17 American Towns So Beautiful You’ll Think You’re in Europe

Think twice before booking a transatlantic flight, folks.

17 American Towns So Beautiful You’ll Think You’re in Europe

Think twice before booking a transatlantic flight, folks.

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The coiffed shrubbery of the Champs-Élysées. The cascading sands of the Greek isles. The trapped-in-time pathways of the Amalfi Coast. (Not to mention castles galore!) Yes, Europe might reign as the geographical champ of historic beauty, but that doesn’t mean you need to book a transatlantic flight to have your jaw drop.

In fact, to catch a glimpse of such Insta-worthy wonders, you can do so right here in America. Want to hang in a quaint German hamlet? Just head on down to Georgia. How about a Swiss Alps–esque ski village? Colorado’s got you covered. Herein, we’ve rounded up 17 little-known locales so hauntingly beautiful that, the minute you enter town, you’ll be sure you’ve set foot in Europe. And for more enchanting American escapes, take a look at these 50 Destinations So Magical You Won’t Believe They’re in the U.S.

Solvang, California European-Inspired Small Towns in America

1
Solvang, California

Visit instead of: Denmark

Where to fly: Santa Barbara Municipal Airport

Solvang, Danish for “sunny field,” is a quaint town nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley along the coast in southern California. The city was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes looking to escape the harsh winters of the Midwest. Visit this village for authentic Danish bakeries, restaurants, and merchants—as well as the famous replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower, or Rundetårn, in the town center.

Pro tip: With more than 120 vineyards in the area, this wine tour will show you every flavor of Santa Barbara. And for more European-inspired destinations within reach, check out these 23 Castles So Jaw-Dropping You Won’t Believe They’re in the U.S.

Holland Michigan European-Inspired Small Towns in America

2
Holland, Michigan

Visit instead of: The Netherlands

Where to fly: Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport

Fleeing religious persecution, settlers from the Netherlands embarked upon a quest for peace—and found it in Holland, Michigan. Since 1847, Holland has maintained a vibrant Dutch community—complete with the annual Tulip Time Festival, which features various Dutch excursions and attracts thousands of tourists every year.

Pro tip: Revel in the opulent history of Holland with a stay at the Baert Baron Mansion.

Helen, Georgia European-Inspired Small Towns in America

3
Helen, Georgia

Visit instead of: Bavaria, Germany

Where to fly: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

After the city’s logging industry proved to be on a steep decline, Helen, Georgia, resurrected its image by becoming a replica of a Bavarian alpine town. Since constructing their new image, Helen has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. If you want the full Bavarian effect, aim to visit Helen in the fall for the town’s spectacularly authentic Oktoberfest.

Pro tip: While visiting Helen, book a themed room—and experience—at Black Forest Bed and Breakfast. And if you’re feeling nostalgic for yet another continent entirely, you won’t regret a stay in the “Out of Africa” room.

St. Augustine Florida European-Inspired Small Towns in America

4
St. Augustine, Florida

Visit instead of: Spain

Where to fly: Jacksonville International Airport

Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, this town in Florida is the oldest European-established settlement in the country. So, it’s same to assume that St. Augustine is chock-full of Spanish influence—from the architecture to the cuisine, a walk through this city will instantly transport you to its motherland.

Pro tip: Capture a few days of historical serenity at the Casablanca Inn on the Bay, complete with waterfront views and luxurious amenities. And to prepare for your small town excursion, check out these 30 Things That Always Annoy People in Small Towns.

Fredericksburg Texas European-Inspired Towns in America

5
Fredericksburg, Texas

Visit instead of: Germany

Where to fly: San Antonio International Airport

Founded in 1846 by a group of German settlers, Fredericksburg was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. A simple walk through the center of town will introduce a myriad of German cuisines and antiques. If you’re looking for a place to celebrate an authentic German Christmas (without the freezing temperatures), Fredericksburg is the place for you.

