Make a Day of it: Discovering the Prettiest Villages in Europe

Rocco Forte Hotels

When it comes to charming villages, nowhere does it quite like Europe. Think thatched roofs and cobblestone roads, towering castles and verdant gardens, salty seas and peaceful lakes.

We’ve rounded up the prettiest towns and villages to take a day trip to from Brussels, London, Edinburgh and Berlin.

Go back in time in West Wycombe, England

Right in the heart of the rolling Chiltern Hills, about an hour's drive from Brown’s Hotel in London, lies West Wycombe, where stately manors and grassy parklands offer a peek into the history of Britain’s nobility. Many of the quaint cottages that line the village streets date back to the 16th Century, but the oldest, Church Loft, actually dates back to the 15th Century when it served as a rest stop for pilgrims. A stroll through the village will also take you past charming pubs, quirky shops, a welcoming tea room and the Hellfire Caves, a man-made network of intricate caves built in the 18th Century.  

Above the village is West Wycombe Park, a lavishly-decorated Palladian mansion which was home to the Dashwood family for over 300 years and sits in a parkland of 5,000 acres. Here you can walk in the Barons’ footsteps through lavishly-decorated rooms, the picturesque landscaped gardens with its serene lake and up West Wycombe Hill, home to the Roman-inspired Dashwood Mausoleum, which boasts extensive views across the surrounding countryside.

Discover the waters of Werder (Havel), Germany

A 35-minute train journey from Berlin, and less than an hour from Hotel de Rome, lies Werder (Havel), a luscious ‘river island’ town in the heart of the Havelland. 

Located on the banks of the River Havel and surrounded by a plethora of lakes, Werder (Havel) is known for its water tourism, offering every watersport under the sun, boat charters and great swimming spots. With so much water, the surrounding vegetation is predictably verdant, making for some beautiful bicycle rides (and great air quality).

Meanwhile, in the 700-year-old Old Town, costume-clad city guides await to reveal the secrets and anecdotes behind the town’s buildings, which include the Lendelhaus, a city palace, the Bockwindmuhle, a post windmill and the Scharfrichterhaus, the Executioner’s House. In the spring, it is also host to the Blossom Festival, a celebration that's been happening since 1879.

Stop and smell the roses in Sint Pieters Leeuw, Belgium

Traced back to the 9th Century, Sint Pieters Leeuw has a lengthy history behind it, and today it makes for a wonderful day trip from Brussels. The town is a mere 15-minute train journey from Brussels-Centraal (an eight-minute walk from Hotel Amigo) yet it feels far away from the city with its unreplicable small-town charm.

The town is particularly famous for the vibrant Coloma Rose Garden, which holds the title of the largest rose garden in Western Europe with more than 380,000 roses of over 3,000 varieties. Roses bloom in eight different sections, all with their own themes, including an “old rose garden” showcasing the history of the rose and an international rose garden. The garden sits on the grounds of the 18th Century Coloma Castle, alongside a former carriage house-turned-tavern and the Rose Museum.

Be beside the sea in North Berwick, Scotland

From Edinburgh Waverley, next to The Balmoral, a 35-minute train journey can take you straight to the seaside town of North Berwick, where you can spend the day breathing in the sea air, exploring the eclectic array of shops and tearooms, boating around the local islands, visiting the Scottish Seabird Centre or exploring the nearby Tantallon Castle that towers atop a coastal cliff.

All the quaint town’s wonderful attractions are made infinitely better by the breathtaking coastal views. Look out across the Firth of Forth, for example, and you’ll see the mighty Bass Rock, a volcanic rock that was once a Scottish Alcatraz.

After your trip into the country, return to your home away from home in one of our Rocco Forte hotels in Berlin, Edinburgh, London or Brussels


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