The 15 Most Inspiring National Parks in Europe

The 15 Most Inspiring National Parks in Europe

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

I’m not much of a city person, so I love getting out into national parks when I’m traveling. Whether it’s hiking, skiing, or even just taking a drive through, I want to see every bit of beautiful landscape that this world has to offer. When you think of Europe, though, I bet you’re probably thinking of its popular cities like Rome, Paris, and London—or even if you’re thinking of landscapes, you’re probably thinking of the beaches of Barcelona or the majestic Alps. There’s plenty more to Europe than that, though! Don’t miss checking out these absolutely stunning national parks (listed in no particular order):

1. Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

The Dolomites are technically part of the Alps, but they look nothing like what you’re picturing. In many places, these impressive limestone formations seem to jut straight up into the air, with near-vertical slopes. There are a plethora of outdoors activities that you can take part in, including skiing, climbing, hiking, and paragliding. You can stay directly in the park in accommodations ranging from mountain huts to hotels. But be careful: one look at the peaceful morning sunrise coming in over those peaks and you might never be able to drag yourself away!

Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: www.dolomitipark.it
Location on map: Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

2. The Black Forest National Park, Germany

If you’re looking for gingerbread houses and other fairytale delights, look no further than Germany’s Schwarzwald, or Black Forest. The pretty little villages like Triberg, Kinzig, and Calw are everything that you would imagine, with half-timbered houses and plenty of places to buy traditional wooden cuckoo clocks and other delicately-carved woodcrafts. And if you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature, there’s no better place in all of Germany. This is the country’s largest national park, and it’s home to mountains, dense forests, and tons of varied flora and fauna. There’s hiking galore, plus plenty of other great outdoor activities to suit any interest.

The Black Forest National Park, Germany

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: www.schwarzwald-nationalpark.de
Location on map: The Black Forest National Park, Germany

3. Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

When you think of Austria’s landscapes, you’re probably picturing something from the Sound of Music. And those dramatic mountains overlooking sprawling meadows are exactly what you’re going to get in Hohe Tauern—among other things. The park is home to Austria’s tallest mountain, along with roughly three dozen other distinct peaks, and it’s a great place to take a drive—the Grossglockener High Alpine Road is a great place to start. The park has inspired many artists and writers, so get ready to indulge your creative side as you explore by car, on foot, by bicycle, on horseback, or however else you choose.

Weisssee, White Lake in Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

Important info:
Admission: many parts are free; fees apply to certain areas.
Web: www.hohetauern.com
Location on map: Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

4. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

No matter where you look in this part, it honestly looks a bit surreal, as though your eyes were tricking you. The main reason for that is the colors: with its turquoise lakes (there are more than a dozen of them) and bright, leafy green trees, you’ll feel as though you’re caught in a photograph where someone bumped the saturation and changed the hue on you! Unfortunately, if you were thinking of taking a dip in these tranquil waters, that’s against the rules—but there are plenty of other great activities to enjoy like hiking, or you could head to Krka National Park instead, which offers similar views but with the opportunity to go swimming in one of the pools.

Breathtaking view over the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Important info:
Admission: 55-180 kuna ($8-25), depending on the season.
Web: www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr
Location on map: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

5. Triglav National Park, Slovenia

This is Slovenia’s only national park (surprisingly—but what they lack in number, they make up for in quality!). It’s another of those places where you won’t believe your eyes. Many tourists stay in nearby Bled and take day trips into the park, but if you’re looking to get off the beaten path, it’s better to stay along the shores of peaceful Lake Bohinj or in one of the many mountain lodges, where you’ll really have the chance to find your zen and enjoy your surroundings. During the summers, locals and tourists alike flock to the rivers in the park for kayaking and other water activities. Hiking is also popular in the park, and you can get great views from the summits of many of the peaks or from the high alpine meadows.

Beautiful Lake Bohinj surrounded by mountains of Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: www.tnp.si
Location on map: Triglav National Park, Slovenia

6. Goreme National Park, Turkey

Goreme (also known to many travelers under the wider region of “Cappadochia”) is an incredible place to visit, from its cave towns to its general scenery. One of the most special experiences that you can have in your life is an early-morning hot air balloon ride over this alien-looking landscape of so-called fairy chimneys. The quiet is absolutely surreal, and the strange shapes of the rocks and the rising balloons will offer a thousand photo opportunities. Hiking and mountain biking are available for visitors of all fitness levels—and there’s a traditional Turkish bathhouse right in the middle of Goreme town where you can rest those muscles after a long, strenuous day. Just avoid traveling here during the height of summer, when the heat can be absolutely stifling; you’re better off visiting during the spring or fall.

Hot air balloon flying over Gorema National Park, Turkey

Important info:
Admission: fees apply to certain sites but are generally less than $10.
Web: www.nationalparksofturkey.com/goreme-national-park-and-the-rock-sites-of-cappadocia
Location on map: Goreme National Park, Turkey

7. Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania.

There’s nowhere in the world that’s quite like the Curonian Spit—in fact, the place is unique enough that it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So what exactly is it, you may be asking? It’s a long, narrow strip of sprawling white sand dunes and 100-year-old pine groves that stretches along the edge of the Baltic Sea, forming the edge of the Curonian Lagoon. There are plenty of prime spots for sunbathing along the dunes; for the more active traveler, you may choose to hike or cycle through the area—just make sure to stay on the marked paths since the shifting sands and fragile ecosystem mean that straying from the beaten paths can do serious damage to the park!

Wooden path into the Dunes. Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania

Important info:
Admission: €5 toll to enter the area + €0.80 to take the ferry across the lagoon; no fee to enter the park (see more information here).
Web: www.nerija.lt
Location on map: Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania

8. Oulanka National Park, Finland

No matter what time of year you visit Oulanka, you’re sure to find some incredible scenery there to greet you. You’ll want to avoid visiting during the spring, when the park is prone to flooding, but in the summer, you’ll find jewel-bright greens. In the fall, on the other hand, the foliage will change over to brilliant orange and yellow hues. And in the winter, when everything is white, you’ll find that, far from being a harsh and forbidding landscape, Oulanka’s snow-covered trees and huts beckon you in to explore a special kind of solitude. The most popular trekking route in Finland (the 80-kilometer Karhunkierros Trail) lies within Oulanka’s borders, as do many other shorter routes, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of reindeer!

Kuusamo, Paahkanakallio, Oulanka National Park, Finland

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: www.nationalparks.fi/oulankanp
Location on map: Oulanka National Park, Finland

9. The Lake District National Park, England

I love everything about England’s countryside, from its sprawling hills to its rich pastures full of sheep. What I love most about the Lake District, though, is the color palette. Here, you’ll find deep purples, greens, and blues like you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Although the mountains may not be as impressive as some of the others on this list, the juxtaposition between the sprawling mountains and tranquil lakes is definitely a sight to behold. Don’t even get me started on charming towns like Keswick or Grasmere. And as if that all weren’t enough, there’s plenty of history in the area as well, with everything from castles and abbeys to the Neolithic Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Ullswater, Lake District National Park, England

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: lakedistrict.gov.uk
Location on map: The Lake District National Park, England

10. Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway

Jostedal Glacier is the largest glacier in continental Europe, so if you’re looking to go trekking, take some amazing photos, or just soak in views of some of the best things nature has to offer, this is the place for you. Even if you’re averse to cold weather, you can enjoy a visit to the glacier: the glacier continues to exist because there tends to be a decent amount of snowfall during the winter months, but temperatures actually stay pretty comfortable during most of the year. However, I personally recommend visiting during the winter or early spring. The temperatures may be a bit colder, but you’ll have the chance to take a guided tour underneath the glacier and into the Blue Ice Cave.

Jostedalsbreen Glacier, Norway

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: jostedal.com
Location on map: Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway

11. Sarek National Park, Sweden

If you really want to visit a place that emphasizes how vast and magnificent the world really is, my vote is for Sarek National Park in the Lapland region of Sweden. There’s just something about the sprawling valleys and wide open, untouched expanses of beautiful land that will have you standing mouth agape in awe. Part of what makes it feel so rugged and wild is the lack of marked trails and signage—unless you’re an experienced backcountry hiker, it’s recommended that you travel with a guide. It takes a little more work to explore than some of the other parks on this list, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, you’re sure to have an incredible experience.

Sarek National Park, Sweden

Important info:
Admission: free, but it’s recommended that you travel with a guide, which can get pricey.
Web: nationalparksofsweden.se/choose-park—list/sarek-national-park
Location on map: Sarek National Park, Sweden

12. Snæfellsjökull National park, Iceland

There are plenty of amazing landscapes to captivate the traveler lucky enough to visit Iceland, so narrowing it down to just one national park is difficult! However, Snæfellsjökull offers a little taste of everything, from sweeping shorelines to volcanoes to glaciers and more. The area is home to an impressive selection of wildlife, and it’s also notable from a literary standpoint as being the point where the characters in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth find the actual passage to the center of the Earth. Although you may not find any evidence of that passageway during your trip, you will be able to view different archaeological remains such as the Forni-Saxhóll farm, thought to date back to roughly a thousand years ago.

Kirkjufell Mountain, Snaefellsjokull National Park, Iceland

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: ust.is/snaefellsjokull-national-park
Location on map: Snæfellsjökull National park, Iceland

13. Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Snowdonia is a hiker’s paradise, with nearly 1500 miles of trails spanning its roughly 800 square miles. The northern parts of the park are the most popular with tourists, many of whom choose to climb Snowdon Mountain, the park’s namesake and the largest mountain in all of Wales and England. But there are plenty of other mountains in the park, with varying levels of remoteness, plus bogs, coastline, and more. And with a plethora of classes on offer to the public, there’s way more to do than just hiking! One thing to note is that parts of the park are private property—so make sure you stay on marked routes or in places that you’re sure offer open access rights, and if you plan on fishing, make sure you have the appropriate permits.

Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: eryri-npa.gov.uk
Location on map: Snowdonia National Park, Wales

14. Valbonë Valley National Park, Albania

Hiking in the Alps can get frustrating when you’re rubbing elbows with tourists every step of the way. But Valbonë’s craggy mountains, rivers, and lakes will offer you a lot of the same scenery without all the bustle and mass culture. Plus, how many people do you know who can say that they’ve danced at a St. George’s Day celebration (May 6) in an Albanian village that numbers only a couple hundred inhabitants? Best of all when you’re hiking during those summer days? The temperature tends to stay relatively cool, usually in the upper 60s or lower 70s Fahrenheit. Despite Albania’s small size, it can take a while to travel to Valbonë—but once you make it there, you’re sure to forget all about that!

