Which European Countries Are Open For Restriction-Free Travel?

Spain just dropped its vaccine requirement to enter the country, now allowing unvaccinated travelers to enjoy visiting Spain, too, though all travelers will be required to test negative prior to arrival.

This prompts the question in many minds: which countries in Europe don’t have any pandemic-related entry requirements right now?


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The list may surprise you – some countries in this list are beloved European destinations, while others are more underrated destinations.

Either way, they’re the easiest countries in Europe to enter right now, since they don’t require any testing, proof of vaccination or other pandemic-related entry requirements.

Be aware, though, that some of these countries still abide by quarantine rules when travelers test positive for COVID-19 during their stay.

The United States also requires residents traveling abroad to test negative prior to returning to the U.S., so travelers should make necessary preparations and take precautions while in Europe to ensure they don’t test positive and are disallowed from returning from their trip until they test negative.

Highlights of Norway
Highlights of Norway

Countries in Europe without any entry restrictions:




United Kingdom



Czech Republic

– Hungary



– Bulgaria

– Latvia

– Lichtenstein

– Moldova

– Montenegro

– North Macedonia

– Poland

– Romania

– Slovakia

Germany (June 1)

For information on current entry requirements in Europe and around the world, check out our interactive guide.

For the latest travel news, updates, and deals, be sure to subscribe to the daily TravelPulse newsletter here.

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The train ticket that revolutionized European rail travel

Francesca Street, CNN

The summer Tim Thomas was 18, he packed up a rucksack, left his small hometown in the south of England and hopped on a train to France, kicking off a month-long journey through Europe by rail.

It was 1972. Thomas was among the first travelers to take advantage of the fledgling European Interrail pass, which allowed young people under 21, across 21 participating countries, to buy a £27.50 (at the time about $67) ticket for unlimited travel across Europe by train for a full month.

“It was a bit ideal really, you were young and fit and every day there’d be a new country or town or whatever in front of you to explore,” Thomas tells CNN Travel. “There was always something to look forward to.”

The Interrail pass was dreamed up by the International Union of Railways (UIC), a body overseeing Europe’s railways that’s since ceded control of Interrail to the independent Eurail company.

The UIC emerged in 1922 after Europe’s borders were rearranged following World War I and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles. In 1972, the organization envisaged the cross-Europe travel pass as a fun way to celebrate its 50th birthday and to encourage rail travel among European youth. A similar scheme, the Eurail pass, already existed for international travelers — why not open the continent’s trains up to young Europeans?

“There was no high speed rail, there were no low cost flights, there were less coaches — and overall travel was on a totally different level than today,” Alexander Mokros, chairman of Eurail, tells CNN Travel.

“People were traveling much less. So they had this great idea to launch a special product specially for youths, so everybody, until the age of 21, could discover the continent.”

It wasn’t just travel that was different in 1972. The map of Europe looked different, too. The first iteration of the Interrail pass focused on north, west and southern Europe, with eastern Europe largely blocked off behind the Iron Curtain.

Brightly colored posters were plastered across Europe’s railway stations and word spread about the UIC’s rail offering. Young people discussed plans and sketched out routes.

Thomas reckons Interrail first arrived on his radar via a poster.

“I’ve always enjoyed train travel, and so I went with a friend who I’d been at school with,” he says.

Still, Thomas’ trip was nearly over before it began: as his train set off down the English coast towards the gateway port of Dover, Thomas realized he had left his bag in the waiting room at Ashford station, a stop on the line between London and Dover.

Today, a bag abandoned in a railway station is liable to be removed and destroyed. In 1972, Thomas explained the dilemma to train staff who told him not to worry — they would pass on the message through their network, and the bag would be sent up on the next train and they could do a handover at Dover.

“Sure enough, I just had to wait on the platform, and the next train came along and the driver handed it out of his cab to me,” recalls Thomas.

“From then on, I believe, we managed to avoid making too many mistakes like that.”

Thomas and his friend journeyed around Europe in what he describes as a “figure of eight” route. They headed first to southwest France, then across to Switzerland, up to Denmark, then down to Athens in Greece via Yugoslavia and Munich, Germany.

“We got our full month’s worth, and I’ve kept all the itineraries with the detail of the individual trains and the distances involved,” says Thomas.

The travelers relied on the Thomas Cook Continental Timetable, a bible for European train travelers that details all the train times and the distance in miles between stations. (The guide is still published under the name “European Rail Timetable.”)

And in this pre-euro, pre-online banking world, if the travelers wanted to exchange currencies, they had to line up at the bank, passports in hand.

They saved money by sleeping on the train wherever possible. Otherwise, they’d bunk down for the night in hostels.

