Travelling to Europe isn’t for everyone. Maybe you’re afraid of flying over the ocean, maybe travelling overseas is cost prohibitive to you, or maybe you’re just perfectly happy to explore all that the good ol’ U S of A has to offer. Luckily, for those who want a taste of Europe but aren’t able to make that trek, there are plenty of charming American towns that have distinctively European vibes.
If you want to eat some amazing Greek food and sit by the water, there’s no need to go to Mykonos, just head on down to Tarpon Springs, Florida. Why spend buckets of cash to go to Germany when you can have authentic Bavarian experiences in Frankenmuth, Michigan, or Fredericksburg, Texas. Whether you’re looking for a city inspired by France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, or Spain, there’s a town in America that has that distinctive charming feeling and look.
So don’t worry about renewing that passport or prepping for a 10-hour flight. Simply pack your bags and get ready to explore these 15 small American towns feel just like Europe.
Napa Valley is well known for its vineyards and scenic towns, but you haven’t seen the most rustic town until you’ve seen Calistoga. Recalling the Old World wine regions, this charming locale with a population of just over 5,000 has a distinctive European vibe. Look no further than the Castello di Amorosa, an authentically-styled thirteenth-century Tuscan castle winery to see what we mean. If you haven’t heard of Calistoga yet, you will soon. Amy Poehler is heading a new Netflix movie Wine Country, which is set to take place in this small Napa Valley town.
Charleston may feel distinctively Southern with its fried chicken joints and strong Southern accents, but when you look a little harder, there’s something pretty European about this enamoring town. Maybe it’s the cobblestone streets. Maybe it’s the large number of churches. Or heck, maybe it’s because this whole town is named after King Charles of England. No matter what it is, this town is easy to fall in love with.
Still known today as "Michigan's Little Bavaria," Frankenmuth was established as a Bavarian mission colony for Lutherans back in 1845. The town has maintained that particular German feel for over 170 years with quaint architecture and some fine home cooking and fried chicken at Zehnder’s. And if you love the idea of Bavaria at Christmastime, you’re in luck! Frankenmuth is home to Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store, and it feels like it’s the holidays all year long there.
Known for having “German heritage with Texan hospitality,” Fredericksburg, Texas, feels exactly like Germany. Beyond the architecture and plentiful beerhalls (such as Altdorf Biergarten and Auslander Restaurant), you’ll also hear German expressions here. Indeed, this town has its own Germanic dialect, fittingly called Texas German. A skunk, for instance, is a “stinkkatze,” a blend of English and German.
Want a surefire way to attract more tourists to your town? Turn it in to a little alpine village. That’s what small business owners did in Helen, Georgia, in the 1960s, and it paid off. Just 90 miles northeast of Atlanta, this town of 500 is the perfect weekend getaway for those in the Peach State. With the background setting of the Blue Ridge Mountains, every business in this town has a small German town feel, even the local Wendy’s.
Why go all the way to the Netherlands when you can visit Holland, Michigan? Founded by Dutch settlers in the 1840s, this town is home to the DeZwaan Windmill, the only authentic working Dutch windmill in the country. Every May, Holland is home to the Tulip Time Festival, making this picturesque village all the more gorgeous.
With the Cascade Mountains as its backdrop, Leavenworth, Washington, is a cozy German-inspired wonderland that feels much farther away from Seattle than two hours. The businesses in this charming town are modeled after a small Bavarian village, and the restaurants such as München Haus serve hearty German fare. Leavenworth becomes a must-visit destination during the holidays. Its annual Christmas Lighting Festival makes this one of the world’s best places to celebrate Christmas.
Known as “Little Sweden USA,” this town has had its culture preserved by the descendants of the Swedes who founded this town in 1867. The streets are lined with Swedish art, such as larger-than-life Dala horses painted in bright shades of red, green, and white. Every other year, Lindsborg holds the Svensk Hyllningsfest, a festival where locals celebrate the Swedish pioneers who founded the town by dressing in traditional Swedish clothing, eating ethnic foods, playing Swedish music, and enjoying other themed entertainment.
Named after Montpellier, France, the capital of Vermont maintains a subtle French feel. The best way to describe this small city is quaint. It’s full of charming boutiques, quirky cafes, and rolling green hills. It’s the definition of picturesque and looks just like you’re in the French countryside. While in town, be sure to stop by locally-sourced restaurants such as Kismet and The Skinny Pancake.
The Swiss know how to do two things very, very well: chocolate and cheese. That carries over to this small Wisconsin town, which takes its name from the canton of Glarus in Switzerland. This town really embraces its roots, both by maintaining a charming aesthetic and by being the home of the Swiss Center of America and Swiss Historical Village and Museum. While you’re in town, be sure to stop by New Glarus Brewing Company, one of the 50 best breweries in America.
New Orleans was founded by the French and later ruled by the Spanish, so this city is the perfect blend of those two cultures. To this day, architecture from the Spanish era still stands, but it’s mixed with French influences such as the famous brightly-colored buildings and wrought-iron balconies. NOLA is definitely its own unique place with a myriad of influences, but the European vibe is still strong.
If you travel just 35 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, you’ll be in Denmark. OK, not really, but you’ll be in Solvang, California, which is just as good. This town has such a strong Danish influence from its thatched roofs to its horse-drawn carriage that it could fool anyone. Except for the weather. It’s almost always warm and sunny there, hence the town’s name, which translates to “sunny fields” in Danish.
“America’s oldest city” was founded by the Spanish in 1565, and for over 450 years it has maintained that influence, making it as close as you can get to Spain without heading over to Europe. With cobblestone streets, perfectly-manicured gardens, and plenty of Spanish architecture, this city is definitely the prettiest town in its state.
St. Augustine isn’t the only Florida city with a heavy European feel. Tarpon Springs is the spitting image of a Greek island. Greek immigrants settled in this coastal town in the early 1900s, and to this day Tarpon Springs still has the highest concentration of Greek-Americans in the U.S. The Greek influence here is not only in the look and feel of this town but also in its cuisine. There’s no shortage of amazing offerings in the area, including Hellas Restaurant, Mykonos, and Mr. Souvlaki.
Vail, Colorado, is heavily inspired by the Swiss town Zermatt, so it only makes sense this ski resort town also sits at the base of a mountain. With chalets designed in the style of Swiss architecture and woodwork, this town is the definition of quaint and charming. Even if you’re not into skiing, Vail is full of amazing places to eat and things to see, making it a great weekend getaway.
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