Valbona Valley National Park, Albania

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: journeytovalbona.com
Location on map: Valbonë Valley National Park, Albania

15. Pyrénées National Park, France

From canyons to greenery to wildlife (and domesticated animals like sheep) to waterfalls, this section of the Pyrenees has everything that you could hope for and more. It’s a paradise for bird-watchers and hikers during the spring and summer, and in the winter, there’s the possibility for some great ski-touring too. Even if you’re not big on outdoor activities, there’s plenty to enjoy in the Pyrénées, such as the Train d’Artouste. One of my favorite things about a trip to the Pyrénées, though? Undoubtedly the food! From a scrumptious picnic during the summer to some hearty soup by the fire in the winter, you’re sure to find that the meals are a perfect complement to the beauty around you.

Lake Gentau, Pyrenees National Park, France

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: pyrenees-parcnational.fr
Location on map: Pyrénées National Park, France

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP


The 17 Best City Parks in Europe

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

Europe is one of the most popular destinations on earth. The many unique countries enjoy a thriving tourism industry year round, and for good reason. Europe is home to some of the most diverse and historical cities in the world. The attractions are endless and the culture is thriving. Alongside this, its natural reserves and rural areas are truly breathtaking to behold.

If you’re someone who loves both the urban and the natural, picking your ideal European destination can be tricky. Fortunately, many cities across the continent are home to beautiful parks, which provide a green respite from the hustle and bustle of the town centers.

Here are 17 of the very best city parks to help you choose the perfect European break for you.

17. Parque de Maria Luisa in Seville, Spain

Seville has earned itself the title of the ‘real Spain’. Its traditional cuisine, architecture, flamenco style and penchant for bullfighting makes it the perfect Spanish archetype. However, in the summer months, the paved streets heat up quick and the sun can be scorching.

Because of this, Parque de Maria Luisa is a crucial part of the city’s charm. Sheltered by vast trees, it provides picturesque shadows over the quaint paths and paved squares. The park was formerly a palace garden and there are countless ornate pavilions and fountains to spot. You can explore on foot, by bike or in the horse and carts, which are available to rent. With many species of exotic and domestic plants and animals, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a cool and relaxing siesta.

Directions: Parque de Maria Luisa, Paseo de las Delicias, Seville, Spain

Parque de Maria Luisa, Seville, Spain

16. Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, Germany

The German capital is home to many attractions remaining from WWII and the subsequent iron curtain era. Tempelhofer Feld stands as a wonderful representation of the German character and their relationship with their turbulent past.

The park was once a military parade ground, which opened to the public on weekends and holidays. In 1920, an airport was built. However, 88 years later, the stretch of land was once again transformed into a park of the people. Today, it’s a hotspot for local athletes, with facilities for skating and cycling. There’s also an urban gardening project, which provides a quaint and picturesque area for picnics – or just for a quick rest!

Website: gruen-berlin.de
Directions: Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin, Germany

Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, Germany

15. Bernardine Gardens in Vilnius, Lithuania

Tucked away in the Baltics, Lithuania remains one of Europe’s most beautiful hidden gems. With a rich history, the capital city of Vilnius tells an important story through its architecture, culture, and people. Nowhere is this diverse past celebrated so perfectly than in the Bernardine Gardens.

Originally created in the 18th century by local artist, Vladislovas Štrausas, the recent restorations has renovated the gardens to their former glory. The riverside paths, beautiful fountains and central square are all identical to their original pre-WWII versions. The botanical elements of the park also hold an exciting history. Among the various awe-inspiring species of trees, the garden is home to three of the oldest oaks in Vilnius. The eldest dates back an impressive 300 years! The park also has a modern twist; the musical fountain in the central square is an exciting attraction that plays both classical and modern tunes.

Directions: Bernardine Park, B. Radvilaitės g. 8A, Vilnius, Lithuania 

Bernardine Gardens, Vilnius, Lithuania

14. Park Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon remains one of the most underrated cities in Europe and the Park Eduardo VII is one of its finest attractions. Its prime location offers panoramic views of the Portuguese capital and is a local favorite spot for relaxing on warm summer evenings. The vast stretches of green space also make it ideal for festivals and cultural celebrations.

If you lucky enough to be in Lisbon between May and September, be sure to attend one of the free Jazz concerts – it will be the highlight of your trip! The venue has such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere that it’s the perfect spot to strike up a conversation and get to know some new people.

Website: cm-lisboa.pt
Directions: Parque Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal

Park Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal

13. Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Since it was established as the epicenter of the hippy movement in the 1960s, Vondelpark has been a lively outdoor community area that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Celebrating the Dutch love of cycling, the best way to explore is on a bike. The many paths will lead you around the lakes, trees, and art that characterize this natural paradise.

Throughout the year, there is always plenty to do in the park. Yoga classes are a common occurrence and the open-air theatre hosts festivals, dance, cabaret, comedy shows and children’s performances. There are also many high-quality cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite. Although the park boasts over 10 million visitors per year, you can always find a quiet spot to relax and enjoy the nature.

Website: hetvondelpark.net
Directions: Vondelpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Holland

12. Lycabettus Hill in Athens, Greece

This vast limestone mound is one of Athens’ defining features. Located on the outskirts, it provides spectacular views over the city that has long been known as the cradle of Western civilization. Covered with soaring pine trees, it’s a perfect way to get out of the main city and enjoy the sights of Athens from afar.

You can spend a day hiking up the mount or there’s a cliff railway if you’d prefer not to exert yourself. Once at the top, the attractions are numerous. The chapel of St. George crowns the hill and there are many restaurants to enjoy a classic Italian meal. However, by far the main lure of the hill is the stunning open-air theatre. As great outdoor celebrations have long been a tradition in Greece, it provides a perfect spot to soak up some local culture. Both native groups and international artists headline the stage, including Black Sabbath, Massive Attack, and B.B. King.

Directions: Mount Lycabettus, Athens 114 71, Greece

Lycabettus Hill in Athens, Greece

11. Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland

This 354-year-old national park is one of the main attractions for visitors of the Irish capital. It’s currently home to the president’s house and headquarters for the police service, but the surrounding gardens have endless surprises and jaw-dropping sights.

Animal lovers will be filled with glee at the free-roaming deer herds. Plus, the onsite zoo is home to almost 100 different species. If you’re interested in exploring the cities history, then the Viking cemetery and the Wellington monument are essential stops. Alongside this, Ashdown castle stands as the oldest building in the park. For those who enjoy more adrenaline in their adventure, be sure to head down to the motor rally track, which hosts an annual race event.

Website: phoenixpark.ie
Directions: Phoenix Park, Dublin 8, Ireland

Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland

10. MFO Park, Zürich, Switzerland

When you think of the word ‘park,’ you imagine luscious sweeping fields and wooded hillsides. However, Zürich has taken the concept to a whole new level. As one of the best examples of urban green-spaces in the world, the park is comprised of vertical steel structures, each intertwined with a myriad of trees and plants.

The impressive structure is built around the bones of an old factory, masterfully up-cycled into a true work of art! It’s mesmerizing the sit beneath the canopy and shut out the city for even just a few moments. Boasting over 104 species of plants, the site has won numerous international awards. Despite this, it’s still a well-kept secret that hasn’t yet been tainted by large crowds.

Website: stadt-zuerich.ch
Directions: MFO Park, Zürich, Switzerland

MFO Park, Zurich, Switzerland

9. City Park in Budapest, Hungary

Quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Eastern Europe, Budapest is such a hit because it has something for everything. This wide variety of enjoyment and activities is also evident in the city’s most impressive park. With so much on offer, it’s advisable you dedicate a whole day to exploring.

Vajdahunyad Castle stands at the center and provides an iconic view from all angles. The impressive structure was built in 1896 as part of the celebration for 1000 years as an independent Hungarian state. Across the river stands the famed Széchenyi Baths, one of the best examples of the city’s thermal-spa culture. With naturally heated waters, it’s the ideal way to relax after walking the expansive lawns of the park. There is also a zoo and the Museum of Hungarian Architecture to visit.

Directions: City park, Budapest, Kós Károly stny., 1146 Hungary

City Park, Budapest, Hungary

8. Drottningholm Slott in Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm’s charm comes from its location. Situated on an archipelago in the South East of Sweden, the collection of islands rivals Vienna and Amsterdam for its picturesque waterways and riverside parks. Just out of the city, Drottingholm Castle is a must-see landmark, with vast grounds that provide visitors with one of the more breathtaking city-park experiences in Europe.

Spanning 1400 acres, the park has expanded over time. The inner section dates back to the late 1800s and is comprised of luscious tree avenues, decorative fountains, hedge mazes and long stretches of green lawn. The outer circle of the park came later, but its spectacular combination of canals, bridges and open grass are well-known for unmissable vistas. The grounds are also home to the Chinese Pavilion, an oriental style structure gifted to the Royal family in 1770.

Website: kungahuset.se
Directions: Drottningholms Slott, Stockholm, Sweden

Drottningholm Slott, Stockholm, Sweden

7. Tiergarten Park, Berlin, Germany

Berlin is awash with fascinating and unique parks. The most popular is Tiergarten, in the heart of the city. During the summer, this park is one the most popular favorite to while away the hours, as it’s always alive with activity.

For first-time visitors, there are a few essential stops to check off. The famed memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, the Reichstag Parliament building, and the Brandenburg gate line the eastern edge. The western side is home to the city zoo, numerous restaurants, and the park’s beautiful lake and canal system. Be sure to look out for events taking place, as the venue hosts celebrations throughout the year.

Website: visitberlin.de
Directions: Großer Tiergarten, Straße des 17. Juni 31, Berlin, Germany

Tiergarten Park, Berlin, Germany

6. Garden of Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium

This stunning city park only exists thanks to a spontaneous decision by King Leopold II in the late 1800s. He decided that the site, which then housed a busy neighborhood, would be flattened to make room for a ‘Mont des Arts.’ Unfortunately, the project was a slow starter and the space remained empty for many years. It wasn’t until 1910 that an important event in the city forced the commission of a temporary garden.

Today, this last-minute provision is a much-loved part of the city. It offers avenues of fountains and flower gardens, alongside the monumental staircase that has since become its most iconic feature. The impressive grounds are reason enough to visit the park, but the spectacular views it offers are equally magnificent. The gardens provides one of the best vistas of Brussels that can be found – so don’t forget your camera!

Directions: Mont des Arts, Bruxelles, Belgium

Garden of Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium

5. Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain

Gaudi’s stamp in one of the defining feature of Barcelona. The modernist architect combined his love of nature and geometry, to create a visual aesthetic that today has become the symbol of this famed Spanish city.

Gaudi created Parc Guell in the early 1900s, first opening it to the public in 1926. The breathtaking intricacy of his sculptures and mosaics are perfectly intertwined with Spanish nature, to create a park like no other in the world. Wandering his beautiful creations is like entering a dreamland. The cherry on top of the experience is the breathtaking view across the city offered by the park’s main square.

