Being a Landscape Photographer, I have spent the past 15 years travelling to over 90 countries, seeking out the most beautiful locations I can. Obviously a list like this is always going to be very subjective. People also have very different ideas of beauty. These selections are all generally small, relaxed towns, in really beautiful and epic scenery. They are all places I could return to again and again and are all a landscape photographers dream. I’ve also tried not to include many from the same country. So here they are, some of the most beautiful towns in Europe, and really, the World.
Switzerland has it’s fair share of incredible towns and landscapes. I have had to try hard not to fill up my top 10 completely with this country. It is continuously voted the country with the best way of life in the World. It’s not the cheapest (and thats an understatement), but well worth it.
Lauterbrunnen is nestled in a beautiful valley of the Bernese Alps. It is towered over by steep cliffs, waterfalls cascade straight down into town. A lone church sits by a fast flowing river that snakes straight through town. Paragliders swoop over town, landing in nearby meadows. This place is picture perfect!
Santa Magdalena, Italy
This is one of my favourite views in Europe. This picturesque town sits in a valley of the Dolomites, which has some of the best mountain views in the world. Forested green hills roll into the distance where ominous jagged peaks rise thousands of metres into the air. They catch beautiful reds as the last rays of sunlight hit them in the evening. The most impressive view is that of Santa Magdalena Church, which sits in a small meadow on the edge of town.
Mont Saint Michel, France
Mont Saint Michel is a completely unique and incredibly photogenic town. Dating back 1500 years, it was initially the site of a monastery (from where it gets its name), perched on top of a small rock in the English Channel. At high tide it is completely surrounded by water and at times even the access road is submerged. With over 3 million visitors a year, it’s not a hidden gem. But how could a place this unique be? Try to visit out of peak season and I highly recommend walking to it at dawn. Especially in the autumn when it is often shrouded in mist.
These are technically two small villages, scattered across small islands in Lofoten, northern Norway. National Geographic named Reine one of the top ten most picturesque villages in the world. Iconic red wood Norwegian houses sit on stilts overlooking the ocean. The Aurora Borealis dances through the night sky above them over the winter months. The area has some incredible hiking and the villages are the perfect place to kick back and relax in such a peaceful area of the world.
Oía, Santorini, Greece
There’s no avoiding the crowds in Santorini now a days, but it’s still well worth going. The town of Oía has become iconic, and you will often see if as a backdrop in fashion photo shoots. I wold recommend trying to visit out of season, when the streets are much quieter. Wait for some nice weather in the winter months and you may even get some views to yourself. I was out there in the middle of December and was lucky to have some glorious, sunny days. Make sure you spend sunset at the main viewpoint over town.
My favourite time in Zermatt is just before Christmas. Snow has usually fallen over town, lights, music and delicious smells waft through the streets. It’s a true winter wonderland. Then theres also the world class skiing. But really this town is beautiful all year round. You have to take a train up to Zermatt so theres no cars in the streets which brings with it a kind of peace.
Take the train or walk up the slopes and you will find some absolutely stunning scenery and views back into town.
One of my favourite experiences was spending a night up in Iglu Dorf (an ice hotel). The light you can see in the image below is coming from Zermatt and the sky is so clear at night, you can see traces of the Milky Way below .
Ok so calling this a town is maybe a little of a stretch. Arnistapi is a small fishing village on the Icelandic peninsula of Snæfellsnes. It has one of the most beautiful natural harbours in Iceland as well as some really interesting columnar basalt and cliff formations. It’s setting is the biggest draw, with Mount Stapafell on one side and the wild ocean on the other. There is a large arctic tern colony in the area and its a great place for photography.
Gjógv, Faroe Islands
Gjógv is a picture perfect fishing village located on the northeast tip of the island of Eysturoy, in the Faroe Islands. Brightly coloured wooden houses straddle the land between the giant fjords and a small stream flows peacefully through the middle of town. You really feel like you are on the edge of the world here. There are some beautiful hikes around town and the drive in through the island is nothing short of spectacular.
The Faroe Islands doe have very unpredictable and fickle weather.
A short hike from Gjógv are some stunning fjord views.
Portmagee, Kerry, Ireland
So another fishing village (can you see a bit of a theme going on here?). Kerry has some of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe, and this quaint little village is situated right in the middle. There are some cosy, local pubs and great restaurants. It’s also the hub for boats going out to the incredible Skellig Islands. I really cant recommend this excursion enough. These islands are mind blowing (probably the reason they were used as a main filming location to the most recent Star Wars films as Luke Skywalkers home). There will be a whole other blog for that though!
Views of the coastline around Portmagee.
The famous Skellig Islands. Little Skellig is home to over 40,000 arctic terns.
I know, I know, this is the third town in Switzerland! The towns are all unique and they all stunning for different reasons, so I felt these selections are justified.
Iseltwald is the perfect place to relax, take a boat out on the lake, sit and sip coffee down by the water. Time passes by like you are in a dream. The colours of the lake and the emerald green of the surrounding hills are out of this world.
I have 100 places I could put in this list but I want to keep it at 10. If you have any suggestions or questions about these most beautiful towns in Europe or others, please feel free to comment below.
Check out my recent post of the Top Winter Photo Spots in Iceland.