Best flight-free travel tips for getting around Europe by train, from an expert insider


Catherine Livesley is a sustainable travel expert who has traversed almost every country in Europe overland. She has created dream trips at some of the world’s leading rail and sustainable travel companies and worked as a consultant for independent travel companies. She is the founder of flight-free tour operator and travel club, No Fly Travel Club.

While working as a tailor-made travel specialist, frequent flights were as much a part of my life as a beer after work. But when the pandemic hit, I was forced to stay grounded much longer than expected. This led to a slow revelation. Increasingly concerned about the climate crisis, it became clear that my flight habits had to change. Not only that – I wanted to help others make the switch too.

In November 2020 I quit my job to start No Fly Travel Club, using my expertise in overland travel to help others swap their wings for rails.

We specialise in overland trips starting and ending in the UK – as well as offering a membership club for those looking for flight-free travel advice and inspiration.

If you’re looking to cut your carbon footprint without reigning in your adventures, here’s all the insider info on how to travel Europe flight-free.

Train travel is great value for everyone – but especially one type of traveller

When planning an overland trip, ask yourself these two questions: how much time do I have and what type of holiday do I want?

Are you looking to city hop? Hike in beautiful surroundings? Or just relax on the beach?

The further ahead you plan, the cheaper your journey will be. Ideally you should book trains 2-3 months in advance. This will give you the most choice for the lowest price.

Another way to save money is to be flexible with your dates. For the best deals aim to travel outside of school holidays and weekends. For journeys with many legs, you should also look into whether an Interrail pass would be cheaper in the end.

With a bit of insider knowledge, travelling by train can be especially economical for families, since many train operators offer free and discounted seats for kids.

Taking the train with children could be far cheaper than flights

Most European train companies offer free tickets to children (exact age limits vary but it can be up to 6). There’s no need to buy a ticket – simply buy a ticket for any other passengers and bring your kids along for the ride.

If you want to reserve your little ones their own seat, you can do so with a ‘child seat supplement’ from just €9 per person.

Some trains in France, Italy and Switzerland even have carriages especially designed as play areas, so kids can run around freely.

For children under 12 discounts usually amount to about 50 per cent off. Simply add the ages of each passenger when booking and you’ll automatically see the prices. This is particularly useful if you’re travelling on an overnight train as you can secure all the beds in a cabin for your family at a discounted price. It’s a great way to benefit from extra privacy offered by rail travel.

How to travel to top destinations

France – the land of cheese, wine and picture-perfect villages

France has spent decades investing in its high speed rail network, making it perfect for exploring by train.

Known as TGVs, France’s highspeed trains connect major cities at an impressive 320km/hour. When you factor in time travelling to the airport, checking in and collecting baggage, travelling to France by high speed train becomes more or less comparable to flying. The most familiar route for UK travellers is, of course, the Eurostar, connecting London to Lille in 1 hour 15, and Paris in just 2 and a half hours.

Both these Eurostar hubs offer plenty of choice for onward travel. Connecting in Lille is ideal if you want to avoid having to cross busy Paris. Big cities in regions such as Brittany and the Loire Valley Alsace can be easily reached in 4-5 hours from London, and you could be sipping Pastis in the Mediterranean region of Provence in as little as 7 hours.

Regional trains, known as TER services, connect smaller destinations as well as offering a cheaper, slower option for intercity travel. There are also a small number of overnight trains connecting Paris with the south of France (destinations include Nice, Toulouse, Marseille and Perpginan). Reclining seats are the cheapest option – starting at around 19 euros per person. Alternatively opt for a ‘couchette’ for budget (and family) accommodation, or upgrade to a sleeper cabin for the ultimate in overnight comfort.

Italy – beaches, vineyards and pizza are all within easy reach

Once in France, Italy is easy to reach. High speed connections run direct from Paris to Milan and are offered by both SNCF and TrenItalia. With routes priced to rival budget airlines, there are plenty of bargains to be found. Fares start at €39 per person and the journey takes around 7 hours.

If you live in London, it’s possible to go all the way to Turin or Milan in a day – or for those coming from further afield, I recommend breaking up the journey with a pitstop in Paris or Lyon.

From Milan, onward travel to most parts of northern and central Italy is quick and easy thanks to the excellent high speed rail network. Overnight services also run to the south, allowing you to drift down to Rome, Naples or Sicily in style. Tickets can be purchased from TrenItalia, as well as private high speed train operator Italo.

Greece – hop from train to boat to explore hundreds of Grecian isles

Made it to Italy? Then you’re just a boat ride away from Greece. Ferries cross the Aegean from many destinations along Italy’s east coast.

High speed rail connects major Italian ports like Ancona, Bari and Brindisi. These offer daily sailings to Igoumenitsa (on Greece’s west coast) and Patras (where you can pick up a bus to Athens). There are also frequent sailings to Corfu and other Ionian Islands – but check your dates as these don’t run every day. Most offer overnight travel, taking between 8 and 24 hours depending on the destination. As with overnight trains, you have various options for different prices. You can sleep ‘on deck’ for the cheapest price, or book a cabin for an additional cost if you want to guarantee a comfortable night’s sleep.

