Six places to visit in Europe for fairytale creatures

Six places to visit in Europe for fairytale creatures

Europe is brim-full of stories of fairytale creatures. Here are some places you can visit, to try and catch a glimpse of these elusive beasties.

Norway – trolls

Stegastein viewpoint

In Norse mythology, trolls are cave-dwelling creatures who live in social groups. Some accounts describe them as slow but dangerous beasts, which turn to stone on contact with sunlight. Others say they are harmless, but shy, and choose to live as far away as possible from humans.

These days, they’re a popular emblem of the Scandinavian nations. You’ll find slightly gormless-looking interpretations of the troll in every tourist gift shop in Norway. But there are plenty of places in Norway where you could imagine real trolls living. For instance, if you take the funicular 320m up to the top of Bergen’s Mount Fløyen, walk past the replica trolls at the Trollskogen clearing and out into the wooded wilderness beyond, it’s easy to imagine those big-nosed beasties are peering at you, from the undergrowth….


Finland – Moomins


Of course, Norway isn’t the only country to claim that trolls haunt its forests and mountains. These fairytale creatures are also native to Finland. But children’s writer and illustrator Tove Jansson dreamed up a variant: the Moomintroll. In her charming stories, Moominmamma, Moominpappa, Moomintroll, Snork Maiden and a host of other characters live together, occasionally battling adversity. They always end up together, usually over a tea table laden with teacups, saucers, and plates of cake.

Jansson wrote the Moomin stories partly from her island summer home, in Finland’s archipelago, the largest in the world. Moomin fans can take a trip to see the archipelago’s old wooden towns, lighthouses and national parks. A new Moomin Museum has just opened in Tampere, with original artworks by Tove Jansson, and an interactive journey through the world of the Moomin stories. In the summer months, Moominworld, a Moomin-themed amusement park for young families, opens its doors in Naantali.


An island off Helsinki. Picture credit: Pixabay

Ireland – leprechauns

The leprechaun is a type of fairy. These little critters spend their time making and mending shoes, stealing tools from unsuspecting humans, and hoarding away their gold in a pot, hidden at the end of a rainbow.

Leprechauns are country folk, who are said to live in the pretty towns and villages of the Celtic island. Travellers who are looking for a slice of rural idyll, as well as the opportunity to catch a leprechaun (they supposedly grant three wishes to any human who can capture them), can pick from an array of beautiful destinations, like Carlingford, with oyster farms, medieval buildings and a 12th-Century castle. If Dublin city life’s more your thing, the National Leprechaun Museum gives guided tours through the history of this Celtic sprite, with adult-only, spooky tours in the evenings. Travelling to Irealnd can be remarkably cheap, too – just check out budget tour operators like netflights).


picture credit: Pixabay

France and Spain – goblins

If you like your fairytale creatures mean and dirty, then goblins are your thing. Legend has these beasties as foul, wizened creatures who burrow under the earth and can swim through rock. Goblins are said to come out at night, curdling milk and bringing nightmares to sleeping humans.

Legend has it that these fairytale creatures first emerged from a crack in the Pyrenees Mountains, a range of almost 500km that runs along the border country of Spain and France. Although the savage goblins swarmed over the rest of Europe, goblin disciples can take a trip to the majestic mountains that spawned the creatures. And beautiful they are, too, with more waterfalls than anywhere else in Europe outside Scandinavia. Aragon in Spain or the Pyrénées National Park in France would be good places to start.

Pyrenees mountains

Pyrenees mountains. Picture credit: Pixabay

Greece – dryads

Over 25% of Greece is covered by forest, which makes it an ideal location to seek out dryads. Dryads are shy tree-spirits who can live for centuries. They have their basis in Greek mythology, which says that dryads don’t like humans entering the forest, in case they harm the trees. If you think that you can brave their wrath, though, the 40km Pholóē oak forest, on the Peloponnese Peninsula, is a magical place of dense, ancient oaks. As well as dryads, the Greeks also believed that centaurs and fairies lived there – so, a bonus for fairytale creature-spotters.

Germany – gnomes


Dresden, home of the garden gnomes. Picture credit: Pixabay

Gnomes were known as custodians of the earth and nature, caring for wild creatures. This is where the tradition of the garden gnome originated. They were made so that gardeners could plant them next to lawns or flower beds, to help keep the place healthy and fertile.

Garden gnomes were first produced in Germany in the 19th Century. Dresden firm Baehr and Maresch was credited with producing the first versions, in 1841. The gnomes must have been looking after the Saxony town, because it’s now difficult to believe it was all but wiped out during the Allied bombing of 1945. With a cityscape of spires and towers, and 110 museums and galleries crammed with treasures from Old Masters to 21st Century art, the city remains a gem of a place.

With accompanying gnomes.


Where would you go to find fairytale creatures?

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  1. June 29, 2017 / 9:57 am

    Moonins are my fave as I found out I was pregnant in helsinki #farwayfiles

    • Nell
      June 30, 2017 / 11:12 am

      I love them too!

