While many people are drawn to the bright lights and famous landmarks of big cities, others find that small towns and villages have more timeless appeal. These places in particular from around the world feel torn from the colorful pages of your favorite storybooks. What they lack in ogres, magical spells or princes in disguise, they make up for with plenty of charm to spare.
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Situated in the Bavarian Alps, Mittenwald, Germany, is most commonly known for its ornately decorated, candy-colored homes and manufacturing of violins and other fine string instruments.
One of the best places for an affordable ski vacation, Mont Tremblant, located in the Canadian province of Quebec, has plenty of cobblestone paths that are perfect for strolling year-round.
With its ramparts and citadels, Essaouira, a beautiful coastal city in Morocco, looks like something out of a fantasy series. Perhaps that’s why it was a filming location for “Game of Thrones.”
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Home to many handicraft markets and cobbled streets without sidewalks, the town of Taxco in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, is known as the “silver capital of the world.”
Some of Shirakawa-go’s famous Japanese gassho-zukuri farmhouses, constructed like praying hands, have stood since the 1800s.
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Located in Shirakawa-go’s neighboring prefecture, Gokayama, Japan, is home to more gassho-zukuri farmhouses that now serve as quaint restaurants and museums.
Once the seat of the most powerful Bohemian families, Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic is a preserved medieval city that looks stuck in time.
Bruges, Belgium, is world-famous for its centuries-old lace industry, striking towers and other architectural masterpieces from the Middle Ages.
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Colmar, France, is chock-full of fairytale enchantment you won’t find at Disney World. Famous for its fishmonger's district, Colmar served as inspiration for the classic Disney animated film “Beauty and the Beast.”
Surrounded by streams and majestic mountains, the village of Potes in Spain is not just beautiful but also an ideal sports destination for hiking, biking and more thanks to its beautiful natural surroundings.
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A not-so-far-off place, Mackinac Island, Michigan, was home to one of America’s first national parks. Today, the touristy spots even the locals love have unmatched 19th-century charm.
As the capital city of the Malaysian state Penang, George Town offers views of Cheong Fatt Tze, a 38-room historic mansion, and the golden-domed Queen Victoria Clock Tower.
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Göreme National Park in the Cappadocia region of Turkey is home to some of the strangest natural wonders in the world: “fairy chimneys” or hoodoos, rock pinnacles sculpted by erosion.
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Once a poor village, Jiufen, Taiwan, was said to house just nine families. Then, in 1890, someone struck gold, leading to a boom of buildings and shops that still reflect the city’s glamorous past today.
This ancient salt mine village in western Austria has been inhabited since the first millennium. Today, the village is home to some of the world’s best caves.
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For many trekking to Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, Perú, serves as a charming gateway village.
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Visitors to the Irish fishing village of Dingle are greeted to the peninsula by Fungi, a bottlenose dolphin who has swam alongside the boats in Dingle Harbor for decades.
Tucked along the lower end of the beautiful Lake Constance is a small, Swiss town called Stein am Rhein with cobblestone streets and pastel-painted buildings.
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Home to the Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands is one enchanting college town.
One of the world’s most breathtaking abandoned places, the deserted fishing village of Houtouwan on Shengshan Island in China is now covered in sprawling vines.
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Colombia has 17 designated heritage towns, one being the colonial-era mountain town of Barichara.
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One of the most famous people from the state of Missouri is Mark Twain, whose hometown of Hannibal serves as the setting for two of his most iconic literary works, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Portree, the main town on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, is set on a natural harbor and surrounded by smooth cliffs. Tourists and locals frequent the area for fishing.
A movie location you can actually visit, Hobbiton lies in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island. The area was transformed from a 1,250-acre sheep pasture into the Shire, home of the Hobbits in the “Lord of the Rings” movie series.
Known for its canals and amazing bridges, the historic “water town” of Zhouzhuang, China is just over an hour drive from Shanghai.
While some charming villages have one castle to their name, Sintra, Portugal has multiple, including this bright yellow and purple Palácio da Pena.
Recognized as the most beautiful village in Ontario, Canada, Elora is nestled along the Grand and Irvine Rivers. The town is home to a nearly 200-year-old mill that in 2018 was renovated into a one-of-a-kind hotel and spa.
Fifty churches in the medieval Romanian county of Sibiu have been designated outstanding architectural monuments. The rural region of the city is also known for its cheese production.
Strongly tied to the Viking Age, Norway’s Lofoten Islands are home to a fishing village famous for its stockfish, which is served at local seafood shacks.
Situated not far from the capital of Tunisia, Sidi Bou Said is recognizable for its bright white and blue building exteriors and clear blue waters.
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Called the cleanest village in Asia, Mawlynnong, India, has a community-based ecotourism initiative focused on sustainability. The village is also famous worldwide for its nearby living root bridge.
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Colonia del Sacramento was constructed under Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule, so this Uruguay city is a melting pot of architectural influences. Today, the cobblestone streets and buildings remain well-preserved.
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Stari Most, or Old Bridge, Mostar’s iconic landmark, was demolished by tank shellings in 1993. The bridge has since been rebuilt and once again arches over the Neretva River in this historic city in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dotted with over 150 beautiful temples and monasteries, including the famous Tiger’s Nest, the town of Paro in Bhutan is also surrounded by rice fields.
Upon arriving at this one and only island in Slovenia, visitors climb 99 steps to reach the Assumption of Mary Church, where they can ring the church bell and make a wish.
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British poet William Morris called the Cotswolds village of Bilbury “the most beautiful village in England.” You may recognize the village’s 14th-century monastic wool store known as Arlington Row — it’s one of England’s most photographed sites and is featured on the inside of U.K. passports.
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The Vianden Castle, the restored crown-jewel of this picturesque town in Luxembourg, is considered a medieval architectural marvel.
Founded in 1911 by Danish immigrants, Solvang, California, exhibits a strong Danish influence through its food, culture and even its replica of Copenhagen’s famous “Little Mermaid” statue. Solvang, California, is one of several hidden American gems you need to see.
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