When it comes to Europe, it’s hard to find a spot that doesn’t have major appeal. But with tempting food and wine regions, and riveting history around every corner, being spoiled for choice makes picking a single destination that much harder. Here, we did some of the research for you, narrowing down the choices to a sample of 4 once-in-a-lifetime vacations.
Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
Croatia is currently one of Europe’s buzziest destinations, and for good reason: just across the water from Italy, the country's Dalmatian coast shares gastronomical ties with the more-popular destination, but the culture, wine, and charm here are all its own. Start in the historic Old Town of Split, where a day wandering the narrow streets and stopping off for a pre-dinner cocktail in one of the many squares is one well spent. Grab a modern Croatian meal (and don't skimp on wine) at Food and Wine Bar Zinfandel before heading home to Hotel Vestibul Palace. Come morning, hit the port area to catch a ferry to nearby Brac Island, one of the quieter isles off the coast of Split (Hvar has a party-hardy reputation), that charms from the start with a small, palm-lined harbor. Hotel Osam is a thoroughly modern option with stunning sunset views from its rooftop bar, but don't get too attached as you'll also want to see Korcula, an island deservedly known for its beaches. End your trip down the coast with a visit to red-roofed Dubrovnik, the most well-known Dalmatian town, and, more recently, the filming location of several Game of Thrones seasons. Ignore the swarms of GoT tourists to wander the medieval old town, and then end your day at the Grand Villa Argentina, a seaside resort with well-kept gardens and a private beach.
Time your Provence trip for summer; June through August is when the region’s famous lavender fields are in full glory. Take it all in from Gordes, one of the region's most stunning hilltop villages, or opt for the larger city of Avignon—an absolute must for foodies. If you're interested in both, stay in the countryside at Auberge de Cassagne and Spa, a retreat that's simultaneously secluded and within reach of Avignon’s restaurants and charming streets. Of course, this is France, and the region is also known for its wine, so plan a day trip to one of the many vineyards producing Syrah and Grenache grapes, two varieties which combine to form the symphony-in-a-bottle known as Cotes-du-Rhône. Prefer white? Don't miss a trip to the famous village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape where nearby vineyards produce the eponymous drink.
Cyclades Islands, Greece
If coastal getaways have your heart, Greece’s Cycladic Islands—particularly Mykonos and Santorini—are not to be missed. While the towns' white walls, blue domes, and 16th-century windmills—rising in cliffside layers between sea and sky—are oft-seen images, nothing beats seeing them IRL. Go for the golden beaches, flavorful mezes and fresh seafood, and the simple joy of wandering quaint, quiet streets. At the end of a day of exploring in Mykonos, check in and recharge at Madoupa Boutique Hotel, a luxury retreat with a rooftop pool. Once you make your way to Santorini, go for a taste of relatively under-the-radar Greek wines at Santo Wines Winery, a vineyard located along Pyrgos' caldera.
Oslo and Bergen, Norway
Usually, we're all about planning our own trips from top to bottom, but when it comes to this Scandinavian nation, we're taken with Fjord Tours' Norway in a Nutshell. Erase whatever tour stereotypes come to mind, because this isn't some stuffy bus ride around the country, but rather a self-guided, entirely customizable trip (you purchase your own tickets, decide on train times, and fashion an itinerary based on expert recommendations). Our route of choice? Oslo to Bergen. Traveling west, you'll whoosh past snowy ski slopes and grass-roofed fjord-side homes on the train; zip down one of Europe’s steepest roads by bus; and cruise down a UNESCO-stamped fjord by boat. In Oslo, start with the slightly bizarre, sculpture-filled Vigeland Park before resting up at The Thief Hotel, then hop on the Nutshell route to Bergen. Nestled amidst a hill-hugged bay, the city's historic harbor is the perfect place to pass a sunny afternoon with its fish market and lefse (Norwegian flatbread), cheese, and beer stands. If you decide to stick around for a couple days to hike the surrounding hills (you should), check in at Hotel Oleana, a boutique stay on Torgalmenningen—Bergen's most famous avenue.