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Cities in the U.S. that make you think you're in Europe

No passport required: skip the cross-Atlantic flight and visit these U.S. cities to get a taste of Europe.

Written by
Sarah Medina
,
Rosie Hewitson
&
Erika Mailman
Contributors
Scott Snowden
&
Clara Hogan
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Ah, Europe. With its incredible history, unmatched charm, delicious food and variety of enchanting cultures, it's no wonder a European vacation is so desirable.

But an international trip isn't in the cards for everyone, be it because your wallet isn’t quite equipped, you don't have a passport, or you're not particularly excited about that long of an airplane ride. Luckily, if you want to enjoy the spirit of Europe but stay stateside, plenty of U.S. cities will make you feel like you've crossed the Atlantic.

From the Danish-inspired town of Solvang, California to the German-style city of Helen, Georgia to a slew of New England hamlets that feel like...well.. Old England, you'll be (almost) as charmed at these destinations as the real thing. 

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European cities you can find in the US

1. Tarpon Springs, FL

Feels most like: Greece

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" (yes, you heard us right); 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 Dodecanese Boulevard's main street. Spend your time browsing art galleries, antique stores, and specialty shops housed in buildings that date back to the 1800s.

2. Solvang, CA

Feels most like: Denmark

Here in what is called the Danish Capital of America, you’ll find authentic old-world architecture, thatched roofs and windmills. Bonus: the movie Sideways was filmed here, which makes sense since this is the Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Come in September for Danish Days: three parades, folk dancing, music and even a Viking Encampment. And Julefest is a huge event here when Christmas approaches.

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3. Fredericksburg, Texas

Feels most like: Germany

Visiting Fredericksburg in central Texas is reminiscent of strolling through a lively town in Germany. Indeed, the city was founded in the mid-1800s by German immigrants. Today, it is known for its charming storefronts and wineries—and you can still learn about the city's German heritage at the Pioneer Museum, featuring artifacts from the original settlers. In the town square, referred to as Marktplatz, don't miss stopping into city landmark Vereins Kirche, a replica of a 19th-century German church that once stood in the heart of the city. 

4. Helen, GA

Feels most like: Germany

Cute as a button, this town has all the balconies, pitched roofs and red half-timbering of a faraway Bavarian village. The rural feel of the Blue Ridge mountains, forestland and a river winding through all help to create the illusion of being in the Alps. For traditional German fare, eat at the three-story Heidelberg (with music hall and pub), the Hofbrauhaus, the Bodensee and others. Of course, there are breweries and wineries, and you can purchase a Black Forest cuckoo clock at the Bavarian Clockworks for a souvenir to remember your trip to “Germany.”

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5. New Glarus, WI

Feels most like: Switzerland

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 September’s Wilhelm Tell Festival, Oktoberfest celebrations, the Edelweiss bike tour, and the Swiss Volksfest (Swiss independence day). 

6. Holland, MI

Feels most like: Holland

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 traditional pastries at deBoer Bakkerij. Afterward, head across town to Veldheer Tulip Gardens, where 6 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 still-working Dutch windmill purchased by Holland residents in the 1960s (you can tour the five floors inside).

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7. Leavenworth, WA

Feels most like: Germany

Inspired by the Cascade Mountains surrounding 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 9,000 nutcrackers from 50 different countries, 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 Christmastown festival, where the town is lit up beautifully.

Feels most like: Spain

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 Marcos, a 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. 

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9. Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Feels most like: England

Founded in 1783, Alexandria is home to the third-oldest historic district in the country. Stroll the cobblestone streets of Old Town along the Potomac and get ready to be charmed by the colorful 18th-century townhouses and more than 200 storefronts and restaurants in this corridor that will leave you questioning whether you're in Europe or small-town England. 

Feels most like: France and Spain

This city blends Spanish and French culture beautifully. Although the first residents after Native Americans were French, the architecture you find in the gorgeous French Quarter is actually...Spanish! That’s because early fires destroyed the original buildings. The city’s name harks to the city of Orleans in France, rescued from siege by Joan of Arc, whose statue now stands in the Vieux Carré. Here in this city where slave markets once operated, a Creole population formed with people of mixed European and Black descent. The food of that Creole heritage, which includes Native American roots, is delicious: try beignets for breakfast (or late at night) and the incredible and varied gumbos. Cajun food, too, from Canadian-French settlers who came to New Orleans, can be found in dishes like jambalaya. We love the Gumbo Shop with its handpainted murals inside: the wait for a table is definitely worth it.

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11. Pella, IA

Feels most like: Holland

A lot of Holland remains in this settlement founded by Dutch immigrants who made a town out of plains where there was simply a stake with a sign reading “Pella.” Tour the Historical Village of 22-period buildings with the Vermeer Windmill, find a second windmill nearby at the Sunken Gardens, visit the 1848 Scholte House, and dine and shop at many traditional spots. The three-day Tulip Time Festival happens in spring, with thousands of residents donning formal attire to celebrate their heritage. You can even catch craftsmen making wooden clogs.

12. Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

Feels most like: England

The downtown area is a pleasure to walk in, with multiple examples of half-timbered buildings that look like Shakespeare rented them back in the day. Carmel-by-the-Sea is famous for its Storybook architecture, and you’ll enjoy your day in the shire before wandering a few blocks down to the beach. Buy candy at the British-style Cottage of Sweets and sleep at the quaint Lamp Lighter Inn, all with your trusty dog by your side in this dog-friendly town.

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13. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Feels most like: England

Settled in 1623 by Europeans, the charming town of Portsmouth will transport you a waterfront village in England. Stroll the red brick sidewalks and visit Market Square, the historic center of town lined with shops, restaurants and bars both new and old. The Strawberry Banke Museum is worth a visit—the museum includes 10 acres of historic homes that make up the oldest neighborhood in New Hampshire. Pop into each to get a sense of life 400-plus years ago in America. 

14. Frankenmuth, MI

Feels most like: Germany

The town now known as Little Bavaria started with 15 colonists who pledged loyalty to Bavaria and to keep speaking German. You can go over the Holz Brücke covered wooden bridge, try the Bavarian Blacksmith Experience, visit the Castle Museum, come for the annual Volksläufe (people's race), and enjoy traditional architecture and signage throughout the city. Make sure to attend at Christmastime when the halls get Germanically decked.

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15. Lindsborg, KS

Feels most like: Sweden

From the traditional red Swedish Dala horse painted on the water tower to a “herd” of the same cast in fiberglass and decorated by local artists—each foal’s birth is marked with a public unveiling—this town celebrates its heritage, founded in 1868 by Swedish immigrants. To be honest, the architecture doesn’t give much of a Swedish flair, but arrive at festival time to see folks take to the streets in traditional garb—and there are a lot of festivals in “Little Sweden USA!” Come for the annual Jenny Lind concert honoring the “Swedish Nightingale” soprano, the biennial October Svensk Hyllningsfest (held next in 2025) with traditional food, folk dancing, music and smörgåsbord, and the March 25 Våffeldagen waffle festival, just to name a few.

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