2020 is not exactly a great year for travel lovers (or for that matter, anyone!) So I decided to put this article about fairytale places in Europe together to inspire your travel plans for when the lockdown is over and we are all able to travel freely once more.
Spend this time, putting together your travel bucket list and making plans to tick those bucket list trips off once you are able to do so safely.
I called on my travel friends for a little help writing this article and asked them about their favourite fairytale places in Europe. They had so many great suggestions from fairytale castles, to colourful or quaint towns and cities steeped in history and folk tales.
What you can expect from this article…
- 1 Bibury, The Cotswolds, England
- 2 Lake Bled in Slovenia
- 3 San Marino
- 4 Eltz Castle in Germany
- 5 Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest
- 6 Bran Castle, Romania
- 7 Sergovia, Spain
- 8 Ljubljana, Slovenia
- 9 Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
- 10 Sinaia, Romania
- 11 Colmar, France
- 12 Hluboka Castle, Czechia
- 13 Tossa Del Mar, Spain
- 14 Sintra, Portugal
- 15 Bojnice Castle, Slovakia
Bibury, The Cotswolds, England
Suggested by Dale from Wander Her Way
British writer William Morris described Bibury as “the most beautiful village in England” and it’s easy to see why.
This diminutive village in the Cotswolds has a population of just over 600, yet it is one of the most visited places in the whole region due to its quaint beauty and storybook charm.
Bibury is most famous for Arlington Row, a small lane lined uniformly with limestone cottages that dates back to the 14th century. Arlington Row is often cited as the most photographed spot in the English countryside.
Aside from the idyllic Swan Hotel, a few pubs, and a working trout farm, there isn’t much else to Bibury. But the biggest part of Bibury’s charm is just strolling around enjoying the scenery!
Lake Bled in Slovenia
Suggested by Charlotte of The Millenial Runaway
Lake Bled is a fairytale town of mountainous peaks and vivid alpine lakes, nestled in the Julian Alps in North Western Slovenia.
The most notable feature is the tear-shaped isle visible anywhere from the shore. Standing on the only naturally occurring island in Slovenia is the Church of the Assumption a small museum and the Provost’s House offering elevated views of the lush green mountains and emerald waters.
Folklore dictates that Lake Bled was created by fairies in a fit of revenge against losing their dancefloor to farmers and their grazing sheep. A child’s tale or not, there’s no denying its natural beauty.
Suggested by Jurga from Full Suitcase
If you like fairytale-like places and European castles, make sure to add San Marino to your bucket list. This tiny Republic surrounded by Italy is the 3rd smallest country in Europe and the 5th smallest country in the world.
The nicest place to visit is the City of San Marino itself. Set high on the hill, this medieval town with picturesque cobbled streets, historic buildings, and stunning castles looks like it comes straight from a fairytale.
Don’t miss the Three Towers of San Marino, the symbol of the Republic that’s also depicted on the national flag and the coat of arms of the country.
The first two towers – Guita Tower and Cesta Tower – can be visited inside, whereas Montale tower can only be admired from the outside.
Make sure to climb both towers all the way to the top – the views from here will take your breath away!
Eltz Castle in Germany
Suggested by Kelsey from Sights Better Seen.
You’ll feel like you walked right into one of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytales when you see Eltz Castle (or “Burg Eltz” in German)! Located near the Rhine and Mosel Rivers in Germany, the castle is still owned by part of the family that occupied it in the 12th century.
You do have to walk about 15 minutes to get to Eltz Castle, but it’s well worth it! You can also take a bus, but if you’re able, I really recommend the short hike – it’s beautiful. Expect to spend about 2-3 hours exploring the castle’s 80 rooms and wandering the grounds. Enjoy your visit to this magical place!
Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest
Suggested by Or from My Path in the World
You probably don’t expect to find such a unique place in the middle of a big European city, but the Vajdahunyad Castle will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale.
While it’s not entirely a hidden gem in Budapest, it doesn’t get as much credit and fame as other landmarks in the city (and it should).
Dating back to the late 19th century, the castle was built to celebrate 1,000 years of Hungarian architecture, which means that it’s essentially one big beautiful mix of architectural styles and details.
