I’ve traveled a lot in my twenties. I’ve seen big cities, small towns, rustic villages, and bustling city squares. But I’ve also made it a point to visit some of the most charming places both in the United States and abroad. And as much as I love the thrill of a big city, I find it more rewarding to find the small, yet charming places across the globe because you get to experience a different way of living first hand. A big city is saturated with people from different walks of life, and that brings its own type of exhilarating experience. But a small town is a world of its own. And that stands for cities in America as well. So if you’re tired of the big city visits and want to experience some true magic, I would recommend one of the five destinations, both in America and in Europe.
Belgium is a hotbed for charming cities. Even the capital, Brussels, has its own charisma. But if you’re looking for a fairy tale town, then you must make the trip to Bruges. It’s a tiny town with narrow canals, elaborate churches, an an infamous tower. If you’re there during Christmas time, you can enjoy the market that overtakes the square for the month of December. The town itself is the feature of a movie starring Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, and Brendan Gleeson called In Bruges. Not only is it an amazing film, but it displays the true beauty and charm of the tiny town. However, if you can’t seem to make it out to Bruges, then you will find the same amount of magic in Brussels. Out of all of the large cities I’ve visited, Brussels is the most unique.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is as amazing as everyone says it is. Whether you’re there for recreational activities or site seeing, you will find the beauty of Amsterdam around every corner. Amsterdam is also home to the Anne Frank museum, so if you’re into history, it’s more than worth it to visit the haunting attic. The city streets are lined with hotels and houses that overlook the canals, adding to the charm that already exists in this popular destination. One of my favorite aspects of Amsterdam is the melting pot of languages. While in the lounge of my hostel, I heard German, Italian, French and Swedish all in one room. And everyone from everywhere is there to enjoy themselves. There is nothing not to love about the wonderful city that is Amsterdam.
Sicily is not as easy to travel to as Amsterdam or Brussels. In fact, you probably won’t find it terribly easy to navigate either. But if you can somehow manage to find your way to Erice, it will be more than worth the visit. I like to call Erice the Town in the Clouds because you must first make your way up a giant mountain to get to the town. And when you finally reach the top, clouds will pass through your body as you explore the ruins of what was once a fortress overlooking the sea. After you explore the Norman ruins, you can stroll through the Town in the Clouds lined with shops, restaurants, and even homes and hotels. And trust me, you want to take a lunch break anywhere in Sicily because their food is amazing! If you think Maggiano’s Little Italy is good, then your tastebuds will be in for a rude, yet mind blowing awakening. Erice is the most beautiful place I’ve seen in my lifetime. But I’m into old things. After all, I was in Sicily for an Archaeological Field School. If you ever get the chance to see this wonder, I would recommend it over every other city and town I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.
When you visit Galena, you will ask yourself if you’re still in Illinois. For those of you not too familiar with Illinois, it’s mostly corn with the exception of the far south and apparently, Galena. As you get closer to Galena, you’ll traverse winding roads through lush green hills that eventually lead to a charming little town known best as the home of Ulysses S Grant. The downtown area is lined with shops, and during the evening, people brave enough to embark on the ghost tour. Galena is home to one of the oldest, and most haunted hotels in Illinois, so if you’re a ghost hunter, Galena is your place to be. It’s also across the Mississippi river from Iowa, so if you’re looking for some late night fun, you can take a thirty minute drive up to Dubuque and enjoy a night at the casino. Galena is the hidden gem of Illinois. If you have an opportunity to visit, you must.
Rock City, Georgia
If there is any place that will make you believe in fairy tales again, it’s Rock City. You can either drive your car up the winding roads or take the infamous Incline Railway to the charming town that is home to Lookout Mountain. The residential streets, fabulously named Aladdin, Mother Goose Trail, Peter Pan and Cinderella, is a sight, even if it’s just to see for yourself that someone actually lives on Peter Pan Road. Then make your way into the Rock City Gardens, where the paths lead you through gnome villages, waterfalls, and caverns. Then, if you’re brave enough, take the swinging bridge that leads to the breathtaking view from Lookout Mountain. I’ve seen a lot of places, but none have made me feel the joy of my inner child as much as Rock City. And if you’re not too claustrophobic, travel down into the caverns of Lookout Mountain and see the stunning Ruby Falls. Rock City is full of magic, so if you’re ever near Chattanooga, make it a point to visit this charming town.
There is something special about small towns. They have their own personality that is pure and enlightening. As much as I love the thrill of a big city, a small town takes me away from the rush of life, and everyone needs some time to recharge. If you’re looking for a place that will take your mind off the chores that come with everyday life, then it may be time to take a break in a small and charming town.