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Europe is full of charming mountain towns with picture-perfect scenery. From the postcard-worthy landscapes in Hallstatt to the snow-capped peaks of Zermatt and the fairytale-like backdrop of Bled, you’re spoiled for choice with mountainous getaways. While there is plenty of places to choose from, these mountains towns in Europe are truly spectacular, so prepare to be awed.
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Set along the banks of a vast, glistening lake and surrounded by towering mountains, the village of Hallstatt is a favorite small-town destination in Austria, looking as if it came straight from the pages of a fairy-tale. The nearby mountains not only provide a breathtaking backdrop, but they’re home to a number of caves, including the famous Ice Cave. There are only a few places in the world where tourists can easily access mega-sized ice caves and this is truly one of the best. Beyond the main Ice Cave, the Mammoth Cave is popular for trekking, while the 5 Fingers Lookout will let you dangle high over the mountain’s edge, taking in the view that will make you feel as if you’re on top of the world. The Ice Cave is closed from late October until May, but the upper sections, Dachstein Mountain and Alpine huts are open in the winter.
Zermatt is home to one of the world’s most famous peaks, The Matterhorn, which soars over the border between Switzerland and Italy at nearly 15,000 feet high. One of Switzerland’s best-known features, it’s one of the most photographed mountains on Earth. If you aren’t up for climbing it, you can get to the top taking a cable car that leads all the way to the summit, the highest scenic outlook platform in Europe. The Alpine valley features is filled with hiking trails that offer jaw-dropping scenic vistas with lots of peaceful creeks and cascading waterfalls, but if you’re into snow and ice, you can ski right on top of one of the glaciers all year round.
Located in France’s Rhone-Alpes region, Chambery sits in a valley between the Bauges and the Chartreuse Mountains on the Leysse River. A visit here will introduce you to one of the best-preserved medieval old towns in the Alps. Enjoy a stroll on a summer afternoon down its bright and colorful lanes, starting in the heart of Old Town at Place Saint-Leger. It features Fontaine des Marmousets and a 19th-century sun-dial surrounded by tall houses painted in a variety of hues as well as an abundance of outdoor eateries where you can sit down, relax and savor the atmosphere along with the food. Other highlights include the striking Fontaine des Éléphants, built in 1838. The four life-size elephants converge at the base of a column in the shape of the Savoyan cross, and it’s topped by a statue of de Boigne.
Bled is the most popular tourist destination in Slovenia, thanks to its exceptionally pretty location on the banks of Lake Bled. One of Europe’s best-kept secrets, when you see this lake that’s surrounded by alpine mountains, you’ll feel as if you’re in a Disney movie. Bled Castle sits on a tiny isle at the center of the glacial blue waters, calling photographers, artists and travelers of all types from across the globe to capture it at sunrise, when the first rays of sunshine break through the morning sky, or at dusk, when the light is golden and the shadows cast by the setting sun provide particularly moody images. Of course, with all of those mountains, you’ll also have the chance to enjoy numerous opportunities for hiking or backpacking too. The most beautiful view of the lake, the island, and the surrounding peaks is from the castle overlooking the lake on a cliff. The 12th-century castle is also home to a museum collection, a castle printing works, a cellar, where you can bottle wine and seal the bottle with wax, and a restaurant.
Cortina d’Ampezzo sits along the Boite river in the heart of the Southern Alps. It draws visitors from all corners of the world to enjoy its breathtaking scenery and opportunity for outdoor adventure against a backdrop of the jaw-dropping Dolomite Mountains. The skiing here is legendary, with steep plunges and uninterrupted sightlines used as a setting for numerous films, like James Bond’s “For Your Eyes Only,” and the original “Pink Panther.” But it offers a lot more than skiing, outdoor enthusiasts can take part in an incredible variety of year-round open-air activities. Winter is also ideal for snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledding, and ice skating, and when the weather warms up, hiking, mountaineering, and mountain biking are just a few of the delights. Surprisingly, there are lots to do after dark too, with a hopping nightlife offering everything from bars to clubs and late-night discos.
The Greek village of Metsovo is one of the country’s most beautiful destinations, dotting the mountainside below Katara Col in the Mountain Range of Pindos. The high‑altitude town is surrounded by a dense forest of fir trees and filled with charming traditional stone and wooden houses, historic buildings and an abundance of eateries serving up classic Greek cuisine. At the center of Metsovo, Katogi Averoff winery makes some of the country’s most celebrated wines and offers the chance to learn about the history of the winery and the wine-making process as well as to sample some of the wine and bring some of it back with you. The village is also famous for its dairy products, particularly a delicious cheese called metsovone that has a smoked flavor.
One of the most beautiful towns in Bavaria, Fussen is best known for its violin-making industry, but its dramatic mountain scenery has made it a popular destination for all sorts of travelers. It boasts a rich 700-year history and sits at the southern tip of the Romantic Road looking as if it was drawn by an artist’s hand. While many travelers simply pass through, heading straight to Neuschwanstein Castle nearby, both are well worth a visit. The famous castle is the most photographed structure in Germany and served as the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. The interior of the castle can be explored through a guided tour, and horse-drawn carriage rides are available to bring you to the top of the hill if you aren’t inclined to walk. In Fussen, you’ll find a lovely pedestrianized Old Town lined with brightly colored buildings, many of which are adorned with frescoes. The cobblestone streets give the historic town an old-world charm, and you can enjoy the outstanding traditional Bavarian fare at the restaurants and cafes.
This tiny fishing village in Norway may be one of the world’s most beautiful towns. Situated on the island of Moskenesoya, north of the Arctic Circle in the Lofoten archipelago, this extraordinary, far off-the-beaten-path destination features gorgeous sapphire bays that sit at the edge of soaring mountains and towering fjords. Base your stay in one of the red rorbuers, or traditional fishermen’s cabins that were transformed into cozy cottages and boast awe-inspiring views of the sea and the incredible night sky vistas, including the Aurora Borealis when conditions are right.
This sleepy Alpine town lying at the foot of the soaring Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains is home to just 1,000 residents, but in January, this car-free village is filled with ski enthusiasts who come to watch skiers take on the World Cup’s longest downhill race on the 3,363-vertical-foot Lauberhorn. In the summer, visitors can enjoy more than 300 miles of marked hiking trails and 15 mountain cableways in the nearby surroundings, which lead to the most spectacular vantage points of the Jungfrau region, like the classic panorama route between Wengen and the Kleine Scheidegg, which offers up an extraordinary view of the rock massif of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Heart-pounding activities can be enjoyed too, like canyoning, river rafting, and paragliding.
When you think of Spain, you probably envision those picturesque Mediterranean beaches, but the country is home to a number of gorgeous mountain villages, especially in the impressive Valle de Aran region in the northeastern region of the country. Arties is arguably the most stunning of them all, a small hamlet home to just 500, set along the Garonne River, famous for its narrow cobblestone streets and colorful stone homes, and uniquely elegant air. One of its highlights is the Santa María Parish Church, a Romanesque structure dating back to the 11th century, as well as the 14th-century Gothic church of Sant Joan.