  2. June 29, 2017 / 10:31 am

    What a unique post! I love this! Gnomes are definitely big here in Germany everywhere, especially people’s gardens! They go crazy for them! #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      June 30, 2017 / 11:19 am

      Do you know, I hadn’t realised how popular there were over there, until I researched this post. Now I want to see some genuine German gnomes!

  3. June 29, 2017 / 2:57 pm

    Loved reading more into the stories and backgrounds of these magical creatures, Nell. I really must re-read the Moomin books. They sound a bit like the Wombles on Wimbledon Common! Lovely share for #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      June 30, 2017 / 11:19 am

      I’m going to order a big bundle of them, to read to the kids….

  4. June 29, 2017 / 4:15 pm

    I love the troll legends in Scandinavia – it really is a landscape that lends itself to supernatural tales. Love some of the others you’ve collected too. #farawayfiles

    • Nell
      June 30, 2017 / 11:46 am

      Yes, there’s something about the misty spookiness of the place.

  5. June 29, 2017 / 5:38 pm

    That is so cool and interesting – I’d love to know your inspiration for actually compiling these into a blog post. So cool!

    • Nell
      June 30, 2017 / 11:45 am

      Well…. I’ve just finished writing a children’s book, about trolls. Part of what I love about visiting new places, is finding out which creatures supposedly live there! It seemed to make sense, for a blog post.

  6. June 29, 2017 / 7:20 pm

    Oh I love the Moomins! I’d really love to go to Norway (although I’d watch out for trolls!), it is probably the very top of my travel wish list at the moment.

    • Nell
      June 30, 2017 / 11:53 am

      Norway’s an amazing place, Nat. You’d love it there.

  7. June 30, 2017 / 3:47 am

    This is a pretty awesome post! Creatures like these are part of the national identity of some countries (I mean, if you see a leprechaun, you think of Ireland). In Puerto Rico, we have our own creatures but they are not cute or benign. #farawayfiles

  8. June 30, 2017 / 5:04 am

    I’ve always loved fairytales and fantasy! Fun idea for a post, and such lovely photos! #farawayfiles

  9. June 30, 2017 / 10:26 am

    Legends and myths are absolutely what makes Europe magical. In Australia we have the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories based on the animals and birds of our country. These are the stories that build cultures and make them special. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

  10. June 30, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    Witches – Germany – home to the Bloksburg Mountains where all the Scandinavian Midsummer witches fly to after they are burned on the bonfires. Austria witches too, I met one up a Mountain in Soll, and Bavaria and Austria for Krampus… He’s scary though! 😀 Loved this post, right up my street. Plus it features Moomins!! 😀

    • Nell
      July 2, 2017 / 8:55 pm

      I know. I just had to get the Moomins in! OOh, witches and Krampus – shivers are going down my spine. I’m a bit of a sucker for terror, though, so I need to visit Germany and Austria!

  11. June 30, 2017 / 2:09 pm

    What a wonderful post! I have always loved fairytales, fairies, and magic! Never heard of moomins! Love this 🙂

    • Nell
      July 2, 2017 / 8:56 pm

      You should SO read up about the Moomins. They’re ace!

  12. June 30, 2017 / 3:37 pm

    I love this and would of as child. I remember being told off in ireland and my dad telling the leprechauns and witches would get me.

    • Nell
      July 2, 2017 / 8:56 pm

      I bet you were terrified!

    • Nell
      July 2, 2017 / 8:57 pm

      Ooh yes, dragons. I grew up in Wales and never found any there, so Croatia would be my next stop!

  13. June 30, 2017 / 7:55 pm

    What fun -there are sure a lot of mythical folk in Europe (…or are they real, who knows!) I’ve never heard of the dryads so must look out for them in a Greek forest. You ask where I would go to see fairy folk -kelpies in Scotland and pixies in Cornwall would be my choice. I’m definitely avoiding the trolls! #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      July 3, 2017 / 1:29 pm

      Oh, but they’re so endearing, with their googly boggling eyes….

  14. June 30, 2017 / 8:34 pm

    Brillant post Nell. I love mythical creatures and fairytales. I’ve never heard of dryads before! You don’t think of forests in Greece do you?

    • Nell
      July 3, 2017 / 1:41 pm

      No, that did take me by surprise when I was researching this post.

  15. July 2, 2017 / 6:36 am

    I loved your post Nell! I find there to be something so charming about fairy tales and mythical creatures! When I was in the Scandic area (Norway and Sweden) there were so many little trolls for sales with the long noses and little red suits (it was around Christmas!). I couldn’t help but get a few to bring home and smile when I see them in my house. I’m going to have to check out a few of the other ones you mention. – Elizabeth

    • Nell
      July 3, 2017 / 7:12 pm

      They are cute, aren’t they? I love trolls. Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words.

  16. July 3, 2017 / 7:53 am

    Love this post, my girls would love learning all about the mythical creatures and fairy tales from these locations. I used to absolutely adore Moomins as a child so that made me smile! Great photos. #Mondayescapes

    • Nell
      July 3, 2017 / 8:08 pm

      The Moomins make for good memories, don’t they?

