Ever since Harry Potter hit the pop culture scene we’ve seen a trending interest in all things magical and medieval. MEdieval towns in Europe have always been a popular site for tourists. But now more than ever, travelers are flocking to these villages to get a first hand look at the real medieval history behind the lore. Of course, there are many reasons to travel to Europe, but history and culture top off the list for most people. And if you’re into Medieval architecture, there’s no better place to visit.
Europe isn’t exactly the only continent with Medieval towns, but there’s definitely a lot of bang for your buck here. Meaning, you can visit many Medieval towns within a short distance.
And we’ve compiled a list of the best. So go ahead and plan your trip and try to check at least 3 Medieval towns off your bucket list.
Medieval Towns in Europe You Must See if You Want to Be Swept Away Into a Fairytale
Mont Saint Michel, France
This sleepy little village boasts a whopping 44 residents, but as you’re about to find out, those residents are luckier than most of us. Mont Saint Michel sits on a large rock formation that juts out of the ocean off of France’s Northern coast. At its peak, you’ll find a massive Medieval cathedral. Along the sides of the rock formation are homes and shops.
You may recognize Mont Saint Michel as being very similar to Rapunzel’s home in the Disney movie Tangled. It was certainly the inspiration. In my opinion, it looks like Hogwarts perched high on the hill, a place with walls teeming with magical things, folklore and legends.
This Medieval city tops out the list because it’s probably the Medieval city that has remained as true to its original state as any. And if you’re wondering why it may become clear in a moment. For centuries, the town was only accessible during low tide as people crossed the tidal basin.
Prague, Czech Republic
This list takes a sharp turn as we go from a relatively untouched Medieval town to a rather commercial one. But still, Prague is a must see. Although Prague is a haven for shoppers from around the globe, there are many well-preserved examples of Medieval history and culture. Known as the “City of a Hundred Spires,” Prague has something for everyone.
You don’t have to be in a small village to feel the fairytale vibes. Just take a look around in a place like Prague and you will see it in the cobblestone street, half-timbered homes, crooked chimney stacks and intricate windows and doors. There is something quite magical about a place which still lights your evening stroll by fire lit street lamps. You will easily go back in time in Prague.
Colmar is considered the belle of France’s Alsace region, and this Medieval town is unlike the other two we’ve explored so far (so it’s a great addition to your travel itinerary). With brightly-colored houses and weeping willows set along the Launch River, this city looks like something out of a postcard.
While you’re here, you’ll want to visit Fishmonger’s District, Little “Venice and the Oeuvre Notre Dame Art Museum. If you’re an art history buff, this museum is a must see as it contains the regions most notable sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages.
Colmar began as a wine producing region and quickly gained acclaim as a go-to wine destination. So while you’re here, be sure to try some Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat d’Alsace. You’ve got some sipping to do.
San Gimignano, Italy
When you think of Medieval cities in Italy, you might first think of Siena. It is an iconic Medieval locale, for sure. But sometimes, the real gems are found off the beaten path. And as a bonus, you’ll get to see the sights with fewer crowds. San Gimignano is one such gem. This quaint little village sits on a Tuscan hill with 14 towers, an inviting town square and about as many photo ops as your little heart can imagine.
This quaint little Spanish city has a bustling town center complete with churches, monasteries, fountains, medieval architecture and breathtaking views. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site, so you can bet the buildings are preserved to the highest standards while maintaining the medieval history.
If you’re making a trip to or through Lisbon, you’ll probably visit the nearby town of Obidos. But even though this is a great pitstop, let it serve as a jumping off point. From there, head to the charming hilltop village of Monsanto. Not only is the town itself worth the trip, but you’re sure to have a memorable road trip through the hills of Northern Portugal.
The most notable feature of this Medieval town is its rock houses. It’s amazing to imagine people calling these structures home, and it’s humbling to stand in the place where an obvious history unfolded. Plan your trip in May and enjoy the Medieval Festa das Cruzes.
There was a devastating fire in the mid-1700s that destroyed many of the medieval buildings in Hallstatt. But this town has retained its natural beauty. You’ll find Hallstatt along a narrow strip along the shores of Lake Hallstatt. And even though many structures were destroyed centuries ago, there are quite a few iconic structures that remain. While you’re here, you’ll want to visit Rudolfsturm, which was built in the 13th century.
Some say this is the most picturesque location in all of Europe. I find it hard to choose just one. But as you can see, there certainly are plenty of photographic structures which look like they were plucked straight from a fairytale alongside the lake.
Are you a fan of Gruyeres cheese? If so, you’ve definitely heard of Gruyeres, Switzerland. And you might be surprised to learn that this is a destination all on its own right. Nothing to do with cheese (gasp!). Well, not entirely.
Gruyere is a gateway to the Swiss Alps, and it has an interesting Medieval history. In the castle, you’ll find a museum where you can explore that history at great length.
Pro Tip: This is the type of trip where you’re probably going to want to visit every destination. And the best way to cover ground in Europe is by car. So if it’s a quick trip, rent a car. And if you’re going to be exploring for more than a couple of weeks, you may want to consider buying a car and selling it when you leave. Just be sure to service your vehicle before you head to some of the more remote medieval towns. Medieval towns aren’t exactly known for their roadside service.
There are likely thousands of medieval towns in Europe. You could spend years exploring each one of them if you had the time. But if you’re looking for a few during your European vacation, then these will certainly get you on the right path with all the fairytale vibes to follow.