( CNN) The notion of postcard-perfect villages immersed in Old World charm has inspired centuries of travelers to fan out across Europe, seeking its secluded hamlets.
As a result, the continent’s scenic spots rarely remain concealed for long. It doesn’t take much to make a charming village feel uncomfortably popular. Hold the five fishing villages that make up Italy’s Cinque Terre, where an evening summertime saunter often is like shuffling through a packed amusement park, complete with overpriced restaurants and souvenir shops.
The first requirement of a beautiful village is a scenic locating, whether among the Norwegian fjords or the sun-splashed Greek isles. But the finest also have distinctive features like the plaza ringed with high-gabled pastel faades in Tel, Czech Republic, or the unforgettable Victorian castle rising above the thatched roofs of Cong, Ireland.