Top six European small towns 

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Travelling during the winter season can prove busy – with many people travelling to Christmas markets and marvelling at the holiday lights. An estimate of over 2 million UK citizens alone, travelled across Europe in December.  Which may make it feel like it is impossible to find a quieter gem for your winter escape.  However, there are still beautiful gems to be discovered across Europe.

Travel experts Fred. Olsen deep-dived into thousands of TripAdvisor ratings to discover the best small towns across Europe to put on your winter bucket list.

Cobh, Ireland
A picture-perfect island town in Cork Harbour. Described as “one of the most beautiful small towns in Europe” by Conde Nast Traveller.

Cobh’s Deck of Cards is a particularly popular attraction, offering a row of colourful houses set against the stunning backdrop of St. Colman’s Cathedral. It’s no surprise this spot is one of the most Instagrammable locations in Cork, with ‘Spy Hill’ being tipped as the place to be to capture the perfect shot. The neo-Gothic St. Colman’s Cathedral, which dominates the town’s skyline, is another highlight—providing brilliant harbour views.

Christmas in Cobh Kicks off on the 25th of November with local Christmas markets.

Sorrento, Italy
A gloriously sun-soaked coastal town in Campania, southwestern Italy.  It’s best known for its spectacular views across the Bay of Naples and its buzzing main square, the Piazza Tasso, which is recognised as the ‘beating heart of Sorrento’.

This winter escape is still incredibly festive, with the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations including a towering musical tree in Piazza Tasso. Sorrento makes a great winter escape.

Lerwick, Scotland
Lerwick is Shetland’s sole town, with a population of only 7,500. Shetland is also known as an island archipelago, boasting an abundance of seafood including less common fish like ling, lythe and John Dory.

As you can imagine Lerwick is cold during the winter, however, if you are looking for a quieter and more authentic winter experience Shetland is a great small town to experience.

Argostoli, Greece
Argostoli is a charming seaside town on the island of Kefalonia. It’s an ideal destination for those looking to combine the excitement of city life with the quintessential Greek experience

Greece’s celebrations of Christmas are more religious in nature, which means there are many different cultural experiences. This makes Argostoli a unique place to visit in the winter months if you are looking to experience the holidays with a twist.

Kotor, Montenegro
With 22,000 inhabitants, Kotor—a fortified town on the Montenegro Adriatic coast—is immersed in tradition and history and offers unforgettable scenic views. Characterised by its old winding streets, strolling around Kotor will feel like taking a step back into Mediaeval times.

Definitely, a stay that would truly be off the beaten path, however, Montenegro has embraced the small Christmas markets and the festive spirits of neighbouring countries, making it a wonderful place to be during the winter season.

Villefranche-Sur-Saone, France
Villefranche-sur-Saône, located just 25 km north of Lyon in eastern France is the capital of Beaujolais. The region is particularly famous for its wine.

Among the town’s other attractions is the Art Deco marché couvert. During weekend mornings, this lively covered market bustles with locals shopping for the finest local produce, including high-quality meat, cheese and charcuterie. It makes a wonderful town to visit if you are hunting for unique gifts.

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