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Secret European Villages...

4/3/2012

Still planning your European Summer vacation?

Looking for the perfect European getaway, some place away from the typical tourist trap jammed with people.  Here is a list of a Europe’s most secret villages.

Obidos, PortugalTaken from the Moors by Portugal's first king in 1148, Obidos is a medieval fortress and walled village that you enter, as in olden times, through the enormous and intricately painted southern gate of the Church of Santa Maria.

Stein Am Rhein, SwitzerlandHistorians say this village on the Rhein River tops the list as Switzerland's best-preserved medieval small town.  In summer, pedestrian-only areas flood with visitors who linger under colorful cafe umbrellas and in little shops.

Lower Slaughter, EnglandAbout a half-hour drive south of Shakespeare's hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, is the Cotswold village of Lower Slaughter. Only about 200 residents live here, in traditional 18th- and 19th-century limestone cottages along the River Eye.

Murnau, GermanyMurnau's narrow alleyways and stunning views inspired renowned paintings by Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Munter, who lived in this picture-book Bavarian village from 1909 to 1914. Murnau, on Lake Staffelsee, is still an artists' town dotted with studios, galleries, cafes, and boutiques.

Cadaques, SpainWhere the Pyrenees mountains meet the Mediterranean sits a sleepy little port with a distinctly bohemian-chic beach vibe.  Salvador Dali spent his childhood summers here and returned years later when he and his wife converted a fisherman's home into their own. Despite the notoriety, Cadaques still feels peaceful, with fishing boats on its beach, a hillside of all-white houses surrounding a 16th-century church, and laid-back jazz-bar haunts.

Grignan, FranceWaves of fragrant lavender surround this picture-perfect Rhone-Alpes village near Provence.  The most impressive Grignan sight, though, is the majestic Renaissance castle, now a museum, sheltered behind high walls at the village's core. The ancient homes around it have been converted to hotels and B&Bs.

Kotor, MontenegroAcross the Adriatic from the ankle of Italy's boot, the old port town of Kotor sits at the base of Europe's southernmost fjords. Steep mountains drop into the narrow Bay of Kotor. The village tucked between is like a hidden kingdom protected by natural guards.

Dunmore, East IrelandDuring World War I, the southeastern coast of Ireland faced heavy attacks by U-boats, sending numerous ships to the bottom of the sea. Today these wrecks and the waters that surround Dunmore East teem with fish. Thatched cottages and some of the country's best seafood restaurants can be found in the quaint fishing village known for its sandy, sheltered coves and gorgeous seaside cliffs.

Massa Marittima, ItalyThis hamlet high above the countryside's rolling hills has everything you'd expect from a mountain village in Tuscany: well-preserved medieval architecture, a central piazza, cute shops, and small restaurants where extended families gather for big meals.

Fjallbacka, Sweden.  This little-known fishing village of 1,000 residents on Sweden's west coast is remote, beautiful, and everyone knows each other.

Regardless of where you choose to go, remember, England and Switzerland while they are part of the European Union, they do NOT use the Euro currency. In the UK, you will still use the British pound and when in Switzerland, the Swiss franc (not French) is still legal tender.