I’ve always loved fairytales. I grew up watching Disney movies on repeat, reading fairytales before bed, and still think that being a princess would be the perfect occupation for me. When I moved to Europe, I made it my personal goal to visit every fairytale-like town. And there are definitely a lot of them. Here are my top 10 fairytale towns in Europe: 

1. Colmar, France

If you want to feel like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, this town is the place to go. With colorful timbered houses, quaint streets, and flower-covered bridges over canals, you’ll question why Belle thought, “there must be more than this provincial life.” Colmar is the perfect day trip from nearby Strasbourg, a larger city that also has the same gorgeous architecture. I took the train and spent the day in Colmar munching on pretzels, exploring art museums, and meandering the charming streets.

Colorful timbered houses located on a canal in Colmar, France.

2. Annecy, France

Colorful buildings, flower-lined canals, a castle, mountain views, and a lake: it doesn’t get more fairytale than that! The city is often called, “The Venice of the Alps,” due to it’s canals that lead into Lake Annecy. To really experience the city, I recommend wandering the streets, and then grabbing some cheese and fruit at the Old Town Market (Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 7:00 to 13:00) and sitting by lake, enjoying the view. I visited Annecy for a day while on a trip to Geneva. It’s easy to take the bus, and the views are incredible.

A stone building in the middle of canal with colorful buildings on the left side.

3. The Cotswolds, England

Seeing thatched roofs cottages and fields full of sheep never gets old to me, and these are everywhere you look in the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds isn’t a village, but a region of small, quaint villages that were once famous for their wool. To visit this storybook-looking region, it’s best to rent a car so that you can explore multiple villages. Make sure to check out the villages of Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden, and Snowshill. Eat traditional English food in the local pubs, have tea time at a quaint tea house, and enjoy the rolling green hills, cottages, and churches of the Cotswolds.

Stone buildings and a red telephone booth in the Cotswolds, England.

4. Bremen, Germany

The bright colors and picturesque town squares in Bremen make this town in Germany look like make believe. In Bremen, you can stoll the narrow streets of the Schnoor  region, listen to a clock  show outside the Haus des Glockenspiels between 12:00 and 18:00 (it’s well worth it!) and explore the squares and churches of the town. Once again, this town is a great day trip. I took the bus from Hamburg to Bremen, which was really easy. Also, make sure you see the “Musicians of Bremen” statue! This statue is based off a Grimm’s Brother fairytale, making Bremen even more perfect for this list.

A plaza in Bremen, Germany with red roofed, colorful houses.

5. Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is a very well preserved medieval city, and with it’s architecture, main squares, towers, and canals it feels like you’re walking through a fairytale. If you’ve seen the film In Bruges, you’ll know this is how Ralph Fiennes’ character also describes the city. Bruges is about an hour away from Brussels by train, so it’s a great place for a day trip if you don’t have much time. Check out my post on how to spend 72 hours in Bruges and Ghent for detailed information about this amazing town, and how you could easily spend three days in Northern Belgium.

A picture of buildings on a canal in Bruges with a tower in the background.

6. Krakow, Poland

Krakow gets on the list for several reasons, but primarily because of the legend of the city’s founding. Legend goes that Krakow’s castle was built on top of a dragon’s lair. The king then proclaimed that whoever killed the dragon could marry his daughter, and eventually become king. Many men tried to slay the dragon and failed. Then, a humble shoemaker came along. He filled a dead sheep with hay and gunpowder, which the dragon ate and then exploded! The shoemaker then became king and lived happily ever after. Today you can see the castle, the colorful buildings of the city center, and even a dragon statue that breathes fire!

The palace in Krakow, which sits on top of the fabled dragon's lair.

7. Verona, Italy

“In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…” If you’re ever read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, you’d know that Verona is the setting of this tragic love story. While a work of fiction, you can still see sites related to the story, such as Juliet’s balcony and house, Romeo’s house, and Juliet’s tomb. Besides just the Romeo and Juliet sites, there’s also a castle and a medieval bridge, roman ampitheatre, beautiful plazas, and amazing churches.

A view of a street and ice rink in Verona, Italy taken from the top of the Roman Ampitheatre.

8. St. Gallen, Switzerland

St. Gallen’s colorful timbered houses, gorgeous library, and romantic rolling hills make it the perfect fairytale city! This city is only a short train ride from Zurich, and is the perfect day trip. The Abbey Library of St. Gallenone of the city’s most popular sites, is every book-lover’s paradise! For those who enjoy hiking, you can walk up the hills for great views of the city. Even if you’re not into hiking, there’s a funicular that will take you to the same place.

A charming plaza in Saint Gallen, Switzerland with colorful timbered buildings and a statue in the center.

9. Leuven, Belgium

Leuven is best know for being a uniersity town, but it should be known for it’s beautiful, storybook-like architecture! In the town you’ll see ornate architecture, a palace that’s now a university building, a botanical garden, and the orignial home of Stella Artois. But to me, the most fairytale part of the city is Groot Begijnhof, which once was a women’s religious village. Now, the restored houses and quiet streets will make you feel that you’re walking in a fairytale village.

Colorful buildings with gabled roofs

10. St. Andrews, Scotland

Another university town worth visiting is St. Andrews, Scotland! Not only is it filled with quaint, historic buildings, but it was the setting of the real-life fairytale between Prince William and Kate Middleton! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met while studying here, so when visiting you can see the dorm where they lived and the buildings where they studied. In addition to this royal history, the city has two beaches, a castle, and cathedral ruins all set along the coast of the North Sea. Also, St. Andrews is know as, “the home of golf,” so if you’re a golfer you’ll definitely feel like you’re in a fairytale playing the Old Course and crossing the Swilken bridge.West Sands Beach in St. Andrews, Scotland with a view of the city's skyline.