Despite weighing in as one of the smallest continents in terms of size, Europe is the world’s most popular tourist destination. Birthplace of Western culture as we know it and home to legendary ancient civilizations, the region offers much in terms of historical sites celebrating man’s achievements, as well as those remembering history’s more somber moments.
The collection of countries which occupy this part of the world is an eclectic mix of wildly diverse flavors and inspirations: the tapestry of picturesque canals which blanket Venice, the Alpine magnificence of Zurich, the romantic grandeur of Paris, the fantastical splendors of Barcelona, and, of course, the modern-meets-heritage splendor of London. Beneath the well earned stereotypes are a zillion cultural quirks and culinary perks to add oomph to the overall experience.
Just as Europe was once the focal point of epic turns in history, it remains at the forefront to this day. The old and the new exist alongside each other, simultaneously safeguarding the world’s artistic and culinary heritage, while pushing the envelope for each one at the same time. Whether you crave hegemony or variety – with the short distances between the region’s many intriguing-in-their-own-right destinations, Europe is a moreish destination that will keep you coming back for more.
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Launching on 21st April 2017, our inaugural coffee table book 100 Best highlights LuxuryHunt’s most inspiring travel experiences. This beautifully bound 708-page publication with gorgeous photography captures the essence of the LuxuryHunt journey which spans 26 countries across the globe. In addition, 100 Best showcases a curated selection of leading luxury brands through a series of special articles and features.
It was only after the fall of the Iron Curtain in the late 1980s that the world was treated to the beauty that laid behind it – storybook towns, lush mountains, and a smattering of castles across the land joining the dots of the region’s history. The nation is small enough to explore and charming enough to make the effort to; it is also the land of the original pilsner, so what are you waiting for?
While cases can often be made for including a capital city in your travel itinerary, Prague is most likely the image that brought you to the Czech Republic, with its orange rooftops and countless burnished spires. The beautifully preserved town holds the bittersweet distinction of being one of the lucky few which escaped WWII bombings. Put on your walking shoes and get stomping because there’s much to see – along the river, around the UNESCO Heritage Old Town, in the winding lanes of the Jewish Quarter – and even more outside the capital city.
Not only do picturesque towns and imposing castles across the countryside awaken a sense of wonder – lush forests of pine forests punctuated with sandstone towers and rock cities add to the impossibly fairytale nature of the country. Time has not stood still here, but stand in any of the country’s magical towns, or in the midst of a cultural revelry, and you might beg to differ.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and a bucket list of a thousand adventures starts with one destination. It only takes a spark to set off a blaze of wanderlust, and France has plenty to stoke the flame. From wine and cheese to fashion and the arts, it’s not hard to find a slice of familiar “Frenchness” anywhere in the world, but there’s an insistence about the art de vivre on offer at its source that makes the trip that much sweeter. From prehistoric cave paintings to stunning châteaux and some of the top luxury hotels in Europe, the country is a living museum showcasing mankind’s genius and style. The French Alps beckon come snow or shine, while Côte d'Azur offers perennial summer, Mediterranean delights and authentic savoir faire. Wine country is as pleasing on the eye as its fruits are decadent on the palate, and a visitor just has to reserve a table at any bustling bistro or Michelin-starred restaurant to be reminded of the country’s needs-no-introduction gastronomy. Completing the royal flush of French delights is Paris, whose moniker is the City of Lights – a fitting label for a destination whose dazzle continues to shine. The heydays of the Renaissance may have passed, but they left behind a legacy of gorgeous artistry that’s woven into the very fabric of life. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, but when you’re in Paris, do as the bon vivants do, and live life to the full.
Nestled in the very heart of Europe, with the icy North Sea fringing its northern shore and the stupendous Alps carving a path across the south, Germany offers a hearty feast for culture, nature and food lovers. Mysterious green forests, home to quaint Hansel and Gretel-style houses, conjure up an image of Germany’s medieval past, while the vivacious nightlife in urban getaways like Berlin and Munich offer a modern take on a forward thinking nation.
