No matter how well you think you know the top European destinations, there's always something new to see. With this in mind, we've come up with 10 European experiences that you must add to your bucket-list. From underwater museums to theme parks and hot springs, we've got them all. Read on!
Looking for a European island getaway where you’re unlikely to meet your neighbour? Don’t go to Mykonos (or Santorini, or Ibiza, or even Sicily). Head instead to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Featuring a volcanic landscape (best seen at the Timanfaya National Park), this is no party island, serving instead as a getaway for those interested in little beaches, sun and tranquillity. Now, the island is attracting the attention of upscale travellers, who come for the increasingly chic hostelries and the creations of artist and environmentalist CÃ©sar Manrique. Lanzarote also has the distinction of hosting Europe’s first underwater museum, Museo AtlÃ¡ntico, which opened earlier this year. See turismolanzarote.com/en.
Europe’s delights aren’t reserved for the well-heeled. To find out how and why, eschew the continent’s lovely but expensive capitals and discover the little gems. They also tend to be cheap. Take Nis. With a hoary history (it’s the birthplace of Constantine the Great) and monuments such as a Roman-era fortress and Ottoman baths, Nis’s more recent history is bloody. Some 10,000 citizens were shot here during WWII. Today, it’s a hospitable, safe town, with street stalls offering hearty delicacies such as burek (pastry filled with meat or cheese; $1 for two persons), friendly locals and great summer weather. See visitnis.com.
Over the Edge, Amsterdam
One of Europe’s coolest capitals, Amsterdam’s newest attraction takes you to ever more rarefied heights. From A’DAM LOOKOUT, the observation deck located on top of the A’DAM Tower, visitors can see the city’s historical centre, its buzzing-with-action port and the canals that the city has been famous for. Now, with the opening of ‘Over the Edge’, the high perspective gets even more thrilling. Europe’s highest swing lets adrenaline junkies whoosh away, 100 metres over the city, back and forth over the edge of the tower. A ride on the swing costs â‚¬5 (over the entrance ticket of â‚¬12.50); see adamlookout.com/over-the-edge-swing.
When is a passageway not just a passageway? When it’s a work of art. (Michelangelo, ceilingget it?) The Beurpassage is indeed a passageway, connecting Amsterdam’s Damrak Avenue and Nieuwendijk Street, in the city’s main shopping drag. But you’ll be forgiven for not watching where you go when you walk down this path: because overhead is a stunning work of art composed of 450 sq m of glass mosaic titled Amsterdam Oersoep (primordial soup). The walls are tiled with stained glass and the floor on which you’ll tread hardy terrazzo. Also to be found here: Liquid Mokum, the world’s longest coffee bar. Urban redesign as tourist attraction. See beurspassageamsterdam.nl/information-en.
Ever since Hamburg’s dazzling new concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie, opened in January, tickets–for classical music, jazz, rock, even ‘blind shows’ (featuring unannounced performers)–have been sold out. A glorious venue for music buffs, of course, but also anyone interested in architecture, the arts, or simply striking public spaces. Built over a warehouse overlooking Hamburg’s harbour, and featuring concert halls, a hotel and apartments, the structure was designed by architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron and cost a staggering â‚¬800 million. It’s a vision in contrasts: red brick and shiny glass; elitist concerts and free walk-throughs; solid historical foundation and soaring postmodern fancy... Take a look at elbphilharmonie.de/en.
MusÃ©e Yves Saint Laurent, Paris
Paris is never short on beguiling reasons to visit. But this autumn promises to be special: opening this September in the haute couture capital of the world, a temple dedicated to one of its most influential high priests. Yves Saint Laurent’s legacy will be celebrated at two new museums, in Paris andMarrakesh. The Paris edition will be housed in the historical couture site, 5 avenue Marceau, where YSL worked for nearly 30 years. The only designer of his generation who assiduously archived his work, YSL left behind rich pickings for posterity: on display will be thousands of garments, accessories, sketches, photographs and objects. See fondation-pb-ysl.net.
Ferrari Land, Spain
Daddy can’t buy you a Ferrari? Just get him to buy some tickets to Barcelona (take mom and pop along too). At the brand-new Ferrari Land, in the PortAventura theme park outside Barcelona, poor little rich kids can live the Ferrari dream fully. The star attraction is Red Force, Europe’s highest and fastest rollercoaster. But purists will also want to try out rides more intimately related to the iconic brand: the Bounce-back Tower, which lets you experience the bidirectional movements of a Ferrari’s pistons; or stepping into the shoes of a pit stop mechanic; or driving an authentic F1 simulator. There’s also a variety of children’s rides. See portaventuraworld.com/en/ferrari-land.
It’s been described as ‘one of Europe’s last undiscovered gems’. But Lviv is having none of that. Keen to position itself as the cultural capital of Ukraine, the city now stands at the cusp of unknown and popular. A diverse cafÃ© culture has sprung up–plenty of charming streetside cafÃ©s as well as several themed ones, some a bit alarming (Masoch for, well, sadomasochism; Drukarksa, to dine in a post office, etc). The Old Town makes for perfect walking, and is dotted with old churches. Other attractions include the Brewery Museum, the Lviv Handmade Chocolate cafÃ© (for anything chocolate), the Lychakiv cemetery (ancient but feels like an outdoor art park). Eat plyatsy (cheesecake). And go soon. See lviv.travel/en.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Visiting Iceland for a hot spring has to count among the coolest counter-intuitive things to do. Ever since Blue Lagoon, a manmade thermal spring, opened to visitors a few years ago, it’s been a top attraction in the country. And the experience is set to get Ã¼ber-cool, when the Moss Hotel opens this autumn. The hotel will offer 62 exclusive rooms and suites that overlook the volcanic landscape and will feature such super-luxuries as a subterranean spa hewn into volcanic rock. The spring is fed by a nearby geothermal plant, its waters rich in silica and sulphur, allegedly excellent for the skin. From approx. $900; hotel.bluelagoon.com/moss-hotel
Sazan Island, Albania
If obscure hideaways are your idea of a dream destination, well, you’ve just got one. Sazan Island in Albania, located where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet, is a subtropical island paradise–truly pristine, because it’s never had a civilian population. It’s a mystery military island, with secret bunkers and tunnels, first used by Italy’s fascist regime in the 1930s and later by the communist government. Some 25 years after the fall of communism, Albania–now dependent on tourism–will allow in visitors between May and October. No luxury resorts here, but delights for WWII-obsessives: the ruined fortifications still contain old beds and kitchen utensils of that era.