Out to rival the European classics as the new hotspots, add these gems to your travel wishlist to delight in their stunning natural beauty, fairytale worthy architecture, idyllic beaches and coastline and cooler than cool design, culture and culinary scene.
This tiny central European country flanked by Croatia and Italy, which you no doubt associate with a certain former First Lady, is quietly becoming one of Europe’s hottest destinations. A haven for adrenaline junkies and nature lovers, The Julian Alps and resorts Kranjska Gora are a draw for skiers (especially slalom lovers), hikers, and outdoor adventurers lovers. Ditto Triglav National Park especially in summer for biking and horseback riding. Then there’s the beautiful capital Ljubljana, a quaint walkable city that’s home to 500 castles, fortresses, and manor houses; Ljubljana Castle, Bled Castle, and Predjama Castle a renaissance castle chiseled into the cliffside are all must-sees. You’ll find the most photogenic spot in the country an hour out of the city, Lake Bled is an emerald green lake, surrounded by the mountain peaks of the Julian Alps and where you will find a tiny church on a tiny island in the middle. No filter required.
Where to stay in Slovenia: Antiq Palace Hotel & Spa is a renovated 16th-century palace in the heart of Ljubljana. At Lake Bled Adora Luxury Hotel has unobstructed views of emerald waters and in Rovinj along the shores of the Adriatic Sea stay at Lone Hotel.
Rich history, stunning architecture, and old-world charm await you in Poland. Start your exploration of this central European hotspot in the vibrant capital city of Warsaw, the Old Town to be precise, destroyed in WWII and reborn with beautiful brightly colored buildings. You’ll also find a thriving nightlife scene, trendy cafes, and an exploding traditional and international culinary scene. Next head to Krakow, the cultural center of the country and home to one most picturesque market squares in Europe. While there take a guided tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau to gain a deeper understanding of the impact the holocaust and WWII had on Poland. After your journey through history, escape the city for the majestic beauty of Zakopane at the foot of the Tatra Mountains where you’ll be greeted by picturesque hiking trails and natural thermal springs. Of course, no visit is complete without indulging in the hearty traditional fare synonymous with Poland – pierogi, braised cabbage, and borscht, a sour beetroot soup popular that is a beloved staple.
Where to stay in Poland: In the old town, Krakow Stary Hotel is a 14th-century Romanesque style townhouse with exposed brick walls, vaulted ceilings, parquet flooring, and a gorgeous rooftop bar. In Warsaw stay in the hip H15 Boutique Hotel and in the historical town of Wroclaw The Granary is a gothic 16th Century granary.
Croatia continues to cement its reputation as Europe’s new hotspot for its soak-soaked beaches, Greek Island-esque coastline, buzzy party vibe, and historical architecture. The scene-stealer is the Dalmatian Coast with its dramatic limestone cliffs, spectacular turquoise waters, (best enjoyed by sailboat), and fresh delicious seafood (local faves are black squid ink risotto). Do drag yourself off the pristine beaches to explore the rich historical sites in the city’s of Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik. Game of Thrones fans will recognize King’s Landing Dubrovnik and Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient Roman structure in Split. When in Split be sure to take a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park a jade green paradise filled with lakes, canyons, waterfalls, and easy to navigate walking trails.
Where to stay in Croatia: Hotel Excelsior is a chic seaside hotel in the heart of old town Dubrovnik, with a mid-century modern vibe, crisp blues and white accents, and balconies with sweeping ocean views. We also recommend the elegant art deco Esplanade Zagreb Hotel and Hotel Vestibul Palace & Villa a luxe historic property in Split.
We realize Scandinavia is indeed a region made up of five fascinating countries – Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland, all of which are deserving of their own entry on this list, but there’s so much to culture, tradition and breathtaking natural beauty to celebrate that we’re just going to say, add all of them to your travel wish list. Who wouldn’t want to experience the thrill of seeing the northern lights, and visiting Santa’s village in Lapland, Finland. Or lose themselves in the thriving art and design scene and fairytale architecture in Sweden and Denmark. Marvel at the scenic fjords, endless green spaces, colorful wooden houses, traditional fishing villages and museums in Norway (don’t miss the preserved 9th-century Viking ships on display at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum). And immerse themselves in the natural beauty, black sand beaches, waterfalls, geothermal pools and quaint picture-perfect streets of Iceland. One of the easiest ways to explore the Nordic region is by boarding a ferry to cross the Baltic sea.
Where to Stay in Scandinavia: In the Icelandic countryside stay at the former abandoned farmhouse turned hip design hotel Umi Hotel to enjoy a birds-eye view of the famous subglacial volcano Eyjafjallajökull. In Stockholm, Sweden we love the history, intimacy and elegance of ETT Hem, a former residence built in 1910. The Amerikalinjen in Oslo, Norway is another grand dame transformed into a luxe boutique hotel. In Lapland, Finland the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort will make your dreams of staying in a glass igloo come true and in the historic cobblestone streets of Copenhagen, Denmark, Hotel Sanders honors the past while providing all the luxury of the present.