Germany is the country that gave us Beethoven, the Brothers Grimm and Albert Einstein, and there’s evidence of its intriguing past everywhere you go. A gleaming platter of treats awaits in cities like Hamburg, Munich and Berlin, where world-class art museums and historical monuments are intermingled with sprawling gardens, high-end restaurants and chic streets lined with designer boutiques.
Home to endless natural delights as ubiquitous as its famous beer, Germany boasts everything from the fairytale landscape of the Black Forest in the south, to the dreamy river valleys of the central region. Situated close to the French border, at the heart of the Black Forest National Park, is Baden Baden – a glorious spa town that still oozes old-world charm, and whose thermal baths have long attracted plenty of high profile visitors over the years.
It’s not hard to see why they call Italy “Bel Paese” – Beautiful Country. Visions of rolling olive groves, vast shimmering lakes and craggy seaside cliffs are all likely to spring to mind. However, this boot-shaped nation has plenty more to offer than its stunning scenery, from winding cobbled lanes fringed by designer boutiques to the colossal ruins of its fascinating ancient Roman history – all served up with a fragrant glass of Chianti.
A world away from the marble domes and terracotta roofs you might traditionally associate with the country, Milan effortlessly holds onto its reputation as one of the world’s premier destinations for luxury fashion. This is the city that gave us Armani, Bvlgari, and Versace, and its labyrinthine lanes still offer up an enviable shopper’s paradise.
Travelling east via the gorgeous Lake Garda, Lake Como and fair Verona, you reach Venice, built upon a tangled maze of canals. Hidden passageways and winding waterways give this destination an air of adventure, with cobbled corridors leading out onto bustling open squares. Not many other countries can boast as many destination cities as Italy; other urban gems, including Florence and Rome, offer up yet more art, culture, cuisine, and healthy doses of la dolce vita.
There's plenty to admire at in this tiny Adriatic powerhouse. Independent for barely a decade (and designated the next “it” place for almost all that chunk of time), Montenegro easily works into travel lists with its endless coastal scenery, beautifully preserved ancient towns, and thumping nightlife in the Budva Riviera for those who seek it.
Thanks to the country’s compact size, nothing seems to be too far from the coast, especially with many a mountain and ancient wall fortress plunging straight into the Adriatic Sea. Shocks of green and granite add to the country’s color palette of never-ending blues, painting a pretty backdrop for mountain biking, white water rafting, and adrenaline-fueled outdoor adventures.
If you can only spend a day or two, let it be at the Bay of Kotor. To the uninitiated, Boka, as it’s commonly known, can from some angles feel like Venice, and others, Monaco. The pretty UNESCO-inscribed region is hemmed in by brooding cliffs and draped with a string of medieval towns, and the initiated known this is where cobblestone roads and Venetian palaces in Perast meet offshore islets and a superyacht marina in Tivat, all of which come together as a one-hit wonder.
Just like the flamenco dance the country is known for, Spain is powerful, head-spinningly infectious, and offers endless flashes of fascination. Sashay into the artistic realms of Picasso and Salvador Dali. Go for a twirl in medieval cities, palaces, and places of monumental cultural significance. Snap to the beat of hedonistic parties along the sun-drenched costas and offshore Balearic Islands.
Mid-day naps last a bit longer, café sessions are a bit more leisurely, dinners start a bit later, and nightlife reaches closer to daybreak. If there ever was a country paced for her guests, Spain is it. A fiery deliberation permeates everything from the spirited festivals to the dynamic cuisine, while cities across the country – and the neighborhoods within them – proudly display their individualities. When in Spain, do as they eat; indulge in a selection of experiences, tapas style.
For travel itineraries that only allow for one stop, let it be Barcelona. Follow the Antoní Gaudí trail and get lost in a rabbit warren of architectural fantasies – it’s very much on the beaten track, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more deserving well trodden visitor path anywhere in the world. An atmospheric Gothic Quarter, a tree-lined shopping boulevard, museums, cathedrals, and to top it all off, over four kilometers of the beach-lined Mediterranean coastline. From the top luxury hotels in Europe to fascinating cultural experiences, the land of los conquistadores will more than match your yearning for travelisimo.