Strolling around Vajdahunyad Castle’s courtyards and admiring these details is completely free, but you can also pay a small fee to visit the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, which is housed inside the castle.
Bran Castle, Romania
Suggested by Dominika from Sunday in Wonderland
One of the must-see fairytale places in Europe is definitely Bran Castle in Romania. But here the fairytale becomes a bit scary.
This picturesque castle is considered as an inspiration for creating one of the scariest mansions in the world of literature. According to some theories, Bram Stoker, the Irish writer, was inspired by pictures of this Romanian castle to create the home of the popular evil character that everyone knows – Count Dracula.
Although the real history of the Bran Castle is totally different and has nothing scary in it, today many tourists visit this mysterious place to feel the shivers on their back. This castle is extremely popular in the Halloween period, but it’s open to visitors during the whole year. Visiting the Bran Castle is a must-stop point on any Transylvanian road trip.
Suggested by Paulina from Paulina on the road
If you are looking for unique, fairy-tale places in Spain, well, you definitely should head to Segovia. Located at 1 hour from the Spanish capital, Segovia is a perfect day trip from Madrid.
You may wonder what is Segovia famous for? The city is famous for its historic buildings. These are the three most important ones: its midtown Roman aqueduct, its cathedral (one of the last ones to be built in Europe following a Gothic style), and the castle, which served as one of the templates for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
If you go for a short hike to Mirador de Alcazar, you will have the best view of the scenic castle. If you want to extend the fairy-tale atmosphere, I recommend staying at the Parador de Segovia, one of the best Paradores in Spain.
Suggested by Emily from Wanderlush
If there were ever a city taken straight from the pages of a fairytale, it’s Ljubljana.
Slovenia’s capital is so petite and pretty, it really doesn’t feel like a major city at all (having a population of just over 200,000 people, most of whom get around on bicycle or foot, certainly helps). Everything about Ljubljana screams romance and fable – including its founding story, a legend that involves dragons, damsels and of course, a prince charming. Ljubljana’s main square doesn’t feature a statue of a military hero but of a poet, France Prešeren.
And then there’s the Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture. Charming stone bridges crisscross the Ljubljanica river that runs through the heart of the city. The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, with its pink-and-white façade, dominates the centre, while rows of Amsterdam-style apartments with ladder windows stretch along the river banks. There’s a central market modelled off Ancient Athens, and of course the iconic Vurnik House, also pink and decorated with beautiful mosaic-like paintings (a collaboration between the architect, Ivan Vurnik, and his Viennese wife).
Like all fairytale cities, Ljubljana is crowned with a magnificent castle, Ljubljanski grad. Handsome as it is, Ljubljana also has a darker side – visitors should also take the time to learn about Slovenia’s socialist history as part of Yugoslavia at the National Museum of Contemporary History.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Suggested by Ivan from Mind The Travel
In idyllic Bavaria, 73 miles southwest of Munich, there lies one of the most fairytale-like castles in Europe.
Built in 1869 by mad King Ludwig II, the Schloss Neuschwanstein never served a real strategic purpose but was a private summer hideaway born straight from the king’s imagination. Sadly, but the enigmatic King Ludwig II never got to enjoy it; he mysteriously died by drowning in nearby Lake Starnberg.
Surrounded by incredible natural beauty, the castle seems to have been
taken straight out of a fairy tale, and visitors may recognize the castle
as it actually served as Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s
If you only have time to visit one castle in Germany, then Neuschwanstein should be it. The inside is just as impressive as you would imagine from the real-life Disney castle.
If you want to step inside the spectacular grandeur and the opulent interior, make sure to buy your tickets online ahead of time. Visitors may only visit the Schloss Neuschwanstein as part of a guided tour that lasts around 35 minutes and costs €13.
Nevertheless, you can spend a whole day exploring the area around the castle without bothering to get inside. With stunning viewpoints and jaw-dropping landscapes, it will keep you busy all day!
Suggested by Stella Jane from Around the world in 24 hours
Sinaia, Romania is one of the most charming towns in all of Eastern Europe.
