It’s the continent where some of the greatest Western art, culture, and cuisine have been cultivated. It’s home of the romance languages, awesome natural surroundings and experiences that invite you back into your body – to smell fresh-grown tomatoes, touch fine silk, admire great design, get lost in the sound of soul-stirring opera and taste the sensation of pure hazelnut gelato. But in a continent with so much to offer how do you choose the best?
We’ve narrowed down the fine load to the very best European tours:
A tour for antique lovers: Arezzo, Italy
Continuing this near-ancient tradition the piazza of Arezzo bustles to life on the first Sunday of the month for one of the world’s great antique fairs. Vendors punting their beautiful old wares sprawl up the hillside, and down along the side streets.
A treat for those seeking original Grecian charm: Folégandros, Greece
Based in the Cyclades, Folégandros is a throwback to a slower time of lazy beach days and long summer nights. Unlike overdeveloped Santorini, none of the buildings tower over two stories. The island is less show-off glam and more soothing countryside. After a day on its quiet pebble stone beaches retire to Irini’s – local grocery store by day, restaurant by night – to delight in homegrown Greek flavor.
Step onto the most tranquil Dutch beaches: Terschelling, The Netherland
Consider the joy of retreating to a 19th century gabled villa in the Netherlands where on some nights in summer the sun sets close to midnight. But once the sun goes down slices of light stretch over the island from the Brandaris lighthouse. Circa 1594, the lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse still standing in the country.
The island retreat for those looking to escape the crowds: Salina, Italy
Set among the volcanic explosion of islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Salina is a gem. Setting foot on this remarkable island requires a helicopter or boat but the journey is well worth it.
Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Blangiardi
Ullastret, Baix Empordà, Spain
Ullastret might as well be an ode to the Slow Food Movement. This miniscule town is home to the enchanting Hotel El Fort. With just four rooms, the hotel grows its own vegetables, bakes its own bread, and invites you to look over the mulberry trees as you settle down for slow fine meals.
Photo courtesy of Vincent van Zeijst
The home of Ludwig van Beethoven, Bonn is a treasure chest celebrating the great pianist’s legacy. Enjoy the fine Riesling wine and local beer while soaking up the city’s beautiful ambience.
San Sebastián, Spain's Basque Country
The best European tours are those that inspire anticipation long before your arrival. With a trip to Spain’s Basque Country, you can be sure your mouth will be watering for the months leading up to your trip. This culinary mecca is famous for its cuisine but the city features a huge collection of gastronomical societies inviting members in to dine, drink and sing to their hearts’ content.
A list of the best European tours would be incomplete without mentioning Norcia. Experience Italy in this traditional Umbrian village boasting fine cured meat, aged pecorino, and locally sourced honey. Come spring, the village comes alive over the Festival of Saint Benedict.