Most people don’t realize how much of Europe can be found in America. Until recent years, even I wasn’t aware of just how much. The United States is a melting pot and today, many of its communities continue the rich culture of their European settlers. From authentic food to architecture and cultural activities, I asked fellow travel experts to help me show you where to find Europe in America!
Europe in America
As I have only been to a few of these communities personally, I asked other travel experts to chime in on their personal experiences with finding Europe in America. They came through with these epic locations!
Leavenworth, Washington for Germany
Contributed by Dave Anderson from Jones Around The World
Photo by Dave Anderson
Located a scenic 90-minute drive from downtown Seattle is the charming Bavarian-styled village of Leavenworth, Washington. With a plethora of German restaurants serving up delicious pretzels and sausages, incredible outdoor beer gardens, and boutique souvenir shops lined with German/Bavaria flags, you’ll feel like you’ve somehow teleported to downtown Munich.
While a visit to Leavenworth is incredible any time of the year, the most notable would be to experience the city’s own Oktoberfest celebrations or to soak up the holiday spirit during their iconic Christmas Markets. Just make sure to plan in advance as the majority of hotels and Leavenworth Airbnb rentals get booked up quite quickly!
Although the town is very small, you could easily spend days exploring everything that Leavenworth has to offer. Most importantly – German food! You can’t leave without trying a sausage from the iconic Munchen Haus Bavarian Grill and Beer Garden. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, be sure to walk down the street to the Whistlepunk Ice Cream Co for an unbelievably tasty waffle cone.
Lastly, make sure to work off some of those calories by enjoying a lovely stroll through the Waterfront Park. This will provide some amazing views of the surrounding scenery, wildlife, and even provides swimming opportunities during the warmer summer months. A visit to Leavenworth is guaranteed to be enjoyed by all travelers as it truly does offer something for everyone!
Elk Horn, Iowa for Denmark
Windmill in restoration during my visit in 2018
Located roughly an hour west of Des Moines, the rural town of Elk Horn, Iowa is home to the largest Danish settlement in the United States. Talk about Europe in America! The tiny town of approximately 600 is the neighbor of another small Danish town, Kimballton. Together, the pair attracts visitors with ancestral connections from all over the world seeking Danish culture. Yes, they are even known in Denmark!
The icon of the town is the 60-foot-tall 1848 Danish Windmill. Imported in 1976 from Norre Snede, Denmark, it is the only authentic, operating Danish windmill in America. Nearby, tourists will also find a replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue along with a bust of Hans Christian Andersen. Tour the Museum of Danish America to see facts significant to the Danish immigration story.
In Elk Horn where nearly half the population is of direct Danish descent, there are plenty of attractions such as the Tivoli Festival in the spring, tasting Danish wines at the Danish Countryside Vines and Wines, and even a family history and genealogy center. Don’t forget to have an authentic Danish meal at The Danish Table during your visit!
Boston, Massachusetts for England
Contributed by Tegan & Alex from Why Not Walk Travel Guides
Photos by Tegan & Alex
Marvel at Federalist-style buildings, meandering cobblestone-and-brick streets, and a mix of old-meets-new. Everywhere you look, no one would blame you for thinking you’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the British Isles. In fact, you have found Europe in America in Boston, Massachusetts!
One of the oldest American cities, Boston was of course a British city first, and much of its period architecture and urban design reflects this. The Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States, is modeled on the English “green” style of outdoor space. Additionally, many period churches and buildings closely resemble their British counterparts.
Explore 16 of Boston’s historic sites, many of which are intimately tied to British history. Boston’s Freedom Trail and historic neighborhoods like Beacon Hill and the South End, with their beautiful Georgian and Victorian row houses, will transport you to Chelsea or even Notting Hill in London.
Today, just like the Shard and Gherkin towers rise above the Thames River, the John Hancock and Prudential towers rise above the Charles River. As one of the few American major cities not built on any sort of a grid system, Boston’s maze-like streets mirror their hectic London counterparts, much to the chagrin of residents of both cities!
