Get us in your inbox

St. Augustine
Photograph: Shutterstock

The most European cities in America

You don't have to travel across the Atlantic to feel like you're in the Old Country, just head to one of the most European cities in America instead

Written by
Sarah Medina
&
Rosie Hewitson
Contributor
Scott Snowden
Advertising

European vacations are back in full swing for US residents – but with it comes lost luggage, flight cancellations, and matchbox-sized airplane seating. So here's the good news: you don't actually have to trek to an airport and take a plane to feel like you're in Spain, Italy, France or England. Just head to one of the most European cities in America inatead. 

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 US 

The most European cities in America

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.

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. 

Advertising
Solvang, CA
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

3. 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.

Holland, MI
Photograph: Dan Irving

4. 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.

Advertising
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. 

Advertising
Boston, MA
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Boston, MA

It stands to reason that parts of Boston will resemble Europe, since the British began it's colonization of North America from this part of the continent before slowly spreading south and west. Consequently, the architecture is heavily influenced 17th century Europe. The narrow cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill, lined with Victorian brick row and Federal-style houses, lit by antique lanterns, are one of the best and most well-known examples. Equally, the North End of the city is Boston's unofficial Little Italy.

San Francisco, CA
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. San Francisco, CA

The Golden City is very much a mish-mash of styles, or more accurately, a mish-mash of European styles. The climate more closely resembles that of England, Northern France and Germany and so on, but the occasional palm tree, lush vineyards, distant mountains and coastal location have given rise to a slight Mediterranean vibe. That said, there's still plenty of evidence of colonial-style architecture, more typically found 3,000 miles east.

Advertising
 New Orleans, LA
Photograph: Shutterstock

9.  New Orleans, LA

It could be argued that New Orleans displays the most obvious connections to European influence, there's even a part of the city called the French Quarter. Originally settled by the French, it was turned over to the Spanish before eventually becoming all-American, but not before being passing back through French hands once again. The architecture, food, music, language, and even pace of life undeniably mirror both the French and Spanish culture. Even the nightlife is refreshingly reminiscent of Paris or Amsterdam.

Laguna Niguel, CA
Photograph: City of Laguna Niguel

10. Laguna Niguel, CA

Here's the crazy thing, as much as the East Coast displays evidence of European-influenced architecture... so does the West Coast. The thing to remember is, that the term 'European' covers a lot of ground: French, English — Mediterranean — that term itself incorporates, Italian, Spanish, Greek Southern France and a lot more besides. And it's this style that you'll find the most in Southern California. A good example is in and around Laguna Niguel.

Recommended

    More on getaways

      You may also like
        Advertising