Castles & Palaces

Versailles, France The vast formal palace against which all others are measured includes the Hall of Mirrors and sumptuous gardens.

Scloss Neuschwanstein, Germany In the heart of the Bavarian Alps, this is everybody’s (including Disney’s) castle fantasy.

State Hermitage Museum, Russia Now housed in the Winter Palace, forever associated with the Russian Revolution, a golden-green baroque building St Petersburg is unmatched for tsarist splendour.

Bran Castle, Romania Better known as Dracula's Castle, this Transylvanian beauty is straight out of a horror movie.

Alhambra, Spain This exquisite Islamic palace complex in Granada is a World Heritage–listed wonder.

Gravensteen, Belgium The turreted stone castle of the Counts of Flanders looms over the beautiful Belgian city of Ghent.

Windsor Castle, Britain The world's largest and oldest continuously occupied fortress is one of the British monarch's principal residences.

Topkapı Palace, Turkey Tour the opulent pavilions and jewel-filled Treasury of the former court of the Ottoman empire in İstanbul.

Beaches & Islands

Cyclades, Greece The names Mykonos, Santorini and Naxos all conjure up images of perfect golden beaches and the reality will not disappoint.

Drymades Beach, Albania The stuff of legend among backpackers, this white-sand beach on Albania’s fast-disappearing undeveloped coastline is sublime.

Menorca, Spain Beaches so beautiful you think they might be dreams are tucked away in little coves in the prettiest of the Balearic Islands.

Black Sea Coast, Bulgaria Bulgaria guards the best beaches on the Black Sea, especially if you avoid the big resorts and head to smaller Sozopol.

Hvar Island, Croatia Famed for its verdancy and lilac fields, this luxurious and sunny island is the jumping-off point for the wooded Pakleni Islands.

Isle of Skye, Scotland A 50-mile-long smorgasbord of velvet moors, jagged mountains, sparkling lochs and towering sea cliffs.

Spectacular Scenery

The Alps, Switzerland There’s no competition for the most stunning landscape in Europe – beautiful Switzerland.

Fjords, Norway Like steep gashes cutting into a precipitous coastline, Norway's fjords are simply unmissable.

West Coast of Ireland Wind-whipped headlands, hidden bays and mossy green clifftops battle against the wild Atlantic.

High Tatras, Slovakia Pristine snowfields, ultramarine mountain lakes, thundering waterfalls, undulating pine forests and shimmering alpine meadows.

Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland Skaftafell is the jewel in the crown of this breathtaking collection of peaks and glaciers.

Nightlife

Berlin, Germany There’s nothing quite like arriving at superclub Berghain to dance from sunrise to sundown.

London, Britain A multifarious scene from a quiet session at the local pub to a full-blown night on the tiles of East London.

Moscow, Russia Once famed for its strict door policies, Moscow has spawned a slew of new, democratically run bars and clubs.

Madrid, Spain Has more bars per capita than anywhere else on earth and no one goes to bed here before killing the night.

Mykonos, Greece There are party pockets dotted throughout the Greek islands; summer revellers flock to the bars and clubs of Mykonos.

Reykjavík, Iceland Join in the djammið, a raucous weekend pub crawl around the Icelandic capital's vibrant cafe-bar scene.

Belgrade, Serbia The Serbian capital is one of the liveliest places to party the night away, especially in its summer splavovi (floating clubs) on the Danube.

Great Food

Copenhagen, Denmark Yes, Denmark's capital is the place to sample Europe's most sought-after menus and cool New Nordic cuisine.

Naples, Italy Pizza, the peasant dish that ate the world, is still the best in the city of its birth: accept no imitations.

San Sebastián, Spain The Basque powerhouse hosts an impressive array of Michelin-starred restaurants.

Lyon, France Forget Paris, the gastronomic capital of La Belle France is undoubtedly Lyon, a city that will have gourmands swooning.

Seafood, Greece Swig on ouzo while snacking on grilled octopus; not a bad way to pack away some calories.

İstanbul, Turkey Grilled meats, kebaps and a marvellous array of meze (small dishes) can be sampled in this paradise for food lovers.

Outdoor Fun

Bovec and Bled, Slovenia The capital of active sports in Eastern Europe is Slovenia, with everything from canyoning to hydrospeeding.

Cycling the Loire Valley, France There’s a gorgeous château around every bend in the river in this beautiful valley.

Skiing year-round, Austria Experience Olympic-sized skiing in Innsbruck, the Alpine city ringed by famous year-round pistes.

Bridge diving, Bosnia and Hercegovina Screw up your courage and learn from professional divers how to safely jump off Mostar's Stari Most (old bridge).