Thomas reckons they were lucky that, as 18-year-olds exploring their first taste of independence, the biggest obstacle they faced en route was sunburn. They enjoyed pretty much every day of the trip.

“It’s a kind of freedom isn’t it, when you’re away from home?” says Thomas.

Martin McKee, who grew up in Northern Ireland, set out on his inaugural Interrail trip in 1972. Only 15, he traveled with three friends from school. Over the course of the month, the group occasionally split ways, but reconvened at various points along the journey.

Exploring Europe at a formative age had a significant effect on McKee’s way of thinking. A year or so after the trip, he interviewed at the University of Newcastle in England, where he hoped to study medicine. Amid the ongoing context of the sectarian violence in Ireland known as “the Troubles,” the interviewers asked McKee if he considered himself British or Irish.

Teenage McKee replied that he was European.

“The people that were traveling, who were my age or older, and who had that sort of curiosity and wanted to see the world, we all had much, much more in common than the communities that we came from,” he tells CNN Travel.

Today, McKee is a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and in 2020 he became a member of the World Health Organization convened Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development.

All in all, 87,000 young people traveled via the EU Interrail pass in 1972, according to Eurail. Such numbers meant that for the UIC, continuing the scheme beyond that inaugural year was a no-brainer.

Thomas went Interrailing again in 1973 and 1974. On all three trips, his Hanimex Compact R camera came with him. The device’s small size made it pretty easy to transport.

Snapping photos of the length and breadth of Europe, Thomas tried to avoid getting people in his photos. But today, looking through his slides, he enjoys the ones with photobombing strangers more than the emptier scenes — they offer a taste of life in Europe at the time, 1970s bell bottom jeans and all.

Interrailing through the 1970s

As the 1970s progressed, “Interrail” became a verb, a staple of European travel vernacular.

Trudy Harpham, emeritus professor at London South Bank University, went Interrailing on three consecutive college summer vacations.

“As a student, the cheap deal of Interrail for a month in the summer was pretty irresistible,” she tells CNN Travel. “I wanted to go as far as the scheme would allow me.”

On the first trip, in 1975, Harpham and her then boyfriend packed up their backpacks and a two-person tent and snaked across Europe by rail, reaching Istanbul in Turkey.

“I was stepping into the unknown,” Harpham recalls, but she found a friendly and convivial atmosphere among the Interrailing community.

“It felt so sociable and communal and exciting,” she says.

As the trains chugged across the continent, Harpham jotted down her observations on countries and their cultures in dispatches back home to England.

“Almost in every new country that I crossed into, I wrote a postcard to my parents in Lincolnshire, who were delighted to receive them,” says Harpham.

Harpham’s mother kept all the postcards, telling her daughter that one day she would appreciate being able to look back on her adventures.

Of course it wasn’t all exciting. Long periods on trains could be tedious. On Harpham’s 1973 trip, which included traveling up to the Arctic Circle in Norway, she recalls thinking that she “didn’t want to see another birch tree forest in my life after that.”

But most of the time, Harpham relished the experience of waking up in a new place after a night of travel.

“If we were lucky enough to have a seat, pushing that old fashioned blind up the window and peering out and wondering where you were was just magical,” she recalls.

Today, British-born Harpham lives in Switzerland. She’s retired, but worked in international public health and lived in over 50 countries.

Harpham recalls returning from her summers Interailing and feeling like she was in a club made up of young people from across Europe.

“Only the others who did it really understood the feeling of liberation and excitement and sheer exposure, wonderful opportunities to see so many places in a relatively short time, and relatively low cost,” she says.

Interrail today

In 2022, the European Interrail pass turns 50. It has morphed and developed over the years, but the fundamental concept remains unchanged — a relatively simple railway gateway to Europe.

The biggest difference between the scheme today and its early years is it’s now open to everyone, of all ages.

Rail expert Mark Smith, founder of popular train website The Man in Seat 61, says this change was “the best thing that’s happened” to the pass in its five decades of existence.

Today, there’s also a greater range of Interrailing options. Travelers can choose based on number of travel days and class of ticket.

Europe’s railways have changed too. High speed services are now more commonplace and, until recently, night trains were on the out but the tide there appears to be turning again thanks to a recent resurgence of sleeper services across Europe. Smith also suggests the continent’s trains are now more fragmented, with some long distance routes now broken up into smaller sections.

And while Smith’s own website is a treasure trove of Interrailing tips and tricks, he tells CNN Travel he’s an advocate for packing the 2022 version of the Thomas Cook timetable, now called the European Rail timetable. Scouring the internet on your phone can’t beat pouring over the timetable and manually planning out your route, suggests Smith, especially with the ever-changing European landscapes speeding past the window.

Today, 33 countries participate in the Interrail scheme and the pass is available in digital form. Prices start at €185 (around $198) for under 27s traveling four days within one month.

