There are plenty of great reasons to travel to Europe, and no shortage of luxury resorts spread across the continent, competing for attention. If you’re struggling to choose between them, the question you should ask yourself is this: how much do you want to see the famous Europe that all your friends talk about, and how much do you want the chance to discover something deeper? London, Paris, Athens, and Rome have plenty of appeal, but Europe has many other destinations, only slightly less famous, with rich histories of their own and a real sense of luxury.
The Birthplace of the Renaissance
If you are a lover of both history and art, you will find few cities in the world where they are as interwoven as they are in Florence. Spanned by broad rivers and graced with spectacular architecture, this was the go-to destination in the 19th century, the place where everything was happening, and it retains plenty of allure today. Rent an apartment in a former palace, visit the celebrated Uffizi gallery, the Medici chapel, and the magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and attend world-class fashion shows. See magnificent operas and ballet performances at the Opera di Firenze, dine on delicious Tuscan cuisine, and sample the sumptuous Chianti of the surrounding region. Walk in the footsteps of Virgil, Dante Alighieri, and some of history’s most powerful families.
The City in the Mountains
With four widely spoken languages and a rich intermingling of cultures that give it a character all its own, there is perhaps no city quite as European as Zürich. High up among the Albis mountains, looking out across the lake that shares its name to the Alps beyond, it has a natural elegance that has made it a favorite destination of Europe’s ruling elites for centuries. As such, it has inherited a rich cultural tradition, with museums such as the Rietberg housing its historic treasures, while Galerie Gmurzynska showcases the best work of contemporary Swiss artists. The city is home to one of Europe’s greatest opera houses and several superb theaters, and also hosts dance music events that attract visitors from right across the globe.
An Island of Ice and Fire
If you find yourself drawn to the wilder side of Europe, to its ancient myths and legends, you’ll find that spirit living on in Iceland. Here, everything is concentrated into a surprisingly small area. You can visit a volcano in the morning, hike across a glacier in the afternoon, and enjoy live music and some of the world’s best sushi in Reykjavik in the evening. Spend your days browsing the medieval eddas, which locals can read as if they were written yesterday. Visit spectacular geysers, go whale watching in the bay, explore ancient ruins and ritual sites, or relax in the soothing waters of the hot springs. At night, you may be lucky enough to witness a spectacular display of the northern lights – unless you visit in the middle of summer, when the sun doesn’t set at all.
The Drowning City
Despite all the glamour of Paris, if there’s one place in Europe that’s made for falling in love, it’s Venice. Gradually sinking into the Adriatic, bound together by its bridges, it’s a ravishingly beautiful city. Visitors can stay in some of the continent’s most extravagant hotels, and by night, along with theater, opera, and ballet, there is still the occasional masquerade ball. In the daytime, you can cruise along the canals in a gondola, indulge yourself in luxury fashion boutiques, visit the marketplaces where exquisite Murano glass chandeliers and ornaments are traded, or enjoy elaborate cream desserts in one of the many waterside cafés. The galleries house a feast of medieval art, and outside, the architecture will take your breath away.
A Forest of Fairytales
When you’re tempted to stray off the beaten track and explore the dark heart of a land rich in folklore, you’ll find nowhere quite as intriguing as das Schwarzwald, the Black Forest. This is the place that inspired the Brothers Grimm, and as you make your way between the towering pines, you’ll feel closer to the spirit of their tales. Stay in comfort in the German city of Freiburg, and travel out into the countryside to see charming Bauhaus-style farmhouses and chocolate box villages nestling beneath the darkly wooded mountains where you might happen upon glittering waterfalls, crystal-clear pools, or even one of the slender tributaries of the blue Danube.
Luxury travel in Europe is about more than just how you’re pampered – it’s about how closely you look. Open yourself up to a wealth of experiences and you won’t be disappointed.