For a taste of the United Kingdom right here in Boston, try one of the city’s many English and Irish pubs. A particular favorite is The Black Rose, which serves delicious Guinness on tap and has live music every night.
Luckily, you can visit both Boston and London year-round. However, Boston is particularly lovely to visit in winter. Winters here are much milder than the rest of the region due to Boston’s coastal location. Just be sure to pack those layers!
Lastly, while Boston is wonderful to visit all year, one weekend perhaps to avoid (unless you are participating in the related festivities) is the weekend of the Boston Marathon. The Marathon is an absolute blast but lodging and restaurants get booked months in advance. Much of the city and public transport is closed for safety reasons the day of the race making non-Marathon tourism very challenging.
La Jolla, California for Italy
Contributed by Maria Haase from San Diego Explorer
Photo by Maria Haase
La Jolla, just north of sunny San Diego, has more in common with Italy than just the sunny weather. The cliffs, caves, and rugged coastline resemble the stunning coastline of the Amalfi coast in Italy. The weather, the landscape, the palm trees, the winding narrow streets with little shops, boutiques, and restaurants also give La Jolla this sophisticated, yet laid back Mediterranean feeling.
Speaking of restaurants, La Jolla has some of the most amazing Italian restaurants in San Diego, even better than in Little Italy. Sicilia Bella is one of the best Italian restaurants in La Jolla. The owners are from Sicily and share authentic Sicilian fare in a restaurant/deli store setting, also selling imported goods from Italy. Simple food that speaks to the soul.
In January 2020, La Jolla also hosted its first Italian Film Festival, showcasing Italian films that capture the culture of Italy. The curator, Giuseppe Annino, helped to organize the Italian Film Festival in Little Italy and has now brought a rendition of it to La Jolla.
To soak up the Mediterranean atmosphere, walk along the coast from La Jolla Cove all the way to Windandsea Beach. There are great photo opportunities along the way, especially during sunset. Another stunning spot is Scripps Pier on La Jolla Shores beach, a very popular photo spot in La Jolla.
Frankenmuth, Michigan for Germany
Contributed by Sherry Trautman from Traveling Michigan
Photo by Sherry Trautman
To get a taste of Germany, visit the quaint town of Frankenmuth located in southeast Michigan. Often called Michigan’s Little Bavaria, this town brings thousands of visitors each year to wander the cheese houses, handmade leather stores, and fudge shops while stopping to watch the famous Glockenspiel performance at the Bavarian Inn.
This free performance holds visitors spellbound as they watch the story of the Pied Piper of Hameln. The Glockenspiel Tower was imported from Germany and houses 35 bells!
Frankenmuth’s history was due to a German missionary named Frederick Wyneken who was serving throughout the states of Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. He suffered many hardships in these regions and in 1840, he penned a letter to several Lutheran pastors in Germany asking for help.
His plea struck the heartstrings of Wilhelm Loehe, pastor of a small church in the Kingdom of Bavaria. Mr. Loehe researched the area and recommended they begin a settlement in Michigan, along the Cass River. The new settlement was named Frankenmuth with the German word “Franken” representing the Province of Franconia in the Kingdom of Bavaria, and the German word “Muth” which means courage.
Of course, while visiting Frankenmuth, be sure to enjoy a traditional Bavarian meal at the Bavarian Inn. Even though the menu is expansive, the overwhelming favorite is the fried chicken dinner with all the sides. This charming restaurant has colorful Bavarian décor and the servers dress in traditional German clothing. This includes lederhosen, suspenders, and feathers in their hats (for the men) and long dresses (for the women).
Solvang, California for Denmark
Contributed by Sophia Bawany from Fly Eat and Repeat
Photo by Sophia Bawany
When thinking of Danish towns a few specific images come to mind. Tiled roofs, horses, bakeries, and the smell of pine trees. You can experience the best of Europe in America in Solvang, a stunningly traditional Danish village just 1.5 hours outside of Los Angeles.
Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, even the name sounds like it comes straight from overseas! When you drive into the town, you will feel as you’ve been transported to Europe by all the beautiful buildings. Most of the locals will confirm that this picturesque town is a dream to walk around especially during the holidays.