Snowmobiling and dog-sledding, Sweden Explore the icy wastelands of northern Sweden in the most thrilling way possible.

Caving, Slovakia The Slovenský Raj National Park includes one of only three aragonite caves in the world, as well as the Dobšinská Ice Cave.

Via Dinarica hiking trail, Montenegro The Montenegrin part of this 1930km 'megatrail' connects Durmitor National Park with BiH's Sutjeska National Park.

Art Collections

Musée du Louvre, France It’s not just Paris’ museum, it’s the world’s; treasures collected from Europe and all over the planet in exhaustive quantity.

Florence, Italy From the Duomo, to the Uffizi, to the Ponte Vecchio – the entire Renaissance in one city.

Hermitage, Russia Housed in the Winter Palace, the hermitage is one of the world’s greatest art collections, stuffed full of treasures from Egyptian mummies to Picasso.

Van Gogh Museum, Netherlands Despite his troubled life and struggles with madness, Van Gogh’s superb creations are gloriously easy to enjoy in Amsterdam.

Madrid, Spain With the Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofía within a single golden mile of art, Madrid is a premier destinations for art lovers.

Music

Vienna’s Staatsoper, Austria The premier venue in a city synonymous with opera and classical music.

Berlin, Germany Everything from the world's most acclaimed techno venue to the Berlin Philharmonic can be seen in Germany's music-obsessed capital.

Irish music, Ireland The Irish love their music and it takes little to get them singing; the west coast hums with music pubs, especially in Galway.

Fado, Portugal Portuguese love the melancholic and nostalgic songs of fado; hear it in Lisbon’s Alfama district.

Trubači, Serbia While this wild brass music is celebrated en masse at Guča each August, ragtag trubači bands wander the streets of many Serbian towns year-round.

Seville, Spain Few musical forms capture the spirit of a nation quite like passionate flamenco, and Seville is its cradle.

Mariinsky Theatre, Russia There's nowhere like St Petersburg's Mariinsky for world-class opera and ballet.

Cafes & Bars

Vienna’s coffee houses, Austria Unchanged in decades and heavy with the air of refinement; pause for a cup served just so.

Irish pubs, Ireland Come and join the warm and gregarious crowds of locals in any pub in Ireland for a true cultural experience.

Paris' cafe society, France What’s more clichéd: the practised curtness of the Parisian waiter or the studied boredom of the customer?

Amsterdam's tiny havens, Netherlands The Dutch call them ‘brown cafes’ for the former tobacco stains on the walls, but they're still cosy, warm and invariably friendly.

Bourse cafes, Belgium Many of Brussels' most iconic cafes are within stumbling distance of the city's Bourse and are great places to sample Belgian beer.

Budapest's ruin pubs, Hungary So-called 'ruin pubs' – essentially pop-up bars in abandoned buildings – are popular seasonal outdoor venues in summer.

Architecture

Notre Dame, France Paris' gargoyle-covered cathedral is a Gothic wonder.

Meteora, Greece Late 14th-century monasteries perch dramatically atop enormous rocky pinnacles.

La Sagrada Família, Spain Gaudí’s singular work in progress, Barcelona’s mighty cathedral defies imagination.

Pantheon, Rome Commissioned during Augustus' reign, the portico of this ancient wonder is graced by Corinthian columns.

Grand Place, Belgium Brussels' suitably grand central square is ringed by gilded houses.

St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow The Red Square's iconic mixture of colours, patterns and shapes is the culmination of a style unique to Russian architecture.

Art nouveau, Budapest Budapest hits its stride with art nouveau masterpieces such as the Museum of Applied Arts.

Blue Mosque, İstanbul Islamic style finds perfect form in the Blue Mosque, one of İstanbul's most recognisable buildings.

Historical Sites

Stonehenge, Britain The UK's most iconic – and mysterious – archaeological site, dating back some 5000 years.

Pompeii, Italy Wander the streets and alleys of this great ancient city, buried by a volcanic eruption.

Athens, Greece Ancient wonders include the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Temple of Olympian Zeus and more.

Amsterdam's Canal Ring, Netherlands Stroll the Dutch capital's Golden Age canals lined with gabled buildings.

Moscow's Kremlin, Russia The seat of power to medieval tsars and modern tyrants alike, Moscow's vast Kremlin offers incredible history lessons.

Dachau, Germany The first Nazi concentration camp is a harrowing introduction to WWII’s horrors.

Sarajevo, Bosnia Hercegovina Enjoy the bustling old Turkish quarter of arguably the Balkans' most charming town – and a proud survivor.