it’s that time of year when we reveal our top ten destinations in Europe, s decided by Lonely PLanet’s experts.
The countdown starts right here, by the shores of the Adriatic…
10 – Istria, Croatia
There’s something regal about Istria’s heart-shaped peninsula, Croatia with its limestone riviera, grand monuments and abundant fine produce. Perhaps that’s why the Romans, Venetians
FRESH FROM THE SEA
The Istrian peninsula is surrounded by the Adriatic, inhabited by more than 400 species of fish. The main fishing ports on the west coast include Faiana, Novigrad and Rovinj (pictured), where the daily catch includes anchovies, sardines, red and grey mullet, scampi, shrimp, spider crab, octopus, squid and sea urchins. Traditionally, fish is prepared very simply, grilled with olive oil, so its quality is to the fore. Konoba Astarea is a good place to try freshly grilled seafood, where you can watch your choice being cooked. over an open fire. The fish is all caught by local fishermen that morning or the previous evening. For something a little more sophisticated, make a pilgrimage to Konoba Batelina on the outskirts of Pula run. — by father and son team Danilo Skoko and David Skoko. Father Danito is a fisherman, and 60 percent of the seafood served in the restaurant comes from his morning catch. The menu changes according to what’s available that day, and the restaurant closes in August when local fishing doesn’t have the capacity to sustain it. Son David is the chef and became famous locally after appearing on Masterchef.
9 – Vevey, Switzerland
Vevey will be popping even more corks than usual when the Fete des Vignerons kicks off in July. Held once every generation – every 20 years or so – this three-week festival is one of the biggest and oldest of its kind, an all-singing, all-dancing ode to bountiful harvests, wine-growing culture and grand cru grapes. Expect costumed shows, cowbell-clanging parades, alphorn concerts and, above all, the chance to sample local pinot and Chasselas at pop-up stalls and open-door cellars. It’s not just its wine pedigree that makes this Swiss town so appealing. On the edge of Lake Geneva (pictured), the tiny Old Town is crammed with places to eat, serving everything from 20-course tasting menus to cheap and cheerful fondue. You can work off lunch with a swim in the lake or a walk along the edge of the vineyards.
. 8 – Liechtenstein
Fancy walking around an entire country in a weekend? That’s the prospect on offer in little, lovely Liechtenstein. As part of celebrations to mark 300 years of sovereign nationhood, the country will open the Liechtenstein Trail, a scenic 47-mile hiking path that twists over peak and pasture on a route that takes in all eleven of its municipalities. Even if you leave the hiking boots at home, Liechtenstein is a fascinating place to visit: a rural yet rich state ruled by a prince from a hilltop castle (pictured) above the petite capital of Vaduz. The anniversary is an added incentive to go, with special exhibitions (such as highlights of the Princely Collections at the Museum of Fine Arts) and parties, the biggest bash falling on the country’s National Day,15 August.
Circumnavigate a Country
Easily spread across two to three days of walking, the hike kicks off in Vaduz and winds through vineyards and pastures, along the banks of the Rhine, and over moor and mountain. En route, there are castles to ignite medieval fantasies, such as ruined Schellenberg and turreted Gutenberg in Balzers. You’ll also get to experience natural highs such as the wildlife-rich peatlands of the Ruggeller Riet and the mountain ridge of Eschnerberg, with deep views into the Rhine Valley.
7 – Lyon, France
Industrious Lyon may not have Paris’s heart-throb reputation – or major crowds – but it does share some of its winning traits. It’s beautiful, with two hills (Croix-Rousse and Fourviere) and two riverfronts (Rhone and Saone), and food-obsessed, with its scores of legendary bistros and
KNOW THEIR ONIONS
I don’t recommend the onion,’ wisecracks one of the assistants at Terre Adelice (pictured), as he gestures a silver scoop across two freezers of multicoloured ice cream. At this cult ice-cream parlour, burrowed among wrought-iron balconies, ornate streetlamps and medieval cobbles on Rue Saint-Jean, not only is there an onion flavour, but its kick is as pungent as a soil-covered bulb from the farmers’ market. + In this city of a thousand restaurants, of starched white tablecloths and Michelin stars, of godlike chefs, and of long lunches in wood-panelled bouchons (small bistros), it is a gastronomic quality that counts. That’s why queues at Terre Adelice snake out of the door. ‘During July and August, we serve between 5,000 and 7,000 people a day, seven days a week,’ says manager Guillaume Rousselle, son of founder Bertrand. They come to try out scoops that pair dill with salmon, or truffle and Roquefort – though Madagascan vanilla is, comfortingly, favourite (
6 – Shetland Islands, Scotland
To get truly away in the UK this year, head to its northernmost point, the Shetland Islands, some 105 miles off the tip of mainland Scotland. This windbeaten archipelago, poised between the Atlantic and the North Sea, is heaven for lovers of puffins (pictured), craggy coastal trails and excellent fish and chip shops. You have to earn a visit to Shetland, with the overnight ferry from Aberdeen an adventure in itself. Once you’re here, spot otters and orcas from remote headlands, see Iron Age brochs and Viking longboats, and wind down with a dram in one of Lerwick’s locals.
