A friendly smile and wave requires minimal effort, but it’s a powerful gesture, especially when someone feels out of place. Taking advantage of this gesture, these small towns around the world have been named the Friendliest Small Towns Outside the United States—don’t miss our readers’ picks for Friendliest Cities Inside the US, too! With amazing cities to choose from from around the world, discover what makes these cities stand out for our readers.
1. Banff, Canada (winner)
Nestled in the Canadian Rocky Mountains in western Alberta you will find the charming town of Banff. The city lies entirely within the boundaries of Banff National Park, with its 2,300 square miles of rugged alpine wilderness and is a great home base for further exploration of the region’s many natural wonders. Arrive by car via the Trans-Canada Highway or by rail, giving you even more freedom to enjoy the scenic drive into town.
Walk down Banff Avenue and shop in the many boutiques that line this busy thoroughfare. Stop by for a pastry at JK Bakery & Cafe, eat a hearty meal at Chuck’s Steakhouse, then pause for a drink at Banff Ave Brewing Company, where the beer is brewed using water from the nearby glacial runoff.
Explore the work of local artists in the city’s many galleries, view the work and collections of other well-known artists at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, or experience the enriching artworks of Canada’s indigenous people at the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum.
For outdoor fun there is something to do in every season. Enjoy a soothing swim at Banff Upper Hot Springs, where Sulfur Mountain’s natural hot spring water is available year-round. Winters are great for snowshoeing and skiing in the nearby mountains, while summers offer beautiful hiking trails and rock climbing. The residents of Banff look forward to welcoming you to this year’s friendliest small town, so start planning your trip soon!
2. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Not to be confused with its upstream neighbor, Niagara Falls, this historic Ontario city sits on the shore of Lake Ontario and across the Niagara River from upstate New York. Day trips to Niagara Falls and Toronto are no problem at all, 30 minutes and 2 hours away respectively. But once you’re in town, you honestly won’t have a reason to leave because this unassuming Ontario city has plenty to keep your time occupied.
While the US and Canada are strong allies today, they were not always so. Pass through the gates of the imposing Fort George, which held the city’s US neighbors to the east at bay during the War of 1812.
The lush and fertile land surrounding Niagara-on-the-Lake has allowed many vineyards to thrive here. Sample the sweet taste of a Canadian Icewine in Inniskillin or one of the other many local wineries that produce this special late-season harvest. Niagara-On-The-Lake has over 25 different wineries, making this friendly city a fantastic getaway for the wine lover in your life.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is known for the Shaw Festival, a nearly year-long festival celebrating the life of Bernard Shaw through theater. Celebrate its 60th season with us Damn Yankees, The urgency to be seriousor any of the other great shows planned for 2022.
3. Positano, Italy
Drive an hour and a half south of Naples and you’ll find yourself in the quaint town of Positano on the Amalfi Coast. The city is literally carved into the side of the Lattari Mountains, with sheer cliffs overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea in some parts of the city.
Stroll the serpentine streets and marvel at the colorful hues of the buildings that surround you. Shop for a handcrafted pair of leather sandals at a local boutique, then sip an espresso at a sidewalk cafe.
After eating and shopping your way around town, make your way to Spiaggia Grande, a beautiful and popular beach. Or, for a more intimate setting, plan a visit to one of the area’s other beaches like Laurito Beach. This beach is more secluded and less crowded as it is mainly accessible by boat. Soak up the sun and enjoy the refreshing chill of Italian water.
4. Lucca, Italy
The north-central Italian city of Lucca is located in the culturally and geographically rich region of Tuscany. Lucca lies at the foot of the Apuan Alps along a gentle plain. Enjoy a walk along the ramparts of the old city center, marvel at the numerous towers that rise around you and mark the time with one of the beautiful bell towers.
Stroll along Via Fillungo, a historic street that runs through the city center and is lined with old churches, shops and cafes. Come and experience the history and culture of this picturesque corner of Tuscany.
5. Lueneburg, Canada
The coasts of coastal Nova Scotia are lined with quaint seaside fishing villages. If you have to pick just one of these charming towns to visit, choose Lunenburg. The city itself has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is literally an international treasure. Visit the colorful waterfront and marvel at the historic buildings, some dating back to the 17th century, that line your path. While in town, learn the history of the local fishing and shipbuilding industries that have made this town prosperous.
Lunenburg is more than just historic buildings; You can also enjoy the modern boutiques and restaurants in town. Visit the Ironworks Distillery for a sample of their spirits, then enjoy a tour of the facilities. Or head to Lunenburg County Winery for a bottle of blueberry wine before spending an afternoon picking blueberries in late summer or early fall.
6. Montalcino, Italy
Not to be confused with near neighbor Montepulciano to the east, Montalcino is a hilltop town overlooking the valleys of the surrounding Tuscan region. The streets are lined with medieval architecture, including the historic 14th-century fortress.
In October, visit the annual Festival of Thrushes: enjoy roasted thrushes alongside many other regional foods and wines while enjoying a costume parade and music. Secure tickets to the Longbow Festival and experience a piece of Montalcino history.
7. Giethoorn, Netherlands
Known as the Venice of the North, Giethoorn is connected by a series of canals and bridges rather than roads. While the city has some roads, namely those that connect the city with the rest of the Netherlands, getting around the city itself is done by boat, bicycle or on foot.
Giethoorn is also known for the historic thatched roofs that adorn many of its houses and shops. Rent a bike and cycle leisurely along the canals and over the bridges. If you want to learn more about the history of the region, visit Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus. Without the stress of traffic to contend with, it’s no surprise that this city is on a list of the friendliest in the world.
8. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a must-see ski resort on the northern slopes of the Bavarian Alps. Visit Garmisch-Classic, where skiers of all skill levels will find a slope to suit their ability. Or stroll through the charming town with its intricately carved wooden houses adorned with beautiful balconies and blooming geraniums.
Just an hour and a half from Munich and an hour’s drive from Innsbruck, Austria, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is remote enough to be a retreat, yet accessible from major city centers.
9. St Ives, England
St Ives is a modern seaside town near the southern tip of England in Cornwall. Known for its sandy beaches and arts scene, St Ives is a holiday destination for many in southern England. Stroll the cobblestone streets on your way to the port. Upon arrival in port, enjoy a day of sand and sun, and cool off in the refreshing waters of the Celtic Sea. Then, cruise to nearby Seal Island on a boat tour to enjoy the local wildlife. When you’re ready to call it a day, order a pint and stay at the Sloop Inn, one of Cornwall’s oldest inns.
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