My Top 5 Favorite Small Cities

photo by Ashley Monogue Photography

When planning a vacation travelers often focus on capital cities. And understandably so… many capitals are walkable, have incredible history and have everything from museums to delicious food! And while I am a city girl through and through, my husband {being a small town man} has helped open my eyes to the beauty of small cities. You know, those little towns that are tucked away and aren’t quite as mainstream?

When traveling, Caleb and I like do our best to see both big cities and smaller towns. After having visited over 20 countries, these are a few of my favorites.

What are a few of your favorite small cities?

1.) Colmar, France
We fell in love with this fairy book city almost immediately upon arrival. It’s about a 2 hour train ride from Paris and is located near the French/Germany border, so you have a combination of both cultures {and foods}. If the colorful timber homes and charming cobblestone streets aren’t magical enough for you, just wait until you meet the locals. You only really need to spend a few nights here, but it is a city I definitely plan on returning to!

2.) Galway, Ireland
Galway surprised me. I had read good things about the city, but wasn’t expecting it to have so much character. We spent the days shopping, exploring the markets and eating delicious food. And of course, no day in Ireland is complete until you’ve sauntered into one of the local pubs to drink a pint while listening to traditional live music. We found the locals to be so inviting and joyful, we are already planning a return trip!

Favorite Small Cities

3.) Hoi An, Vietnam
A couple of years ago Caleb and I spent a month in Vietnam. It quickly became one of my favorite countries ever. From the food and the people to the topography and culture. Simply thinking back to this trip still brings a smile to my face. And a lot of this has to do with Hoi An. We actually ended up spending 11 nights in this perfect little city. We kept extending our stay because we enjoyed the gorgeous food, the beautiful tuscan yellow buildings, exploring the river and beaches, and just the day to day life of the locals. We actually stayed with locals for a few nights {who literally spoke no English, but we had the BEST time with them} and I truly believe it made our experience even better. If Vietnam isn’t on your bucket list yet- add it now and move it to the top! And make sure you visit Hoi An.

4.) Newport Beach, California USA
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Newport Beach, California since it is where I was born. My family tries to make a trip out here at least once a year and each year I am reminded of why I love it so much! There is something peaceful about renting a home on either the beach boardwalk or the Newport Harbor and waking up to the scent of salt water. We always rent bikes and spend hours simply strolling along the water and exploring.
Favorite Small Cities

5.) Railay, Thailand
Skip Phuket and go to Railay! Railay is technically a peninsula, but you have to take a boat to get there. It is truly one of the most breathtaking places I have ever visited. From the giant limestone cliffs to the sparkling blue water. It is every Thailand cliche in one spot- in the best way possible! We’ve actually been here three times and loved it each time. What’s better than following monkeys back to your bungalow each night?

 

What small cities should we add to our bucket list?
Or what small cities are on YOUR bucket list?

 

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Allie
    December 12, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    So many great places! I’ve only been to Galway, but would love to see the other places!

  • Reply
    Courtney Hardy
    December 12, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    These cities sound like great places to visit!
    http://sugarcoatedbears.blogspot.com/

  • Reply
    Samah
    December 13, 2017 at 1:04 am

    I’ve heard of Galaway so many times, you’d think it was a tourist destination, but apparently not so much! I love the small, ‘unknown’ cities as you hardly find tourists and it’s just you taking in the scenery without having to scramble over people’s heads to see something. I guess here in Canada, Toronto would be a tourist attraction, but there’s a beautiful city further north called Collingwood that tourists don’t often visit

  • Reply
    Yukti
    December 13, 2017 at 4:52 am

    I totally agree with you about going to small destinations and feel the actual beauty of that place. Big cities are good but sometimes, I feel lost and in small cities, I can connect myself with surroundings as if I know the place very well. Galway looks so cool and listening to traditional music would also be so nice thing to do here. My favorites are Seville(Spain), Kazbegi(Georgia – country), Mykonos islands (Greece) and Garmisch(Germany).

  • Reply
    Savannah
    December 13, 2017 at 5:16 am

    I didn’t make it to Railay, Thailand, because I got sick and ran out of money, but I wish I had!! Would you consider Chiang Mai a small city? Because I LOVED that one! I definitely agree with you on getting off the beaten path to try out smaller cities. I think a lot of travelers get nervous to go to smaller cities because of potential communication issues. But you still had a great time in Vietnam without speaking the language, so I think people should worry less about that!

  • Reply
    CJ Haughey
    December 13, 2017 at 7:17 am

    As a 31-year-old Irishman, I somewhat sheepishly had to admit to my extended family that it was my first time in Galway during our road trip a few months back. I finally got to see what the fuss was all about having heard great tales from Irish and foreigners alike during my travels. It may be small but you’re right, it does have a lot of character! Great food and great music, all year round. I could see myself making a return there too before long!

  • Reply
    Bhusha
    December 13, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Gorgeous small cities indeed. I too love smaller towns & villages any day than cosmopolitan cities. Been to so many small towns all over India and fell in love with almost 99% of them (yeah, there were 1-2 that disappointed me!)… Calmar esp sounds very interesting. Hope I’ll get to visit there soon.

  • Reply
    Lydia Smith
    December 14, 2017 at 2:59 am

    I agree with you on Hoi An as one of the greatest city out there. The landscape and the locals are just too beautiful to be ignored. So far I’ve realized that investing more time in small cities alwags pay off with discoveries of gems, so must rimes I stay away from the large touristy areas and go into these small cities. Railay sounds interesting so I might ditch Phuket on my visit to Thai

  • Reply
    Dada
    December 14, 2017 at 3:49 am

    I totally agree that one shouldnt forget about the smaller cities because sometimes they even better because of fewer tourist and less expensive. From all of your list, Colmar is the city I would love to visit the most right now because I have heard so
    much about it and I live like 2-3 hours car ride from there. We love Hoi An so
    I know what you are talking about! I remember biking around the city and eating Pho for breakfast! A great small city escape!

  • Reply
    FS Page
    December 16, 2017 at 2:08 am

    I love visiting small villages and going sight seeing everywhere on foot. Railay sounds very interesting to me and I would love to visit it soon. My favorite small towns are the ones in Andaman Islands though; almost all of them.

  • Reply
    Kevin Del Prado
    December 16, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    I am also a city boy who always wants to escape the city and go to nature spots. So I really like the last item in your list. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit one when I traveled to Thailand last year. It looks like the whole island is all yours. The calmness is what I am looking.

  • Reply
    Ashley DTKAustin
    December 17, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    I’m glad Galway made the list!! That has been one of my favorite places to visit! I’ll have to check out some of the others you listed!

  • Reply
    Kasey | Running in Heels
    December 20, 2017 at 12:22 am

    I wish I have been to these places! I feel like I’ve only been to big places, so I guess my favorite small city is my hometown!

  • Reply
    Nataly
    December 20, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Newport Beach is one of my faves too!! Thanks for sharing!

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