Don’t let the small-town feel fool you, this town has some amazing international food options. If you are craving some delicious Italian fare stop by Osteria Grappolo for some authentic, mouthwatering fare. True to its Danish inspirations, the bakeries are not to be missed. Enjoy delicious pastries and streusels from one of the many bakeries that line the streets.
If you really want to get a true European feel, we suggest you visit September-December so you can enjoy beautiful weather while walking along the main street. Before you set out to enjoy the town, please note many of the eateries close around 9 pm but do take reservations for the ease of guests. So…to see a windmill, grab a pastry, drink great coffee, and see thatched roofs all in one place? Yes, Solvang is for you!
Cape May, New Jersey for England
Contributed by Stella Jane from Around the World in 24 Hours
Photo by Stella Jane
Cape May, New Jersey is the best place to visit if you want to feel carried away to Victorian England. Europe in America at its finest, Cape May is one of the oldest seaside resorts in the United States and home to one of the most amazing collections of Victorian architecture in the world.
A visitor to Cape May could spend several days exploring all of the gorgeous building styles such as Queen Anne. The Emlyn Physick House is even open for visitors to explore, so travelers can see the interior of a Victorian building.
There are several historical links between Cape May and England. The first European to visit Cape May was English explorer Henry Hudson and New Jersey was previously an English colony. Cape May keeps its English traditions alive with events like Victorian Weekend where you can dress up as an elegant swell from London to participate in events like a classic British murder mystery game.
The best English meal to experience in Cape May is definitely afternoon tea. Many Victorian buildings are now home to bed and breakfasts like the Angel of the Sea, where tea and pastries are complimentary if you are a guest. The Harrison offers a proper Victorian Traditional Afternoon Tea as well, complete with delicious scones.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California for Spain
Contributed by Dhara from Roadtripping California
Photo by Dhara
Carmel-by-the-Sea, a little coastal village in central California, has a distinctly European vibe! In keeping with its history, the architecture is mainly Spanish though you will find architecture from other European places as well.
In the 16th century, it was Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who got the first glimpse of Carmel’s sandy beaches and shoreline of Monterey cypresses. However, another Spanish explorer, Sebastian Vizcaino, was the first to land in Carmel in 1602. He found the river flowing through the valley and called it “Rio Carmelo.”
Carmel’s mission, the second mission built in California by the Spanish, was founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1771. It is one of the most beautiful missions in California and still retains its original dome and bell towers. A visit to the mission, its museum, and gardens is a must when you visit Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Other than the mission, there is also a Carmelite monastery that visitors can tour. Additionally, while walking around the charming village, you will find lots of Spanish architecture accented with gorgeous, colorful tiles.
There are lots of Spanish-style passageways and courtyards lined with bougainvillea and other creepers, reminiscent of Andalusia in Southern Spain. Walking around Carmel-by-the-Sea definitely is Europe in America!
Helen, Georgia for Germany
Contributed by Margie from DQ Family Travel
Photo by Margie
Helen, Georgia is a small town just over an hour away from Atlanta. The very essence of Europe in America, it feels as though you have traveled to a Bavarian alpine town, yet it’s in the United States.
Surprisingly, Helen was not founded by German immigrants. In 1969, three businessmen wanted to revitalize this small town and attract tourists to stop in before heading north to the mountains. One of the men was inspired by his recent trip through Bavaria and when he sent the sketches of what the downtown could look like, it was received with excitement. Alpine Helen was born!
Among the best things to do in Helen, GA are to take a stroll around the downtown streets for some unique pictures throughout the main street, go shopping for handmade crafts and local goods, and grab some delicious German food with a pint. Helen boasts many German and Austrian food choices like schnitzel, brats, pretzels, potato salad, spaetzle, and a large variety of German-style beer.
There is no “bad” time to visit Helen. If you enjoy summertime activities, tubing down the Chattahoochee River is quite popular. Also, the outdoor hiking trails and waterfalls are just a few minutes north at Unicoi State Park.
The fall brings loads of tourists to celebrate their annual Octoberfest, which is one of the largest in the country. The holiday season is also a great time to visit as the town decorates with wreaths, lights, and a huge Christmas tree in the main square.
