Whilst many would think of far-flung destinations in the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean when planning that pamper-filled trip, seeing beautiful spots and getting the height of service doesn’t always require a long-haul flight. No siree…this guide runs through some of the best luxury holiday destinations in Europe to offer tips on the most enticing places for the more monied and discerning travelers out there.
From the glowing coves of the French Riviera to the chic taverna bars of the Greek Islands, the continent is riddled with places that have “jet setter” written all over them. And you don’t have to stop at the coasts, either. You can also plunge headlong into the rich cultural history, the haute couture, and the prime gastronomy of cities like Paris and Florence.
So, if you’re on the hunt for the next best luxury holiday destinations in Europe, read on. Here, we whiz through seven of the most temping ones, revealing the spots that we think all but guarantee a glamorous getaway.
St Tropez, French Riviera
The name of this European destination alone is usually enough to conjure up images of champagne-sprayed parties and superyachts, but despite its deserved reputation, St Tropez is a luxury spot that goes far beyond just glitz and glam.
This tiny fishing village turned trendy seaside town is steeped in history. From the baroque bell tower to the several Provençal-style chapels, there are many hidden treasures to uncover on a luxury holiday here. Inside the 16th-century Chapelle Notre-Dame de l’Annonciade, for example, you’ll find a museum housing historic artwork, including six original paintings by French artist Henri Matisse, whilst the 17th century Citadel of St Tropez not only offers an insight into the area’s history, but stunning views over the coast to boot.
Of course, the beaches in St Tropez are some of the finest in the South of France. Lined by swanky beach clubs, including infamous haunt Club 55, Pampelonne Beach is the longest and busiest stretch of sand in St Tropez. If you’re looking to relax in a more private and tranquil spot with the sand between your toes, the neighboring beach of Les Salins has a more easy-going atmosphere, but an equally appetizing restaurant scene.
St Tropez’s food and drink scene truly comes to life at night. Whether you bag a sought-after seat at a restaurant run by a celebrity chef, or would rather pull up at a local cafe to sample proper Provençal cuisine, you can guarantee your plate will be filled with mouth-wateringly fresh food. Some of the best restaurants in St Tropez include three-Michelin starred La Vague d’Or, located directly on the waterfront, the traditional setting of Auberge des Maures, known for local delicacies, and rooftop eatery Le Toits, which is home to one of St Tropez’s most richly adorned wine cellars.
Where to stay: Hôtel Byblos Saint-Tropez
The White Island — there’s no arguing that Ibiza is Spain’s most well-known luxury destination. With A-listers, celebrities and party-loving travellers flocking here every year in time for the summer’s opening season, the white sands and warm seas of Ibiza are now some of Europe’s most sought-after.
It’s impossible to mention Ibiza without talking about the island’s iconic nightlife. From the world-famous superclubs to the lively beach bars, there’s a party going on somewhere, whatever the time of day. The chic beach club culture has made Ibiza one of the best destinations in Europe for those who want to party, but prefer day drinking on the sand to continuous late nights. Stylish Mediterranean-inspired venue Amante is one of Ibiza’s most popular places to be seen — but make sure to book well in advance. Alternatively, save your spot at one of the island’s longstanding day parties, like Beachouse Sunday in Playa d’en Bossa, and make sure to make it over to the legendary Café Mambo for the not-to-be-missed sunset DJ set.
Another reason Ibiza is so popular is thanks to the beautiful fortified Old Town. Dalt Vila – translating to ‘high city’ – is a well-deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you’ll find historic houses spewn across the landscape, traditional markets selling handmade trinkets and hidden museums displaying artifacts that tell the tales of this historic location. Lower down, the cobbled streets of the old fishing district are equally mesmerizing, providing the perfect location to escape the sun’s heat for a cooling afternoon cocktail. However you wish to spend your days in Ibiza, don’t miss the chance to visit these historical locations that truly make up the island’s character.
