After this year’s bomb cyclone, we’re ready to bid good riddance to winter. From perennial favorites to emerging destinations, here are our picks for the best places to travel in Europe this spring. Go book those flights—NOW!
The City of Light comes alive every spring, but this year in particular will be glorious, as Paris emerges from a snow-covered stupor and the waters of the Seine recede to a normal level. Aside from the delights inherent in strolling the city's cobblestoned streets, the gastronomic culture has never been better: the Michelin guide just announced its 2018 France guide, with 15 new Paris restaurants earning stars including L’Écrin, the intimate fine dining restaurant by innovative young chef Christopher Hache inside the recently renovated Hôtel de Crillon. Nearby, at Le Meurice, award-winning pastry chef Cédric Grolet—famous for his ‘grammable fruit pastries—will open a pastry shop inside the hotel for anyone who wants to take some sweet treats to go. And on the Rive Gauche, the iconic Hotel Lutetia will reopen as a new member of Leading Hotels of the World with a jazz bar and three restaurants by acclaimed chef Benjamin Brial.
Built in the 16th century by the Order of the Knights of Malta and ruled from the Middle Ages until the 19th century by the Order of Saint John, this small Mediterranean island nation is a mix of European, Middle Eastern, and North African influences, which can be seen in everything from the architecture to the food. Though its capital, Valletta, suffered major damage during WWII, it’s now experiencing a renaissance and has been recognized as the European Capital of Culture for 2018. After checking into one of Valletta’s charming boutique hotels like Casa Ellul or the recently opened La Falconeria, Immerse yourself in the city’s emerging contemporary art scene at places like Blitz, an artist-run space in a 400-year-old townhouse, or dive into the city’s bohemian nightlife scene at Café Society. Oh, and don’t forget to check out its legendary beaches.
Belgium’s capital is set to transform its old Citroën car factory into a massive new cultural center with a modern and contemporary art museum, an architecture museum, and event spaces. The complex won’t be ready until 2019, but you can get a sneak peek at the incredible space starting on May 5, when its inaugural exhibition will debut in partnership with Paris’s Pompidou center. If you go, stay at the luxe Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo and check out the city’s other cultural attractions, including the Magritte Museum.
If you’ve been itching to see the Northern Lights, now is the time to do it, as there’s prime viewing until mid-April. Starting in April, you’ll also be able to stay at the new Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland, a 62-room boutique hotel built into volcanic lava with a minimalist design, luxurious spa, and upscale restaurant featuring a chef’s table carved from lava rock sourced onsite. Plan to spend some time exploring Reykjavík with its famously colorful buildings, chasing waterfalls at Skógafoss, and venturing south to see the black-sand beaches near Vík—just a few of the country’s most Instagrammable sites.
Scotland’s scruffy second city has been undergoing a revival lately, with lots of cool independent designers like Instrmnt, Bluebellgray, and Trakke setting up shop. The city has always had a strong arts bent, with many graduates of the prestigious Glasgow School of Art receiving the coveted Turner Prize. This year, Glasgow celebrates the 150th anniversary of its hometown hero—architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh—with a retrospective at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum opening in March, while April always welcomes the Glasgow International, a bi-annual festival of contemporary art. Don't miss a whiskey tasting at the Clydeside Distillery, which opened last fall on the banks of the River Clyde near Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum. Sláinte!
Could Spain’s party island finally be growing up? All signs point to yes, as the island famous for wild electro-pop bacchanals has been earning a new reputation as one of Europe’s leading wellness destinations. The already great selection of boutique hotels offering yoga, guided mediations, and hydrotherapy have recently been joined by the Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay, which offers beachy-chic rooms, two seafront pools, a spa, and five places to eat and drink including a signature Nobu restaurant. Coming soon: the new Seven Pines Resort will open its doors in May with 123 whitewashed suites and villas, a holistic spa, and yacht charters.
Germany’s capital of cool has long lured artsy types, but there’s a new reason for culture vultures to visit this season. The historic Staatsoper opera house on Bebelplatz near the Brandenburg Gate has finally reopened after a €400-million, seven-year renovation. To be right near the center of the action, book a room at the elegant Rocco Forte Hotel de Rome, whose rooftop bar boasts views of the opera house. You’ll be near all the major sites in Mitte, including Museum Island and Checkpoint Charlie.
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This former Soviet city is getting its groove back and being hailed as the new Berlin. A renovated promenade along the Sava River is in the works, which will bringhip cafés and food trucks to this formerly neglected area. Nightlife is a way of life in this city, with craft beer bars, hipster hangouts, and dance clubs on houseboats called splavovi. And, like in Berlin, you’ll find alternative galleries and performance spaces like KC Grad and Galerija Stab in converted industrial buildings. Stay at the new Mama Shelter Belgrade, which opens its doors on March 8 with a $99 special welcome offer.
Okay, so your invitation to the Royal Wedding got lost in the mail, but you can still plan a trip to scenic Windsor and the surrounding countryside. You’ll certainly feel like royalty during a stay at Coworth Park, a Dorchester Collection property with the UK’s only polo club where you can learn to play polo like Prince Harry who’s been known to play in nearby Windsor Great Park. Spring is the perfect time of year to stroll the lovely Savill Gardens. According to Virtuoso Travel Advisor Maddy Moffitt, “Another must-see site in the area is Hampton Court Palace, the residence of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, built in 1514. Enjoy its beautiful gardens and get lost in its hedge maze.”
The recent release of Luca Guadagnino’s latest film Call Me By Your Name has brought renewed interest to the northern Italian region of Lombardy, and spring is a great time of year to visit before the season kicks into high gear. The area has a wealth of things to do, from sipping Negronis in Milan’s chic watering holes like Bar Basso (where the Negroni Sbagliato was invented) to boating around Lake Como. Start your visit in Milan, where you can tour the Villa Necchi Campiglio, which was featured in Guadagnino’s 2009 film I Am Love. From there, head to Lake Como for some pampering at the sleek new Il Sereno Lago di Como. Oenophiles will surely want to visit Franciacorta, the under-the-radar region that produces the namesake bubbly. Otherwise, head up into the Alps for a wellness-focused stay at QC Terme Hotel Bagni Vecchi, where you can soak in ancient thermal baths that date back to the Roman era.