Website: parkguell.cat
Directions: Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain

Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain

4. Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy

Rome is home to some of the most iconic sights and buildings in the world. Considering this, it’s understandable that the majestic Villa Borghese often does not receive the credit it deserves. Spanning 80 hectares, there’s so much to do here that I recommend dedicating an entire day to the trip.

For nature lovers, the bio-park is a true highlight. Showcasing life of all kinds, this zoo/botanical garden has so much to see. If you’re looking for a more authentic Roman experience, then the Villa Medici and Galleria Borghese showcase classic renaissance architecture and Italian artwork.

Directions: Villa Borghese, Piazzale Napoleone 1, Roma RM, Italy

Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy

3. Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

Often described as the Central Park of Paris, these iconic gardens are regularly seen on TV, film and in works of photography and art. Their long chestnut groves blaze orange in the autumn and provide much-needed shade from the summer sun. Originally donated to the children of the city by Napoleon, it’s now a favored spot for Parisians and visitors of all ages.

It’s impossible not to be caught up in the romantic mood of the park – one the best dates I’ve ever had was spent wandering its ornate terraces! With traditional Punch & Judy shows, a carousel and horse rides on offer, it’s also the ideal family destination. Even if you’re just passing through on a business trip or city break, you have to take a moment to enjoy its enchanting charm.

Website: senat.fr
Directions: Le Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

2. Hyde Park in London, England

Made famous as one of England’s premier music venues, Hyde Park is a must-see attraction, whether you’re there for a concert or not. Set over 350 acres, the combination of green spaces, monuments, outdoor activities and local nature make it the perfect destination for the whole family.

The park is also home to some of London’s most important monuments. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is located in the center. Alternatively, the nearby Kensington gardens – made famous by Peter Pan – hosts art installations from prominent British sculptors. Speakers Corner, in the north-west of the site, is a notorious public space where speakers from all walks of life can share their ideas and beliefs.

Website: royalparks.org.uk
Directions: Hyde Park, London, UK

Hyde Park, London, England

1. El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

Located near the center of one of Spain’s most thriving cities, El Retiro Park does exactly as the name promises: offers a place to retire from fast-paced city life. Originally created for the country’s royalty, today locals and tourists alike can enjoy the beautiful gardens that are, literally, fit for a King!

The central lake is a picturesque lagoon, crowned with the breathtaking Alfonso XII monument – a grand pillared crescent complete with numerous life-size statues. Exploring the grounds, you’ll stumble across the rose garden, a vast walkway of statues and even a muster of beautiful peacocks that hang out in the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez. However, don’t forget to keep an eye on the sky in this area, as the birds are known for swooping down from the above trees!

Website: esmadrid.com
Directions: El Retiro Park, Plaza de la Independencia, 7, Madrid, Spain

El Retiro park, Madrid, Spain

There are so many fantastic destinations in Europe that its hard to narrow it down to the perfect list. However, the city parks are all definitely worth adding to your bucket list! Not only do they allow you a break from their respective city’s noise and business, they provide unmissable attractions in their own right.

If you know of any other green spaces that deserve a spot then be sure to leave a comment below – we’d love to hear your ideas!

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP


Top 10 Highest Peaks in Europe

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

When one thinks of Europe, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? The tree-lined boulevards of Le Champs d’Elysee? A cold stein of beer in a warm public bar in Germany? How about a snow-capped mountain? No, not the Alps. Well, not just the Alps. Europe is actually home to a myriad of world-famous, world class mountains, particularly those with impressively high peaks. So, for the adventure travelers who isn’t afraid of a little snow, we’ve compiled a list of the highest peaks in Europe; the ones that should be highest on your list.

10. Dom, Switzerland

Though it might be an anticipated choice, when talking European mountains, it’s impossible to avoid mentioning the Alps. However, those whose pondering of the Swiss Alps has never made it past The Matterhorn and Mont Blanc will be surprised to learn of the majesty of Dom, the third highest peak in the range clocking in at an impressive 4,545 m (or 14,911 ft). It, along with it’s twin, Taschhorn, make for a pretty pair of mountain majesty.

Why go there? As far as mountain climbing goes, Dom is actually considered an easy climb, despite its impressive height. It is also the point of intersection between the main Alps chain and an auxiliary chain running from Schwarzberghorn in the South to Distelhorn, meaning the summit offers impressive views of neighboring mountains peaks.

Location on MapDom, Switzerland

The Dom peak visible from Furka pass, Switzerland

9. Monte Rosa, Switzerland

Another treat from the Alps, Monte Rosa is actually considered the highest peak in Switzerland, and the second highest in the Alps, making it a respectably daring choice for any mountain aspiring mountain climber. Dufourspitze, it’s main peak, measures 4,634 m (15,203 ft) and is the subject of many a touristic camera lens point, both from close up and from a distance. But Dufourspitze is only one of many sightly peaks to explore on a trip up Monte Rosa.

Why go there? Monte Rosa is snowy year-round, and therefore a popular tourist destination for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering, as well as trekking. A complete trek of the mountain can me completed in about 10 days, but is not for the faint of heart or the cold-fearing, as temperatures can often drop sub-zero, even before sunfall.

Location on Map: Monte Rosa, Switzerland

Doufourspitze peak, Monte Rosa, Zermatt, Switzerland

8. Ushba, Georgia

Located in the Svaneti region of Georgia, near the Russian border, the Georgian Ushba mountain is often called the Matterhorn of the Caucasus Mountains, not for its height (which is impressive at 4,690 m (15,387 ft)), but rather for the truly awe-inspiring nature of its spindly double-summit, which is the subject of many impressive photos. However, Ushba is considered the hardest climb in the Caucasus Mountain Range, with the average climb-time running at over 12 days of exhausting mountaineering, so those pictures can come at a steep cost.

Why go there? For a true adventure climber or seasoned mountain tackler, Ushba Mountain, sometimes called “The Queen of the Caucasus” is the perfect challenge. Heavy snowfall and impressive year-round storms can make the climb arduous at best and treacherous at worst. Summit of the north peak mountain also technically involves a border crossing into Russia, which is an added bonus for travelers looking to cross another country off their list.

Location on MapUshba, Georgia

Mount Ushba at night

7. Mont Blanc, Italy, France

An exhilarating crossroad between France and Italy (though the summit is technically in France), Mont Blanc, Monte Bianco, or “White Mountain” is often cited as the second most famous mountain in the Alps, right after the Matterhorn. It is a stunning 4,807 m (15,778 ft) tall, and the stately views from the top do not disappoint, whether on foot or seen from the comfort of a plane journey from Paris to Milan.

Why go there? Lovers of winter sports will be impressed by the plethora of skiing, snowboarding and other winter sport adventuring, though the biggest and best way to experience Mont Blanc is, of course, mountaineering. For adventurous ice-climbers, Monte Blanc also features the Mer de Glace glacier, the second longest in the Alps.

Location on MapMont Blanc, Italy, France

Mont Blanc with Lac Blanc

6. Tetnuldi, Georgia

Tetnuldi is another snow-tipped Georgian charmer located among the mountains of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. Its highest peak, Adishi, clocks in at 4,853 m (15,922 ft), and is definitely a sight for sore eyes. This peak wins Tetnuldi the title of the 10th highest peak in the Caucasus as well as grants it some absolutely stunning views of its neighbors, including Mount Elbrus, and the tiny town of Mestia. Year round blanket of powder fresh snow makes it an appropriate home to many new and up-and-coming ski resorts.

Why go there? Those who love skiing will be pleased at the array of new ski resorts popping up on and around Tetnuldi, granting it greater accessibility and enjoyment as a touristic destination. However, once hitting base camp, camping is the only option for those wishing to summit the peak. And be careful, because Tetnuldi’s icy climes make it a considerably more difficult trek than other mountains in its height range.

Location on MapTetnuldi, Georgia

Mountain ski resort, Tetnuldi mountain, Swaneti region5. Mount Kazbek, Georgia

The third Georgian charmer on the list, Mount Kazbek (also known as Stepantsminda) is actually a dormant subclass of volcano known as a stratovolcano, as well as a part of the Caucasus Mountain Range. Its volcanic status has earned it the name “Molten Mount” in local tongues. Kazbek is considered the third highest peak in Georgia, at a height of 5,047 m (16,558 ft), but only the seventh highest in the Caucasus system. Though it’s a true feat to climb it, Kazbek’s commanding presence can also be enjoyed safely (and while sipping hot chocolate) from nearby Stepantsminda Village.

Why go there? Mount Kazbek is considered the crown jewel and main site of the Kazbegi National Park, official designated in 1979 and home to an abundance of alpine meadows and beech tree forests, making it a lovely destination for mountain climbers and nature lovers alike. However, unpredictable weather makes for a potentially treacherous and harrowing climb, so aspiring mountaineers should be careful as and well prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.

Location on Map: Mount Kazbek, Georgia

Mount Kazbek and Gergeti Church_

4. Koshtan-Tau, Russia

Moving across the border into the Russian section of the Caucasus, there is the Koshtan-Tau mountain, with a height of 5,144 m (16,877 ft). Though technically considered a massif, meaning there are several separate peaks on the mountain, the Koshtan-Tau is the only to go above the impressive 5,000 meter mark. Located near the Georgian border, the mountain’s Russian steep altitude and Northern-hemisphere location means there is snow year-round, making for some particularly scenic wintertime-all-the-time vistas.

Why go there? Since its discovery and first climb in 1889, the mountain has remained rather remote and not a particularly popular climb, making it an advantageous trek for those interested in venturing into relatively unchartered territory. However, travelers will be pleased to note that routes of many different terrains and difficulties exist, from easy rock routes to treacherous traverses.

Location on MapKoshtan-Tau, Russia

View of the highest peaks in Caucasus - Koshtan-Tau, Shkhara, Mizhirgi, Dykhtau

3. Shkhara, Georgia

Another Georgian summit of the Svaneti Caucasus region, Shkhara is simply another stunning, snow-topped peak, and in fact, Georgia’s highest summit. The highest point is a 12 km (7.5 mi) ridge known as Bezingi, which is 5,201 m (17,060 ft) high. Shkhara was first summited in 1888, and is not considered an easy climb by any means. However, aspiring climbers dissuaded by the challenge may be equally charmed by Shkhara’s local Georgian village, Ushguli, which is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Why go there? Shkhara is a high-risk, high reward kind of climb. The high levels of snow year round and treacherous rocky, steep mountain terrain dissuade many novice and even expert mountain climbers, and the completion of the entire Shkhara-Benzingi Wall is known as one of Europe’s most difficult climbs. Those who tough it win both commanding views and bragging rights. Though journey times vary widely, skilled climbers can complete a Shkhara trek in 6 or 7 days.