Turkey – stay grounded until you reach the hot air balloons of Cappadocia

While it might be best reserved for the more adventurous traveller, it is possible to reach Turkey overland from the UK. The easiest option (available late April – early October) involves travelling from London to Munich via Brussels. From here you can take overnight trains to Budapest and then on to Bucharest, with a final overnight hop taking you from the Romanian capital to Istanbul – and the very edge of the continent – on day 4.

While it might not beat the 4 hour flight in a race, you’ll get to soak up the scenery in three of Europe’s most exciting cities on the way – and that’s something no airline can offer.



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Tips for exploring the medieval town of Bamberg | Euromaxx – Lifestyle in Europe | DW


Euromaxx

Travel reporter Dhruv Rathee explores Bamberg, northern Bavaria, with its atmospheric old town. UNESCO named the mostly well-preserved thousand-year-old buildings a World Heritage site in 1993.

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Jane Young: Cost-saving tips on travel to Europe | Business


This is an excellent time to start planning for a trip to Europe. You will experience fewer crowds than before the pandemic and most countries have relaxed COVID restrictions and requirements, making it easier to visit your favorite sites.

One of the biggest expenses associated with travel abroad is airfare; this is especially true with the recent increases in airline tickets. Using miles to purchase your airline ticket is one way to save money on this expense.

Consider signing up for one or two airline loyalty programs and credit cards that provide a sign-up bonus. For example, the American Airlines Aviator Master card issued by Barclays is currently providing 50,000 bonus miles and the United Airlines MileagePlus Visa Card issued by Chase provides 60,000 bonus miles, if you spend $3,000 within the first three months.

If you plan ahead, you can generally purchase a round-trip ticket in economy or one way-ticket in business class to Europe for 60,000 miles. You will continue to earn miles by using your airline card for ongoing expenses. Just be sure to pay the entire balance at the end of the month.

The key to saving on travel is to be flexible with your dates and locations. You can save by flying during the shoulder season, between mid-April to early June and late August to early October. Flights to Europe are even cheaper as you move later into the fall and winter. The day of the week you book your flight does not really matter, but the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. It is best to book your international flight about three to four months in advance.

However, due to the limited availability, tickets purchased with miles need to be secured earlier. Major airlines such as American and United begin selling tickets about 330 days before a flight. To purchase a business-class ticket for a reasonable number of miles and a decent itinerary, you need to buy them as soon as they become available.

You can also save money or increase your chances of purchasing a good ticket with miles if your travel dates are flexible and you are flexible with your departure and arrival airports. It is generally cheaper to fly to Europe from a major international airport. Rather than booking a flight from a small regional airport, it may be cheaper to book a separate ticket on a commuter flight or drive to the nearest international airport and fly to Europe from there.

Additionally, search for the cheapest arrival city within Europe. It is easy and inexpensive to travel between cities in Europe by train or on discount airlines; Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air are a few low-cost options. For example, if you are going to Rome, it may be cheaper to book an international flight to London and take a separate flight on a discount carrier from London to Rome rather than flying directly into Rome.

Jane Young is a fee-only certified financial planner. She can be reached at [email protected]



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‘Really cool, day or night’: readers’ top modern European architecture | Europe holidays


Winning tip: Tickle Knut Hamsun’s spine in Norway

The Hamsun Centre in Hamarøy, northern Norway (a couple of hours by boat from Bodø), is dedicated to Norway’s most famous novelist, Knut Hamsun (1859-1952), hailed by many as the father of modern Norwegian literature. Designed by the American architect Steven Holl, the striking building, which dominates the landscape for miles, offers references to the man and his work, including “hair” on its head (the roof), a metallic “spine” running through the building and a beckoning hand (a yellow balcony jutting out from the dark facade).
M Peyre

Music of the pods in Rome

The lead shells of The Auditorium
Photograph: Christine Webb /Alamy

Sala Santa Cecilia looks like a giant silver beetle or, possibly, a computer mouse. It’s one of three metallic-roofed “pods”, each with specific acoustic features, which are part of the vast complex making up Parco della Musica Auditorium. Designed by Renzo Piano, and finished in 2002, it stands on the site of the 1960 Olympic Park on the outskirts of Rome. Though the pods are definitely modernist, the 2,700-capacity outdoor theatre is a clear nod to ancient Rome, as is the use of Travertine marble throughout. We enjoyed the timeless experience of listening to music in the balmy Italian evening air.
Sherry

Grayson Perry’s secret gingerbread cottage, Essex

A House for Essex by Grayson Perry
Photograph: Tony Watson/Alamy

The tiny village of Wrabness in north Essex hosts Grayson Perry’s A House for Essex. Five years in the making, it was designed as a shrine to the fictional character Julie Cope. This folly is the gingerbread house out of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. The building, clad in colourful relief tiles with a bright gold roof, has been compared to a Scandinavian stave church or a Russian chapel. Set in a tranquil landscape with views over green fields to the Stour estuary, it is a must if you ever find yourself in “England’s most misunderstood country”.
Alison Barker