The Eurail pass, the version for international travelers, also still exists. Prices are identical to Interrail, also starting at €185 (around $198) for under 27s traveling four days within one month.

Times have changed, but Mokos, from the Eurail team, suggests the appeal of Interrailing is more or less the same as it was for the inaugural 1970s travelers, and ticket holders today enjoy being part of a long line of Interrailers past and present.

“Even if you’re traveling alone, you’re not traveling alone, you’re traveling somehow with others, you’re crossing with others, you’re making stories you can talk about without others,” says Mokos.

The continent-spanning pass also represents a sense of European unity, which has an added resonance in a post-Brexit, post-Covid Europe grappling with the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The pass also turns 50 in a moment when growing numbers of travelers are keen to make more sustainable choices, moving away from short haul flights where possible.

Today, when Tim Thomas looks over his plethora of photos of his Interrailing days, he finds himself dreaming of future rail adventures. He’s got a train trip to Antwerp, Belgium in July, and hopes there might be more to come.

“I suppose it’s almost my idea of the ideal way to spend my life, just wandering around looking at new things, seeing different landscapes and different buildings,” he says.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Maureen O’Hare contributed to this story

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Tipping advice on European holidays – ‘more modest’ than other destinations | Travel News | Travel

Cody Candee, CEO and founder of Bounce, said: “Whilst tipping isn’t mandatory, it is typically polite.

“However, in some countries such as Japan, tipping is seen as unnecessary and can even be seen as an insult!

“It can be polite to tip taxi drivers, bus drivers and tour guides, but again this isn’t a requirement.

“Generally speaking these industries don’t offer significantly high wages and so tips are a great way to demonstrate that extra appreciation.

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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.

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.


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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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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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How safe is European travel?

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The Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens travel far beyond Eastern Europe. Gas prices are rising, and there’s a growing sense of unease about the upcoming travel season. So how do you protect your vacation from a distant war?

That’s what travelers such as Dawn Pick Benson are trying to figure out. She’s planning to visit Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and maybe Montenegro this summer. And she’s keeping a watchful eye on events in Eastern Europe.

Benson, a marketing strategist from Grand Rapids, Mich., monitors official sources, such as State Department travel advisories and news reports, and relies on an unofficial network of friends and contacts at her destinations. She’s already crossed Romania off the list, because it’s too close to the conflict.

“I would reconsider my trip if contacts in the region advised me to do so and if unrest spreads to areas closer to the locations I plan to be,” she says. “As of today, I’m still planning to travel.”

Many Americans are doing the same thing. A little less than half of U.S. travelers (47 percent) are holding off on their travel plans to Europe because they want to see how the war in Ukraine evolves, according to a survey by MMGY Global, a marketing agency that specializes in travel. Roughly the same amount of people (50 percent) say they’re concerned about possible delays and cancellations of flights, trains and cruises, as well as the potential for border closures.

Amy Boyle, a photographer from Chicago, started planning her trip by doing a deep dive on her destination, as well as by checking State Department advisories, local media and social media posts. Like Benson, she prefers going somewhere that she knows people on the ground. For her, that meant a trip starting in England this spring. So far, all of her research suggests her vacation will be safe.

“I don’t want to put myself or others at risk,” Boyle says. “But I also feel strongly that canceling all our travel plans will continue to hurt other countries’ economies as well as the growing importance for us as humans to connect in person again.”

Aside from research, what can you do to protect your vacation from war?

“Insurance, insurance, insurance,” says Laura Heidt, an insurance expert at Brownell Travel, a travel agency in Birmingham, Ala.

And not just any insurance. Most travel insurance policies are of the “named perils” type, which protects policyholders under limited circumstances, such as if you get sick on your trip or your airline loses your luggage. These policies usually exclude wars. But a “cancel for any reason” policy lets you cancel your vacation if you don’t feel safe and get 50 to 75 percent of your prepaid, nonrefundable expenses reimbursed.

“Cancel for any reason” insurance costs more than regular insurance — typically somewhere between 10 and 12 percent of the value of your trip. “But it’s worth it in uncertain times,” Heidt says.

Lisa Conway, chief underwriting officer at travel insurance company Battleface, says insurers don’t yet consider most European countries to be affected regions in terms of the war in Ukraine. But people planning summer vacations should take it into account.

“I recommend researching travel insurance options that give you the most flexibility and choice based on your specific needs,” she adds.

Annie Erling Gofus, a travel consultant with Wunderbird who specializes in booking trips to Central and Eastern Europe, says the biggest change she’s recommending to clients is that they add emergency evacuation plans to their travel insurance policies. Companies such as Medjet or Global Rescue can extract clients from a country if conditions become dangerous.

