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7 Places in North America That Feel Like Europe

Discover European-inspired architecture, cuisine, and culture—all without leaving North America.

Hi, I'm Claire!

Claire Bullen is an award-winning food, drinks, and travel writer and editor who has lived and worked in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Paris, and London. She is the author of The Beer Lover's Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, and the editor at GoodBeerHunting.com. Her writing has also appeared in Time Out New York, The Daily Meal, Pellicle Magazine, and beyond.

Always wanted to visit Spain, plan a jaunt to Italy, or discover France—but less keen on the realities of planning a transatlantic trip? You’re in luck. These seven North American destinations may be thousands of miles from Europe, but their history, architecture, and culture feel decidedly Old World. Whether you want to discover California’s answer to Tuscany, practice your French in a city that could be Paris’ doppelganger, or immerse yourself in natural scenery that rivals Norway’s fjords, these spots will scratch that itch for a long-haul getaway—all without the long-haul flight.

1. Quebec City, Canada

The Fairmont in Quebec City in Canada on an early fall day.
The Fairmont in Quebec City looks straight out of Europe.Foto: mervas / Shutterstock

Visit one of North America’s earliest European settlements.

If it looks like France and sounds like France, then—nope, it still might not be France. But you’d be forgiven for the mix-up in Quebec City, which was founded by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1608. One of the first European settlements on the continent, Quebec’s history shows within the fortified heart of Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whether exploring the cobbled streets of the Lower Town on a walking tour, tasting French-inspired treats, or admiring sights like the Château Frontenac, you’ll find a city with a seriously Gallic sensibility.

2. Napa Valley, California

A vineyard in Napa Valley in California and the hills beyond.
Napa Valley's vineyards have a distinctly Italian feel.Foto: Michael Warwick / Shutterstock

Swap the Chianti for cabernet in California’s answer to Tuscany.

Imagine rolling golden hills punctuated by row upon row of grape vines, all offset by villas, wineries, and cypress trees. That vision may sound like Tuscany, but you don’t need to go to Italy when you can head to Napa Valley, California instead. Arguably the best-known wine region in the US, Napa has long drawn visitors with its striking scenery, world-class vino, and Michelin-starred restaurants. While you may notice that your sangiovese and montepulciano have been swapped for cabernet sauvignon and merlot, embarking on a wine tour is sure to resolve any complaints.

3. Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, Washington in winter with snow on the ski slopes.
Leavenworth in Washington feels straight out of Bavaria.Foto: Mark A Lee / Shutterstock

Don’t forget to pack your dirndl or lederhosen.

Quick—picture a Bavarian town. What do you see? Chocolate-box, half-timbered buildings? Snowy alpine peaks in the distance? The occasional dirndl or pair of lederhosen? If that sounds appealing, you can skip a trip to Germany and go instead to Leavenworth, Washington. Offset by the Cascade Mountains and featuring architecture inspired by Bavaria, Leavenworth also has a nutcracker museum, where more than 7,000 of the traditionally decorated tools are on display. And, if you wish to hoist a maß like you’re in Munich, Leavenworth is the place to go for its annual Oktoberfest celebrations.

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Wintertime walkers in downtown Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia is filled with brick-lined houses.Foto: Viator

Step into the Old World in Old City.

There are places in Philadelphia that couldn’t be anywhere else—the Rocky statue in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the skyscrapers of Center City, the hubbub of South Street. But venture into Old City on a walking tour and suddenly you could be in historical England. From its traditional taverns to its brick-lined streets, its quaint townhouses to landmarks like Independence Hall, this scenic section of the City of Brotherly Love may have been the birthplace of American independence—but it still looks a lot like the Old World.

5. Puebla, Mexico

A colorful street in Puebla in Mexico.
Puebla's historic center is UNESCO-listed.Foto: JackKPhoto / Shutterstock

Get to know Mexico’s most Spanish city.

If most of Mexico’s cities have Mesoamerican origins, then Puebla is a newcomer. Founded by Spanish colonizers in 1531, the city still retains a distinctly European sensibility—its UNESCO-listed historic center is particularly reminiscent of Spain. From buildings with ornamental facades to the soaring architecture of the Cathedral and the Convent Church of San Francisco, Puebla’s Old World scenery can be admired on a walking tour. Lest you think you’ve found yourself in Spain, going on a culinary excursion to sample the city’s signature dishes, such as mole poblano, will quickly remind you you’re in the land of tacos, not tapas.

6. Vail, Colorado

The ritzy resort town of Vail in Colorado in winter feels European.
Vail in Colorado has a distinctly Swiss atmosphere.Foto: Kevin Ruck / Shutterstock

Switzerland-quality skiing and scenery—and North American convenience.

Who needs the Matterhorn when you have the Rockies? From its chalet-style architecture to its soaring peaks, its enviable powder to its splashy après-ski scene, Vail, Colorado is North America’s answer to Switzerland. Winter is the high season in these lofty climes. So, if you’re only in town for a short time, book a premium ski rental service to hit the slopes without delay. But don’t neglect a summer visit—with activities including hiking, fishing, and mountain biking, this outdoorsy destination is a year-round favorite.

7. Gros Morne National Park, Canada

A fjord in Gros Morne National Park, Canada, on a summer's day.
Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland feels more than a little Norwegian.Foto: Clark Swimm / Shutterstock

Because Norway isn’t the only place to see spectacular fjords.

Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland is both a place unlike any other and an uncanny twin of Western Norway. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is unique for its association with continental drift and plate tectonics; there are places where ocean crust and mantle rocks can be viewed. But the Atlantic park is also known for its dramatic, glacier-carved fjords and moody setting, which would look perfectly fitting in Bergen or Trondheim.

More ways to explore Napa Valley

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