Cocktails with Le Corbusier, Marseille

Roof Terrace of the Modernist & Brutalist Cite Radieuse or Unite d’Habitation, Marseille
Photograph: Chris Hellier/Alamy

Take a tour of common areas and a typical apartment at Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, France. Snap ’grammable details like the modernist stained glass in the lobby or the bold doors, handles and light fittings in the corridors. Soak up the sun on the azure tiles and crisp concrete of the rooftop, then admire the ingenious pan cupboard in the flat’s original kitchen cabinets. End up in the bar, where you can sit, sip a slow apéro and watch the sunset. Tip: chat to the concierge on the desk at the entrance or the server behind the bar for more local knowledge.
Judith Moore

Slide down a giant’s leg, Valencia

Gulliver playground in Valencia
Photograph: agefotostock/Alamy

I recommend Gulliver (from Jonathan Swift’s novel) at Gulliver Park, Valencia, Spain. It is a great modern structure for kids to enjoy. It is in fact a playground based on Giant Gulliver. He is lying on the ground and the different parts of him form stairs and slides for the children to play on! Entrance is free but do check the opening hours as they can vary. The park is in the east part of the Túria Gardens, close to the City of Arts and Sciences, another fine modern structure in Valencia.
Sue O’Brien

Straddle continents in the Dardanelles

1915 Canakkale Bridge at dawn with lights
Photograph: Ahmet Pektas/Getty Images

Cross from Asia to Europe in just 13 minutes: that’s how long it will take you to traverse the brand-new 1915 Çanakkale Bridge, straddling the Dardanelles strait, 40 miles north-east of the ancient city of Troy, across to the Gallipoli peninsula on the north side, a little way west of Istanbul. The bridge, which boasts the longest suspension span in the world, is a beautiful structure in its own right – like a sleek 21st-century version of San Francisco’s Golden Gate. The main attraction here, though, has to be the incredible views along the Dardanelles towards the Sea of Marmara to one side and the open Mediterranean to the other.
Jayne Pearson

A close encounter in Graz

Kunsthaus Graz Dusk.
Photograph: Alamy

I staggered off the night train from Venice recently in Graz, Austria, and decided to go for an early-morning walk around the old town. When I came across a huge alien spaceship-type construction, I had to pinch myself then drink some strong coffee. The Kunsthaus is a surreal structure, a modern art gallery built in 2003, and it looks even more stunning at night when 1,000 solar lights come on – it looks like it’s getting ready for takeoff.
Greta

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Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print. To enter the latest competition visit the readers’ tips homepage

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A whale basks by the Danube, Budapest

Balna building, Budapest
Photograph: Alamy

The Bálna (“whale”) in Budapest, Hungary, is a large-scale, glass-fronted building on the bank of the Danube near the Great Market Hall. It is a mixed-use building, with shops, cafes, bars and a great art gallery focusing primarily on contemporary art. It has a fantastic terrace with great views on the city, but the architecture itself is also very interesting: designed by Dutch architect Kas Oosterhuis, it is a mixture of historic brick warehouses and a striking hi-tech metal-glass structure. Visiting is completely free; for more info see balnabudapest.hu.
Magdolna Decker

Gorgeous distortion, Prague

Prague Dancing House
Photograph: Alamy

The Dancing House in Prague, sometimes nicknamed “Fred and Ginger”, is a really cool structure. It was built in the early 1990s – I think that qualifies as modern in architecture! It’s so unusual because it sticks out from the gothic/baroque architecture that Prague is known for. It’s right on the river in the New Town district. When I saw it for the first time, it really gave the impression that it was falling into itself, sort of like when a fantasy/sci-fi movie visualises a black hole orwormhole, where everything becomes distorted and hard structures appear liquid. Really cool, day or night.
Jordan Gale

A metal net of geometric shapes, Pristina

National Lublic library in Prishtina – Kosovo
Photograph: Leonid Andronov/Getty Images

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” certainly applies to the National Library of Kosovo, in Pristina. On its inauguration in 1982, the head of the Communist party asked why the scaffolding hadn’t been removed. However, I found the distinctive cube and dome features, relics from the Byzantine and Ottoman tradition, intriguing. It looked as though a metal net of geometric shapes had been thrown over the exterior, while 99 cupolas of varying sizes added beauty and flooded the reading rooms with natural light. Inside, we found the entrance walls adorned with copper börek-shaped coils and silver filigree panels studded with precious stones.
Helen Jackson



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Rick Steves Just Told Us Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Europe This Summer




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How to find a visa to move to Europe


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How would the American icons of the Lost Generation move to Europe if they were alive today? What kind of visas would be granted to a newspaper reporter like Ernest Hemingway, a bookseller like Sylvia Beach or a jazz legend like Louis Armstrong?

I found myself wondering that as I navigated the challenges of plotting a move abroad this past year. For creative and self-starting people today, the picture can be opaque. Without a multinational company sponsoring you or rich parents to bankroll a “golden visa,” moving to Europe can be a far cry from the romanticized vision you might have read about.

But there are, in fact, many pathways to Europe that don’t require generational wealth or the backing of a megacorporation.