The Vikings took Shetland by storm. The islands were a crossroads amid the Scandinavians’ sea-based empire and, some 1,200 years ago, many of them stopped here, built houses and established farms. Visit Unst island to see the longhouse sites at Hamar, Underhoull and Belmont, as well as a Viking longship replica and Shetland’s largest standing stone (shetland.org). Norse culture is celebrated each January, when Up Helly Aa is celebrated uproariously: clad in Viking costumes, locals carry a galley boat in a torchlit procession through the streets before setting it on fire.
5 – Bari, Italy
Don’t call it a comeback, but the Bari port town of Bari, always a jumping-off point for tourists I to ly headed to Puglia’s big hitters further south, is enjoying a renaissance that’s been a decade in the making. A reinvigorated Old Town sets the tone, boarded-up shop fronts replaced by traditional trattorias in pretty piazzas. And change here is more than cosmetic: cultural spaces are reopening, from the ornate Teatro Piccinni to once-condemned heritage hotels such as the Oriente, and not forgetting the Teatro Margherita, an Art Nouveau playhouse repurposed as an art space on stilts over the sea. With the nightlife offering refreshed.
Forged through economic necessity, and deploying seasonal, local ingredients, Puglia’s Cucina Povera (‘food of the poor’) is served across Bari in family-run restaurants. Made without the addition of eggs, pasta here is moulded into delicate orecchiette or ‘little ears’ (pictured), and served with an array of sauces, often made using aubergine, tomato and mushroom, and Puglia’s plump and zesty olives. + Another Bari speciality is riso, patate e cozze, a humbly titled yet delicious layering of baked rice, potato and mussels. An excellent version is served at Terranima on the edge of the Old Town (terranima. com). Local street food, including robust panzerotti (deep-fried pastries stuffed with cheese and tomato), is best enjoyed among the bars and cafes of Largo Albicocca piazza. ♦ Building on their pride in Puglia’s traditional recipes, Bari’s chefs have begun to introduce contemporary takes on the region’s traditional dishes. In a leafy former greenhouse, Botanical Bistrot’s open kitchen serves up modern Italian dishes serving fresh tuna and stuffed calamari (botanicalbistrotit). ♦ If you’re really keen to explore Bari’s culinary credentials, local tour guides Veto Service offer a six-hour Cook & Taste tour that combines culture with the cuisine. After the tour, there’s usually an opportunity to continue by bike to cool off at the recently revitalised Torre Quetta beach (
4 – Hercegovina, Bosnia and Hercegovina
Think of Hercegovina – the historical region on which Bosnia geographically piggybacks – and Mostar’s magnificent stone Stari Most bridge may spring to mind. What you won’t picture are the crowds who arrive each summer, smartphones aloft, fiddling with filters. Widen your focus in 2019 to Hercegovina’s other highlights with a trip along the Ciro cycle trail, which threads through the countryside from Mostar to Dubrovnik, tying together some of the region’s top sights. Accommodation in atmospheric old train stations offers the chance to lock up the bikes and explore further. Potter around the streets of medieval Pa.itelj (pictured), explore the Vjetrenica karst wind tunnels or hike to Lukomir, a traditional mountain village, to gain a new perspective on the region.
Bosnia and Hercegovina have embraced bicycle tourism, promoting routes that allow visitors to explore rural areas under their own steam. Cyclists can roll past farms and fields, fill their water bottles at natural springs, and stay at a growing number of B&Bs and homestays, which serve their guests’ farm-fresh vegetables, home-made bread and delectable burek (a flaky pastry filled with meat). The Ciro cycle trail follows the route of a narrow-gauge railway built during the years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, operative from 1901 until the 1970s. The 100-mile-plus path is mostly made up of paved roads, with sections of packed gravel, and follows the Neretva River south from Mostar before cutting east towards the vine-growing region of Popovo Polje and the pretty city of Trebinje(ciro.herzegovinabike.ba).
3 – Arctic Coast Way
follows the route of a narrow-gauge railway built during the years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, operative from 1901 until the 1970s. The 100-mile-plus path is mostly made up of paved roads, with sections of packed gravel, and follows the Neretva River south from Mostar before cutting east towards the vine-growing region of Popovo Polje and the pretty city of Trebinje (ciro. herzegovinabike.ba). 14>
RUGGED ROAD TRIP ♦Vatnsnes Peninsula Start off in sleepy Hvammstangi and travel along the seafront, below the softly undulating hills of the Vatnsnes Peninsula. Be sure to stop off at the sea stack Hvitserkur (pictured), named for a troll in local lore who tried to destroy the monastery at Pingeyrar but was caught out in the sunrise. Seals can often be spotted here, enjoying the sun a lot more than the troll did.
