8 Spots to Hit Up in Europe This Summer
An inimitable mixture of culture, history, food, and scenic beauty, Europe's diverse cast of destinations are always on our mind. For Jetsetters who've exhausted London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Barcelona, hit up these 8 destinations—and earn serious bragging rights.
Set along the Douro River—aka the gateway to Portugal’s wine country—Porto is an intoxicating mix of new and old with a UNESCO World Heritage Site old town (think: crumbling facades and colorful tiles) and modern Pritzker Prize-winning modern buildings; traditional food markets and new-wave Michelin-starred menus; historic palace hotels and design-led boutiques. First-timers shouldn’t miss Mercado do Bolhão, a bi-level open-air market that’s been hawking baked goods, fresh fruit, and handmade wares for the better part of two centuries. Stroll along Avenida dos Aliados, the city’s main thoroughfare and home to all the must-see monuments; follow the street 10 minutes south to Terreiro da Sé and you’ll set eyes on Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral), a circa-1737 Romanesque masterpiece. When it’s time to say goodnight, check into your own pied-à-terre at Porto River Apartments. The refined digs (see clean white linens, rustic stone walls, and framed black-and-white photography) come with enviable Douro River and Dom Luís I Bridge views.
As the capital of Greece, Athens promises a certain level of urban hustle and bustle, but make no mistake—the city places its heritage on a pedestal, forcing modern life to eek out its own space among ancient landmarks. History buffs are spoiled for choice when it comes to antiquities (dating all the way back to 5th-century BC); there’s the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Panathenaic Stadium, and Aristotle’s Lyceum, for starters. Those interested in crafting their own photo safari will want to pay special attention to Anafiotika—a charming, pocket-sized corner of the Plaka neighborhood characterized by its Cycladic architecture, bougainvillea-draped white walls, and narrow dead end streets. Wiped from a day of sightseeing, call it a night at the Pallas Athena Grecotel Boutique Hotel, a chic luxury stay (that goes all in on modern art) overlooking Kotzia Square.
It’s hard not to wax poetic on Seville, what with its seductive Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance-style architecture; sultry flamenco shows around every corner; labyrinthine streets packed with dimly-lit tapas bars; expected afternoon siestas; and post-10 p.m. dinners. While the Andalusian gem often plays second fiddle to more popular Spanish destinations like Barcelona and Madrid, we’re all for heading south this summer thanks to surprisingly affordable accommodations, free attractions, and thinner crowds. Don’t miss out on Plaza de España—"the Venice of Seville"—and the Mudéjar design of the Alcázar’s (aka the Water Gardens of Dorne for you Game of Thrones fans) sunken gardens, arcade pavilions, and gilded ceilings. Juxtapose the historic sites with something a little more modern: the now-iconic Metropol Parasol, a mammoth wooden structure in Plaza de la Encarnacion that was completed in 2011. Exhausted from a long day under Spain’s sometimes unforgiving sun, tuck away at cozy Hotel Casa de Colon, an 18th-century boutique house hotel on the periphery of Seville’s Old Quarter (aka the Santa Cruz district).
The Alsatian capital of Strasbourg steals our heart each winter with Christkindelsmärik (France’s oldest Christmas market), but the mesmerizing medieval town is just as covetable come summer. Fairytale timber-framed houses and noteworthy Romanesque, Gothic, and Art Nouveau squares make it a feast for the eyes (and Instagram feed); don’t skip out on La Petite France on the western end of Grande Île. The picturesque historic quarter—where four channels of the River Ill flow—is all narrow alleys, 16th-century footbridges, and waterfront restaurants. To maintain riverside status, check in at Hotel Cour du Corbeau Strasbourg MGallery by Sofitel, a 16th-century heritage inn not far from Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, a Gothic marvel of soaring sandstone and stained glass that’s famous for its astronomical clock.
Berlin is Germany’s indisputable cool kid—take the city’s clubbing scene—which mainlines disorienting techno and house music in abandoned factories and dilapidated buildings across the city—for example. But even if rage-till-dawn nightlife isn’t what you’re after, you’ll find plenty in the way of food, art, and history. Rent a bike (they’re available on almost every other corner for just 8 Euros a day) to get the lay of the city, namely the urban Tiergarten—Berlin’s answer to NYC’s Central Park, and 18th-century Neoclassical Brandenburg Gate, a simultaneous symbol of Germany’s tumultuous past and united future. After hours spent pedaling, make for BRŁO Brwhouse, a mobile shipping-container-constructed brewery and restaurant in Gleisdreieck Park (what was formerly Berlin’s railway hub); grab a fresh pint and a seat at a sturdy communal table for hearty plates of brisket, pork belly, and veggie-centric side dishes. Once you’ve gotten your fill, roll over to 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, a hip concrete behemoth in the City West neighborhood that’s full of funky extras like a hammock-strung lobby and buzzy topfloor Monkey Bar.
Over the past few years, Poland’s gothic Krakow has been in the midst of a quiet cultural revolution, tending to a burgeoning new arts scene and receiving some much-needed architectural facelifts. In order to get a true picture of Krakow, it’s essential to look to its tragic past, which means spending time in Kazimierz, the former Jewish Quarter. Nowadays, far from somber, the neighborhood has bloomed into an artistic stomping ground with hidden bohemian cafes and art galleries celebrating contemporary Jewish artisans stowed away in pre-war buildings and courtyards. Of course, historic sites like Old City’s Rynek Glówny—the largest medieval square in Europe—and Wawel Royal Castle (where if you follow folklore, a dragon once dwelled) are also a main draw, so drop your things at PURO Krakow Stare Miasto—for its central location and fashionably minimalistic guestrooms—and get to exploring.
We’d be willing to bet even your most well-traveled friend has yet to check Riga off their list. While beating them to the punch this summer will earn you major humblebragging rights, you’ll also cash in on more than 800 years of Baltic history by exploring the city’s atmospheric cobblestone streets, serene parks and rivers, grand opera houses, and impressive collection of Art Nouveau architecture. Don’t leave town without hitting up Riga Central Market, a traditional Latvian bazaar that tucks more than 3,000 vendors into a couple of old zeppelin hangars that have been reimagined in Neoclassical and Art Deco fashion. Once your newfound wares become too numerous to cart around, drop them off at Hotel Bergs, a sleek 37-suite stay in the historic quarter that encourages nights out at the Latvian National Opera which is just minutes away.
Jetsetters flock to the Croatian summer colony of Hvar for its endless sunshine, eye-catching harbor, and glamorous company (see: Beyonce, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, and more). The Adriatic island—just off of the Dalmatian Coast—offers plenty in the way of history and hedonism. Check out Hvar Town’s seaside promenade where a set of Venetian stone houses rise up along the hillsides toward the 16th-century citadel; you’ll want to follow the city walls through to the fortress for swoon-worthy views of town, the harbor, and offshore Pakleni islands offshore. For dinner, Giaxa is our pick; traditional Dalmatian dishes are given a modern twist by chef Ivan Vukasović Lončar (think: brodeto (fish stew) with shrimp, octopus, and mussels) and Croatian by-the-glass wines are plentiful. For an ideal people-watching base (and party pad), go for Riva Hvar Yacht Harbour Hotel along the waterfront. Here, Tinseltown is the motif of choice, but guestrooms keep things in the bounds of fun and flirty without going too over-the-top.
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