Directions: Shkhara, Georgia

Ushguli village at the foot of Mount Shkhara. Upper Svaneti, Georgia, Europe

2. Dykh-Tau, Russia

If this article doesn’t prove that the mountain range with the highest capacity for awe-inspiring peaks is indeed the Caucasus, not the Alps, nothing will. Dykh-Tau (also called Dikh Tau or Dycktau) is known as “jagged mount” in Turkic, and is aptly named, if we do say so ourselves. This second highest peak of the Caucasus Region is located in Russian territory, and known for the technical difficulty created by its jagged terrain and the frequent avalanches they cause. It is a truly steep 5,205 m (17,077 ft) at its highest point, and offers absolutely stunning views from its peak.

Why go there? This mountain, like so many of the others in this range, presents a challenging climb for true adventurers with no “beginner” or shortcut summit. Climbing takes an average of 13 days camping on the mountain, which can quickly stretch into more due to the challenging nature of the climb. Mountaineers, be sure to pack accordingly and choose wisely between the bitterly cold winter, and the summer when the rocks are out their roughest.

Location on Map: Dykh-Tau, Russia

Dykh-Tau - the second highest mountain in Europe

1. Mount Elbrus, Russia

Topping our list is the impressive Mount Elbrus, of the Caucasus Range in Russia (Eat your heart out, Matterhorn). Mount Elbrus is, of course, the highest peak in Europe, making it one of the world’s “seven summits.” The mount itself clocks in at the tenth most prominent in the world, with a stunning figure of 5,642 m (18,510 ft). Toe the surprise of many, Elbrus actually consists of two main peaks, both dormant volcanoes, stretching to the West and East. But lava-shy climbers, have no fear! The last eruption was in the year 50 CE.

Why go there? Despite its impressive size, Mount Elbrus has been fairly well carved out for travelers, making it an easier summit than many of the other giants on our list. The ascent can be aided by chairlift, and generally can take as little as eight hours. However, that doesn’t mean that the climb can be made by anyone, as it tops not only this list, but several lists of the most dangerous mountains in Europe. Adequate planning is important to ensure that these absolutely once in a lifetime views don’t come at the cost of one’s life.

Location on Map: Mount Elbrus, Russia

Mount Elbrus in the morning

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP


20 Places in Europe You Must See Before You Die

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

Okay, so you might not exactly be going to pass over to the celestial realm real soon, but just consider if you were. Would you pack your bags and go on a trip around Europe? Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? So why sit at home and wait until you’re knocking on death’s door to do it? Throw your stuff in a suitcase, get your tickets sorted and go have some fun while you can. Some things are better done and dusted than left stagnating on an I want to do this before I die list.

It would literally take a lifetime to visit all the amazing places there are to see in Europe. So if you have to whittle down your list, what are the twenty best spots to see in Europe whether you’re about to die or not? If you’re going to do it then do it right and make sure you get to see all of these fantastic places while you’re still alive.

20. Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

When you consider just how old the Charles Bridge which spans the Vltava River in Prague is, it’ll make you wonder how it’s still standing. The bridge’s sixteen arches are over five hundred years old and the bridge towers, which are part of a previous construction, date right back to the fourteenth century.

Why Go? The Charles Bridge is stunningly Gothic. The thirty odd statues of saints you’ll come across when you walk over the bridge are a serious must see. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else it Europe. It is completely unique.

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

19. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

The Glenfinnan Viaduct is the longest railway bridge in Scotland. It’s not only special because it appeared in the Harry Potter films either. The viaduct has twenty one arches which carry a single track railway line one hundred feet above the River Finnan and through the Finnan valley for more than one thousand two hundred feet. Without one ounce of metal reinforcement? Now that’s magic.

Why Go? As far as mass concrete structures go, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is probably one of the most amazing in the world. Board the train ride to cross it and you’ll be guaranteed one of the most scenic rides of your life.

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

18. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Architect Antoni Gaudi left his mark all over Barcelona with his imaginative designs. None is as prominent as the Sagrada Familia. It’s a building which really pokes you in the eye with its exaggerated elaborateness. Construction of the church began way back in the late nineteenth century and still hasn’t been completed.

Why Go? The Sagrada Familia is a great place to see before you die. Why? If you live to be a hundred and they ever actually finish it, you’ll be able to say you saw it while it was still being built. You can’t say that about many national monuments so make the most of the unique opportunity.

Related: 25 Tourist Attractions in Bacelona

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

17. Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

The Grand Canal cuts through the city of Venice in Italy for almost two and a half miles. The inner-city waterway is almost three hundred feet wide in places which is good as there can be anywhere up to five thousand boats a day navigating along it.

Why Go? The Grand Canal is lined either side with incredible historic buildings and is probably the most decorated stretch of waterway anywhere in the world. Most of the amazing buildings are only viewable by boat, but it’s the constant wash of boat wakes which cause them structural damage. Go and see them before their foundations are beyond repair and they disappear beneath the water in a pile of rubble.

The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

16. Dona Ana Beach, Lagos, Portugal

The Dona Ana Beach is an incredible stretch of impeccable sand just one and a half miles from the centre of Lagos. It’s hard to believe such a stunning stretch of coastline could actually be so close to urbanity. What makes it even more impressive are the rugged cliffs which back the beach. They’ve been eroded by the action of sea and wind into unusual formations which expose the rock’s multi-colored strata.

Why Go? Who needs a reason to go to the beach? If you do need a reason, well, you can always boast you saw the cliffs before they were worn away by the elements and became just another grain of sand.

Dona Ana Beach, Lagos, Portugal

15.Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher are a staggeringly rugged part of Ireland’s west coast. It’s a long, almost four hundred foot, drop from the cliff tops down into the Atlantic Ocean below. They’re steep, they’re gaunt and believe it, Nature used her harshest tool when she carved away the land to form the eight and a half miles of this stark geological formation.

Why Go? Visit the Cliffs of Moher and you’ll be able to say you’ve stood on the edge of, if not the world, then at least Ireland. There’s always the option of adjourning to the pub after to sample a pint or two of Guinness. Any more persuasion needed?

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

14. The Gorges du Verdon, SE France

Carved from solid rock by the raging waters of the Verdon River, the Gorges du Verdon stretches like a scar through the French countryside for over fifteen miles. Even more awe-inspiring are the gorge sides which tower over two thousand feet about the glacial blue river water.

Why Go? The Gorges du Verdon is the perfect place to get a big adrenaline thrill. Canoeing through the canyon is like time traveling back to a Jurassic world, only thankfully without the dinosaurs.

The Gorges Du Verdon, south-eastern France

13. Preikestolen, Near Stavanger, Norway

One of the best places to visit in Scandinavia is the Preikestolen which is an enormous rock formation in the Norwegian wilds. Known as Pulpit Rock it looms over the ice blue waters of the Lysefjord to a staggering height of almost two thousand feet. Topped by an eighty square foot plateau it is one of Norway’s most photographed landmarks.

Why Go? If you ever wanted to preach a sermon to the world, well, this is the place to do it. The Preikestolen isn’t nicknamed Pulpit Rock for nothing. Spread your arms and shout a few words, your voice will carry for miles.

Preikestolen over Lysefjorden, Stavanger, Norway

12. The Blue Lagoon, Reykjanes Peninsula, SW Iceland

The Blue Lagoon on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula is the world’s most picturesque spa. The cloudy azure waters of the man-made lagoon are heated by an underground volcanic lava field and loaded with therapeutic minerals which are reputed to aid the healing of skin problems.

Why Go? If you’re going to spoil yourself with a spa treatment then do it in the best. The Blue Lagoon is definitely that. It can work out quite pricey for a quick dip so if you’re traveling on a budget, check out these cheaper alternatives to the Blue Lagoon instead.

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

11. Landwasser Viaduct Bridge, Filisur, Switzerland

The Landwasser Viaduct carries a single track rail line across the Landwasser River at a mind-boggling height of over two hundred feet. Its six arch formation is an incredible architectural accomplishment considering it was constructed well over a hundred years ago.

Why Go? The Landwasser Viaduct Bridge is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. Why? Board the train and ride across it. It’ll be the scariest edge of your seat, hold your breath, adrenaline thrill you’ve ever had without entering an amusement park.

Landwasser Viaduct bridge in Winter

10. Gásadalur, Faroe Islands

The Gásadalur or Múlafossur Waterfall as it is also known really is one of Nature’s hidden treasures. Situated on a remote Faroe Islands with only the small village of Gásadalur close by, the stunning waterfall tumbles over a steep cliff edge colonized by seabirds. It is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Europe.

Why Go? If you do go to see the Múlafossur Waterfall, you can call yourself a true adventurer. It is so far removed from civilization not many people have actually been there. You’ll be one of only a few who are able to upload their photos to the internet.

Gasadalur, Faroe Islands

9. Hallstatt Village, Austria

The Hallstatt Village is on the shores of Lake Hallstatt in Austria. Backed by a rugged mountain landscape, it’s more easily accessible by boat than by road. Seemingly untouched by time, the village’s colorful alpine houses and cobbled streets date to the sixteenth century.

Why Go? Going to Hallstatt Village is like visiting the land that time forgot. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to time travel backwards a few centuries, you’ll find the answer here.

Hallstatt Village, Austria

8. Keizersgracht, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Keizersgracht or Emperor’s Canal is the widest canal in Amsterdam. Over a hundred feet wide, the canal is lined by five hundred-year-old buildings which, although they may have been converted into luxury apartments, still maintain their original facades.

Why Go? Amsterdam is a city full of canals. If you’re going to make a point of seeing one, make sure its the biggest. Go in winter when it’s frozen over and rather than sail down it in a canal barge, you can skate down it instead.

Canal Crossroads At Keizersgracht, Amsterdam, Netherlands

7. Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

Out of the five towns which comprise the UNESCO site of Cinque Terre in Italy only Vernazza has a harbor. The multi-colored houses of the car-free fishing hamlet area a major attraction to photographers.

Why Go? Vernazza has previously been heavily damaged by flooding and mudslides. Go and see it before it happens again and the town is destroyed beyond repair. If that’s not reason enough, they also produce a local wine called vernaccia which is a delectably good. Do you need a better reason to go?

Vernazza village in Cinque Terre area, Italy

6. Oia, Santorini, Greece

Oia is a village which snuggles in a volcanic cauldron on the coast of the Greek island of Santorini. Its houses are painted an eye-dazzling white and blue, but while it may look spotlessly new, the settlement’s history is traceable as far back as the beginning of the eleventh century.

Why Go? Most Greek monuments are either ruins or at some stage of falling into disrepair. Maintained to a pristine, impeccable level, Oia is a Greek rarity. Go there and you’ll see Greece at its impeccable best.

