It’s funny how places located halfway across the world from each other can feel so alike. Thanks to a long history of immigration, there are tons of places in the U.S. that feel like they were airlifted right out of Europe. From small towns with cobblestone streets to a tiny place in Iowa with its own tulip festival, American towns around the country have plenty of surprises (with a European flare) in store for visitors.
We pulled together some of our favorite U.S. cities that feel more like far-flung European cities—read on and start planning your next getaway.
1. New Orleans, Louisiana
If you love: The romantic architecture of France
Where to stay: The Henry Howard Hotel
While the French Quarter’s energy is certainly different from that of most neighborhoods across Paris, the architecture is reminiscent of buildings in France. Find a quiet moment in front of one of New Orleans’s most stunning buildings—The Old Ursuline Convent Museum, the last remaining example of “true” French architecture in the Big Easy—and dig into the city’s rich Creole cuisine (po’boys, anyone?). And there’s always Mardi Gras (a raucous celebration with deep French roots) if you’re looking to participate in a real party.
2. Pella, Iowa
If you love: The tulip fields of Holland
Where to stay: Royal Amsterdam Hotel
It may seem like a random place for one of the country’s largest tulip festivals to take place, but Pella, Iowa, is full of surprises. From Dutch bakeries selling windmill cookies to a giant pair of clogs you can take photos in, Pella makes visitors feel like they’ve been transported to the Netherlands. The town’s annual Tulip Time festival takes place every year during the first weekend of May. But if you don’t come to the town then, there’s still plenty of Dutch-themed things to do: consider visiting the historical village, the Vermeer Windmill, the Scholte House Museum, and the Pella Opera House. And when you need a break back into modern times, Des Moines is only 40 miles to the northeast.
3. St. Augustine, Florida
If you love: Málaga, Spain
Where to stay: St. Francis Inn
St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest city in the United States and was founded by the Spanish in 1565. Old world Spanish influence can be felt all over the city’s historic district, from its European-style cafés to its historic sites like the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, which was built by the Spanish to protect its regional trade routes in 1695. Aviles Street, which is also located in St. Augustine’s Old Town, is home to the city’s art district and is considered to be the oldest street in the United States. As for where to stay, the St. Francis Inn is located in one of the oldest parts of St. Augustine. The inn itself dates back to 1791, and its rooms and suites have a if-Spain-met-Key-West vibe: think stucco walls, bright shutters, wood floors, and antique beds.
4. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
If you love: The artsy and craft-centric coastal region of Cornwall, England
Where to stay: Chatham Bars Inn
Miles of gorgeous Atlantic coastline, sweeping sand dunes, delicious seafood, and a thriving arts and crafts community: Cape Cod could easily pass for Cornwall, as long as you’re OK with swapping Cornish pasties for clambakes. Wake up to ocean views at the historic 1914 Chatham Bars Inn and spend the rest of the day enjoying its private quarter-mile long beach, or head into town to admire the small galleries and houses with picket fences. Sorry, Ross Poldark not included.
5. Virginia Wine Country
If you love: Off-the-radar Italian villages and rustic vineyards
Where to stay: The Goodstone Inn & Restaurant
The architecture may be more colonial than Tuscan, but Virginia’s wine country exudes the same rural appeal as the Italian countryside. A 50-mile drive west of Washington, D.C., Middleburg’s Goodstone Inn & Restaurant is open for secluded stays in its private cottages. Nearby wineries including Greenhill Vineyards, Boxwood Winery, and Stone Tower Winery are also welcoming guests.
6. Sonoma County, California
If you love: The lavender fields and rolling vineyards of Provence, France
Where to stay: Farmhouse Inn
You may be familiar with the wineries and dramatic coastline of California’s Sonoma County, but it’s also home to lavender farms that bloom each summer, like Monte-Bellaria di California (near Sebastopol) and Matanzas Creek Winery (in Santa Rosa). You’ll have a hard time convincing yourself you aren’t in the French Riviera. After a day outdoors in the fragrant fields, check into Forestville’s Farmhouse Inn. With only 25 rooms with private patios set among flowering gardens and a Michelin-starred restaurant with just 14 tables, this charming resort was practically invented for social distancing.
7. Grand Marais, Minnesota
If you love: Attractive lakeside villages in Sweden
Where to stay: Mayhew Inn
Opened in spring 2018, the hip Mayhew Inn is Grand Marais’s only boutique hotel. With just six artist-designed suites inside the brick building from the 1900s, the hotel has the feel of an Airbnb (unsurprisingly, its rooms are listed there, too). But your stay also comes with a few welcome amenities: free room cleaning, toiletries, and some of its custom coffee. For views of boats bobbing in the Lake Superior harbor, head up to the roof-deck.
