With Europe slowly opening back up for travel, now is a great time to start thinking about your next visit! And visiting smaller towns with less people is definitely a safer option than a bustling city.
Spanning from the 5th to the 15th century, the Middle Ages saw some turbulent times in Europe. From the crusades, plagues, and widespread famines, it is a true wonder how so many medieval towns are still standing. If you are interested in this fascinating period of history or simply desire spending a holiday strolling through cobbled streets, these stunning medieval towns might be just what you are looking for…
#1 Rochefort-en-Terre, France
“Little town, it’s a quiet village…” Remember that quaint town Belle lives next to in Beauty and the Beast? Think of that when you try to imagine what Rochefort-en-Terre looks like! With a population of just under 700 people, exploring this gorgeous French village is very easy to do in a day. Rochefort-en-Terre is a visual feast and should be enjoyed slowly. Stroll through the narrow streets while popping in and out of artisanal shops, and be sure to take in the sight of all those medieval houses along the way. There is even an 11th century castle to explore!
#2 San Gimignano, Italy
Italy is home to not only famous ruins, delicious pasta, and the greatest ice-cream in the world; add medieval towns to that list as well. Famous for its beautiful towers and great art, San Gimignano is a walled medieval hill town located in Tuscany. Its modest size makes for a perfect day trip from nearby cities like Florence and Siena. Medieval architecture is absolutely everywhere in San Gimignano, and has been well-preserved too. You can see this incredible preservation when you explore the town’s 14 tower houses that have stood the test of time.
#3 Gruyères, Switzerland
Named after the well-known (and well-loved) Gruyère cheese, this medieval Swiss town can be enjoyed by cheese lovers and historians alike. The town is situated on a high hill, approximately 82 meters, and overlooks the breathtaking Saane Valley and Lake of Gruyère. A visit to Gruyères would not be complete without seeing Château de Gruyères. This stunning castle dates back to the 11th century and is one of the most famous in Switzerland. The castle was home to the counts of Gruyères for over eight centuries. After your visit, do not forget to admire the colorful and charming medieval town centre.
#4 Bamberg, Germany
Located in German’y stunning Bavaria region, spread across 7 hills along the river, is where you will find the medieval town of Bamberg. Most of the town has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status and it is easy to see why. Stroll the cobblestone streets and arched bridges, and you will quickly be in awe of how well-preserved Bamberg’s medieval architecture is. Founded in 1002, the Romanesque Bamberg Cathedral is worth a visit, as well as the Old Court, both of which are located in the charming Domplatz Square. History aside, if you’re a fan of beer, Bamberg is known for their breweries. In fact, the town’s signature smoked brew, Rauchbier, has been served here since the 1400s!
#5 Pedraza, Spain
The medieval town of Pedraza was declared a National Historic-Artistic Site in 1951 and it is easy to see why. The entire town is surrounded by a wall, with only one main door as the entry into the city, leading you into what looks like a movie set. Pedraza seems to be frozen in time. While it is quite small, with a population of barely 400 people, there is much to explore and photograph. You will find little cafes sprinkled throughout, as well as Michelin-starred restaurants. This medieval city comes complete with a striking castle and ancient prison. However, the Plaza Mayor is the main focus of Pedraza. It is here you will find the church tower of San Juan, a 400 year-old bar, and the town hall. Pedraza can be found in the province of Segovia, only a 90-minute car ride from Madrid.
#6 Gradara, Italy
The medieval town of Gradara is characterized by a double line of medieval walls and an immense castle. The Castle of Gradara is better described as a giant fortress that towers over the town. This castle on a hill was built around 1150 and is one of the best-preserved examples of medieval architecture in Italy. Despite this massive and imposing structure, the atmosphere of Gradara is very tranquil. You will find rows of cypress trees and quaint littles cottages up along the hillside.
#7 Bibury, England
The village of Bibury is just one out of several gorgeous villages scattered throughout The Cotswolds in England. William Morris, a 19th century English artist, once described Bibury as “the most beautiful village in England.” If you are looking for that quintessential English charm, look no further than Arlington Row. This is Bibury’s main tourist spot, and for good reason. Here you will find a picturesque group of ancient cottages that date back to 1380. While attractions such as the Arlington Mill Museum and St. Mary’s Church are not to be missed, consider breaking away from the tourist crowds as well. There are several walking routes out and around the village that take you through the woodlands and meadows.