Related: Top 10 Feritaile Towns in Greece

Oia, Santorini, Greece

5. Neuschwanstein Castle, SW Bavaria, Germany

The impressive Neuschwanstein Castle perches on a hill and overlooks the Hohenschwangau valley in SW Bavaria. It is one of the best castles in Germany. Built as a king’s folly in the mid to late nineteenth century its internal plumbing and heating systems were a major leap forward in the technology of the times.

Why Go? Neuschwanstein Castle is often called the fairytale castle because of its exterior multi-turreted appearance. Whether it was inspired by a fairy tale or writers of fairy tales were inspired by it is a question which still begs to be answered. Visit the castle to see if you can find a vital clue to the never-ending mystery story.

Neuschwanstein Castle, southwest Bavaria, Germany

4. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The Eiffel Tower does literally tower above Paris, the French capital. The metal construction is a dizzying one thousand feet high and is the tallest structure in the city. It took two years to build and was inaugurated just in time for the 1889 World Fair.

Why Go? The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most iconic monuments. The view from the observational platform is the view of Paris you must see before you die.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

3. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland

The Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls. The water source, from a glacial melt, rages over the cliff and drops a magnificent two hundred feet before continuing its course.

Why Go? Hidden behind the raging stream of water which is the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is a cave. Accessible by foot, the cave gives you a unique viewpoint to observe the waterfall in all its force and to get some amazing photographs – rainbows included. You can’t do that anywhere else in Europe.

Passage under Seljalandsfoss waterfall

2. Seven Sisters Waterfall, Geiranger, Norway

The Seven Sisters Waterfall is a group of seven streams which cascade over a cliff near Geiranger in Norway. Not the highest waterfall in Norway by any means with a drop of just over eight hundred feet, but definitely one of the best things to see in Scandinavia.

Why Go? The Seven Sisters Waterfall is fed by melting glacier ice without which there’d be no waterfalls. Go to see it before the effects of global warming turn it dry and it’s nothing more than another Norwegian cliff face.

Seven Sisters Waterfall, Geiranger, Norway

1. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is an amazing configuration of sixteen lakes interlinked by stunning waterfalls and surrounded by forests. Situated between the Mala Kapela and Lička Plješivica mountain ranges, it’s recognized worldwide as a place of outstanding natural beauty and was Croatia’s first national park.

Why Go? The beauty of the Plitvice Lakes National Park defies description. It is something you just have to see with your own eyes to believe it. Even photographs don’t do it full justice. Don’t miss it.

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP


Top 10 Fairytale Towns in Greece

You’ve probably seen hundreds of photos of amazing Greek beaches, monuments, and sunsets while scrolling on Instagram and made yourself a long list of – must-see in Greece.

But, believe it. The photos often don’t do justice to the reality which makes it almost impossible to choose just which are the best places to visit in Greece. The list would be endless. Add in the extra elements of incredible Mediterranean cuisine and friendly, hospitable people, and once you’re there, you may even find you never want to leave.

Whether you’re thinking of visiting the mainland or are planning on touring some of the islands, wherever you go, you’ll find Greece is a magical country. Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of the ten best towns in Greece, none of which you’re going to want to miss out on.

10. Plaka, Athens

Think of Athens, the capital city of Greece, and the first thing which comes to mind will probably be some of its famous monuments like the Acropolis or the Parthenon. Those aside, the city has a distinct character which is unique from other European capitals.

Athens evolved from what was originally a mass of small villages which have merged together over the centuries. Most of those villages have lost their original characteristics and are indistinct from each other. The neighborhood known as Plaka hasn’t.

In Plaka, there are cobbled streets lined with cafes and restaurants with colorfully furnished terraces. Narrow pedestrianized alleys where traditional Ouzerias and the local bakery are flanked by eclectic souvenir shops. You’ll come across lively venues like Bretto’s which has been operating since the early twentieth century. Once the site of a distillery, it’s now a bar with walls decorated with bottles.

Explore further and you’ll find Anafiotika, another part of Plaka. The locality, with its blue-doored white houses and stepped streets decorated with flower pots, will have you imagining you’ve been teleported from the city to one of the quieter, less-developed islands.

Why Go? Plaka is the most beautiful area of Athens and is alive with traditional Greek character. Not visiting Plaka while you’re in Athens is missing out the best part – the heart and soul of the city.

Narrow street in Anafiotika, Plaka district, Athens, Greece

Narrow street in Anafiotika, Plaka district, Athens, Greece

9. Assos, Kefalonia (Cephalonia), Ionian

Hop on a plane from Athens airport, and within an hour you’ll be disembarking on the largest island in the Ionian chain – Kefalonia. This island has all the visual elements which make Greece so memorable. White sand beaches in secluded bays surrounded by pine-covered cliffs, picturesque harbor towns, and quaint, rustic villages. Kefalonia also has some incredible natural wonders like the Melissani Lake Cave which just have to be seen to be believed.

There’s one particular village on Kefalonia which has to be on your list of best places to see in Greece, and that’s Assos. Assos is a tiny hamlet of pastel-colored houses with a population of just one hundred. It nestles, at the base of a hill on a small peninsula, on the north-west coast of Kefalonia and is surrounded on three sides by the stunning blue of the Mediterranean Sea. The village, which is overlooked by the ruins of a Venetian castle, has a pebble beach and small marina lined with traditional restaurants. Idyllic doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Why Go? Life has a different pace in uncommercialized Assos. It’s the perfect place to chill out and really relax. Explore the village and the ruins, swim, then dine by the sea on some real Greek food. Vacations don’t get any better than that.

White blue boats in Assos village, Kefalonia island, Greece

White blue boats in Assos village, Kefalonia island, Greece

8. Naxos Town (Chora), Naxos, Cyclades

The largest island of the Cyclades, a group of two hundred Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, is Naxos. It’s well known for its picture postcard appearance, historical monuments and surprisingly, its top quality potatoes.

If you love art and history, Naxos Town or Chora will be a must see in Greece for you. The town’s square-shaped houses lined up on a hillside in tiered layers resemble a Cubist artwork. For the historians, the town has a thirteenth-century castle inside which there’s a thriving community. Enter through its gate, and the explore the Kastro’s streets of cobbles. You’ll discover Venetian mansions, churches, the Kastro cathedral in the main square, museums and a monastery in this community nucleus.

For a historically artistic sunset photo opportunity, head out of town and up the hillside to Apollo’s Temple. This impressive ruin of the temple entrance stands like a photo frame waiting to catch the sun between the columns of its lintel-ed arch. Now that’s a seriously Instagramable snap.

Why Go? Visiting Naxos is to immerse yourself in living history. Walk around the Kastro, the community within the castle walls and you’ll feel as if you taken a leap back in time. Fascinating.

The Portara or the Great Door, entrance to the Apollo Temple. Naxos, Greece

The Portara or the Great Door, entrance to the Apollo Temple. Naxos, Greece

7. Parga, Northern Greece

If being by a great beach is somewhere near the top of your list for the perfect vacation location, then Parga would be one of the best Greek towns you could go to. The coastal town, which sits below the ruins of a castle, has none of the hustle and bustle you’d expect in an urban spread of its size.

Think tranquil stretches of glorious sand between outcrops of stunning pine-clad limestone cliffs, because Parga is all about beautiful beaches and views as scenic as you’ll find on any of the islands. Krioneri beachLichnos beach or Valtos beach, take your pick, they’re all within a few minutes walking distance of the town.

Parga’s isn’t short on nightlife either. After dark, the bars and taverns on the harbor front spring into action and you can party through the night until the sun comes up.

Travel anywhere in Greece, and you’ll see grove after grove of olive trees. The oil produced from the olive harvest is an essential ingredient in Greek life. Its importance is honored in the Paragaea Olive Oil Museum which exhibits antique machinery and information on the processes used for extracting the oil. Don’t miss out on sampling some.

Why Go? Visiting Parga is like visiting several of the Ionian islands all at once. It may be on the mainland but its characteristics are the same as Corfu or Kefalonia plus you’ll learn all about the most important ingredient in Greek cuisine – olive oil.

The island of Panagia off the coast of Parga, Greece

The island of Panagia off the coast of Parga, Greece

6. Mykonos Town (Chora), Mykonos, Cyclades

If you like to party to dawn and be in with the in-crowd, then Mykonos Town is the best place in Greece for you to visit. While the island of Mykonos, which is in the Cyclades chain, might only cover an area of thirty-three square miles, it’s an island which has dominated the Greek social scene for years. Yes, it has a reputation for being as wild, if not wilder, than Ibiza and it’s a reputation it lives up to.

Be prepared to be blinded by the morning sunshine and the bright, whiteness of the houses when you leave the clubs. You may even need to elbow your way through the crowds if a cruise ship has docked in the harbor. That’s all part of Mykonos’s charm.

Is there more to Mykonos Town than bars and nightclubs? Yes, there is. Little Venice is a part of the town where the houses and restaurants go right up to the waterfront. It’s quaint, and the narrow streets behind are an interesting labyrinth of boutiques and bars. The cluster of five windmills on the town’s coastline makes for an iconic Instagram photo if you snap them at sunset. The Mama Mia-style, Panagia Paraportiani church with its white-washed walls and arched bell tower is one of the most photogenic buildings in Greece.

Why Go? Mykonos Town is the place in Greece to see, be seen and party like you’ve never partied before. Do you need any better reason to go than that?

Beautiful street of Mykonos village, Greece

Beautiful street of Mykonos village, Greece

5. Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese

One of the best Greek towns to visit for combining beach time with viewing ancient monuments is Lindos on the island of Rhodes. The town sits in a beautiful bay edged with golden sands. Above it on a prominent hillside is a fortress-like acropolis which dates from around 200 BC.

While Lindos is picture perfect with narrow cobbled streets full of flowers and trailing vines, it’s the acropolis which is attention-grabbing. Enter through the medieval gateway and inside is another world, an ancient one, where there’s a lot to explore. Discover the Doric temple with impressive columns, Hellenistic stairways, the remains of a Roman temple and a pentagonal tower which was part of the castle built by the Knights of St John. There are donkey rides from the town to the acropolis, but it’s not a difficult walk, so avoid using the overworked animals and give them a break if you can.

For a day on the beach, head to St Paul’s Bay. The tiny, sheltered cove has super clear turquoise waters which are perfect for snorkeling.

Why Go? Lindos is the ideal town to combine spending leisurely days on the beach with fascinating archaeological explorations.

Acropolis of Lindos. Doric columns of the ancient Temple of Athena and the bay of St. Paul. Lindos, Rhodes, Greece

Acropolis of Lindos. Doric columns of the ancient Temple of Athena and the bay of St. Paul. Lindos, Rhodes, Greece

4. Monemvasia, Peloponnese

Monemvasia lies just off the coast of the Greek Peloponnese, and although it is an island, a narrow causeway connects it to the mainland. From a distance, Monemvasia appears to be a gigantic and lifeless mound of arid rock. It isn’t until you’re actually on it that it reveals its impressive secrets.