“If a client has a trip planned to Central Europe, I would suggest nonmedical evacuation coverage,” she says.

The real benefit of working with professionals such as Gofus is that they’ll be with you every step of the way. If something goes wrong, a competent travel adviser won’t rest until you get home safely.

But experts say it isn’t enough to check all the boxes on a destination, ensuring that the State Department, your travel adviser and local news reports agree that it’s safe for travel. It’s the “what if” that’s worth pondering. Specifically: What if the conflict spreads beyond Ukraine? What if the oil import ban doesn’t just lead to higher gas prices but also a full-blown energy crisis? Then there’s the wild card: the coronavirus. What if it flares up again this summer?

“Consider your destination carefully,” says Narendra Khatri, principal of Insubuy, a travel insurance company. “No one can say for sure exactly what this conflict may look like by summer.”

So is travel to Europe safe? That’s what I’ve been wondering, because it’s time for me to make arrangements to travel to Turkey and Greece this spring. Experts say it is — for now. Christine Petersen, CEO of SmarTours, a tour operator that offers tours in Europe, says you can safely visit Europe if you know where to go.

“A big mistake would be grouping all countries in the region together,” she says. “It can be a common mistake to have a knee-jerk reaction and halt travel plans to other areas in Eastern Europe — or even Western Europe.”

Ukraine and Russia are red zones, of course, says Harding Bush, a security operations manager for Global Rescue. Poland and Moldova are yellow zones. (Poland because of the refugee situation, and Moldova because experts say it may also get drawn into the conflict.) Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, while safer, should still be “at the bottom” of your list, he says.

“War,” he says, “is not a tourist attraction.”

Potential travelers should take local and national public health directives regarding the pandemic into consideration before planning any trips. Travel health notice information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDC’s travel health notice webpage.

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European hotel prices exceed pre-pandemic levels

The European hotel sector is set to become the “poster child” of recovery for the next six months, according to the latest data from industry specialist STR.

Average daily rates (ADR) are now, on average, six per cent higher than pre-Covid rates.  

Ireland leads the recovery, with rates 21 per cent higher than comparable 2019 levels in May, and is closely followed by Portugal (18 per cent higher) and Spain (14 per cent higher). Germany and Austria are among the slowest to rebound (at six and nine per cent below pre-Covid levels, respectively), largely due to lingering restrictions. 

Occupancy rates across the continent are also trending rapidly towards a full recovery. Overall, occupancy has improved to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, as the industry gained strength following an earlier decline due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, and is likely to reach 90 per cent recovery in the coming months. 

Hotels in Poland (93 per cent), the UK (89 per cent) and Ireland (84 per cent) saw the highest occupancy levels, respectively. 

STR managing director Robin Rossmann expects Europe to follow a similar recovery trajectory to that seen in the US, where ADR has surpassed 2019 rates and group demand has reached 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. 

“There is still so much pent-up demand — we’ve already experienced this for leisure travel, and it’s the same for business travel — and this is increasing week by week. For the next nine to 12 months I believe pent-up demand will drive [hotel business] faster than anybody can forecast using a model,” he said. 

Transient demand has fully recovered, while group demand across Europe is currently at 50 per cent of 2019 levels, but likely to increase further. Weekday occupancy rates have rebounded to 90 per cent of 2019 levels, with a full recovery expected by mid 2022.

The STR data, presented on Friday, also indicated that cost – not Covid-19 – is now the biggest inhibitor to travel. However, Rossmann insisted that demand will overcome current economic headwinds and inflation concerns, which will likely be felt in 2023. 

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Radisson plans European expansion of Prizeotel

Radisson Hotel Group plans to introduce its Prizeotel lifestyle brand to more European destinations, including the UK, the company announced at the International Hospitality Investment Forum in Berlin.

Prizeotel, which is described by Radisson as midscale lifestyle brand created, was acquired by the company in 2019.

At that time Prizeotel had four properties in Germany and has since opened one property in Belgium with plans to add another four properties in Germany and one hotel in Austria this year.

Radisson said it seeks to expand the Prizeotel brand in “select” EU countries and the UK, with 45 new signings over the next five years. 

“We are looking forward to continuing our successful journey in EMEA which now also includes the rollout of Prizeotel in key European cities,” said Radisson global chief development officer Elie Younes in a statement. 

Radisson as a group, which owns nine hotel brands, is planning to open 15,000 rooms and sign 330 hotels during 2022 in the EMEA and APAC regions.

Federico Gonzalez, CEO of Radisson Hotel Group, added: “Radisson Hotel Group has had an impressive start to the year with strong progress on our ambitious transformation and growth plan. 

“Thanks to our five-year strategic plan, we quickly put in place all the necessary tools for a swift rebound which resulted in increased bookings since the start of the year.”

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