Lonely Planet’s Best in Europe is compiled annually by the travel company’s European experts to reveal their pick of the most exciting and underrated destinations to visit across the continent.
The latest top 20 is interesting, with a couple of surprises too.
1. High Tatras, Slovakia: A mythical landscape where ‘snow willow blankets the ground and fearsome beasts patrol the forests’.
2. Madrid, Spain: ‘The city’s nightlife, always among Europe’s best, just keeps improving’ and ‘an emphasis on sustainable living has led to wide-scale pedestrianisation, bicycle lanes and rental schemes, widened footpaths, and new emissions controls transforming the city’.
3. The Arctic Coast Way, Iceland: ‘Wowing with the natural wonders for which Iceland is rightly famed – thunderous waterfalls, colossal glaciers, steaming fumaroles – and endless opportunities for snow sports, wildlife watching and wilderness adventures… the best of Iceland minus the crowds.’
4. Hercegovina, Bosnia and Hercegovina: Potter around the streets of medieval Počitelj, explore the Vjetrenica karst wind tunnels, hike to the traditional mountain village of Lukomir, and take a trip along the Ciro cycling trail – all will provide a new perspective on this picture-perfect region.
5. Bari, Italy: It has ‘a spring in its step… a reinvigorated old town sets the tone, the boarded-up shop fronts replaced by family-run eateries… cultural spaces are reopening, from the ornate Teatro Piccinni theatre to once-condemned heritage hotels like the Oriente’.
6. Shetland, Scotland: Adventurers to the UK’s northernmost point will be rewarded with ‘awesome coastal trails’ can ‘spot otters and orcas from craggy headlands’ and enjoy ‘fabled fish and chip shops’.
7. Lyon, France: Set to become the new French darling of international visitors it steps into the global spotlight hosting the finals of the Fifa Women’s World Cup in July. ‘Beautiful’, ‘food-obsessed’ and ‘cultured’, Lyon has also recently received a nod from the EU for its efforts to make tourism accessible and sustainable.
8. Liechtenstein: Walk around an entire country in a weekend thanks to the Liechtenstein Trail. Created as part of the celebrations marking 300 years since Liechtenstein became a sovereign nation, this scenic 75km hiking path ‘twists over peak and pasture’ through all 11 municipalities.
9. Vevey, Switzerland: Held just once every 20 years, Vevey will be popping more corks than ever as the three-week wine festival, Fête des Vignerons, comes to town in June. Visitors can line their stomachs at one of the Old Town’s myriad quality eateries, offering everything from 20-course tasting menus to cheap-and-cheerful fondue, before working off their food with a swim in the lake.
10. Istria, Croatia: It offers history (Pula’s imposing Roman Amphitheatre and Poreč’s Unesco-listed mosaics for starters), beaches, gourmet cycle tours during spring, music festivals in summer and truffle-hunting excursions come autumn. And expanding European flight connections make this heart-shaped peninsula easier to reach than ever.
Commenting on the list results, Lonely Planet spokesperson and VP of experience, Tom Hall, said: ‘Lonely Planet’s Best in Europe 2019 list showcases the European destinations which are worth planning a trip around right now. From cultural city breaks to awe-inspiring scenery, buzzing foodie destinations and the best spots to escape the crowds, there are a wealth of experiences to be enjoyed across the continent this summer. Whether they are firm holiday favourites that have something new to offer, or places you may never have come across, these destinations should be on any traveller’s wish list.’