When you think of Europe, you picture the hustle and bustle of chic, cosmopolitan cities, but there is a lot more to the continent than that. Think small towns with cobblestoned back alleys and striking medieval architecture that promise to take you back in time.

Mystras, Greece

An important centre for trade in the Byzantine Empire, the town still retains relics of its glorious past – the cityscape is filled with buildings that betray its Latin, Venetian and Turkish influences.

Avila, Spain

Avila is famous for its medieval city walls that are almost 2 miles long. The town has its beginnings in Roman times, when it used to be a Roman settlement. Known as a well-protected territory, Avila has more than a 100 drum towers, nine towering gates and a 40-foot wall. The town also boasts of more Gothic churches per capita than any other settlement in Spain.

Monsanto, Portugal

Nestled in the hills of northern Portugal, this picturesque village was one of the first medieval cities to be claimed by the Christian ruler, Denis I, from the Moors. Having captured Monsanto, it was then handed over to the Order of the Knights Templar, the legendary military order that came into existence to protect Christian pilgrims making their way to the holy land.

Bruges, Belgium

Straight out of a storybook, Bruges used to be the textile capital of Europe during the Renaissance. Although it is slowly gaining popularity as a tourist destination, it still has an old-world charm to it. Be sure to check out the chocolates here as well – they are known to be some of the best in the world.

Toledo, Spain

The entire city is now preserved as a national monument. Toledo was once the spiritual and artistic capital of the country and walking around the city, you’ll know why – the city still has some of the most beautiful buildings in all of Spain. Walk around the back streets and through the cathedrals to get a glimpse into its dramatic past.

Cochem, Germany

The tiny village on the banks of the Mosel River has only about 5,000 residents. It consists of gothic towers coexisting with cheerful, colourful houses. Over the tiny village, the Cochem Imperial Castle looms high and large. The original structure of the castle is said to have been built in the 1100s.

Mont St. Michel

This ancient town sits on top of a rock in a bay in France. Surrounded by water at most times, the town could be accessed only during low tide when the waters receded. Today, the town is accessible at any time of the day, but we suggest you visit Mont St. Michel at night, when it lights up.

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