Belgium, Wisconsin for Luxembourg
Contributed by Paulina Rubia from Paulina On The Road
Photo by Paulina Rubia
Belgium is a small village in Wisconsin with a population of 2,210 people. Located in Ozaukee County, it offers residents a suburban rural mix environment with many owning their own homes. People call it “America’s new Luxembourg” because it was formerly one of the largest agglomerations of Luxembourgish people in Wisconsin.
Today the international Luxembourg American Culture Centre and Association have their seat there. Moreover, it has the largest population of people of Luxembourg heritage in the United States. The place completely makes you feel like you are in Luxembourg, Europe. A true Europe in America experience!
You may wonder why a town called Belgium is home to Luxembourgers. In the 1800s, Belgium was a part of Luxembourg, Europe. That region was called the Belgian Luxembourg. Hence when immigrants from that area moved to Wisconsin, they called the town “Belgium”.
Later on, that region was cut off from Luxembourg and attributed to Belgium. You can feel the Luxembourgish routes implanted within the village along with its flags that wave throughout the village. Visitors can also live the traditional Luxembourg fest celebrated annually. It’s a huge reunion of all descendants of Luxembourgish emigrants, a day where all families meet in the town of Belgium.
Belgium is a heritage filled with history, rich culture, and recreation options. If you want to make your trip to Belgium memorable by having Luxembourgish food, visit the local restaurants like Kyote’s Bar and Grill. Along with the food, you can also enjoy Wisconsin’s Ethnic Trail in the village by walking or cycling. Find yourself a pet-friendly cabin in Wisconsin to enjoy the trail and Luxembourgish food with your pet.
Fredericksburg, Texas for Germany
Contributed by Kate Storm of Lone Star Travel Guide
Photo by Kate Storm
In the mid-19th century, a group of German settlers made their way to the Texas Hill Country, bringing with them traditions, foods, and architecture that survives in the town of Fredericksburg, Texas today!
Named for the then-Prince Frederick of Prussia, Fredericksburg has held tightly onto its German roots throughout the last 150 years. Not only is the local cathedral painted in a German-style and the town covered in German restaurants but an estimated 10% of the town’s residents still speak some “Texas-German”, a dialect that was developed after German settlers came to Texas.
There are plenty of fun things to do in Fredericksburg but indisputably, the most popular include eating and drinking. The world-famous Texas barbecue has its roots in the smoked meats of 19th-century German and Czech settlers. This is on full display in Fredericksburg where you can stop just about anywhere to eat a schnitzel while drinking a German beer. Just don’t be surprised if the bratwurst is accented with jalapeños!
As Fredericksburg is located in the heart of Texas wine country, visiting a vineyard or two definitely deserves to be a part of any visit. Equally deserving is hiking the famous Enchanted Rock and touring the Pioneer Museum to learn about the original German settlers. Additionally, visit the historic St. Mary’s Catholic Church, shop for antiques in the Warehouse District, or browse the boutiques and art galleries along Main Street for the full Fredericksburg experience!
Tarpon Springs, Florida for Greece
Contributed by Lori Sorrentino from Travlin Mad
Photo by Lori Sorrentino
If you’re longing for sun-bleached beaches, fresh seafood, and the Mediterranean feel of Greece but don’t want to leave the States, head to Tarpon Springs, Florida, where Greek culture is alive and well!
At the turn of the 20th century, sponge divers from Greece brought their industry to this tiny fishing village off the west coast of Florida, and their families and culture followed suit. Today, Tarpon Springs is one of the most unique places to visit in the Sunshine State.
Sponge diving was the first form of underwater diving and conditions in this part of Florida were perfect for harvesting the abundance of sea sponges that grow in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. While synthetic sponges are mostly used today, natural sea sponges are still harvested here and treasured around the world.
Visitors to Tarpon Springs can spend a few days exploring the charming downtown including the sponge docks, shops filled with all shapes and sizes of sea sponges, and delicious restaurants serving up traditional Greek specialties. Hellas is everyone’s favorite restaurant for great food, and their separate bakery next door will have you camped out for hours devouring delectable Greek pastries.