Over the past several years, I have researched the lesser-known and less-obvious ways to make the move. I have spent hundreds of hours poring over social media and immigration websites for dozens of countries, and I have networked with self-employed and entrepreneurial Americans across the continent. Eventually, my obsession paid off; I moved to the United Kingdom on a self-sponsored visa this past summer.

If you’re “so bored with the U.S.A.,” as the Clash sings, I’ve got news: There’s a solid chance you can make the move, too. Here’s how to do it, according to experts.

Define your strategy, then give yourself time

Last July, I sold my belongings in Portland, Ore., and bought a one-way ticket to the U.K. Luckily, a friend had relocated to London several years before, so she had answers to my many questions. And as an international student adviser who works with British universities, Leah Alexandria Rogers is certainly used to getting asked about moving across the pond.

Her general advice to those exploring their options: “Dream big,” she tells me, “but it’s not real until you start taking informed steps.”

Begin by sketching out a strategy. Define why you want to relocate, and outline what your career goals are. Documenting these will help you filter opportunities. In my case, I kept a spreadsheet tracking relevant visas in two dozen countries, then used my personal criteria to narrow down to a visa shortlist in a few countries.

Next, you will want to budget plenty of time and money. It took me several years to pull together a plan and my savings, but whatever route you take, you will want at least six months to get everything sorted.

“I’m in a few expat [Facebook] groups and there are so many posts with the air of ‘I want to move to X country on a whim. How?’ Sadly, many of the commenters respond harshly because of the challenges they’ve faced,” Rogers says.

Without doubt, visas are the big hurdle. (That is, unless you’re one of the lucky few who have rights to a German, Irish, Italian or Polish passport through ancestry.) Thankfully, there are a few primary categories of DIY visas that share many traits. This makes it easier to compare options and determine the best match for you.

If you qualify, ‘talent visas’ are the golden ticket

A handful of the most popular European destinations offer lesser-known “talent visas,” which provide greater flexibility without significant financial investments or employer sponsorship.

France’s “passport talent,” for instance, offers pathways that differ according to your discipline; this makes a move possible for accomplished technical and cultural professionals. Possibly the most flexible but also selective visa program is the U.K.’s Global Talent Visa, which is what I did. It caters to professionals of “exceptional talent,” as well as people early in their career who demonstrate “exceptional promise,” in academia and research, arts and culture or digital technology.

Computer programmer Noah Gibbs used the Global Talent after spending 2019 working in locations around the world with his family of five to determine where they wanted to put down roots. They relocated to the Scottish Highlands the following year.

Since these visas are typically self-sponsored, you will have an extra hoop to jump through: an initial application that proves you’re, well, talented.

To prepare, Gibbs researched which government-designated organization would be judging his application — Tech Nation in his case — and read through the extensive guidance available online.

“It’s a bit like an intensive job interview, or a presentation to get a promotion at a big company,” he recalls about Tech Nation’s process. “But once you have it, you can stay for up to five years.” After that, you can apply for permanent residency.

How to pick the best airport line-cutting service for you

Self-employed visas are the best-kept secret

Europe’s self-employed visas can be one of the most direct ways to make the move. Most European countries have some form of these, from the widely-blogged-about German freelancer visa to more obscure options such as the Dutch American Friendship Treaty self-employed visa. These visas appeal to everyone from freelance writers and artists to digital marketers and pastry chefs.

Molly Wilkinson describes France’s profession libérale visa as something she really only hears about “in whispered conversations between expats.” The Texas native runs an online pastry school and teaches pastry classes in Versailles.

Despite initial anxieties about gathering the right documentation, the visa has given her creative freedom. “Unlike a traditional work visa, I’m not tied to a company so I don’t have that fear that if I lose my job, my visa will be lost as well,” she says. “I’m able to function as a freelancer and build my dream business in France.”

Of course applying for one of these self-employed programs comes with a set of challenges.

“The visa application process in Berlin can feel incredibly cryptic,” said culture journalist Michelle No, who lives in Germany on a freelancer visa. “It is crazy to what extent everyone depends on fellow expats/immigrants to successfully apply for the visa.” Local Facebook groups are often the central node for these informal networks.

No advises finding a few relevant Facebook groups, which can help “cut through a bit of the chaos.” Plus, No says, “it’s also just helpful to commiserate and rest easy knowing everyone else is going mad from the visa stress.”

How to use Biden’s free coronavirus tests for international travel

For entrepreneurs, look at start-up visas

If launching a business in Europe appeals to you, then you’re the ideal candidate for the dozen-plus start-up visas that countries like Estonia, France and Portugal have started in the past decade. These programs “enable would-be entrepreneurs to move and launch a business,” explains Tegan Spinner, who relocated from Silicon Valley to Copenhagen on the start-up Denmark Visa.

While they are far from easy, start-up visas typically come with helpful perks, he adds. Traditional business visas often require large monetary investments; most start-up visas do not. Some even let founders apply at the idea stage.

“Applicants need only to get a business plan approved by a panel of experts,” says Spinner, who has launched several start-ups in Copenhagen and consults with entrepreneurs wanting to follow in his footsteps. “If successful, they can obtain a visa to live, work and start their entrepreneurial journey in Denmark.”

