In southwestern Germany, nestled between the Swabian Alps and the densely forested Schönbuch Nature Park, lies Tübingen, a university town that would put most Disney locations to shame.

The city is built around the almost perfectly preserved old town, with its cobbled streets, old half-timbered houses and undulating canals. (While the historic centers of most German cities were destroyed during World War II, only one bomb fell on Tübingen.) The Neckar River runs through the city center, forming a small island – the Neckarinsel – which is covered of flowers in spring and shines golden in autumn.

Tübingen is in Swabia, a German region renowned for its frugality – and which is also one of the sunniest places in the country, making it considerably more cheerful than other parts of the country with darker, rainier weather. . Significantly, being a college town, it is small but vibrant. “For the size of the city, I find it incredibly international, said Nele Neideck, who leads an expat community.

I first came to Tübingen eight years ago to visit a friend and at first glance the town looked like something out of a fairy tale, with its idyllic scenery and youthful vibe; of the 90,000 inhabitants, more than 27,000 are students at the University of Tübingen. We waded in gushing streams, feasted on Swabian delicacies and traveled to parties on busloads of students. When I said goodbye to this quirky city, I never imagined that years later I would be coming back to go home. But that’s what Tübingen does: it pulls you in, and before you know it, the ease of living in a small and vibrant place like this makes you never want to leave again.