Pro tip: Pay a visit to the Auslander for Fredericksburg’s amazing take on German cuisine—which, yes, comes with a side of Texan sass. And for more American destinations to add to your bucket list, check out these 10 Stunning American Resorts Under $150-a-Night.

Frankenmuth Michigan European-Inspired Small Towns in America

6
Frankenmuth, Michigan

Visit instead of: Bavaria, Germany

Where to fly: Bishop International Airport

Also known as “Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth has maintained its Bavarian roots since its 1845 founding by German Lutheran conservatives. Frankenmuth is another great Christmas destination (if you don’t mind the cold), as their very own Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland claims to be the world’s largest Christmas store.

Pro tip: For waterfront views and distinct German heritage (with a side of charming European design), book a stay at the Marv Herzog Hotel.

Calistoga California European-Inspired Small Towns in America

7
Calistoga, California

Visit instead of: Italy

Where to fly: San Francisco International Airport

According to town legend, Calistoga got its name through a hilarious language mix-up when founder Samuel Brennan declared that intended to make his city “the Calistoga of Sarifornia”—instead of saying what he meant to do, which was to create a “Saratoga of California,” referring to Saratoga Springs, New York. Despite the mix-up, Calistoga has maintained a kind of charm reminiscent of Europe—especially when you pay a visit to the Castello di Amorosa (pictured above) or take a tour of the surrounding wine country. The relaxed, beautiful atmosphere in Calistoga is guaranteed to transport you to another time—and place.

Pro tip: A trip to Calistoga would not be complete without a trip to the geothermal hot springs at the Roman Spa resort. Sit back, relax, and feel more Italian than ever.

Leavenworth Washington European-Inspired Small Towns in America

8
Leavenworth, Washington

Visit instead of: Bavaria, Germany

Where to fly: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Leavenworth, Washington—yet another example of how pervasive the Bavarian culture has become. The town hasn’t always been a hub for German culture—in fact, a visit to Solvang, California in the 1960s inspired Leavenworth to rehabilitate their failing economy with a quick trip through Bavaria. What sets this small town apart, however, is their extensive nutcracker museum, housing more than 6,000 different types of the German-designed toy.

Pro tip: Hotel-Pension Anna—come for the authentic German decor; stay for the free European breakfast.

New Ulm Minnesota European-Inspired Small Towns in America

9
New Ulm, Minnesota

Visit instead of: Germany

Where to fly: Minneapolis-Saint Paul Minnesota International Airport

This German-inspired town was founded in 1854 by the German Land Company of Chicago—and has quickly become the best place in the country to drink a cold draft of authentic German beer (at August Schell Brewing Company). Have a family member not particularly intrigued by German heritage? Not a problem, as New Ulm also happens to be the home of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame—a trip even the sourest traveling companion is sure to love.

Pro tip: Voted one of the best bed and breakfast lodges in the country, Bingham Hall Bed and Breakfast is more than just a place to rest your head—it’s an experience.

Vail Colorado European-Inspired Small Towns in America

10
Vail, Colorado

Visit instead of: European ski destinations

Where to fly: Denver International Airport

Instead of booking a flight to the Swiss Alps (or any other top-tier ski destination in Europe, like Chamonix), pay a visit to Colorado’s own version of the famous mountain range in Vail—a town complete with stunning mountain vistas and impressive Swiss-inspired architecture.

Pro tip: Unlike other ski towns in Colorado, a visit to Vail in any season is one filled with epic outdoor adventure—just take your pick from their extensive recreation catalogue.

Pella Iowa European-Inspired Small Towns in America

11
Pella, Iowa

Visit instead of: The Netherlands

Where to fly: Des Moines International Airport

Located 40 miles southeast of the capital city of Des Moines, Pella was founded by a group of settlers from the Netherlands in 1847. This Dutch influence can still be felt today with Pella’s unique and whimsically warm architecture—even in a city that has become fairly urban within the past few decades.