Once you’re in the country, Startup Denmark connects you with free business guidance. It’s something you’ll need; Spinner underscores how starting a company abroad can add “extra difficulty to an already difficult process.”

Do I still need to wear a mask on a plane? 5 questions, answered.

What Americans wish they knew before making the leap

Improved quality of life, easy international travel and, yes, health care are a few of the reasons these Americans say they have no plans of returning to the United States anytime soon. Despite the challenges they faced along the way, they say it’s worth it.

“We wanted to raise our children somewhere quieter, smaller and safer than the San Francisco Bay area,” reflects Gibbs on what led his family to Scotland more than two years ago. He is counting the days until he can, “with luck,” get permanent settlement.

“For me, it’s the easy access to continental Europe from the U.K.,” Rogers says of London. “Also, in my opinion, the [National Health Service] really is a dream come true as an American.”

While everyone I spoke to emphasized that it’s worth it, they also agreed on one point: “Moving to a new country in general is extremely stressful,” No said.

She cites the logistics of finding a new place to live, navigating bureaucracies and finding new friends in a foreign country as all part of the experience. And as a woman of color in Berlin, she also underscores how “experiencing some of the casual racism” in Germany has been “jarring.”

What does No wish she knew before making the move? Give yourself time to find your community (“Everywhere you go, there’s always going to be someone just like you”). And save more money than you think you need or are required to have — some visas stipulate a certain amount of savings, while others do not. “It’ll help with your mental health as you fly through your cash in the first few months,” she says.

“Moving abroad is a giant investment,” No says, “and it’ll be easier for you to think of it as a long-term one, not a short-term TikTok-ready vacation.”



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12 Best Hidden Gems In Europe To Visit In 2022, Revealed By European Best Destinations


With picturesque villages, gorgeous hill towns, seaside resorts and medieval hamlets among vineyards and lakes, Europe abounds with “secret” destinations away from the crowds.

European Best Destinations (EBD) has released its 2022 list of “Best Hidden Gems in Europe” to entice travelers on the hunt for unique experiences free from mass tourism and a hunger to reconnect with nature.

“Amazing secret pueblos blancos in Spain, the Algarve islands of Portugal, secret medieval villages in Italy, and beautiful beaches in Georgia” are among the recommendations by the organization, which is part of the European Commission’s EDEN Network (“European Destinations of Excellence”) working to promote sustainable tourism on the continent.

These are 12 of the top Secret Destinations on the EBD list. All the hidden gems are here and include Sant’ Angelo Ischia Island in Italy, Zahara de la Sierra Cadiz in Spain’s Andalusia, St Jean Cap Ferrat Provence-Alpes-Côtes-D’Azur in France, Hondarribia, Basque Country in Spain, Theoule-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte-D’Azur in France, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Alpes de Haute Provence in France, Ilha do Farol, Algarve in Portugal, Trogir Split, Dalmatia in Croatia, Sesimbra, Costa Azul in Portugal and Savona, Liguria in Italy.

1. Batumi, Adjara Region, Georgia

This sparkling, beautiful destination known as the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’ in Europe and awarded by the World Travel Awards as “Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination” made it to the top of the Best Hidden Gems in Europe.

Located on the coast of Georgia’s Ajara region, Batumi boasts more than 2,000 years of history and is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. This vibrant city invites you to experience the contrast between ancient sites and modern lifestyles.

Due to its year-round subtropical and mild climate, Batumi can be visited in any season. Its national parks have recently been recognized by UNESCO as World’s Natural Heritage sites.

In old Batumi, the main streets lead to the port — hence its renown as a city that looks at the sea.

“We love strolling through the historic streets of Batumi’s old city centre, hiking, biking or canyoning in the nearby Adjara mountains, visiting one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Europe, lazing around on Batumi beach or being pampered in a wellness hotel facing the sea,” writes EBD.

Rich in history, heritage, museums unique in the world and among Europe’s most daring architectures, Batumi is also a destination for foodies and wine lovers.

The city is a perfect destination in summer, combining city-break and beach, wellness and shopping. Autumn dresses its parks and the Adjara Region in flamboyant colors, making it probably the best time of the year to combine city break and nature getaway as a couple or with family or friends.

With new trendy hotels opening every day, Asian and European fusion restaurants, rooftop bars atop extraordinary buildings, independent shops, designers, stylists and an exceptional nightlife, Batumi is much more than one of the Best Hidden Gems in Europe: It stands out as one of the best City Breaks in Europe.

2. Torrevieja, Alicante, Spain

Torrevieja, (meaning ‘Old Tower’) is a seaside city on the Costa Blanca in southern Valencia on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

Located between two salt lagoons, the Laguna Salada de Torrevieja and the Laguna de La Mata are excellent destinations for birdwatchers, cyclists and nature lovers.

The protected reserves are separated by a strip of land and are habitats for many species and more than 100 birds including flamingos and other waders.

“The ‘Laguna Salada de Torrevieja’ is a pink lake that will blow your Instagram account and leave you with memories for a lifetime,” advises EBD.