8. Aspen, Colorado
If you love: Fresh mountain air and hiking in the Swiss Alps
Where to stay: The Little Nell
Set at the base of Aspen Mountain—and literally steps from the Silver Queen Gondola—the Little Nell easily has some of the most covetable real estate in town. It’s also Aspen’s only five-star, five-diamond property, which means you’ll be suitably spoiled.
9. Montauk, New York
If you love: Denmark’s blustery beaches and surfing towns
Where to stay: Marram
The Danish surfing hot spot Klitmøller—aka “Cold Hawaii”—may be a little too far away for the time being, but Montauk is just a three-hour drive from Manhattan: Bed down at Marram, a 96-room boutique hotel on the water south of Shadmoor State Park. Tackle the waves with world-class surfers via the hotel’s on-site Engstrom Surf school, or opt for something more low key, like a morning meditation or self-guided nature walk.
10. Catalina Island, California
If you love: The sunny beaches and sea breezes of the Greek Islands
Where to stay: Hotel Atwater
Matching Greece’s Mediterranean climate, Catalina Island is a short ferry ride from Newport Beach, Dana Point, Long Beach, or San Pedro. The newest accommodations can be found at Hotel Atwater—renovated in 2019—while guests who want to be on the sand should choose the Pavilion Hotel. For those looking for luxury, the six-room Mt Ada used to be the private island home of William Wrigley, Jr. (of chewing gum fame) and his wife Ada.
11. Vail, Colorado
If you love: The fairy-tale castles and mountain peaks of Germany’s Allgäu region
Where to stay: Sonnenalp Vail
Germany’s Allgäu in southern Bavaria is best known for Neuschwanstein, which is said to be the inspiration behind the castles in both Disney’s Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty movies. But instead of booking it to a theme park, head to the scenic mountain village of Vail. The chalet-style Sonnenalp Vail at its heart is actually owned and operated by the same family as the Sonnenalp in Germany. You won’t find a castle here, per se, but you will be treated like a princess—a Bavarian princess—with access to all of the German food you could imagine. Visit during Christmas when the town really feels like a picture-perfect European village, decorated with lights and a layer of snow. Oktoberfest is also the perfect time for some fun.
12. Calistoga, California
If you love: The Czech spa town Karlovy Vary
Where to stay: Calistoga Motor Lodge
The Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary may be a favorite for its thermal baths, but Calistoga, California, has equally impressive hot springs, plus mud baths, wineries, and more. Base your stay at the chic Calistoga Motor Lodge, a reimagined motel with three on-site mineral pools. After a day spent wine tasting or biking around town, the lodge’s MoonAcre Spa is the perfect place to unwind. Indulge in traditional treatments like massages and body scrubs or try something more unusual, like a locally inspired mud bath or a salt soak in a claw-foot tub.
If you love: The dramatic glaciers and fjords of Norway
Where to stay: Alyeska Resort
About an hour’s drive from Anchorage, the château-style Alyeska Resort comprises 300 rooms. Surrounded by majestic snowcapped peaks and creaking spruce trees, the hotel has the feel of an off-the-grid oasis without sacrificing any amenities. Among them? A 60-passenger scenic tram, which ascends 2,300 feet in elevation to the top of Mount Alyeska.
Tordrillo, a luxury lodge in the Tordrillo Range, requires a floatplane flight from Anchorage to reach, but once you’re there, activities—including climbing Alaska’s first via ferrata course and skiing in the morning and fishing for salmon at night—abound.
14. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
If you love: Germany’s Black Forest
Where to stay: Blackberry Mountain
Situated over 5,200 acres across eight miles of the Great Smoky Mountains’ protected ridgetop, Blackberry Mountain—sister property to wine-and-dining destination Blackberry Farm—pitches itself as “your own private national park.” With three on-site restaurants, a spa, fitness classes, and seemingly endless hikes, we’ll take it. It’s the perfect home base from which to explore the mountain range, which straddles the Tennessee-South Carolina border and is known for its stunning natural beauty and biodiversity.
15. Leavenworth, WA
If you love: German vibes in the heart of the Pacific Northwest
Where to stay: Posthotel Leavenworth
In 1960, Leavenworth’s town leaders, in a bid to attract tourists, completely reinvented the town and re-imagined it as a Bavarian village, inspired by its location in the Cascade Mountain Range (which they felt was reminiscent of the Alps). Today, Leavenworth is home to one of the most well-known and popular Oktoberfests in the U.S. And if you still haven’t had your fill of German culture after drinking an ice cold lager or two, consider a visit to the Nutcracker Museum and Gingerbread Factory afterwards.
This article was originally published in 2020; it was updated on September 8, 2023, with current information.