Where to stay: 7Pines Resort Ibiza
One of Europe’s most exquisite destinations for art and architecture, Florence is bursting with eclectic experiences; whether it’s a luxurious trip to the opera, strolling through one of the city’s blooming gardens or admiring the view from the iconic Duomo.
With several haute-couture stores having opened here as early as the 1920s, Florence has long been a well-loved luxury shopping destination. Whilst the iconic shopping street of Via Tornabuoni houses a boutique by almost every international designer, venture further into Florence’s hidden back streets and you’ll uncover a maze of independent shops and ateliers. Selling everything from hand-crafted clothing to artisanal perfumes you won’t find anywhere else, you will struggle to walk away without having purchased a precious momento.
As mentioned, the art scene in Florence is nothing short of iconic. The architectural style of the city is still heavily inspired by the Renaissance era, and with buildings so beautifully built, it’s hardly surprising that the city has been stamped as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although Florence is like an open-air museum in itself, make sure not to miss the must-visit galleries on your luxury holiday. The Uffizi Gallery houses many masterworks, including pieces by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, whilst Florence’s city hall — Palazzo Vecchio — will take you on an artistic journey through Florentine history.
If you have the time to escape this charming city for the day, head for the vineyard-covered hills of Chianti. This breathtaking wine region is home to several vineyards offering tantalizing wine-tasting experiences, guided tours and even the opportunity to get hands-on in the wine production process! If you’re hoping to fit in a visit to more than one vineyard, it’s best to hire a private driver to ensure you can sit back and relax whilst travelling across Tuscany’s rolling hills.
Where to stay: Hotel Savoy
Drenched in sunshine more than 300 days per year, Mykonos has become a luxury destination adored by sun-seeking travellers. Long days on the beach are usually followed by late night partying — and once you pair this lively way of living with the island’s profoundly spectacular scenery, you’ll soon see why many return time after time.
Inside the labyrinth of white walled buildings and iconic blue doorways, Mykonos Town is the island’s hub. From independent boutiques to quirky eateries, it’s the perfect place to while away days in the sun. If the heat inside the town’s walls gets too hot to take, head for the Old Port and stop for a drink or two on the cobbled waterfront.
With golden sand and bright blue waters wherever you look, it’s no wonder spending days on the coast is one of the best things to do in Mykonos. Pack a picnic lunch and head for one of the island’s many secluded sandy coves for a quiet day of sun worshiping, or stick to a better-known stretch to experience the glamor of Mykonos’ beach clubs. Scorpios is perhaps the trendiest on the scene, with a rustic beachfront charm, and even a perfectly placed sunset terrace if you wish to stay for dinner. Alternatively, save your spot at the equally stylish, yet more relaxed JackieO’ where you can expect a day filled with lobster linguine, Champagne cocktails and 1990s chart music.
If you can drag yourself away from the bustling bars, Mykonos’ history is well worth exploring. From the 16th century windmills overlooking Mykonos Town to the quaint, historic houses of Little Venice, it’s easy to tour the island’s ancient sights by bicycle. And if that wasn’t enough culture for one trip, hop aboard a private yacht for a trip to nearby Delos — known as the mythological birthplace of the Greek god, Apollo.
Where to stay: Bill & Coo Suites
Although many on a luxury holiday to the Amalfi Coast will plan a day trip to colorful Capri, this magical island, glittering with hidden gems, deserves to be recognised as a notable luxury destination in Europe by itself.
Undeniably, one of the must-do activities in Capri is to see the landscapes that make up this unique islet. Hire a boat for the day and have a private driver sail you in and out of the many caves and grottos carved into the coastline, allowing plenty of time to stop and stroll on the soft white sands, or to pop into a local restaurant for a chilled Aperol Spritz. Another of the best things to do in Capri is to take the chairlift up to the peak of Mount Solaro. Taking only twelve minutes to journey from the bottom to the top, arriving at the picturesque peak will place you at a panoramic viewpoint almost 600 meters above sea level – so make sure to bring your camera!