Depending on when you visit, there’s sure to be a local festival or cultural tradition to enjoy but just spending the day immersed in this unique culture is some of the most fun you can have in Tarpon Springs.
St. Augustine, Florida for Spain
Contributed by Ruby Escalona from Voyage Florida
Photo by Ruby Escalona
St Augustine, Florida is the first continuously inhabited European settlement in the continental United States. When the Spaniards first colonized Florida, St Augustine was their base and set up the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas as part of their defense system as the Spaniards grew their city.
The rest of the historic town was meant to look like Spain, with the oldest schoolhouse (now a tourist site) still standing. Developers from the 1920s, like Henry Flagler, built hotels that gathered inspiration from the Spanish roots of the city. What is now known as the Lightner Museum and Flagler College is one such example that can still be visited today.
There are reenactments and daily cannons firing from the Castillo de San Marcos and Founders Day is also a big event commemorating the founding of the city. The Fountain of Youth is a big park where its namesake was rumored to have been located. Although plenty have tried the water, it appears it’s not the right spot for everlasting life.
St George’s Street is the main drag where a majority of the tourist sites, restaurants, and souvenir shops are located. It connects the Castillo de San Marcos to Flagler College to the other end, making it an easy walk from one spot to another.
Holland, Michigan for The Netherlands
Contributed by Anjali Wadhwa from Cheerful Trails
Staying true to its namesake city in the Netherlands, Holland is a town in Michigan inspired by the Dutch’s heritage and traditions. Enormous tulip farmlands with towering windmills showcase the exceptional landscape beauty that seems to be straight out of a Dutch village in The Netherlands.
Holland is also popularly known for the Tulip Time festival. It is a nine-day festival held annually during the spring season to celebrate the Dutch’s history and traditions. While admiring the gorgeous flora, visitors can enjoy various games, flower shows, amusement rides, costume shows, Dutch cuisines, and parades held here throughout the festive season.
Another attraction such as the Nelis Dutch village gives you an authentic journey through the medieval Dutch house decors, cheese tastings, and canals. You can also visit the historic windmill that is about 250 years old and is located on the picturesque Windmill Island Gardens.
Holland’s real charm lies in its relaxed atmosphere, which together with its gloriously preserved medieval center and lakeside beaches, makes for an unforgettable getaway. To learn about the Dutch’s significant history in Holland, you can visit the Holland Museum which is filled with tale-telling artifacts and antiques.
Savannah, Georgia for Ireland
Contributed by Erin Clarkson from Savannah First-Timer’s Guide
Photo by Erin Clarkson
If you’ve ever strolled through the streets of Dublin, Ireland, then you know it’s filled with historic architecture, charming shops, and delicious cafes. Savannah, Georiga looks very similar and the city actually has a large Irish population. Many of those Irish immigrants arrived in Savannah in the early 1800s due to the tragic Irish Potato Famine.
As a result, Savannah frequently celebrates its Irish roots. The city is known for hosting the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day festival in the United States! The event lasts for weeks, and more than half a million people join the celebration by attending the parade and partying down on River Street.
A few of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities you’ll find around the city include the Savannah Irish Festival, the Celtic Cross Ceremony, and the popular Greening of the Fountain (where the water in Forsyth Fountain goes green for the majority of the month of March).
Much like the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Savannah has its own can’t-miss cathedral. During St. Patrick’s week festivities, head to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for the Mass of the Feast of St. Patrick.
If you’re in the mood for pub food (or a pint), head to O’Connell’s, Murphy’s Law, or Molly MacPhersons. Savannah is one of only a handful of cities in America with a liberal open container law, so visitors can grab a “to-go cup” at these popular Irish pubs to sip on while strolling through the Historic District.
Pretty amazing, right? There are so many places to find Europe in America to obtain an international feel on a domestic trip. An even brighter note? It’s much more cost-effective as well!
Which one of the destinations on this list would you head to first? Have you been to any of them? Are there any I need to add to this list? Share your tips below!
‘Til next time…