessential British countryside.

Trencin, Slovakia

Visiting Trencin in Slovakia is rather like being invited to gaze at the simple town within a snow globe. Located on the Vah River and in a protected natural valley, Trencin Castle dominates the skyline upon a steep rocky outcrop looking imposingly down on the light snow covered town below that gives it a perfect backdrop to spend your Christmas shopping in the buzzing markets in the town squares. The town’s university population fuels an exciting and lively vibe in its nightlife at the many bars and sidewalk cafes that throng with many hipsters and visiting tourists bonding over their love of the town.


Narva, Estonia vs. Ericeira, Portugal

Narva, Estonia

Narva is aptly known as the Baroque Pearl of the Baltic Sea that nearly didn’t exist as it was nearly destroyed by the Soviet air force in 1944. However, today, Narva offers curious experiences for its visitors as the banks of the Narva River that runs through town has been regarded for centuries as the border between Eastern and Western Civilisations. Straddling the river is the towering Hermann Fortress that faces the Ivangorod Fortress on the other side daring each other to cross. Narva really is a fantastic gateway to Russia before you leave Europe behind.

Ericeira, Portugal

Crescent crashing waves from the cool blue Atlantic Ocean provides a haven for surfers on the lively beaches below the Portuguese town of Ericeira where it is perfect for those looking for a day trip out of Lisbon not so far away. Perched precariously on the sandstone cliffs, Ericeira has beautiful scenic views looking out from their villas and restaurants that provide the best seafood in the region. Watch the surfers battle with the waves and perhaps you will be inspired enough to strap on a wetsuit and learn how to walk on water with the aid of a surfboard.


Colmar, France vs. Zamość, Poland

Colmar, France

Colmar, famous for its white wines, is a popular town on the Alsace Wine Route that is a must place to visit for wine connoisseurs. With its seemingly dual nationality of French and German being spoken everywhere and the radio playing French ballads and German Beer Songs! This quaint and colourful town along the waterfront serves culinary delights as they hang humungous pretzels in the window followed by window sills of sausages and jam. Why not go further afield and explore the locally brewed vineyards and sample the cheap and affordable wines that you can take home with you to the dozens!

Zamość, Poland

Zamosc, an exuberant Polish Renaissance town styled with the name ‘Padua of the North’, is an architectural delight created by an Italian designer that has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Filled with 100 architectural monuments through the ages, visitors can truly appreciate this wonder filled with gothic treasures waiting to be discovered. Symbols of enlightened learning takes place in the form of many places of worship such as the Synagogue and the Franciscan Church that you can wander in. Perhaps you would like to explore many of the quirky underground bars that have been popping up in this city and sample traditional Polish food at its best.


Sarlat-la-Canéda, France vs. Delft, The Netherlands

Sarlat-la-Canéda, France

Sarlat is truly the town for foie gras lovers where you pick up a couple of blocks that are special to the region. This pretty medieval town can be certainly touristy but that adds to the charm as they throng the many markets that pop up and specially the one in the Old Church. This town is beautifully preserved as there was very little bombing from the Second World War and this was the site where the French Resistance movement was at its highest. This is commemorated by the unique memorial set in a beautifully flowered garden.

Delft, The Netherlands

The charming and relaxed Dutch town of Delft is a popular destination for day trippers from Amsterdam, only a 50 min train journey. The colourful and old buildings alongside the canal streets is an artistic inspiration as this town launched the career of a well known painter called Johannes Vermeer. The town’s artistic streak continues in the style of pottery called ‘Delftware’ duplicated from Chinese porcelain but added with the recognisable blue and white colours from the 17th Century. All of Delft can be seen by foot as you meander from the Old Town to the shopping boutiques and to warm cosy cafes where you can view canal boats glide slowly by.


Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany vs. Kotor, Montenegro

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a must see destination on the literally named Romantic Road in Bavaria, Germany. Untouched throughout the ages, and encircled by the undamaged 14th Century Wall, Rothenburg has many delights to offer for the inquisitive visitor especially the Criminal Museum. Showcasing examples of torture tools and equipment, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Charming medieval sights within the Old Town come in the form of the busy Old Market Square that plays hosts to markets, the Church of St Jacob that contains masterpieces or the Plonlein that is reputed to be the most photographed spot in Germany. You will not regret staying in this charming town.