Skagafjoraur has plenty of strings to its bow: horse breeding (and riding), wild landscapes, historical remains and adrenaline-infused activities, such as white water rafting and snowboarding. Its western edge is a stretch of gorgeously silent coast draped with mountains.
Trollaskagi (Troll Peninsula), stretching between Skagafjor6ur and Eyjafjor6ur, is a land of snowy mountains, deep valleys and some of the best fishing rivers in Iceland. Start at tranquil fishing village Hofsos and its fjord-facing swimming pool and hot pot. Further along, Siglufjoraur perches on a waterfront beneath one of those steep mountains. ♦ Eyjafjorour and Grimsey Akureyri, Iceland’s
As well as achieving renown as Iceland’s whale-watching hub, FlUsavik is also worth a stop for its museums (whales, exploration and more), quaint houses and church, and views of peaks across the bay. Up near the lighthouse, saltwater spa GeoSea (geosea.is) has geothermically heated saltwater pools, and the café offers post-dip fjord views. Tungulending (
Bypassed by most people zooming along the Ring Road, the wild, thinly populated coastal route around Iceland’s most northeasterly peninsulas reaches within waving distance of the Arctic Circle and is full of enthralling scenery – this is Iceland brilliantly untouched, untouristed and unhyped. The little-used coastal road (Route 870) is unsealed, but it’s worth the bumpy ride to see unspoilt ponds and marshes dotted with driftwood and rife with birdlife. Digress further on tracks to isolated lighthouses on ocean-crushed headlands.
2 – Madrid, Spain
Madrid has managed to style out a stumble during the economic downturn, springing back into step with renewed vigour. The city’s nightlife, always among Europe’s most exciting, just keeps getting better: Calle de Ponzano, a strip of standing-only tapas and cocktail joints, now has its own trending hashtag. But it’s not just night owls who’ll clock the changes. Sustainability projects have opened up greater pedestrian access and new green spaces, such as Madrid Rio Park (pictured) and its urban beach. Even the historic Museo del Prado has a fresh face, thanks to a Sir Norman Foster-designed extension marking the national art museum’s bicentenary in 2019.
WHERE TO GO OUT AROUND CALLE DE PONZANO
Head to Mexican Taqueria La Lupita (lalupita.es) to down meaty tacos with micheladas (beer mixed with tangy spices and citrus juice), while Day of the Dead skulls
There’s only one bar on Calle Ponzano that doesn’t serve draught beer: Taberna Averias (tabernaaverias.com). Offering more than 400 different wines by the glass, this bodega unapologetically defines itself as a ‘wine cult’. The friendly owners are enthusiastic about helping guests find something new to try, and there are cured meats, cheese plates and smoked salmon to go with your glass. La Malcriada (lamalcriadaponzano. corn) has a faithful clientele of students and thirtysomethings. Its wooden floors, exposed brick and Iberian-inspired tiles reflect an industrial aesthetic while giving a nod to Spanish roots. On weekdays, there’s a low-key vibe as friends share drinks and tapas. The volume goes up several notches on the weekend – prepare for elbow-to-elbow traffic as folk spill onto the street.
With its vintage chairs and reclaimed wood, Rebel Café (Calle de Ponzano 90) is an inviting addition to the neighbourhood, whose digital nomads and sharp professionals are united by their love of its coffee. Stop in for an espresso, a flat white, a cold brew or coffee made by AeroPress or Chemex, along with homemade pastries. Craft beer is served in the evening. The first thing you might notice when you enter Catarsis (Calle de Ponzano 14) is the line-up of ‘magic potions on shelves behind the bar. These are original cocktails made using herbs, fruit and other ingredients that have been macerated in gin, rum or whisky. Some drinks are served in unusual ways: if you prefer your drink served from a glass slipper or a tiny inflatable pool float, Catarsis is for you.
1 – High Tatras, Slovakia
There’s a mythical feel to the landscape of Slovak it’s the High Tatras, a lofty realm of crooked peaks and plunging waterfalls, where elusive beasts prowl the forests. Eradicated from most parts of Europe, brown bears thrive in this wild, rugged region, and a growing number of tour agencies lead adventurers out on foot to spy them, walking through woods where lynx, wolves and the endemic Tatra chamois also roam. As well as spott ing bears, you could hike to the summit of Slovakia’s highest peak, 2655m Gerlach (also known as Gerlachovsky Stit), take out a boat on the glacial lake of Strbske Pleso and enjoy traditional hospitality in high-altitude chatty (mountain huts).