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11 Places in California That Feel Like Europe
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11 Places in California That Feel Like Europe

You don't need to leave the Golden State for European vibes. Check out these places in California that look like Europe!

Natasha Kouyoumjian

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6 min read

August 13, 2022

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

Dazzling the hearts of visitors and residents alike, California is full of mesmerizing spots and locations all around the state. With 482 cities spanning 900 miles near the Pacific, diverse flora and fauna, and a unique historic background, the state is practically forged into a world of its own.

In our modern day and age, vacations are must-have ventures to change the script a little and unwind. But the lockdowns caused by the pandemic – as well as rising inflation or flight delays – have contributed to opting for staycations instead. As loyal Californians, we attest to the power of places in California that evoke the feels of the swanky European vacation you’re anticipating.

1. Cherry Valley, Riverside

Feels like: Provence, France.

Transport yourself to France with a trip through Cherry Valley’s violet lavender fields. Bathe your eyes in the calming palette of the violet meadows, as the soothing fragrance of the California wildflowers gets you in the luxurious mood of Provence’s je ne sais quoi. Unwind and soak up the gentle experience from the comfort of your state, as you indulge in a little sightseeing around the valley’s stunning setting. If you’re looking to witness one of the most beautiful places in California, we recommend booking your trip between May and August to relish the perks of the picturesque blooming period. Pro tip: for the best Instagram shot, throwing on a faded green or a pink outfit would help bring out the best of the surrounding.

2. Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

A clifftop town sits on the port of this beautiful island in California.

Feels like: Portofino, Italy.

If you’re searching for places in California to visit and get the feel of Europe, get ready to be mind-blown as you find Italy right at your doorstep. Unquestionably one of the best sites in California resembling Europe, you’ll be hearing echoes of Andrea Boccelli as you sulk in the spellbinding ambiance of the cliff-top town on Santa Catalina Island’s pier in the Channel Islands. Setting foot on this isle after a charming ferry ride is the perfect depiction of its identity and charisma — right on arrival.

Take in the energy of the locals as they roam around in golf carts going about their day, and bask in the laid-back vibes of the city as the thought of moving here permanently lures in. While tourists are not encouraged to drive automobiles, renting a golf cart for a day trip can be the perfect means to explore the island as you find your love in the Golden State’s treasure — Santa Catalina.

3. Cielo Farms, Malibu

Bask under the Malibu sun, as you soak up the Tuscany sunset vibes merging from the grapevines.

Feels like: Tuscany, Italy.

If you’re coming from L.A., this spot is the ultimate romantic rendezvous destination to enjoy with your partner. With farms of vineyards on one side and a view of Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate available within a glance, this place in California will transport you to the grapevine fields of Tuscany. As you surrender to the feels of this breathtaking setting, lavish the warm breeze as it arrives from the midst of the Santa Monica Mountains, carrying the scent of the damp Mediterranean soil.

4. Venice, Los Angeles

The beauty of LA Venice, is your free ticket to Europe.

Feels like: Venice, Italy.

Established in 1905, this place in California is a man-made canal spurring the feels of Italy’s Venice canals. Although L.A. can be one of the exotic places in California, escaping the ebullient city to visit this hidden California gem will quench the luscious European feels you are craving. Enjoy a chic time admiring the glamorous architecture from your tranquil gondola ride, as the precious voice of the gondolier singing opera ferries you all the way to Venice.

5. Balboa Park, San Diego

You’ll feel like you’re in a Spanish movie, walking around the Alcazar Gardens in the famous Balboa Park.

Feels like: Alcazar Castle, Seville, Spain.

Get a load of breathtaking gardens, museums, theaters, and incredible buildings as you spend a day in this San Diego gem, Balboa Park. But if you are thirsty for the European feels, you’ll find the Alcazar Gardens to be one of the most fun places in California. Modeled after the Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain, spending time in this garden will leave you feeling as though you’ve taken a trip to the birthplace of flamenco.

6. Mission Inn, Riverside

Get the feels of the European Castles as you witness this majestic Inn, in Riverside California.

Feels like: Spanish castles.

Showcasing ravishing Spanish Colonial-style architecture, this historic Riverside gem is one of the places in California that can enrapture you with the European feels. This northern California Mission is a gentle mixture of Spanish Gothic and Mission Revival-style design that will enchant you into thinking you’ve arrived in Europe. Romantic archways, the spiraling rotunda, and its out-of-this-world architecture will whisk you afar to a European castle. Make sure to catch a glimpse of the outstanding Spanish patio and the hotel’s special collection of imported relics in their unique museum. 

7. Big Sur, Central Coast

Enjoy the green landscapes of the mountains and the deep blue hue of the Big Sur beach.

Feels like: Greece.

Stunning sights of the landscapes, lush flora and fauna, and an overtaking coastal view breaking from the side of the cliff will transport you straight to the Greek islands. Lounge in the vigorous Mediterranean vibes as you drive around the coast of Big Sur. Let the captivating green mountains, deep rocky cliffs, and the resonant blue tones of the Central California coastal towns traverse you to the Greek isles, as you imagine the old philosophers and the melodic sound of the language starts ringing in your ears. Don’t miss out on the outstanding McWay Falls cascading abundantly onto the sandy beach.

8. Carmel-by-the-Sea

The quaint cottages and the architecture of Carmel-by-the-Sea will transport you to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Feels like: Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England.

After driving by the bewildering marvels of Big Sur, arriving in Carmel-by-the-Sea will feel like a fairy tale. Leaving behind Socrates and Aristotle, and surrendering to the Greek philosophy of following your “kefi,” relish the vibes of Stratford-upon-Avon of the Shakespearean frame. With its fairy-tale architecture, village-like galleries, little shops, and restaurants, this coastal town will carry you straight to the English cottage feels. Enjoy the surrealism of this place in California as you move from England to the Monterey peninsula from one moment to the next.

9. The Getty Villa, Los Angeles

The Getty Villa will bring your inner divinity to life, as you walk past the white column of the open corridors.

Feels like: Greece.

If you have a bucket list for L.A. attractions, be sure to include The Getty Villa on it. This Greek-Roman antiquity is set amid gorgeous gardens, with beautiful open corridors of white columns, and is home to 7,000 years of ancient art. Featuring European artworks from medieval times, embrace a cultural experience as you soak up the Ancient European vibes luring you to Villa Dei Papiri in Herculaneum. Get your cameras ready to snap the moment your divinity comes to life.

10. Solvang, Santa Barbara

Enjoy the Danish-style architecture in the Solvang Village in Santa Barbara County.

Feels like: Copenhagen, Denmark.

A little piece of Denmark is nestled in this beautiful town of Santa Barbara County. Founded by Danish immigrants in 1911, Solvang is one of the places in California that will give you Europe feels you’ve been longing for. A charming Danish windmill and freshly painted half-timber architecture will greet you as you make your way to town. Be sure to check out a perfect replica of the Little Mermaid — Copenhagen’s bronze statue dedicated to its famous Danish author Hans Christian Anderson. With the delicious smells coming from the Solvang bakeries and the almond kringle, you’ll be exploring Denmark without setting a foot there.

11. Temecula, Riverside

With its architecture and plenitude of vineyards, Temecula will take you to the deep end of Southern Spain.

Feels like: Southern Spain.

Known to host some of Southern California’s largest vineyards, Temecula is one of the top places that will feel like Europe. Of all the places in California, Temecula will transport you to Southern Spain as you explore the vineyards and Spanish-influence buildings of this old-world town. Enjoy nature’s bearings as you pick fruits off the trees, and savor the farm-to-table luxury this unique town offers.



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