Europe’s favorite holiday spots

Europe’s favorite holiday spots

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

When it comes to vacations, it’s okay to be slightly envious of citizens of the European Union. Guaranteed a minimum of four weeks of paid leave, they’re not forced to shoe-horn their travel and adventures into the space of days. So where do these lucky Europeans choose to spend their holidays? While they flit about their continent with ease, they are also perfectly content to stay within the borders of their own nations. Below are their favorite destinations.


The English adore their southern coastline, and cities such as Brighton and Bournemouth, appeal to those after both nightlife and beaches. Cornwall beckons with stunning coastal walks and historical landmarks. Irish vacationers exhibit a fondness for the southwestern corner of their country, where cities such as Killarney and Cork offer quaintness and a welcoming atmosphere. Inchydoney Beach and Glanleam Beach call out to sun-seekers and the charming town of Kinsale—with its picturesque harbor and award-winning seafood—always brims with visitors.



Scandinavians, too, appreciate the beauty of their homelands. Swedish vacationers have a term for domestic vacations; a typical “hemester” might see them spending family time in a wooden cabin by the shores of a pristine lake. They are particularly attracted to Lapland, Land of the Midnight Sun, and its 275-mile Kungsleden hiking trail draws those seeking active holidays. The Finns enjoy communing with nature by picking berries or bracing swims in icy waters followed by a warming sauna. A favorite destination for residents of Helsinki are the islands in its surrounding bay, including the fortress island of Suomenlinna, home to museums, art galleries and a sheltered bay for swimming.


Residents of the Benelux also delight in attractions close to home. Belgians eschew the cities of Bruges and Ghent—so loved by international tourists—in favor of back-to-nature vacations. Along its coastline, Blankenberge calls out to seekers of an active nightlife, while sophisticates make way to Knokke-Heist. Dutch families are huge fans of camping vacations, with Scheveningen and Zaandvort among their favorite coastal resorts. Texel, one of the Wadden islands, attracts with unspoiled beauty, seals and birdlife.


As much as Germans love to roam, time spent within their borders is treasured too. Favorite destinations include the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, lapped by the Baltic Sea and offering gems such as the island of Rügen and the vast Schwerin Castle. Bavaria, with lakes and mountains promising active holidays, is popular with families. Schleswig-Holstein’s 240 mile long North Sea coastline attracts with its untamed, wind-whipped islands, while the cities of Lübeck and Kiel offer maritime flair.



Residents of southern Europe take full advantage of the beauty and reliably good weather of their homelands. French holidaymakers in search of summer sun have “beaucoup d'amour” for their Mediterranean coastline, with their area of choice Provence-Alpes-Côte-D'Azur. Home to the French Riviera and its glittering cities of Saint Tropez, Nice and Cannes, those with kids might opt for the more family-friendly Antibes or Fréjus St-Raphaël. The Camargue river delta attracts intrepid travelers with otherworldly landscapes populated by wild white horses and pink flamingos.


Italians are fans of seaside holidays, and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, the Amalfi coast, Liguria and Tuscany bristle with domestic tourists. Rimini is for many the ultimate fun in the sun destination, while Apulia, the heel of the boot, is viewed as an up-and-coming destination. Well-heeled Italians in search of luxury gravitate toward the Amalfi Coast, Portofino, Bellagio, Positano, Capri and Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda.


When the Spanish make way to the beach, the coastlines of Valencia and Catalonia are popular choices. They also time their travels to coincide with festivals and religious holidays, with Easter and Christmas big drivers of domestic tourism. The state of Andalucía, with its profound and touching ceremonies surrounding Holy Week, is a beloved destination just before Easter.


Some Europeans want the sun and beach coupled with the comforts of home. Germans adore the Spanish island of Mallorca, and have all but colonized the Playa de Palma, where beer is just as likely to flow as sangria and bratwurst figures into the menu as prominently as Spanish tapas. For fun in the sun, British tourists flock to Benidorm, a city on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Hearty English breakfasts, fish and chips and an afternoon watching two English soccer teams kicking around the ball while downing Spanish lager is for many Brits the ultimate holiday. And when it comes to seeking out the winter sun, all Europeans agree on one thing: Spain’s Canary Islands are the place to be.

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