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Holland, MI
Photograph: Dan Irving

These US cities will make you feel like you're in Europe

You don't have to travel across the Atlantic to feel like you're in Europe this year, just head to one of these cities in the U.S. instead

Rosie Hewitson
Written by
Sarah Medina
Rosie Hewitson

European vacations might be back on the cards for US residents, but with long quarantines currently required on arrival and travel restrictions liable to change as soon as the next strain of Covid is discovered, you might still be better of staycationing this summer. Thankfully, you don't actually have to hop on a plane to feel like you're in the old country. 

From a Danish settlement in California to a Florida town that was founded by the Spanish more than 500 years ago, plenty of cities across the United States offer the same charm and historic architecture as the European continent (castles and beer included!). Rethinking your vacation to Greece or Germany? Forget the uncomfortable red-eye flights and massive airport lines, and look no farther than these cities right here on home soil. 

RECOMMENDED: The most stunning castles in the U.S.

US cities that look like Europe

Tarpon Springs, FL
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Tarpon Springs, FL

If you can't make it to Santorini this year, the next best thing just might be in Florida. This city on the gulf is known for three things: being the "sponge capital of the world;" having 51 miles of pristine waterline; and its Greek heritage.  A legacy of the Greek sponge divers who settled here in the early 1900s, Greek eateries line the main street, Dodecanese Boulevard. Spend your time browsing art galleries, antique stores, and specialty shops housed in buildings that date back to the 1800s.

Discover the best things to do in Florida

New Glarus, WI
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. New Glarus, WI

New Glarus, a 19th-century Swiss settlement that still prides itself on its chalet-style look and old-world charm, offers some of the very best beer, cheese and farms in the Midwest. Only-in-Wisconsin beers such as Spotted Cow, Moon Man and other New Glarus Brewing brews are worth the trek alone, but for the full effect visit the village during one of its annual events, like June’s Polkafest or September’s Wilhelm Tell Festival and Oktoberfest celebrations. 

Discover the best things to do in Wisconsin

Holland, MI
Photograph: Dan Irving

3. Holland, MI

Established by Calvinist separatists who arrived in Michigan from the Netherlands in the mid-19th century, the town of Holland continues to celebrate its Dutch heritage. To go Dutch for the day, start with the flaky, almond paste-filled bankets at deBoer Bakkerij. Afterward, head across town to Veldheer Tulip Gardens, where 5 million of the eponymous flowers explode into bloom each spring, or opt for a leisurely stroll around Windmill Island Gardens, a picturesque park centered around a 250-year-old Dutch windmill purchased by Holland residents in the 1960s.

Discover the best things to do in Michigan

Solvang, CA
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

4. Solvang, CA

After Danish immigrants grew tired of Midwestern winters, they began to make their way west and eventually settled in California's pastoral Santa Ynez Valley. These days you won’t find many actual Danes in Solvang, but you will find wooden windmills, rural houses and a replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower. The post-WWII structures are as touristy as they are charming; walk around town to find an assortment of Christmas shops, Hans Christian Andersen and Little Mermaid keepsakes, and sort-of-Danish bakeries.

Discover the best things to do in California

Leavenworth, WA
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Leavenworth, WA

Inspired by the Cascade Mountains that surround the town, Leavenworth was remodeled in the 1960s to resemble a German village. And the town didn't stop at aesthetics. In addition to architectural updates that turned the PNW city into a Bavarian-style village, restaurants serving German beer and food now line the main street, while The Nutcracker Museum displays thousands of nutcrackers, some dating back centuries. The town also engages in a series of European-inspired events; Head to Leavenworth in the fall and winter for an Autumn Leaf Festival and the Christmas Lighting Festival.

Founded on Florida’s Atlantic coast by Spanish colonizers in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the US and rivals any city in Spain for a beachy vacation. Among its oldest treasures are the imposing Castillo de San Marcosa 17th-century Spanish stone fortress with views of the St. Augustine Inlet, the oldest wooden schoolhouse, and The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, where you can learn about the Spanish founders and the Native Americans who they displaced. Head to the Lightner Museum, a marvel of the Spanish Renaissance Revival style to see more antiquities. 

Discover the best things to do in St Augustine

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