On this tiny islet, shrouded by the presence of the central rock formation and hidden from view, is a medieval walled citadel. Go through the tunnel entrance, and you’ll be in a world that time has forgotten. Stroll the cobbled streets lined with empty houses. There are very few people living in the fortress, and no cars are permitted inside, so it’s eerily quiet once you’re away from the center. There are a few hotels, a couple of tavernas and some souvenir shops. The island also has two beautiful beaches. One right by the castle walls and the other around two miles away which you can walk to.

Why Go? Live the fairytale by staying in a castle surrounded on all sides by the sea. Monemvasia is one of the most romantic places in Greece and is ideal for an intimate couples vacation.

Panoramic view of the medieval castletown of Monemvasia, Peloponnese, Greece

Panoramic view of the medieval castletown of Monemvasia, Peloponnese, Greece

3. Chania Town, Crete

Chania Town on the island of Crete is overflowing with authentic Greek character. From the colorful Venetian harbor which is lined with cafeterias and restaurants, to the labyrinth of back streets full of shops and boutiques in the Old Town, it teems with life both day and night. The Cretan cuisine is unbeatable, and the harbor is the best place to try some of the local fish.

Stroll along the mile-long sea wall to photograph the lighthouse or snap a sly shot of the fishermen sitting on their boats working at mending their nets. Trek up to the small church of Profitis Ilias, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic vistas of the whole of Chania town.

While you’re in Chania, you won’t want to miss out on seeing two of the best beaches in the world. Elafonisi, famous for its pink sand and crystal-clear sea, and Balos, the tranquil lagoon with white sand and turquoise waters. They’re both some distance from the town but are must-see places when you’re in Greece. That goes for the Samaria Gorge too. It’s an hour’s drive from Chania, but hiking through the gorge’s incredible landscape is something you’ll never forget.

Why Go? If you can only visit one Greektown, make it Chania. It has everything you could dream of and more, so you won’t miss out on a thing.

Famous Old Venetian Harbour in Chania, Crete, Greece

Famous Old Venetian Harbour in Chania, Crete, Greece

2. Kastraki, Meteora

Kastraki is a small Greek town in the region of Meteora on mainland Greece and is the best Greek town to visit for seeing the Meteora monasteries. Wake up in the morning, open the patio doors and you will see the UNESCO World Heritage Site from your balcony.

The Meteora monasteries are one of Greece’s most famous landmarks. The medieval monasteries sit atop incredible pillars of rock, most of which are over a thousand feet high. Now accessible by steps carved into the rocks, there was a time when provisions and people were hauled up the cliff sides in nets attached to ropes. Thankfully, that no longer happens.

Kastraki itself is an archaeological delight of stone houses with red-tiled roofs adorned with flowers. Its location right under the towering pinnacles is tranquil and otherworldly. The only noise to disturb your sleep will be the crowing of the roosters at dawn. The countryside which surrounds Meteora is great for hiking, and if you’re a rock climber, you’ll find a new challenge everywhere you turn.

Why Go? Without seeing them for yourself, you can’t imagine the grandeur and magnitude of the Meteora monasteries. Their impressiveness leaves a lasting impression.

Meteora rock and town of Kastraki in Greece

Meteora rock and town of Kastraki in Greece

1. Oia, Santorini, Cyclades

Oia on the Cyclades island of Santorini is in essence what most people imagine when they think of Greek towns. Whitewashed houses snug against a cliffside dominated by the blue domes of a church. Yes, Oia is that typical image made reality and is stunningly picture postcard perfect.

Because of its geographical position, Oia has the most amazing sunsets every day. It’s something which hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the town gets inundated with crowds of tourists as well as visitors from cruise ships which dock in the harbor. The influx doesn’t spoil the town though, and it’s a great place for trying Greek food, enjoying the views and just relaxing on the beach.

Oia is one of the best Greek towns for taking photographs. The town poses as well as any supermodel, and if you’re a novice photographer, you’ll be over the moon with the results you get from snapping Oia and the sunsets.

Why Go? Oia is one of the most photogenic spots in all of Greece. Blues skies, blue seas, and white buildings which reflect the light. Oia is a photographer’s dream.

Oia in Santorini, Greece

Thanks to: Pando Trip


Best European City Breaks in 2019

A city break gives you the opportunity to get out and explore the history, culture and art of somewhere new in a short space of time. Find hidden gems, take in the unique architecture and immerse yourself in a new culture. With memories to last a lifetime, be in awe of some of the world’s most iconic monuments and attractions. In no particular order, here are just some of the best city breaks you can take in 2019.

London

It’s easy to overlook London if you live in the UK, but don’t make that mistake; every time you visit there will be something new or a different exhibition, event or venue for you to attend. With world famous landmarks such as Big Ben (bell ringing or not), Buckingham Palace or the Houses of Parliament and its fantastic array of shops. Not to mention the free museums such as the V&A, the Natural History Museum and art galleries, why wouldn’t you love the English capital?

Travel by tube or bus to navigate around the city at low cost. If you would like to explore some of London’s museums and famous monuments, such as the golden Buckingham Palace, choose to stay in South Kensington. For a sunset over the River Thames stay near Tower Bridge and with nightlife on your doorstep, the stylish boutique hotels and bars in Soho or Shoreditch are perfect. Take a ride on the London Eye or go and see a play in the West End; the possibilities here are endless.

Milan

The fashion capital of Italy, with its vibrant food and drink, Milan has a number of historical buildings and hotels to suit anyone’s budget. With jaw-dropping skyscrapers (including some that have been redesigned as vertical forests) and interior courtyards that remain undiscovered by the masses, this beautiful city will leave you wanting more. Splurge on clothes from famous designers that line the Quadrilatero D’Oro district and in the many outlets and high street shops and boutiques.

For hotels next to the peaceful Sempione Park as well as the Scala Opera House and one of the largest cathedrals in the world, the spectacular Duomo di Milano, the Centro Storico area is brimming with hotels to suit all budgets. Make use of the good metro links from Scala to the surrounding neighbourhoods, head to Navigli for vintage markets and a chic nightlife.

  • What to do in Italy?

Paris

It’s obviously one of the most romantic and beautiful cities in the world, but there’s a lot more to Paris than a boat ride up the Seine with your beloved. It’s full of many iconic sights such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as distinguished artwork such as the Mona Lisa. Discover the hidden gem of the Marais Mansion and pristine gardens near to the National Picasso museum. For a peaceful stroll away from the hustle and bustle, walk the 4.7 km scenic route along the floral Promenade Plantee that starts behind the Bastille Opera House.

Relax and soak up the ambiance of the city in one of the many coffee shops or unwind with a glass of wine sourced from the Bordeaux region and a creamy slice of Camembert. One of the best areas to stay in that’s near to all the sights is in the 1st or 4th district where you’ll find The Louvre and the Notre-Dame. If you’d like to wake up to the view of the Eiffel Tower, there’s a number of fantastic hotels in the 7th district. With Paris set to host the 2024 Olympics there’s likely to be a period of exciting rejuvenation and reinvention in the area.

  • What to do in France?

Amsterdam

Amsterdam has one of the liveliest atmospheres you will ever be a part of. With its pretty bridges and canals it has a village-style charm to it. Take a walk or more likely a bike ride (cheap to rent for a couple of days) around Vondelpark to view an original Picasso. There are several hotels that overlook the park or choose to stay near the centre overlooking the canal. Sail through the canals on a river boat cruise and find treasures in Waterlooplein Flea Market, Amsterdam’s oldest and largest market with other 300 stalls.

Amsterdam has a huge number of art galleries and some of the top-ranking museums such as Anne Frank Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Spend your time enjoying the gorgeous architecture, interesting nightlife and culture of experimentation.

  • What to do in Netherlands?

Berlin

A city with a history like no other thanks to the Berlin Wall that split the city in half for almost five decades, before falling in 1989. After you’ve visited the wall memorial, explore the Reichstag dome, a splendid snapshot of modern architecture and power built upon an incredible past – there’s still graffiti left from soviet soldiers from 1945.

Take full advantage of Berlin and visit it in the summer when the good weather hits the streets, the river looks stunning and the residents all take full advantage of the lakes across the city. Explore the surrounding neighbourhoods, Pankow offers a mix of 19th-century architecture and the historic district of Weissensee has its own beach. Stay in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg or Neukölln to take in the local atmosphere and abundance of local bars, restaurants and clubs.

  • What to do in Germany?

Hamburg

Another one of Germany’s exciting cities, visit Hamburg to learn more about its rich maritime heritage. A city where its neighbourhoods have their own unique character; Hamburg is a trendy setting for a mini-break. Close to train links, stay in Neustadt to take the opportunity to explore the city on foot.

Explore the gritty art culture in the hip neighbourhood of Gängeviertel and follow the colourful street art to Flora-Park, which is rich in political history. Seek out culinary excellence, marvel over the WWII monuments and be in awe of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.

Barcelona

A city break with a beach, what could be more perfect? Gaudi’s city of Barcelona is a great destination for the whole family if they love sun, sea, sightseeing and sport. Check out the Camp Nou and 1992 Olympic stadium. Explore the bizarre curiosities of Park Güell, the café culture of the thriving Las Ramblas and the Salvador Dali museum.

If you want to be in and amongst the excitement, there are plenty of hotels near to the bustling Las Ramblas. For a quieter location, stay in the picturesque Gothic Quarter. La Barceloneta beach is a short walk from the centre and lined with bars, entertainers and soft sand perfect for sitting with a sangria. If you decide to stay for longer, take a day trip into the Pyrenees Mountains for hiking trails with unbelievable views.

  • What to do in Spain?

Prague

Considered one of Europe’s most interesting cities, Prague’s bars and Staropramen are sensational, housed in buildings that are centuries old but still maintain their grandeur. There’s the usual glitzy clothing shops that you’d expect in a capital, but these can be found in premises of restored Baroque architecture by beautiful cobbled lanes.

The Mala Strana district offers a laid-back atmosphere, while the Vinohrady area, slightly out of the centre, is doused in European cool, with trendy bars and independent restaurants. Visit the majestic cathedral that overlooks the entire city, see the famous Babylonian clock tower, the statues at Charles Bridge or sit back and drink and eat to your heart’s content in one of the many lively bars and restaurants.

  • What to do in Czech Republic?

Copenhagen

The Danish capital is ranked as one of the happiest cities in the world, with winding cobbled streets, modernist civic buildings and harbour-side vistas. This city has over 1,000 years of royal history and therefore some gorgeous castles for visiting. It offers a mixture of European and Islamic art collections, a thriving fashion scene and great museums.

