Europe. The name alone evokes hundreds of images: the hustle and bustle of modern cities, medieval gothic castles teetering on tall cliffs, ancient settlements paved with culture and history.
The sheer volume of choices can make planning a challenge. Our luxury travel experts over at Insight Guides haveput together a list of the best places to go in Europe right now.
For many years now, Dubrovnik and Split have been hogging the Croatian limelight between them. However, the times, they are a-changin’: Zadar, in northern Dalmatia, is fast overtaking them as Croatia’s premier luxury vacation spot. Zadar is well positioned on a spectacular peninsula and has a gorgeous old town lined with cafes and bars. Recently installed modern art installations on the seafront, such as a sea organ, comprising of steps that go into the sea, with each one emitting a different note from underwater pipes when stepped on, gives the town character.
The three lakes we are referring to here are Maggiore, Como and Garda. These are the main three, but there are many smaller ones nearby. The lakes are concentrated in an area of northwest Italy that stretches across four different regions: Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino. The area is renowned for its picture-perfect scenery: think dramatic mountain scenery, carpeted with a thick, green forest, surrounding deep, blue lakes, with tiny picturesque villages clinging to the shores.
In many ways, Amsterdam is the typical European city. Famous for its many cafés, cyclists and canals, the city is pretty much designed for the spring and summer months. Amsterdam is almost completely flat, so hire a bike and explore this attractive city. Tulip-filled flower boxes line the city’s canals and streets. Stop at a café and enjoy a coffee, beer or smoke! There are also many cultural attractions to explore in Amsterdam, including the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House.
Vienna’s gothic architecture and grand atmosphere mean this city is thought of as an exclusive winter vacation destination. We’re not saying that Vienna isn’t amazing in the snow – that would be stupid. However, it is often overlooked as a spring and summer destination. Vienna has shaken off its staid image in recent years, and this is no more apparent in the spring and summer. As the city wakes up from its long hibernation, small music festivals pop up in parks and stately squares across the city. Vienna is strikingly gorgeous around spring when flowers across it city’s many gardens begin to bloom.
The 2016 World Happiness Report listed Denmark as the happiest country in the world, so its capital city has got to be worth a visit, right? Copenhagen is often described as being a breath of fresh air: the city is laid out in a neat and compact manor and many thousands of Danes cycle to their destination. As a result, the city feels remarkably laid back and spacious. The city’s many parks are well worth exploring on a sunny day.
Technically two cities ¬¬– one called Buda, and one called Pest – Budapest is a hive of culture and impressive buildings, split in half by the River Danube. Buda is home to an impressive old castle, which overlooks the city and is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and is the more historic side of the two. On the Pest side, there are numerous public baths, including the Szechenyi Baths, where you can relax and play chess, or get pampered in one of the beauty spas. In between, sits Margaret Island, which is now a public park that affords great views of the Parliament building on the Pest side of the river.
Not sure where to book your next vacation? For a little inspiration, check out this roundup of the top 20 places to visit in 2016.