Even though it’s just a short train trip away from Romania’s bustling capital, Bucharest, when you arrive in Sinaia, you’ll feel like you’re stepping into a fairytale.
That’s because Sinaia is located right in the picturesque Carpathian Mountains. As you walk through the trees covering the mountainside, you feel like a witch might pop out of any corner.
The centerpiece of Sinaia is Peles Castle, the summer home of Romanian King Carol I. Every visitor to Sinaia must see this ornate beauty, covered with delicate murals and timber frames.
You can explore the lovely gardens and enjoy the views of the mountains, and you can take a tour of the castle and see its stunning art collection. It is truly a castle fit for a fairytale prince or princess.
Suggested by Soumya from Travel Books Food
With so many fairytales places to choose from in Europe, one of my most favourite ones is Colmar in France.
With its half-timbered coloured houses, cobbled streets and its old-world charm, Colmar will capture the heart of anyone who visits it.
The canal along La Petite Venise adds to its beauty and to top it off, it is one of the recommended stops on the Alsatian wine route.
It becomes even more magical during Christmas time and it is definitely one of the must-visit Christmas markets in Europe.
Hluboka Castle, Czechia
Suggested by Martha from Quirky Globetrotter
Rumoured to the inspiration for Rapunzel and her heavenly locks, Hluboka Castle in Czechia is definitely a memorable stop on your storybook adventure.
Tucked in the southern hills of Czechia, Hluboka Castle stands out with it’s stark white and yellow exterior.
Princess melodies pirouetted through my brain as I waltzed through the grounds of Hluboka Castle. The grounds and castle were nothing short of exquisite.
Unlike other castles I visited, Hluboka Castle had a serene greenhouse and conservatory where royalty could bask in the sun without leaving their lavish quarters.
Whether or not this estate inspired real fairytales, I definitely was daydreaming of the day when my own prince or princess would come sweep me off my feet.
Tossa Del Mar, Spain
Suggested by Oksana and Max from Drink Tea and Travel
Tossa del Mar is one of the most picturesque beaches along the Costa Brava coast.
The soft sand is a stark contrast to the large rock formations on either side of the beach. Whilst the water is a clear turquoise and calm, which makes it very inviting for swimmers.
However, one of the most fairytale-esque things about Tossa del Mar is the castle which overlooks the beach from atop one of the rock formations.
Tossa del Mar Castle and Museum is known for its buildings which date back to the Roman and Medieval times.
From the beach, there are lots of lovely little streets which lead up to the fortress at Tossa del Mar and there are fabulous views of the beach and the village from the vantage point of the fortress.
Suggested by Christine from Live Love Run Travel
Sintra is full of fairytale castles that look like they came straight from a princess movie.
With multiple castles and palaces to visit, Sintra is an easy day trip from Lisbon, Portugal. If you have the time to stay longer, it is worth at least a night or two.
Make sure to check out the main highlight of Sintra, Pena Palace. This colourful palace is the main attraction in Sintra, so get there early or come late to avoid the big tour groups.
In addition to Pena Palace, make sure to visit Quinta de Regaleira. This is where you can find the initiation well seen in so many pictures of Sintra.
If you have more time, the Moorish Castle offers a good hike and impressive views from the castle ruins. Monserrate Palace and the National Palace of Queluz are also popular stops.
Bojnice Castle, Slovakia
Suggested by Manouk from Groetjes uit Verweggistan
Slovakia has a lot of beautiful castles all over the country, but one of them is especially magical. The fairytale castle of Bojnice looks like it stepped right out of a Disney movie. It used to be just a wooden castle, but all of the owners have restored it a bit more.
In 1852 Jan Frantisek Pálffy owned the castle and decided to make it a little bit more romantic. He used examples and architecture inspired by France and Italy.
We ended up with this wonderful castle, which was finished in 1910. Unfortunately, Pálffy was not able to see the finished product himself, because he died before it finished.
The whole castle is still there and can be visited with a guided tour.
Hopefully you’ve found plenty of inspiration for your next trip?!
Are there any fairytale places in Europe I’ve missed off the list? Please tell us about them in the comments!
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Don’t forget to pin this to your Pinterest boards so you can refer back to it later when we can travel again!