Small is romantic as well as it is beautiful when it comes to tiny towns in Europe that thrive away from the grand capitals. Life is slower in these places, they're not so crowded with tourists, and you won't feel the pressure to check off every sight on a must-see list. Here are the most romantic tiny towns in Europe. Leave plenty of time for lingering at cafés and people-watching.
Although Nafplio is within the Peloponnese Islands on the Aegean, this tiny town doesn't look as if it's part of Greece. That's because it was invaded and held by the Venetians for two centuries, so the architecture and colors are emblematic of Italy's most romantic city.
Other countries also added to the unique appeal of this scenic spot. The Turks arrived in 1915, and after the Greek war of Independence, that nation claimed Nafplio and made it their first capital.
From the waterfront you can see the ancient Boúrzi island castle that appears to float in the midst of the turquoise sea. Welcoming outdoor cafés in the main plaza are where to unwind. And if you care to shop, you'll find a large selection of rosary beads, flavored honeys and olive oils, and magnificent textiles. Gonidou handwoven rough silk scarves and ties are particularly irresistible.
A picturesque bridge over the easy-flowing River Nore; historic streets lined with rows of medieval buildings; and an ancient castle within walking distance from the city center are the key ingredients that make Kilkenny one of the most scenic and romantic tiny towns in Europe.
If you have Irish ancestors, you may be able to find out more about them in the 17th-century Rothe House complex, which contains a genealogical research center with more than 200,000 family history parish and civil records. It also houses a museum and garden that's home to a gaggle of flightless ducks.
The most romantic place in Belgium, Bruges even has a body of water known as the Lake of Love. Although this tiny town does attract its share of tourists, don't let that discourage you from visiting. The crowds thin out in September, and with fewer people around you can take more time and linger at one of its many cafés or shop for hand-made lace.
Bruges dates back to 1245, and the nunnery that was built still houses sisters who sing in the tiny chapel. Consider taking a short cruise on one of the boats that ply the narrow canals. You'll get to see some of the town's medieval architecture, which remains in good repair. Other ways to tour include biking, on foot, or taking a horse-drawn carriage over the ancient cobblestones.
Cesky-Krumlov, Czech Republic
One of Europe's most picturesque tiny towns, Cesky-Krumlov is like Prague in miniature, with similar red roofs, an historic center with narrow lanes paved with cobblestones, a UNESCO World Heritage designation, and a Renaissance castle at the apex. Like the larger destination, it's even divided by the Vltava River, and you can go tubing, canoe, or rent a raft to go on it.
The most romantic views are from the observation gallery atop the Chateaux Tower, part of the Castle and Chateau complex. Afterwards, have a picnic in the Chateau Garden and leave room for strudel.
If that's all too fairy-tale for you, head for the Egon Schiele Art Gallery, where you can view the tortured artist's work that includes a series of nudes.
Set beside Loch Ewe, this tiny town was a strategic location during World War II used as an assembly point for allied maritime convoys.
The most romantic place to stay is family-owned Pool House, where hospitality is raised to an art form. You're likely to be greeted in the book-lined lounge beside the fireplace by one of the members with a delicious treat.
Each of the six guest rooms has a different theme, including a honeymoon suite with a bed modeled after the one Napoleon and Josephine slept in. Later visit the classic pool room, its bar stocked with a variety of Scottish whiskies.
Located at the northern end of the Sognefjord, Balestrand is one of the few places on earth where beauty radiates 360 degrees, from the ferry landing up to the picture-perfect English Church.
The population of this tiny town is only about 2,000 yet it is home to the enduring Kviknes Hotel. Truth to tell, the guest rooms aren't particularly special; those in the "modern" wing seem modeled after 1960 motel design. And the ones in the historic wing evoke a great-grandmother's lair.
Yet this exceptional hotel boasts uncommon art and furniture collections in its lobby. There's also a huge dining room serving a buffet with an equally huge number of selections, particularly bounty from the sea. Although the dining room is set up to accommodate groups, romantic two-tops along the windowed room afford some privacy as well as a gorgeous view of the fjord.
If you think smart is sexy, then Cambridge should definitely be on your must-see list. One of the most popular destinations in England, it's home to the famous university, which began educating young minds in 1209.
Should you visit during a school break and want to know what it's like to sleep within those hallowed halls, accommodations (complete with a double bed) may be available. Trace the footsteps of graduates such as Darwin, Wordsworth, John Cleese, and Prince Charles on the leafy campus and go punting on the Cam (think of this as steering an English gondola).
Considered one of the most beautiful places in the world, the tiny town of Positano on Italy's Amalfi coast claims a place in the heart of every romantic fortunate enough to visit. It's built on a cliff, and the higher you go, the better the view of this magical place that stretches down to a beach on the Mediterranean Sea.
Because of it's popularity, lodging in Positano is rarely cheap. Those with the means check into Il San Pietro di Positano or its competitor Le Sirenuse, both five-star properties with breath-taking views. Tip: Visit before or after high season, which stretches from April through October, and you may be able to save on accommodations.
Can you smell the lavender? Viking River Cruises' eight-day "Lyon & Province" sailing calls at Viviers and offers an excursion to the Lavender Museum and distillery in Ardèche, where the essential oil is extracted.
The natural beauty and endless charm of this picturesque region are shaped by the Ardèche River, where couples can kayak and canoe under Pont d'Arc, a massive natural bridge that spans almost 200 feet. Although this tiny town can be reached by bike, train and car, the most romantic way to arrive is to sail to the region via river boat and then take a luxury coach, which Viking provides.
St. Moritz in Switzerland
Twice an Olympic host city and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the tiny town of St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps appeals to those who love winter sports in addition to skiing and cross-country. When the lake freezes over, the spectacle of polo players and horseback riders on the ice exhilarates.
In season, this beautiful destination is pricey. It's top hotels are world renowned and well accustomed to catering to celebrities and multi-millionaires. If you can afford to splurge, it's a worthwhile indulgence to spend several days and nights here. But if you're on a tight budget, just come for the day and treat yourselves to the city's delicious Swiss chocolates.