Like anywhere in Italy, the food in Capri is enough to leave you constantly dreaming of your next meal. Handmade pasta and freshly caught seafood feature on almost every menu on the island, often accompanied by mesmerizing coastal views at any of the island’s cliffedge restaurants and trattorias. If it’s fine dining you’re after, look no further than Restaurant Il Riccio; a Michelin-starred restaurant serving up seafood and local fish, with views overlooking the beautiful Blue Grotto. Leave room for dessert for a treat from the restaurant’s ‘temptation room’, or you could of course pick up a scoop of tasty gelato from a local parlor as you stroll back to your hotel.
Where to stay: Capri Palace
Having risen to international fame as a filming location for cult television series Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik may have flown under the radar for many years, but has now undoubtedly earned its place amongst Europe’s best luxury destinations.
Most recognised by its baroque buildings, terracotta rooftops and ancient city walls, this city’s standout scenery is perhaps one of its biggest attractions. Beautifully backed by the blues of the Adriatic Sea and surrounded by the magnificent 13th-century walls, the pedestrianized Old Town in Dubrovnik is accessible via two gates – Pile and Ploče – and houses winding streets filled with shops and monuments, both modern and historic. In the main square, you’ll find the landmark bell tower, Orlando’s Column – standing proudly at the entrance to the Church of Saint Blaise – and a statue of ‘Dubrovnik’s Shakespeare’, Marin Držić. Towards the outer side of the walls, you’ll find restaurants affording outdoor seating where you can sit down and savor the sea breeze; waterside venue Orsan is one of the most popular, serving Dalmatian favorites including octopus and local lamb.
Beyond the Old Town, Dubrovnik sprawls far along the coastline. With so much ground to cover, choosing an organized tour can be the best way to make the most of your holiday. If you’re an avid GoT fan, you can explore the city of King’s Landing with an expert guide, or hire a bicycle to discover the series’ iconic locations at your own leisure. If you’d rather learn more about Dubrovnik’s real life history, explore the grand rooms of Rector’s Palace and the famous Old Pharmacy in Franciscan Monastery, which is still selling products made using ancient recipes 700 years on.
Once the day is done, why not head to one of two open-air bars hidden away in Dubrovnik’s cliffs? Bard Bar and Buža serve up ice cold beverages and mind-blowing views, providing the perfect spot to wind down after a day of exploration on your luxury holiday.
Where to stay: Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik
When it comes to choosing the best luxury destination in Europe, Paris is always a good idea. The ‘City of Love’ has been an iconic location ever since Baron Haussmann began designing the beautiful boulevards that now make the city’s streetscapes so iconic in 1870.
Endlessly chic and packed with culture, Paris is home to many local landmarks — many of which truly have to be seen to be believed. A sightseeing walking tour of Paris can lead you to discover architectural masterpieces including the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, perched at the end of the tree-lined Champs-Élysées. If you’re a true French art lover, it’s worth investing in a museum pass to gain easy entry to several of the city’s most awe-inspiring museums, including notable names such as the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre, home to the Mona Lisa.
When it comes to luxury, there’s no shortage of experiences in Paris that will take your breath away. Meander along the River Seine by boat on a candlelit dinner cruise, book in to one of the city’s luxury spas for a bespoke body treatment, or head to the designer boutiques located on the Rue Saint-Honoré, home to a Chanel atelier which was Coco Chanel’s original office and the first Chanel showroom. As the evening draws in, make sure to have your table booked at Le Cinq — arguably the most stylish and sought-after eating establishment in Paris. Located inside the magnificent Four Seasons Hotel George V, the menu features signature dishes inspired by seasonal ingredients, including thoughtfully flavored foie gras. Once dinner is done, make sure to carry your cocktail out to the spacious terrace to gaze over the twinkling lights of Paris by night.
Where to stay: Le Bristol Paris