• European Best Destinations 2016 – The Runners Up

    by  • February 20, 2016 • Athens, Brussels, City Breaks, Kotor, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Plovdiv, Prague, Rome, Vienna

    From Athens to the Azores, Europe’s Best Destinations are as varied as they are attractive.

    In my last blog, I talked about this year’s title winner of the fiercely-fought competition, European Best Destination, Croatia’s Zadar. Well, I thought I’d devote this blog to the runners up in the top 15. As you’d expect, there’s some well-known staple favourites on the city break circuit sitting alongside a few lesser-known or perhaps even unexpected cities and islands. Let’s take a look at which destinations took positions two through to 15 and what is said about each one…

    2. Athens, Greece
    From the iconic Acropolis, rising above the city, to charming up and coming neighbourhoods and contemporary art galleries, the city of Classic Marathon and Olympic Games is a majestically quirky clash of past and present. One of the world’s oldest cities with a recorded history of 3,500 years, the Greek capital is constantly undergoing urban renewals to keep up with the evolution of time. Athens lives up to all the hype!

    3. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
    Nestling in the south part of Bulgaria, Plovdiv is a leading cultural, religious, wine and shopping destination which never fails to reveal exciting, new facets of its character. With its eight millennia history, Plovdiv has been proclaimed the oldest continuously-inhabited city in Europe and the sixth oldest in the world. In 2019 the city will be the European capital of culture. Various sites and activities turn Plovdiv into a real treasure on Earth, which must be discovered!

    4. Nantes, France
    Once a busy seaport in the estuary of the Loire, the fascinating city of Nantes was chosen in the old times by the dukes of Brittany as their historical capital. If the city still boasts a unique architectural heritage with its magnificent Château des Ducs de Bretagne, a Renaissance-style castle nestled in a fortress, a medieval quarter and one of the highest cathedrals of France – it has been transformed in the last 20 years probably more than any other city in France.

    It is not only a vibrant and young metropolis often rewarded for its top-quality of life – Nantes was also Green Capital of Europe in 2013 – but a city where art has literally been integrated in all possible aspects, making it a true example of how artists can turn a city upside down!

    5. Azores, Portugal
    In the blue Atlantic Ocean, between Europe and America: the Azores Islands, an autonomous Region of Portugal, are divided in three geographical groups: the Eastern Group, comprising Santa Maria and São Miguel, the Central Group, including Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial, and the Western Group, composed by Corvo and Flores. Brought together in an archipelago, each Azorean island has its own identity. Even if they all share an extraordinary natural legacy, they also have their own unique strokes in their landscape, traditions, cuisine and architecture. There are no words capable of describing and classifying the charm of these nine charismatic islands!

    6. Paris, France
    Paris is one of the world’s few really legendary capitals. Far from resting on its laurels, the French capital has taken a pro-active approach to enhancing its appeal by undertaking a quality-focused and sustainable development strategy based on constant innovation. This great city is a blend of past and future. Its pleasingly symmetrical layout, the result of the work of visionary rulers and architects, dates to the 19th century, while 21st-century Paris is a laboratory of the future. Paris is a dream destination for French and international visitors alike.

    7. Novi Sad, Serbia
    Novi Sad is the city that provides the visitors the agenda of unbelievably rich content with its urban core and rural surroundings. Each visitor, according to his or her internal feeling for nice and pleasant, attractive and joyful, useful and accessible can create his or her own experience while learning about all the layers of the past and present of Novi Sad. Novi Sad, the city on the Danube, the city with the European history and tradition and Balkan hospitality is the experience you must not miss.

    8. Brussels, Belgium
    Brussels, the capital of 500 million Europeans, is waiting to share its treasures and talents with you and to tell you its story. It has an ability to adapt to its visitors: no matter when you come, there’s always something happening here; no matter how long you stay, there are several different ways to experience Brussels, each with some brilliant surprises in store. A multicoloured heritage of the most diverse styles, a contagious creativity tinged with surrealism and humour, a sociable and epicurean art de vivre.