Pro tip: For more great Dutch architecture, don’t miss a visit to the Vermeer Windmill or the Pella Opera House.

New Glarus Wisconsin European-Inspired Small Towns in America

12
New Glarus, Wisconsin

Visit instead of: Switzerland

Where to fly: Chicago Rockford International Airport

In the early 1840s, the canton of Glarus, in Switzerland, found themselves completely poor and seeking land to improve their condition—so they resettled in Wisconsin. Since their creation of this Swiss-inspired town, tourists from all over the country have come to New Glarus to experience authentic Swiss cuisine in a laid-back, peaceful setting.

Pro tip: While you’re in Glarus, pay a visit to the New Glarus Brewing Company—if only for the fact that it is the first brewery founded and operated by a female, Deborah Carey.

Lindsborg Kansas European-Inspired Small Towns in America

13
Lindsborg, Kansas

Visit instead of: Sweden

Where to fly: Mid-Continent Airport

Lindsborg, Kansas was settled in 1869 by Swedish immigrants—and influenced the architecture and lifestyle of the American city greatly. So much so, in fact, that 30 percent of the population is of Swedish descent. The city’s greatest tourist attraction takes place every odd-numbered year in October—called Svensk Hyllningsfest—a Swedish extravaganza featuring authentic food, costumes, and dancing.

Pro tip: For a truly colorful stay in Lindsborg, book a room at the Rosberg House Bed and Breakfast.

Hocking Hills Ohio European-inspired Small Towns in America

14
Hocking Hills, Ohio

Visit instead of: Scotland

Where to fly: Port Columbus International Airport

Just a short hike through the hiking trails of Hocking Hills provides an eerily similar experience to a trek through the Highlands of Scotland. Further, a stay at the GlenLaurel Inn, where each room cottage or cabin is named after a member of a Scottish clan, provides an insightful glance into the heavy influence of this country in the area.

Pro tip: For more stunning natural beauty, pay a visit to Ash Cave—a beautiful cavern and underground waterfall.

Gallipolis Ohio European-Inspired Small Towns in America

15
Gallipolis, Ohio

Visit instead of: France

Where to fly: Port Columbus International Airport

The quaint town of Gallipolis, Ohio, was first settled in 1790 by a group of French aristocrats and merchants fleeing the French Revolution. Since its settlement, the town has maintained an easy charm and slow quality that is uniquely French—along with inspired architecture and cuisine—that make it one of the top destinations for those seeking a French retreat in America.

Pro tip: Just over the border in West Virginia, The Lowe Hotel’s beautiful Victorian decor can’t be missed.

Venice California European-Inspired Small Towns in America

16
Venice, California

Visit instead of: Venice, Italy

Where to fly: Los Angeles International Airport

When Venice was minted in the first decade of the 20th century, the intention was to create the area a beach-side resort town reminiscent of Venice, Italy, with canals and waterways winding throughout the town. Since being incorporated with Los Angeles in 1926, though, Venice has changed in some ways—but the canals serve as a testament to its true origin, leaving the area with a uniquely Italian quality.

Pro tip: Explore every inch of the Venice Canals with this easy guide by the Los Angeles Times.

Tarpon Springs, Florida European-Inspired Small Towns in America

17
Tarpon Springs, Florida

Visit instead of: Greece

Where to fly: Tampa International Airport

Tarpon Springs, Florida, has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the United States—meaning that every inch of the fishing village has an air of Greek nostalgia to it. In fact, just a few moments spent wandering through the main street of Tarpon Springs Greektown Historic District introduces wayfarers to various types of Greek cuisine and shopping experiences.

Pro tip: For the best Greek cuisine in Tarpon Springs, look no further than Dimitri’s on the Water—an opulent excursion for your taste buds.

And for more about small-town existence, check out these 40 Craziest Small Town Laws in America.

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