I love the history and importance of great cities around the world, but my favorite travel experiences are often in small towns. Here are three reasons why small towns can offer better travel experiences.
1. Easier to explore in-depth
Case study: Bacharach, Germany. The smaller a town is, the easier it is to understand, appreciate, and fall in love with. Bacharach, Germany is a tiny medieval burg of only about 2,000 people. But even though it’s small, it has a storied past complete with wine merchants, river tolls, military occupation, a ritual murder, and a secret royal marriage between feuding houses. It’s easy to take the time to explore deeper in such a small town because there are fewer things competing for attention. We examined every nook and cranny of Bacharach’s hilltop castle, surveyed the layout of the land from the old city walls, and wondered over the Wernerkappel ruins.
But perhaps what I love most about exploring a place more in depth is that it makes the history come alive in a way that’s magical. These are the places that drive wanderlust.
*Read more about Bacharach, Germany including its scenic landscape, half-timbered charm, and 15th century church that has sat in ruins for hundreds of years.
2. More likely to meet locals
Case study: Chepstow, Wales. I like to chat with locals whenever I get the chance, whether they’re my taxi driver, hotelier, or someone I met on the road. It’s like getting a glimpse into a foreign world with the help of an expert. In Chepstow, Wales we stayed at a wonderful little BnB run by a lovely couple Jan and Glyn. It was a small town (less than 15,000), and a small BnB (only a few rooms), which allowed them to give us a very personal experience. Glyn in particular gave us a great recommendation for a local pub, and things to explore while we were in town. He also shared a wealth of knowledge including old Welsh adages, like, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”
As we backpacked from Chepstow we also met a wonderful couple while hitchhiking who after having picked us up and taking us to the nearest train station, invited us over for tea the next time we were in town.
Meeting locals enriches the experience of that place and invariably leads to some of my most memorable experiences.
Case study: Chenonceaux, France. Fine dining is something of a splurge for us when we travel, and we usually will wait until we are in a small town, because the prices are so much more affordable. In Chenonceaux, a commune of less than 400, we ate an incredibly delicious and typically French multi course meal for a fraction of the cost of a similar dinner in Paris. Accommodation was nearly half the price of our inexpensive Parisian go-to as well. But perhaps the best bang for our buck (or rather Euro) was when we purchased an enormous baguette for less than 1 Euro right before we left town. The baguette lasted us a few days and countless Nutella sandwiches and snacks.
The great thing about spending less money by spending more time in small towns is it potentially enables travelers to lengthen trips, or at the very least reduce stress.
*Read more about Chenonceaux, France including its gardens, forests, and incredible château that spans the river Le Cher.
— Laura Rowley