    9. Kotor, Montenegro
    Beautiful Kotor, a cultural and natural world heritage site is located in a secluded part of the Boka bay. If you are passionate for nature, art, history and want to know more about the rich cultural heritage and customs of this region, visit the town of Kotor, the baroque city of Perast, visit the islet Our lady of the rocks, and finally discover the archaeological site Roman mosaics in Risan with mostly superb representation of the god Hypnos and observe the traces of the first civilization.

    10. Milan, Italy
    Milan has been interesting and vibrant at least since it was the capital of the western half of the Roman Empire. Have a look at the imposing marble Duomo, at our churches, palaces and museums. You will also be delighted by contemporary art and architecture. While you visit, let the atmosphere of Italy’s most modern and advanced city seep in. You will be captured by the elegance and style; by the energy and the international flair. An incredible shopping experience for all tastes and pockets, in a place where design and fashion have made their home.

    11. Prague, Czech Republic
    Prague has been considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the world since Middle Ages. Adjectives such as “golden“, “city of a hundred spires“, “the crown of the world“ were attributed to Prague, which is located right in the heart of Europe. And how to get the city into your heart? Try with us to wander not only in the Historic Centre of Prague that has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1992 and with its 866 hectares is the largest historic city centre on this list in the world, but also in the vibrant cultural metropolis.

    12. Rome, Italy
    The province of Rome is a matching frame for the many treasures of the capital, and the surrounding area has, more or less directly, experienced the influence of the history of the Eternal City. A region with a great deal to offer: sea, nature, good food and villages rich in history and art. The sea, the hills, lakes, rivers and vineyards: the surroundings of Rome offer a kaleidoscope of diversity and attractions for nature lovers.

    13. Vienna, Austria
    Vienna’s Ringstrasse is the most beautiful boulevard in the world. Nowhere else can you find such a dense concentration of so many representative buildings, palaces and parks. All of these splendid buildings still have their full radiance today. An elegant promenade for the wealthy and beautiful has become a modern boulevard for everyone. And the section of the Ring along the Danube Canal has become a hotspot: an urban bar scene and modern architecture attract a primarily young audience.

    14. Madrid, Spain
    Madrid is an open-minded city where culture and entertainment share a thriving space. The Spanish capital makes everyone feel right at home while providing them with some of the world’s most interesting tourist attractions. Madrid is one of the world’s liveliest, most entertaining and vibrant cities during the day, but even more so at night. The Spanish capital does not only offer art, shopping, nightlife and excellent gastronomy but it also presents both visitors and locals with all imaginable options for leisure.

    15. Nicosia, Cyprus
    For the lovers of the Mediterranean the island of Cyprus is an absolute must. The legendary birthplace of Aphrodite is famed for its spectacular beaches, its breathtaking sceneries and the warmth of its people. It offers the visitor a large selection of unique activities that can fulfil almost any wish.

    Nicosia is the island’s 10-century-old capital. It is situated in the middle of the island and is a busy commercial and business centre. Its old quarter is surrounded by a Venetian sandstone wall, a vivid remembrance of Nicosia’s turbulent, medieval history. Wandering around the narrow streets with the overhanging balconies and the beautiful pedestrianized precincts is an experience that should not be missed!

    Destination copy copyrighted to and adapted from the European Best Destination website – Top Destinations in Europe. http://www.europeanbestdestinations.com/best-of-europe/european-best-destinations-2016/

    About

    With a French grandmother, childhood holidays on the continent and a degree in French and Spanish, a love of languages and travel has always been in my blood. Fresh from university with an unfettered enthusiasm to show off my linguistic ability and first-hand knowledge of the world beyond the UK, I entered the travel industry and, 16 years on, I’m still there! With several years spent in the luxury sector planning escorted holidays across Europe for the American market, followed by an even longer tenure designing short breaks with a difference in the must-see cities of Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid, Prague, Florence, Brussels, Venice, Salzburg, Milan, Krakow and Berlin (to name but a few), it’s fair to say that Europe is my passion! Today my travels have taken me far beyond the boundaries of Europe with so many destinations still to discover, yet the continent abounds in such a wealth of treasures – historical and architectural, cultural and musical, gastronomic, artistic and linguistic – that its appeal, for me, will be eternal.