Copenhagen is relatively small so, getting around is easy to do on foot, by bike or via the tram. With its fantastic shopping street, Strøget, staying near here will ensure you don’t miss a beat. Tivoli Gardens amusement park will keep youngsters happy (watch out for the splendid Christmas market). Take a walk on one of the stunning beaches and say hello to the Little Mermaid statue on the way.

  • What to do in Denmark?

Dublin

Visit Dublin for its Georgian architecture, vigorous pub culture, spacious parks, attractive seaside location, and breathtaking museums and galleries. Come here to eat well too; Dublin has 12 Michelin starred restaurants. And if you’re after a drop of the black stuff you won’t be disappointed when you enjoy a pint of stout at the Guinness Factory (they make lager as well now, of course).

In the heart of it all, notorious Temple Bar is where your nightlife hails as its lively pubs streams onto every street. Dublin has a cosmopolitan outlook and embraces diversity and multiculturalism, so you’ll certainly hear lots of different languages on your travels.

Rome

With a history and heritage that has shaped Europe more than any other city in the world, the Italian capital’s monuments, art and architecture detail its legacy from the last 3,000 years or so. With good transport links, stay in the Roma Termini area near to the main railway station. There is so much for you to see and explore including the Colosseum, the ornate Vatican City and the temples.

Wander around the enchanting Quartiere Coppede district in the north of the city to see the charming architecture. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is also a must see, although you might want to bring your binoculars! The cobbled lanes and hidden corners touched by the constant aroma of coffee coming out the cafés just adds to the beautiful experience that is Rome.

  • What to do in Italy?

Edinburgh

Jam-packed with medieval tenements, narrow ‘wynds’ of the Old Town contrasting with the stunning elegance of the Georgian New Town, there is no question that Edinburgh is one of the most enthralling cities in the world, and not just at festival time. Edinburgh Castle is visited by 1.7m people a year and overlooks the city with a certain majesty, and not many other venues boast a Royal Mile – a thoroughfare of streets running from the castle to Holyrood Palace.

It’s also a great place to channel your inner thrill seeker. Take a trip to the Snowsports Centre, the UK’s largest artificial ski slope, to have a go at snowboarding, skiing and snowblading with an incredible view of the surrounding hills and the city. Alternatively, take part in rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking or mountain biking around the city.

Stockholm

The Swedish capital’s grace is reflected in the 14 islands that are linked by bridges, and ferries, with its bobbing quayside boats and Royal Palace that give it that irresistible charm. With so much beauty to soak up, there are plenty of options when it comes to choosing where to stay. For romance, choose the elegant Gamla Stan and for exploring the sights, the Norrmalm district has good transport links. The Södermalm area is where you can experience excellent nightlife.

The brilliantly-preserved Vasa ship, dating back around four centuries, will give you a unique view of military combat on the high seas in Scandinavia in the 17th Century. If you’re an ABBA fan, then this is the place for you as the city has its very own ABBA Museum that follows the group’s history into fame. Just as a warning though, you will have ‘Dancing Queen’ stuck in your head long after your trip.

  • What to do in Sweden?

Lisbon

Lisbon is a Latin fairy-tale of wooden trams, and iron funiculars that rumble their way among the seven steep hills over the city, that look over the Rio Tejo. With the seaside on its doorstep there’s plenty of fresh seafood for you to enjoy. See the city in all its elegance from the quieter, Jardim do Torel to view the sea of terracotta rooftops throughout the seven hills.

The Lisbon waterfront harks back to its time as a maritime superpower but in the 21st Century the streets transform into one of Europe’s loudest and lively nights out. To be amongst it all, stay in Baixa and Rossio. The Chiado district is considered to be artistic with beautifully elegant Belle-Èpoque shop fronts, theatres and Art Nouveau cafès.

Venice

Summer brings some of the biggest crowds to Venice, via flight and cruise ship, and for good reason – it’s one of the few cities in the world with no cars and built entirely on water. Its churches and museum buildings are several centuries old hosting a burgeoning contemporary art scene. A visit to the island of Murano and its glass factories is a must.

A city of 400 bridges, wander through the islands, taking in the spectacular 360 degree views that the Church of San Giorgio’s bell tower provides. Of course it’s mandatory to climb aboard a gondola and be transported around the city while you doing nothing other than sitting back and relaxing.

  • What to do in Italy?

Florence

Europe’s greatest artistic city Florence boasts canvases by the likes of Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and other great artists in the Uffizi Gallery. Apart from the art and architecture, exquisite restaurants, and nightlife make time to embrace the opera while checking out the quirky little shops and quality crafts.

Leave yourself time for a stroll around the Oltrarno quarter that has artisan’s workshops and great hotels. A visit to the city’s Mercato Centrale is a must and certainly do not miss out on the wine bars! It will be one of the most civilised city breaks you have ever had.

  • What to do in Italy?

Madrid

Spain’s blue skies and summer sunshine mean that it will never be short of visitors, and Madrid is at the forefront of that movement. Having revamped itself in the past few years, the city is beginning to look a lot smarter. New boutiques, cafés, delis and gastro bars are opening every week boasting a lot more than tapas and rioja; it’s got the only Mexican restaurant (Punto MX) in the whole of Europe with a Michelin star, for example.

Discover hidden rooftop bars near to the Plaza de Cibeles and the vibrant Calle de la Montera. To get more out of the city, stay central to spend some time enjoying the Prado or check out the Botanic Garden next to Buen Retiro park.

  • What to do in Spain?

Porto

A courageous art scene, medieval old town and several idyllic beaches nearby, explore the charming city of Porto in Portugal. See the unique blend of Romanesque and Mediterranean architecture with its monumental spiral tower, the terracotta rooftops and the cathedral in the heart of Porto’s centre. You’ll find most hotels in the Miragaia area towards Fontainhas, overlooking the Douro River.

A city that seems to be ahead of its on-trend neighbours. Experience its understated, yet cosmopolitan rooftop bars, its experimental cuisine and charismatic nightlife. Enjoy a glass of Port, its main export, and indulge in the city’s unique lifestyle.

Reykjavik

It’s home to only about 300,000 inhabitants, but the atmosphere of Reykjavik is more distinct than many of the bigger European capitals. If you like fishing and eating the catch, then this would be the best place for you. Perhaps try something a little more unusual; shark and puffin can commonly be found on menus. The sea and mountains dominate the landscape; enjoy a show at the Harpa Concert and join the locals in a hot pool.

The best time to see the Northern Lights in the area is from September to April, where the dark skies are illuminated with this stunning natural phenomenon. Stay by the famous Old Harbour to wake up to the wonderful Kolaportið market at your doorstep. Browse the many stalls selling toys, clothes, antiques and delicious food. If you have a little time, renting a 4×4 and buzzing around the island will leave an indelible impression of nature.

  • What to do in Iceland?

St. Petersburg

Pound for pound, the old Russian capital has seen more revolution, war and political intrigue over the last couple of hundred years than any other in Europe, but it’s still a modern, up-and-coming cultural hub. Its history is everywhere, and you won’t be short of things to see from the Aurora Warship and the statue of its founder Tsar Peter the Great, to reminders of the 900-day Nazi siege.

Stay in its historical centre to visit most historical monuments on foot. Not the first city that comes to mind when you think of canals, but St. Petersburg is sprawling with them, which are connected by 340 bridges. Stroll alongside the water’s edge, taking in the Italian-style buildings and the neoclassical palaces, adding to the elegant setting.

Vienna

Regarded as one of Europe’s hottest new mini break locations, the home of Mozart will charm you from the minute you waltz in. Part of Vienna’s appeal is that it’s perfect for fast-track travel or slow-paced sightseeing. The Viennese appreciate all the finer things in life; art and culture, music.

One of the best areas to explore this is in the Hofburg area, close to the museums, or in the traditional Viennese, Stephansdom to live like a local.  You can expect coffee-house living rooms and restaurants serving mouth watering cakes and hearty portions of Wiener Schnitzel and spicy goulash.

Budapest

If you have time, the short hop from Vienna to Budapest is worth consideration, although the Hungarian capital will entice in its own right. It’s technically two cities of Buda and Pest, split by the beautiful Danube River – and there’s a different vibe to both. The thermal baths, described as taking a bath in a cathedral, makes the experience unique and will wash out all your worries and stress. The Széchenyi Medicinal Baths with its warming outdoor pools are perfect in the wintertime.

For something a little different, check out the Japanese garden and solitude of Margaret Island in the centre of the Danube. The ruin bars are what the city is arguably famous for. With their artistic flare and intoxicating rhythm, tour them all to soak up this interesting city after dark.

  • What to do in Hungary?

Monaco

On the glamorous French Mediterranean coastline, the small independent city-state of Monaco is perfect for a mini-break. Home to the notorious Grand Prix, visit to roll with the rich and famous in this elegant city. See the luxurious yachts by the harbour, try your luck in the casinos and marvel at the picture-perfect palaces.

For reasonably priced accommodation, stay in the Beausoleil area, which is within walking distance from Monte Carlo. As well as exploring all this, Nice is just a hop away – so close you can combine both cosmopolitan Monaco with the 19th-century seaside retreat. Both are great city break choices when the sun is shining.


10 of Europe’s coolest neighbourhoods

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

Take a back seat Montmartre, Kreuzberg and Dalston, because it’s time for a new generation of hip ’hoods to take centre stage. Here are 10 of the continent’s coolest neighbourhoods to put on your holiday hit-list.

Eilandje, Antwerp, Belgium

Locals trace this once-gritty district’s reinvention back to the 2011 opening of Museum aan de Stroom, otherwise known as MAS – head up to the observation deck for fantastic views over the city and the river.

Today locals are queueing up to snap up the area’s loft-like apartments, lured by its cool bars, restaurants and clubs. Many are housed inside former warehouses – one of the city’s most beautiful restaurants is Felix Pakhuis, which you’ll find inside a former grain store.

Eilandje’s rep has been raised by the opening of MAS

Praga, Warsaw, Poland

During the Second World War, most of Warsaw’s city centre was destroyed, but Praga, across the river, escaped largely unscathed. Wander its streets and you’ll find leafy courtyards hidden behind crumbling apartment blocks and bunkers in the middle of tree-lined avenues. Recently, Warsaw’s creative types have started opening coffee shops in these abandoned courtyards and brightening up dilapidated buildings with colourful murals. A must-see is the Neon Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of Cold War-era neon. You’ll find it at the Soho Factory, a cluster of warehouses turned into galleries and restaurants.