Sometimes the smallest of countries exude the largest charisma, and just like its namesake army knives, Switzerland has something for everyone with a city, mountain, or lake to enchant even the most jaded traveler. This landlocked destination boasts a seductive draw, especially with the added promise of powder puff snow and après ski escapades in winter wonderlands like Gstaad, Andermatt, and St. Moritz. The Swiss lifestyle is refined, just like the chocolate truffles and pralines it is known for. And when it comes to urban pursuits, the cities offer sophisticated adventures that come a close second to the untamed great outdoors.
There’s no greener grass on the other side in Switzerland — both sides are yours for the taking. During the winter months, the snow-capped Alps provide some of the best skiing and snowboarding (plus associated lifestyle) on the planet. Come summer, trekking and biking showcase a symphony of life in high definition and high fidelity.
While her natural wonders may be larger than life, Switzerland’s human-made attractions are no small wonder either. Head "downtown" to Zurich and indulge on a rooftop bar as you drink in the city/lake/mountain surroundings. Experience a real life fairytale old town, a swish shopping street, the top 10 luxury hotels in Switzerland, and when the travel itch starts, head for the lakes to discover charming shoreside towns and villages. All, of course, enjoyed with lashings of glorious Swiss hospitality.
Spanning two continents and more than two epic eras of history, Turkey offers a depth of beauty, diversity and travel inspiration which more than justifies its reputation as one the world’s most desirable travel destinations. Alexander the Great, King Midas and Julius Caesar have all left their mark on Turkey’s turbulent, still evident past. Yet stunning natural monuments such as the moonscape scenery of Cappadocia and the otherworldly calcite terraces of Pamukkale still manage to upstage humankind’s disruptive influence.
Istanbul connects Europe with Asia, and also ties the past with the present. The country’s elegant yet chaotic capital is a mosaic of antiquity – Byzantine, Roman, Ottoman – that can be traced back to the 7th Century BC. Meanwhile, the city’s contemporary manifestations include world-class restaurants, glittering nightlife and an eclectic choice of travel activities that includes everything from scavenging through the Grand Bazaar to sailing on the Bosphorus, watching a belly dance performance or cleansing in a Turkish Bath.
Turkey’s bejeweled coastline draws an annual pilgrimage of beach worshippers to its sparkling Aegean and Mediterranean shores, where legendary resort destinations like Marmaris, Bodrum and Fethiye offer a rare blend of quaint seaside charm and sophisticated Turkish holiday delight. As the Turkish people say when greeting a visitor, “Your arrival is lovely”.
From the dramatic patchwork of rolling peaks and gleaming lochs that comprise Scotland’s Highlands, down to the network of neon lights and lanes that make up London’s buzzing Soho district, the UK has something to offer everyone. The capital is a popular jumping off point for those looking to explore England, with charming seaside settlements and quaint Tudor market towns all within easy reach.
Iconic landmarks can be discovered around every corner in The Old Smoke, with historical sites like the Tower of London (still standing tall almost 1,000 years after construction) punctuating the same varied cityscape as chic hotels and striking modern landmarks like The Shard. Vast stretches of green are interspersed throughout the urban jigsaw of the city, offering space to breathe no matter if you’re in the mood to stroll through the manicured splendor of Regent’s Park, or embark on a trek across the wilder landscape of Hampstead Heath.
Hop on a train heading out of the capital and atmospheric villages and historical towns the likes of Bath, Oxford, and Ascot are all a short ride away. Work up an appetite rambling through the surrounding countryside, winding your way through leafy lanes past Victorian villas before settling in at a country inn to warm your soul in before a roaring fire. Whether in the city, countryside, or at the seaside, there’s a real sense of history in the UK, and countless ways to enjoy it.