With The Alps stretching across an impressive 1,200 kilometres of Europe, their jagged peaks rising from the foothills of eight European countries, the continent is home to a smattering of idyllic Alpine towns. Trafalgar takes a look at seven of the most beautiful mountain towns in Europe, and what it is that gives them their distinct identity.
As the capital of Tyrol, Innsbruck has long been at the heart of Austria’s winter sports scene, even hosting two Winter Olympics. But alongside the outdoor sports and picturesque Alpine setting, Innsbruck also exhibits its 800-year history through the attractive architecture of its Old Town.
It’s in the Spanish province of Asturias, in the midst of the Picos de Europa Mountains, that the small community of Covadonga can be found. This gorgeous location has made Covadonga a gateway to the mountains’ scenic hiking routes. But this isn’t all Covadonga is famous for; it’s also a place of religious and historic significance, with an ancient basilica that many people travel from far and wide to see.
This charming Austrian city lies in the shadows of the Eastern Alps, just across the border from Germany. Aside from the city’s mountainous backdrop, it’s the flow of the Salzach River, and both medieval and Baroque grandeur, that gives Salzburg its great reputation, in particular the cliff-top fortress, Altstadt.
Also known for its well-preserved Altstadt (or old town) Lucerne owes much of its appeal to its medieval architecture and idyllic setting amidst the mountains of Lake Lucerne, as well as the picturesque Reuss River and the centuries-old Chapel Bridge.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
This alpine resort town is revered worldwide for its après ski scene and winter sports – as a former Winter Olympics host – as well as for its dazzlingly beautiful surroundings and outdoor activities in the warmer months. Many visitors choose to return time and again.
Set in the foothills of Slovenia’s Julian Alps, and on the shores of glacial Lake Bled, this resort town certainly has a fairy-tale setting. And this charm is accentuated by the presence of the 11th-century Bed Castle, which sits on a cliff overlooking the lake, along with the sight of the Pilgrimage Church, which is situated on its own island in the lake.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Often shortened to Cortina, Cortina d’Ampezzo is located within the Dolomites of the Southern Alps, in the Veneto region of northern Italy. While many visitors come for the snow sports, others come specifically for the town’s sophisticated style and gastronomy. And there’s substance behind the beauty too, with a 1,000-year history to discover.