It’s located in the Natural Park of the Lagunas de la Mata y Torrevieja and in addition to having exceptional color, this lake is said to have therapeutic properties — especially for rheumatism — thanks to the healing components of its salty waters.

Torrevieja also has miles of sublime sandy beaches, a picturesque seafront promenade, waterparks and modern sports centers.

3. Pietrapertosa, Basilicata Region, Italy

Pietrapertosa is a village in Southern Italy’s Basilicata region, situated in a mountainous area within the regional park of Gallipoli Cognato Piccole Dolomiti Lucane.

Pietrapertosa’s first name was “Lucania,” derived from Leukos, and means “sacred wood” in line with the identity of this region located between the heel and the tip of the boot of Italy.

This region of forests and mountains is best known for the troglodyte stone city of Matera. Don’t miss a stop at “Castelmezzano,” another village considered one of the best hidden gems of Italy.

Like Castelmezzano, Pietrapertosa seems to be built into the rock. With its narrow streets and medieval houses at the foot of the castle, this hamlet is one of Italy’s most beautiful medieval villages.

Climb to the top of the castle and enjoy breathtaking views and enjoy a unique experience taking one of Europe’s fastest zip lines, joining Castelmezzano and Pietraportosa.

4. Rio Marina, Elba Island, Tuscany, Italy

Rio Marina is one of the best hidden gems in Tuscany. Located on the island of Elba, Rio Marina is a destination of rare beauty, nestled between the sea and the mountains.

Mining capital of the island, Rio Marina no longer attracts gold diggers but, rather, holidaymakers looking for beaches of fine golden sand, crystal clear waters, hidden coves and secret beaches such as Cala delle Alghe or the Spiaggia Luisi d’Angelo.

Eight ferries a day connect Piombino (mainland) to Covo (Elba Island) located 10 minutes by car from Rio Marina.

Elba is the biggest island of the Tuscan Archipelago and the third largest in Italy after Sardinia and Sicily. Together with eight other islands, including Giglio, Giannutri and Montecristo, it’s part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, Europe’s largest marine park.

5. Losinj Island, Primorje-Gorksi, Kotar County, Croatia

Located 10 minutes by car from the sublime town of Mali Losinj, Veli Losinj is “a secret destination that will make you fall in love with Croatia,” according to EBD.

Natural landscapes, crystal clear blue waters, extraordinary beaches, sun and good food have made Croatia into one of the trendiest countries in recent years.

Veli Losinj was an important fishing port until the beginning of the 20th century. Over the years the village has been transformed to welcome tourists.

Located at the foot of the Kalvarija mountain and facing the Mediterranean, Veli Losinj is one of the most beautiful islands of Croatia.

6. Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain

Calella de Palafrugell is a perfect destination to escape from the city and enjoy the idleness of an authentic old fishing village.

With its various rocky coves, sandy beaches and excellent fish restaurants, whitewashed buildings fringing the waterfront and fishing boats on the shore, the town is a showcase of ‘low key as a way of life.’

With its intact architecture, Calella de Palafrugell is one of the most beautiful villages on the Costa Brava.

7. Bauduen, Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur, France

Not many people know this little paradise 90 minutes from Nice. A perfect place for exploring the Gorges du Verdon, Bauduen is also a privileged holiday spot in the heart of nature.

This traditional village appeals to families that take advantage of the activities offered by the nautical center, observe the starry sky at the astronomical observatory or visit the children’s museum “Art in Toys.”

The few restaurants and brasseries in Bauduen offer simple and tasty cuisine at affordable prices compared to some restaurants on the Côte d’Azur.

Bauduen is also one of the most beautiful villages in France.

8. Moraira, Alicante, Costa Blanca, Spain

Moraira is the kind of small seaside resorts one dreams of for a holiday by the sea. Far from the crowds and soulless buildings, this family seaside resort on the water offers a relaxing holiday under Spanish coast sun.

With its cliffs, pine trees and sublime villas, Moraira resembles Capri in Italy and is one of the most beautiful villages on the Costa Blanca.

Beautiful beaches and a temperate climate that’s never too hot even in the heat of summer, Moraira is situated on the beautiful mountainous northeastern tip of the Costa Blanca.

The town has grown from a small fishing village to a holiday and retirement resort with an impressive marina, a variety of local shops, markets, harbor-side fish restaurants and bars and has still managed to preserve its Spanish character.

9. Thun, Canton of Bern, Switzerland

Thun is a town by Lake Thun in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland region.

The turreted Thun Castle, dating back to the 1100s, stands on a hill above the old town and has sweeping views of the Alps.

Popular with the inhabitants of Bern, who come to spend relaxing weekends not far from the Swiss capital, Thun is one of Switzerland’s best hidden gems with Spiez just a short drive away.

For walks or bike rides along the lake, mountain biking, water and winter activities or for a visit steeped in gastronomy and wellness, Thun is a destination made for lovers of nature and wide open spaces.

10. Port Grimaud, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, France

The town of Grimaud on the French Riviera is perfect for lovers of old stones, steep streets and typical Provençal villages while Port Grimaud will appeal to lovers of various watercraft including sailboats and yachts.

Grimaud is a village and commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France with historical links to Monaco’s Grimaldi family.

