The Frozen-In-Time European Village in the Smoky Mountains You Need To See

The Village Shops in Gatlinburg

The Village Shops in the Smoky Mountains is an old-world shopping village nestled in the heart of Gatlinburg, TN (photos by Marie Graichen/

The little European village in the Smoky Mountains you need to see

As someone who has visited Gatlinburg since the middle ’80s, I’ve never known a time without The Village. But what is The Village? It’s a collection of shops featuring European-style architecture. Along with the Pancake Pantry, The Village Shops has set the mood for anyone coming to Gatlinburg for over 50 years. Do you think of Gatlinburg as a charming mountain village tucked away at the edge of the National Park? If so, The Village Shops are the reason why. 

For decades, The Village Shops, a small European village in the Smoky Mountains, set the tone for Gatlinburg’s strip, giving the area personality and charm. Today, despite competition from places like Ober Mountain and Anakeesta, they remain a premier shopping destination for the unique and quirky. In many ways, they help keep Gatlinburg what it is.  

celtic heritage - a shop at the village
The Village in Gatlinburg hosts a series of shops and restaurants featuring European-style architecture (photo by Marie Graichen/

About the Village Shops

Imagine, if you can, the world of Gatlinburg in 1965. It would certainly seem to be a very foreign place than today. Sure, the Pancake Pantry was up and running and there were motels and tourist shops just like today, but the vibe was far more rustic. Far more hodgepodge. The retailers of Gatlinburg were just figuring out what the tourists wanted. Serious Gatlinburg tourism was less than 30 years old at the time. 

In 1965, a pair of families purchased the land for what would become The Village. But they weren’t in a hurry. They spent the next three years researching décor, architecture and, to borrow a more modern term, vibes. Finally, they decided their spot would have an Old World feel. They bought thick roofing slates, heavy doors, antique trim and moldings, handmade bricks, and gas lighting fixtures. Construction began in 1968. In 1970, the Village opened with 18 shops. Nine more were added in 1982.

one of the entrances at the village shops
Our favorite shops are Candle Cottage, Zi Olive, Celtic Heritage and The Spice & Tea Exchange of Gatlinburg. We also love Maddi Mae’s Café & Creamery, The Pancake Pantry and Boudicca’s Celtic Pub (photo by Morgan Overholt/

Things to do at The Village

The chief way to spend your time there, of course, is shopping. The Village Shops feature an eclectic collection of retailers. Some fit nicely with the Old-World theme. They include the Candle Cottage, Zi Olive, Celtic Heritage and The Spice & Tea Exchange of Gatlinburg. Other shops have a less Old World feel and a decidedly specific audience. Yes, there is a shop devoted to selling socks, a Pepper Palace and a shop devoted to “Life is Good” products. 

You can also eat, snack and drink at the shops. There’s a gourmet popcorn shop, Maddi Mae’s Café & Creamery and Boudicca’s Celtic Pub. The culinary star of the show, however, remains the Donut Friar, a wonderful, family-owned donut shop that was one of the opening-day shops back in 1970. It remains a Gatlinburg institution and is a must-do on any serious list of Gatlinburg activities. 

the donut friar
The cash-only Donut Friar remains one of the most popular eateries in The Village (photo by Alaina O’Neal/

Where to find the shops

It’s hard to miss them. The Shops are located in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, at 634 Parkway, beside the Pancake Pantry. If you go up onto Cherokee Orchard Road, there is some parking behind The Village but it’s not a massive lot so it can fill up quickly. 

For more than 50 years, The Village Shops have played a large role in giving Gatlinburg its distinctive charm. Located near what was traditionally considered the start of the strip, the European theming set the tone for visitors’ perception of Gatlinburg. Today the Village is filled with fun, quirky and interesting shops as well as a couple of Gatlinburg institutions. In season, most of the Village is open from 10 am to 8 pm Monday through Friday and from 10 am to 10 pm. The donut shop opens at 5 am daily and Coffee & Company opens at 7:30 am.

People walking around the Village in Gatlinburg
The Village Shops are located along the Parkway in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/

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