Head to Praga for the Neon Museum

Mariahilf, Vienna, Austria

Until recently, Vienna’s hippest ‘hood was Leopoldstadt. Sadly, over-gentrification forced out those who’d breathed new life into Vienna’s former Jewish quarter. The good news? Many of them headed to Mariahilf, a city centre neighbourhood which has the city’s longest shopping street, Mariahilfer Strasse. Head to nearby (and lesser-known) Gumpendorfer Strasse for a colourful mix of independent galleries, boutiques and bars, or to Haus des Meeres, a concrete anti-aircraft tower built by the Germans in the Second World War. It’s now home to an aquarium and a spectacular rooftop cafe.

Finnieston, Glasgow, Scotland

The transformation of an often-overlooked area of Glasgow was kickstarted by the 2013 unveiling of the SSE Hydro, a huge arena recently listed as the world’s fourth-busiest music venue. Its success put Finnieston firmly on the map. Late 2017 saw the opening of the Clydeside Distillery, complete with visitor centre, and the spring opening of Finnieston Quay’s Radisson RED has confirmed the neighbourhood’s new-found coolness. Argyle Street, a street lined with hip bars and an array of different shops, is at the forefront of the area’s transformation.

A new music venue put Finnieston, Glasgow on the map

Aarhus Ø, Aarhus, Denmark

Dominated by a beautiful iceberg-shaped apartment building, the waterfront neighbourhood of Aarhus Ø is hard to ignore. Its highlights include the BIG-designed Harbour Bath seawater pool complex and a perforated observation tower overlooking the water. Soon there will also be seafront bars, volleyball courts and a theatre, as well as the opening of the upscale boutique hotel Hotel Guldsmeden, with its organic breakfasts and bike rentals. These collection of developments is proof that Aarhus Ø is a destination in its own right.

Aarhus Ø is a striking district located right by the water

Amsterdam-Noord, Amsterdam, Holland

Getting to Amsterdam-Noord, just across the water from Centraal Station, involves a free, five-minute ferry ride or, since July, a short trip on the new Noord/Zuidlijn metro line. Once an industrial tangle of warehouses, the area is now known for its hip waterfront hangouts, cutting edge architecture (including the spaceship-like EYE film museum) and some of the city’s coolest hotels, including the Sir Adam, with its cool music-themed rooms.

Amsterdam-Noord has gone from industrial to innovative

Beyoğlu, Istanbul, Turkey

This colourful area has transformed into the capital’s arts district, thanks partly to the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts’ decision to hold the Istanbul Design Biennial here. The next one kicks off in late September, where events take place in six Beyoğlu cultural institutions, including the art-filled Pera Museum. One of the best hangouts is the Stay Late Antiquity, a recently-opened design hotel inside a 19th-century townhouse. “I’d recommend checking out Galeri Nev on Istiklal Street,” says Deniz Ova, director of Istanbul Design Biennial. “You’ll find work by the masters of modern Turkish art and by younger, emerging artists too.”

Grünerløkka, Oslo, Norway

Perched on the forested banks of the Akerselva River, Grünerløkka is hipster heaven. The Mathallen Oslo food hall has 30 fantastic vendors (Gutta på Haugen is great for delicious cured meats) and also a plethora of cocktail bars. The top pick is Nedre Løkka, a cosy venue with vintage decor and the city’s most innovative cocktails. This riverside neighbourhood is especially popular with artists, perhaps attracted by Grunerløkka’s status as the childhood home of Edvard Munch – visit the Vår Frelsers Gravlund (Cemetery of Our Saviour) to see where he was buried.

Metelkova, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Metelkova started life as a sprawling, illegal urban squat, inhabited by free spirits who used its abandoned military buildings as venues for everything from illegal raves to art exhibitions. Today, it’s more integrated and regarded as one of Europe’s trendiest cultural hubs. The presence of numerous art institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova and the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, attracts visitors from all walks of life – on any given night entertainment options include LGBTQ events, political debates, death metal club nights and art exhibitions.

Västra Hamnen is a certified carbon-neutral district 

Västra Hamnen, Malmö, Sweden

Europe’s most innovative neighbourhood will eventually house 12,000 residents. A certified carbon-neutral district, Västra Hamnen (meaning Western Harbour) is completely self-sustainable, powered by biogas and wind and solar energy. Its impressive green credentials have helped transform this former dockyard into Malmö’s coolest neighbourhood, with residents drawn to its riverside bars, parks and green buildings. Late 2017 also saw the opening of the cyclist-friendly, geothermally-heated Ohboy Hotell, where every room comes with a foldable bike.

Thanks to: Tamara Hinson


Five Alternative European Christmas Markets

The traditional Christmas market originated in Dresden as far back as 1434, but Christmas markets can now be found across Europe, collectively attracting millions of visitors each year. With sparkling Christmas lights adorning snowy trees, aromas of chestnuts roasting on open fires, and traditional mulled wine warming you down to your toes, Europe’s Christmas markets are guaranteed to leave you feeling festive.

Selling everything from handmade wooden toys to traditional local cuisine here’s our pick of the most magical European markets to visit this winter.

Nuremberg, Germany

Sweet Gingerbread Hearts, Nuremberg Christmas Markets

Nuremberg Old Town is transformed into a Christmas city, where fresh greenery and sweet gingerbread hearts decorate the stalls. Here you’ll find traditional handmade wooden Christmas decorations and the famous Zwetschgenmännle prune men. And of course, it wouldn’t be a German Christmas market without mulled wine and roasted sugared almonds.

Strasbourg, France

Christmas Tree in Strasbourg, France

Several town squares around the UNESCO World Heritage site of Strasbourg host Christmas markets, each with their own unique characteristics. The oldest and best-known Christkindelsmärik in Place Brogile, features over 300 wooden chalets. Browse beautifully decorated Christmas stalls brimming with handmade decorations, local delicacies, and Alsatian fare. For an even more magical experience, take a short stroll over to Place Kléber, where you’ll find the square illuminated by the city’s iconic 30-metre-tall Christmas tree.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Old Town Square at Christmas TIme

For five weeks of the year, Prague’s iconic Old Town Square transforms into a magical Winter Wonderland. A celebration of traditional Czech culture and handicrafts, you can browse stalls stocked with embroidered lace, wooden toys, Christmas ornaments, and traditional puppets and dolls. When hunger strikes, there’s plenty of classic Czech foods to indulge in; roasted hams, klobása(barbecue sausages) and the hot sugar-coated chimney cake known as Trdelnik.

Krakow, Poland

Christmas market at the Main Market square of Krakow

In the centre of Krakow’s Old Town, the Main Market Square is filled with wooden stalls offering Bolesławiec Pottery, traditionalSzopkas (nativity icons) and fresh mistletoe. Foodies can’t miss out on oscypek (a traditional Polish smoked cheese made from sheep milk), topped with jam. For a truly unique Christmas experience, take a short walk to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, where you can watch a live nativity scene and be entertained by bands and carollers.

Vienna, Austria

Spiced Mulled Wine at Vienna Christmas Markets

Vienna has over twenty official Advent Markets across the city, but no setting is more beautiful for a Christmas market than Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace. The tempting aromas of warm punch and freshly baked Vanillekipferl (crescent biscuits) fill the air around this neoclassical palace – the perfect place to sample hearty Austrian delights.


10 Reasons to Spend Christmas in Europe

From experiencing atmospheric festive traditions, to embracing the après ski scene in Europe’s most idyllic mountain towns, with our favourite time of year approaching, we take a look at why you should spend Christmas in Europe.

Christmas in Europe

The Christmas Markets

There aren’t many traditions more evocative of Christmas in Germany than the season’s outdoor markets. Between the bustling stalls, visitors can sip on steaming cups of mulled wine and tuck into warm stöllen and roast chestnuts. In fact, these Bavarian-style markets can be found all over Europe, from the romantic Austrian city of Salzburg, to England’s vibrant capital, London.

Outdoor Ice Rinks

Christmas markets often come hand-in-hand with sparkling open-air ice rinks. The Natural History Museum Swarovski Ice Rink and Skate at Somerset House – two of London’s most popular rinks – are celebrated as destinations in their own right, each set within impressive surroundings, amidst architectural grandeur and twinkling lights. 

Christmas in Europe

Seasonal Shows 

Performances spanning a wide range of genres are on offer across Europe year-round, but December brings an influx of festive shows, perfect for a seasonal dose of Christmas spirit. From classic pantomimes such as Cinderella to nostalgic plays like The Snowman and whimsical ballet The Nutcracker, London certainly stands out for its theatrical offering. 

Cosy Winter Fare 

With the wintery days and first snowfall comes a feast of warming winter fare, which is distinct to each location. Indulge in a rich fondue or raclette on the Swiss slopes, tuck into an Italian beef stew infused with rosemary and red wine, or embrace the heartiest of French festive cuisine.

Christmas in Europe

Warming Winter Cocktails 

Mulled wine and hot spiced cider are of course widespread at this time of year. But with such an outstanding selection of bars across Europe’s most happening cities, this is just the beginning of the winter cocktail offering. Step into chic bars and onto cosy winter terraces to try a new Christmas tipple. 

The Mountain Towns 

Flanked by snow-capped mountains and pine forest, there aren’t many settings more idyllic at this time than Europe’s mountain towns. Dotted across the 1,200-kilometre expanse of the Alps are a number of romantic Alpine towns, each of which has its own unique appeal.

Christmas in Europe

The Aprés Ski 

While some of these Alpine towns offer tranquillity, others are at the heart of Europe’s vibrant après ski scene. Join the skiers of towns such as St Moritz and Cortina d’Ampezzo as they come in from the slopes to celebrate the setting with a glass of Champagne. 

Nostalgic Settings 

From alpine lodges to manor house hotels and grand castles, nostalgic settings abound throughout Europe. After all, what better way to end the day than sitting by a roaring log fire amid such splendour? 

Christmas in Europe

The Annual Traditions 

While many traditions have been adopted worldwide, some of Europe’s festive customs have remained lesser known, from regional culinary specialties across Italy, to the handicrafts that can be found in Germany’s Christmas markets.

The Winter Festivals

A number of festivals pop up across Europe during the build-up to Christmas, bringing together the season’s markets, shows, ice rinks and more, all in one place. One of the most popular in London is Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, where highlights this year include The Nutcracker on Ice.


The 16 Most Charming Christmas Markets in Europe

There’s nothing in the world quite like the holiday season in Europe, and if you’re there from late November through the New Year, it’s easy to see why: There are wooden chalets in 13th-century towns, snow-capped cathedrals, seasonal cookies and cakes in display windows (better still: in your mouth), and of course, all the hot mulled wine you can drink. Put all of it together, and the towns practically twinkle with fairy-tale festiveness. We’d venture to say there’s hardly a wrong way to do Christmas across the continent, but it’s worth hitting some of the biggest celebrations first. Here, in no particular order, are 17 of the best Christmas markets in Europe.


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