The famous coastal town of Port Grimaud, a colorful port, nicknamed ‘The Little Venice of Provence’ and endorsed as a 20th Century Heritage site has only been in existence for some 50 years and is well-loved for its laid-back way of life.

EBD recommends that visitors “wander along the canals, take a boat trip, or count the different colors on the facades.”

11. Quedlinburg, Saxony Anhalt, Germany

Quedlinburg is a typical German town of half-timbered houses and medieval streets.

Its beautiful walks include visits to its castle and the church that shelters the tomb of a 10th century German king, as well as walks around the vast forests that surround it.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quedlinburg was a powerful and wealthy city in the Middle Ages and is also one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe.

During a stay in Quedlinburg, be sure to visit Erfurt, one of the best hidden gems of Germany, which in winter hosts one of the most beautiful Christmas markets.

12. Sainte Marguerite Island, Lerin Islands, Alpes Maritimes, France

The Île Sainte-Marguerite is the largest of the Lérins Islands, about a half-mile offshore from the French Riviera town of Cannes.

Clean, calm, without cars and surrounded by crystal-clear water, the island is described by its tourist office as a destination with serene beauty.

A mixture of sea air, eucalyptus and maritime pines, Sainte-Marguerite Island is an ideal destination to rest, swim, walk, cycle or simply enjoy beautiful natural and wild beaches.

Many cruises depart daily from the port of Cannes but also from the Port of “Golfe-Juan” and “Juan-les-Pins” towards Sainte Marguerite Island.

Two restaurants, open from April to October, specialize in local specialities. “A unique destination for a business seminar in the countryside, exceptional holidays in a 100% natural setting, sports holidays, alone, as a couple or with the family,” according to EBD.



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Travel to Europe Ready for Take-Off This Summer


Americans are returning to Europe and war on the continent is not a major deterring them.

According to a recent MMGY Travel Intelligence survey, 61 percent of American travelers with plans to visit Europe this year intend to follow through despite the war in Ukraine.

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MMGY asked 400 leisure travelers who had planned or were considering a trip to Europe this year and most are keeping their plans to travel to the region, however, one in three respondents said that the war will affect which countries they visit.

Only 23 percent of those with plans indicated that they intend to wait and see how the situation evolves before finalizing their plans. Ten percent said that they are likely to delay/reschedule and just 7 percent are likely to cancel.

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Chris Davidson, executive Vice President of MMGY Travel Intelligence, noted that many see popular destinations in Western Europe as far enough away from the conflict

“While the war in Ukraine is clearly a top-of-mind concern for many travelers, it does not appear that it will ultimately deter a majority of Americans from visiting Europe,” Davidson said. “This is especially true of travel to Western European destinations that are perceived to be a bit more geographically removed from the conflict.”

Initial concerns about travel to Europe during the war have waned since its outbreak in Ukraine. Traveler concerns about the conflict spreading to other parts of Europe have declined (62 percent to 54 percent), while concerns about the rising cost of travel have increased (32 percent to 38 percent).

Of particular concern is the jump in airfare prices. Four out of 10 (37 percent) attribute the rising cost of domestic air travel to the war in Ukraine.

While Americans are still ready to travel to Europe, the war has also increased concerns about travel safety in Europe (58 percent either agree or strongly agree). For many, it is also increasing their travel safety concerns in regards to travel to international destinations other than Europe (45 percent) and even travel within the U.S. (27 percent).

Western Europe is perceived as safer than Eastern European countries. Americans are more likely to consider Eastern European countries less safe than countries in Western Europe, according to MMGY. Among those who have a trip planned, Poland, Germany and Austria are the countries outside of Ukraine and Russia perceived to be less safe as a result of the war.

While there are elevated flight prices, travelers who make it to Europe will find few travel restrictions as many countries have removed COVID-19 entry barriers such as pre-arrival testing.


London Bridge, London, United Kingdom, City
London Bridge, United Kingdom (Photo via Getty Images)

The most popular European summer travel destinations are far from the fighting in Ukraine. A recent Allianz survey found that London, Paris and Dublin remain the three most popular places on U.S. travelers’ itineraries in 2022.

Reykjavik, Iceland, is the fourth most popular spot for U.S. travelers followed by Rome.

Daniel Durazo, director of external communications at Allianz Partners USA, noted that pent-up demand is still driving travelers but that they should be prepared when going abroad.

“European destinations have made a significant effort to welcome Americans back and our data shows tremendous pent-up demand for travel to the continent. International travelers should always consider travel insurance plans that provide reimbursement for covered trip cancellations and medical emergencies that may occur while traveling.”

For the latest insight on travel around the world, check out this interactive guide:



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Share a tip on a beautiful modern structure in Europe – you could win a holiday voucher | Travel


Whether it’s a flagship museum, an art gallery, a new bridge, a residential or office block with eco features, we would love your tips on recent design gems from the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

You may have gazed admiringly at the jagged profile of Glasgow’s Riverside Museum or been struck by the deconstructivist Louis Vuitton Foundation building in Paris or the bitmap-looking outline of the Bodegas Ysios winery in Spain. Don’t forget to tell us about your visit to the building or structure and why it appealed. The more personal the tip, the more likely it is to make it on to our shortlist.