  17. July 3, 2017 / 9:35 am

    What a great list! We knew about a few of these but I can’t wait to check out the Dryads of Greece (which I had no idea about) when we are there. We loved the fairy glens of Scotland as well! #MondayEscapes

    • Nell
      July 3, 2017 / 8:16 pm

      Oh yes, the British isles have so many fairytale folk. They probably deserve a post all to themselves!

  18. July 3, 2017 / 12:17 pm

    Fascinating to learn about all these mythical creatures. I’d love to travel more in Norway and Finland – have only just scratched the surface and there’s so much more to discover.

    • Nell
      July 3, 2017 / 8:20 pm

      I know. Such rich history, folklore and countryside in both those countries.

  19. July 3, 2017 / 1:06 pm

    What a fun post! My daughter would love this as she is totally in that stage of make-believe creatures. #mondayescapes

    • Nell
      July 3, 2017 / 8:37 pm

      I don’t think I’ve ever grown out of it, tbh!

  20. July 3, 2017 / 4:24 pm

    I’d love to go on a hunt for magical creatures and I think my girls would too, especially looking for gnomes in Germany! Thanks for sharing this on #MondayEscapes!

    • Nell
      July 3, 2017 / 8:40 pm

      Yes, a gnome hunt would be fun!

  21. July 3, 2017 / 9:18 pm

    I didn’t realise there were so many creatures out there. When I was in Iceland I had one eye open for elves at all times

    • Nell
      July 4, 2017 / 6:19 pm

      You have to keep your wits about you …. 😉

  22. July 3, 2017 / 9:34 pm

    Fun post! I like the sound of the oak forests in the Peloponnese. Look forward to reading your children’s book..! #Mondayescapes

    • Nell
      July 4, 2017 / 6:22 pm

      Well I’m still casting around for an agent at the moment, but fingers crossed!

  23. July 4, 2017 / 6:00 am

    We LOVE travel with meaning; themes that link places, or journeys in search of something… in this case fairytale creatures… What a superb idea for a journey… now… just to convince someone else in the house that this is a BRILLIANT idea… love love LOVE this post!

    • Nell
      July 4, 2017 / 6:31 pm

      Thank you so much! I had an awful lot of fun writing it.

  24. July 4, 2017 / 10:50 am

    You mostly get talking animals in Russia. Nothing special. And three headed dragons. I didn’t know about Spain’s goblin connection. Cool!

    • Nell
      July 4, 2017 / 7:08 pm

      I know! I love the idea of all those goblins, swarming out from the mountains…

  25. July 4, 2017 / 12:30 pm

    What a really lovely idea for a post – brilliant for families and so imaginative too. Plus, all these places sound great…..I particularly like the idea of gnomes in Dresden!

    • Nell
      July 4, 2017 / 7:14 pm

      I know. I had no idea before I researched the post!

  26. July 4, 2017 / 1:30 pm

    Excellent. We found fairies in Arran when we were there in the spring. Real ones, honest! And we’re heading to Norway soon, so we’ll definitely be on the hunt for trolls (not literally). Never knew there was a leprechaun museum in Dublin – anything for the tourists I guess! 😉 #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      July 4, 2017 / 7:14 pm

      Yes. Had to be done though, I suppose! 🙂

  27. July 4, 2017 / 6:52 pm

    What a fun post! My girls would have loved this when they were younger. #citytripping

    • Nell
      July 4, 2017 / 7:15 pm

      Thank you!

  28. An unusual and very interesting post! We went to the Trollshop in Norway, at the top of the Trolls’ Ladder, which is the name of a narrow and extremely windy mountain road near Andalsnes. I am French but I never knew goblins came from the Pyrenees!

    • Nell
      July 6, 2017 / 10:45 am

      Ooh, I must visit the Trollshop next time I’m there! Thanks for the tip.

  29. July 5, 2017 / 10:52 am

    Oh Nell, I love this so much 🙂 I still need to plan a Moomins adventure, my Mum gave me a book inscribed with a message about how there was much more to the Moomins than first glance!

    • Nell
      July 6, 2017 / 10:47 am

      I remember that, Penny. She wrote some wise words there. xx

  30. July 5, 2017 / 7:32 pm

    Excellent post, I love a mythical creature. I once went Youth hosteling in the Harz mountains and every where you went there were models of witches as they are meant to party wildly at the top of the Brocken mountain. #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      July 6, 2017 / 11:03 am

      Sounds like a good bash!

  31. July 5, 2017 / 10:39 pm

    Fab post Nell! I’m very glad I didn’t bump into any goblins in Aragon! My daughter was chatting about trolls the other day – “Real-life trolls, mummy” – looks like we’re heading to Norway! Thanks for linking #citytripping

    • Nell
      July 6, 2017 / 11:04 am

      I’m now desperate to visit Aragon, to see some goblins!

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