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor is a great addition to your Balkans itinerary and definitely the most picturesque in the country of Montenegro. Its stunning beauty within a deep fjord on the coast and intrinsically walled city rivals that of any of its Adriatic neighbours. An eclectic marina is filled to the brim with swaying white yachts in front of a forest filled mountainous backdrop is perfect to set sail from as you explore the Bay of Kotor and land at one of the beautiful islands dotted in the blessed rays of the sun.


Lindos, Greece vs. Valletta, Malta

Lindos, Greece

In the picturesque town of Lindos, the Acropolis stands proud against the backdrop of stunning sunrises over the Greek Island of Rhodes. Accompanied by a massive castle and tombs, the medieval architecture is brilliant to explore as you visit Lindos for the day alongside with beautiful beaches, winding streets filled with friendly cafes and tavernas. South of the town is St Paul’s Bay surrounded by hills and high rocks within a cove that is very popular for weddings to take place on the sand and pebble beach. Should you feel like you need to get married, you don’t have to look much further.

Valletta, Malta

The view of the spectacular Grand Harbour in the capital city of Malta is just an fantastic experience that has classed itself to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe. With a myriad of historical sites within Valletta, you can wander the streets in marvel at the architecture that dates back to the 16th Century when it was built by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. It is really easy to see why this picturesque city has been awarded UNESCO Heritage site status while you eat freshly baked bread from the many quaint markets in the courtyards of the city.


Eger, Hungary vs. Ohrid, Macedonia

Eger, Hungary

For night time insect serenading at sunset while you explore dozens of wine cellars, the town of Eger is definitely a world away from busy Budapest only a couple of hours away. The Hungarian charm of cobbled streets, towering bell towers, cosy cafes and the standard historical castle shines through in Eger but the real deal lies just on the outskirts of town, an area called ‘The Valley of the Beautiful Women.’ Here, Hungary’s main wine region boasts dozens of wineries that you can sample to your delight for cheap and affordable prices and soon, you will see everyone is beautiful!

Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ochrid is the most beautiful site in Macedonia and it’s not surprising to be the most photographed place there thanks to a tiny red-brick church that stands significantly in front of the vast blue expanse of the lake. The church is called Sveti Jovan as it is the most famous image in Macedonia. Tranquillity is the best feeling you will gain there as you walk along pebble stone beaches to your waiting charter boat that will glide so softly to the monastery that has beautiful murals into their walls. Looking for relaxation? You’ve found it.


Galway, Ireland vs. Trakai, Lithuania

Galway, Ireland

Arty and bohemian Galway is considered to be the most Irish of Ireland’s cities. Truly a city of pleasure where you drink merrily with the locals in brightly painted taverns, entwine with lovers and dance with street performers on their cobbled streets. Situated on the popular Wild Atlantic Way route, this city adds to the backdrop of natural beauty that will stuns the eyes of visiting tourists even when it rains. Music is definitely the order of the day as you will find live music in any establishment that can hold a few people and before you will know it, you’ll fall in love with this corner of the Emerald Isle.

Trakai, Lithuania

Beautiful Trakai is straddles the land between three gorgeous lakes and provides a fairytale setting for the visiting tourist from nearby Vilnius. This Lithuanian town is protected by the Trakai Historical National Park and features a romantic red-brick castle that showcases the best of Lithuania offering fantastic opportunities for photos. The Trakai Festival in July fills the region with heart-warming songs that you can join in with gusto. This land of lakes is truly stunning to sail from to visit untouched islands and experience the magical misty setting that will have you awe-inspired to come back again and again.


Matera, Italy vs. Sigulda, Latvia

Matera, Italy

Matera rightly claims the title of being the oldest continuously-inhabited settlement in history starting in an era where woolly mammoths roamed the land. Today, cave like dwellings are carved into rock where the Italian town residents live. Even the churches are struck into the white rock hill top region that makes Matera so unique. Even as you step on a lane, you are essentially walking on top of another dwelling! Look out for Matera’s ingenious water sharing technique as water would build on the plateau above the township and shared as it makes its way downhill. A truly unforgettable experience.

Sigulda, Latvia

Close to Riga, the Latvian town of Sigulda, known as ‘The Switzerland of Latvia’, is enchanting, picturesque and medieval as historic castles and legendary caves throng the township within a wooden section of the Gauja Valley. As a health and winter sports centre, why not hurl yourself down the Olympic bobsled run that whizzes into the valley after which you can explore the rural idyllic setting of the town filled with old farmhouses and fields of yellow flowers taking your breath away. For even more epic views, ride Lativa’s only cable car to gain a whole new perspective of the Valley that will be fondly remembered in years to come.

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