If you have a relevant photo, do send it in – but it’s your words that will be judged for the competition.

Keep your tip to about 100 words

The best tip of the week, chosen by travel expert Tom Hall, will win a £200 voucher to stay at a Sawday’s property – the company has more than 3,000 in the UK and Europe. The best tips will appear on the Guardian Travel website, and maybe in the paper, too.

If you’re having trouble using the form, click here. Read terms of service here.

We’re sorry, but for legal reasons you must be a UK resident to enter this competition.

The competition closes on Tuesday 17 May at 9am BST

Have a look at our past winners and other tips

Read the terms and conditions here

If you’re having trouble using the form, click here. Read terms of service here and privacy policy here.



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Opinion: Why Jill Biden’s trip in Eastern Europe matters


As the Biden administration continues to express its unwavering support for Ukraine’s battle to preserve its independence, the first lady’s trip is another opportunity to demonstrate America’s commitment to Ukraine. It also will serve as an important reminder to all American and NATO allies that US commitment to Ukraine will extend well into the postwar period — whenever that might be.

This is not the first time that a first lady has played an important role in the nation’s politics on a matter of international importance. Ever since Martha Washington assumed the position for the first time, many first ladies have tried to find a way to do more than redecorate the White House and host ceremonial receptions.

But they have not done so without challenges. Whenever modern first ladies have tried to step beyond the traditional boundaries of their roles, there has been fierce political backlash against them.

Most famously, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a syndicated columnist who wrote and spoke out on some of the biggest issues of the day — including racial injustice. For her forthrightness, she was viciously attacked throughout the 1930s, on everything ranging from her physical appearance to her relationships with left-wing political figures.
“I have been accused of rudeness to Mrs. Roosevelt,” wrote the newspaper columnist Westbrook Pegler, “when I only said she was impudent, presumptuous and conspiratorial, and that her withdrawal from public life at this time would be a fine public service.” And Pegler was just the tip of the iceberg.
But first ladies — including Roosevelt — persisted nonetheless, often taking strategic overseas trips to assist their husband’s work. In 1943, at the height of World War II, Roosevelt traveled to the South Pacific for a month-long journey. In Sydney, Australia, she made a number of speeches about the role women were playing in the war and on the home front, concluding: “Perhaps here is the germ of an idea that in the postwar period women will be encouraged to participate in all activities of citizenship.”
Opinion: 'The First Lady' is a harsh reminder of this dissonant truth
In November 1990, Barbara Bush, wife of George H.W. Bush, joined her husband on a Thanksgiving trip to Saudi Arabia in the middle of the Gulf War. She proved to be the life of the party, enchanting soldiers and making everyone laugh with her sharp sense of humor. “I rarely hug guns,” she said as her arm brushed against a rifle that was on the arm of a soldier.
“President Bush didn’t come to Saudi Arabia with any guns or missiles today, but he had a much more effective secret weapon — Barbara Bush,” one columnist wrote in The Washington Post. Similarly, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump took trips overseas to assist their husbands in promoting their political agendas during their respective presidencies.
First ladies also have been integral to political campaigns. In the fall of 1964, Lady Bird Johnson took a 1,628 mile-tour of eight southern states, meeting with political leaders and speaking in support of Lyndon B. Johnson’s record — even when she encountered crowds who were livid about her husband’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Michelle Obama was one of the most clear-eyed and vocal critics of Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016, offering some of the most powerful speeches and commentary about the stakes that the nation faced with the prospect of him winning office. And at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, she tore into Trump as someone who was “clearly in over his head.”
First ladies have played critical roles in policymaking deliberations. In 1993, President Bill Clinton named Hillary Clinton to be the head of the task force that designed his health care plan. Predictably, she became the vicious target of conservative attacks and mockery in the media, which spoke of her in terms comparable to that of Eleanor Roosevelt. During the health care fight, one cartoon featured Clinton sitting in a high chair, hovering over her husband in the Oval Office, as one adviser whispers to the other: “It still unnerves me a bit.” Although the plan went down in defeat, Clinton’s work helped put forth a new model of health care reform that became a foundation for the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.
First ladies have also become champions of significant causes. Lady Bird Johnson was a well-known advocate of the environment and highway beautification. Betty Ford was a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, which brought her into direct conflict with right-wing activists like Phyllis Schlafly who were mobilizing to defeat it. Meanwhile, Nancy Reagan famously campaigned against drug use, telling the nation’s youth to “Just Say No.”
And, of course, first ladies can serve as advisers, sometimes in dramatic fashion — such as in 1919 when Edith Wilson secretly stepped up after her husband Woodrow Wilson suffered from a debilitating stroke.

What’s clear from history is that first ladies have consistently found ways to use their positions to influence public life — even in the wake of sexism and bigotry. And each time a first lady, such as Jill Biden, currently on her trip to reaffirm US support of Ukraine, takes a role in addressing the challenges of our times, they help build a stronger precedent for a future where the country will not just accept but expect the spouse of the commander-in-chief to use their position to improve American lives.



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