From Bohinj to Annecy, these charming lakeside villages and cities make for idyllic Europe vacation spots.
Bodies of water dictate the distribution of humans across the world. We can see this trend as most major cities are directly adjacent to a lake, river, or ocean. Today water is often perceived solely as a commodity. But, within these 8 European lakeside villages, towns and cities, water is to be appreciated for nature’s sake. From Lucerne. Switzerland to Hévíz, Hungary, water is the primary attraction for travel lover sto experience a Europe vacation that contrasts with the ever-emerging global metropolis.
Lucerne on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne is perhaps the most famous featured lake here, postcard pretty as it is, nestled in a mountain panorama. Founded by the Alemannics in the 700’s, it certainly has a long history as a human settlement. The medieval Chapel Bridge is the centralpiece of the town. The old town is car-free, making it fabulous to explore on foot.
Lucerne is a brilliant spot for travel lovers to explore historical landmarks in both urban and natural environments. Some of the largest attractions include the Jesuit Church, Chapel Bridge, and the Lion Monument commemorating Tuileries war heroes. Once you’ve seen the town, nature trails located on an impressive mountain range are close by and include nearby excursion mountains of Rigi, Pilatus and Stanserhorn.
Ribčev Laz on Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Often, travel lovers are drawn to the famous Lake Bled in Slovenia for its postcard prettiness. But venture a bit further, and you’ll be hugely rewarded with a tranquil, restful Europe vacation at Lake Bohinj. The Ribčev Lazvillage around the lake couldn’t have a prettier setting – in the heart of Triglav National Park, cozily nestled in the Julian Alps.
The village itself acts as a perfect complement to the surrounding nature. The water is so clear, you can see the reflection of the Alps in the lake. Many of the attractions make use of the available vistas. Take the Vogel Cable car and you’ll be rewarded with infinite mountain views. Also visit Savica waterfall, the geologic wonder Mostnica Gorge and The Church of the Holy Spirit.
Rättvik on Lake Siljan, Sweden
Rättvik is widely regarded as the birthplace of Swedish tourism. Why? Rättvik opened Sweden’s first tourist resort in 1894. While the town may not have the urban energy of Stockholm or Gothenburg, Rättvik exemplifies the traditional Swedish and Scandinavian ways of life.
Folk music, dancing, and food-filled festivals are the highlights here. For music, check out Europe’s most spectacular outdoor arena, Dalhalla. At the heart of it all, a thin wooden pier extends out onto lake Siljan. Quite an idyllic Europe vacation spots, away from busy, more famous touristy destinations.
Savonlinna in the Saimaa Lake Region, Finland
Savonlinna uniquely lies within a region of lakes in Eastern Finland. This makes the town appear to be on an island as opposed to a bank. Like Rättvik, Savonlinna is small yet rich in Scandinavian traditions. Community vibes are laid-back and simple, perfect for a calming Europe vacation.
The most notable attraction for travel lovers is the intriguing medieval Olavinlinna Castle. It actually reminds me a bit of Chief Inspector Dreyfus’s lair in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Go kayaking and climb rock faces in the summer, in the winter try skiing, skating or snowshoeing. You’ll love soaking in the nature here.
Ohrid on Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
Ohrid, known by many as Jerusalem of the Balkans, hosts an interesting union between nature and cultural history. The town once had 365 churches to represent every day in the calendar year. While this is no longer the case, Ohrid still has plenty to offer. It seems as though each building contains and is built from different facets of Eastern European art. Looming above it all, one of Ohrids biggest attractions Samuill’s Fortress eyes the reddish-brown rooftops.
Ohrid and Ohrid Lake have marked their place firmly on the UNESCO list as a rare cultural and natural heritage. Ohrid is nestled in a mountain range, and the best way to reach it is by bus from Macedonia’s capital Skopje. Even though the trip is about 3.5 hours, the views en-route will keep you well occupied!
Orta San Giulio on Lake Orta, Italy
Located in northern Italy near the Sacri Moni “Sacred Mountains” of Piedmont and Lombardy, the picturesque Orta San Giulio is small yet visitor friendly. The streets are cobblestoned, uncongested, and often vehicle free. One thing that makes Orta San Giulio and the Lake Orta region so eye-popping is Isola San Giulio, a beautifully developed island right off the shore.
The pretty village is full of old world charm with antique shops, craft boutiques and buzzing cafes. For a great view of Lake Orta, head to the 15th century Church of Maria Assunta.
Annecy on Lake Annecy, France
Annecy, located in the Rhone-Alpes region, is no small town. Dubbed the pearl of the French Alps, Annecy provides a spectacular panorama. But zoom in and you’ll find a Venice-like hub, filled with ornate architecture and decorative canal crossings. The lake itself is renowned for its water quality, as conservation efforts over 50 years have made it the purest lake in Europe.
Most of the buildings are different in color and design, which in turn leads to an almost psychedelic look. Bright oranges, yellows, and greens create a striking contrast with the deep blue of Lake Annecy. Travel lovers will no doubt have a magical experience here on their Europe vacation.
Hévíz on Lake Hévíz, Hungary
Hévíz is considerably smaller than most. But, despite its size, Lake Hévíz features unique spa-like properties caused by an underground intersection of hot and cold springs. The water temperatures are therefore around 1000F (380C) on a typical day.
This creates a perfect balmy environment for swimming, relaxation, and appreciation of nature and the spa town has a bathhouse which is rather convenient to enjoy its natural beauty. As an added bonus, the warm water is legendary for its healing properties! The Heviz Lake, a geological curiosity, is Europe’s largest thermal lake and the second largest in the world.
Trains to Hévíz run from Budapest’s Déli Station and buses from the Népliget bus terminal.