Europe has long been atop many travelers’ wish lists. With shoulder season upon us and favorable exchange rates still holding strong, there’s never been a better time to make that dream a reality.
To help pare down the options, we asked our Nat Geo Travel Facebook fans to share their favorite European getaways—and share they did:
Cole G. starts us off about an hour’s drive west of Bordeaux, in Cap Ferrat. “It’s a little French secret getaway,” he writes. Small crowds, secluded beaches, and top-notch restaurants make this seaside resort town a quintessential Continental escape. Just don’t leave before you’ve sampled a round of Cap Ferret’s world-famous oysters.
Next we head to Istanbul, where you can hop from Europe to Asia without skipping a beat. Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two continents, and travelers can experience both in Turkey’s largest metropolis. While experiencing this dynamic melting pot of cultures was a thrill, it was the locals that made the biggest impression on Meredith L. “I visited this summer during Ramadan and was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the Turkish people,” she says.
If you’re a glutton for beautiful landscapes, Carolyn H. suggests paying a visit to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. You’ll want to take a drive through the picturesque town of Sorrento to ogle the hillside houses overlooking the Bay of Naples, but before you depart the country, follow the coast north to Rome, says Oksana M. If the ancient architecture is reason enough to plan a Roman holiday, the food will keep you coming back for more.
The Wild Atlantic Way gets Emelie B.’s vote. The 1,550-mile scenic byway hugs Ireland’s rugged western coast from West Cork to Donegal, offering some of the best views the world over. Be sure to give yourself ample time to investigate the wide-ranging attractions and activities along the way, from wildlife havens to Celtic ruins.
Lisa C. adds Cordoba to our list. While the Spanish city’s friendly locals and incredible flamenco dancing make the trip worthwhile, she reports that the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is the real show-stopper. “It’s the grandest and most amazing building I’ve seen in Europe,” she writes of the UNESCO World Heritage site. If you’re a foodie, Sarah S. recommends Barcelona, where “you can eat like a king (or queen) on a backpacker’s budget and never eat at the same place twice.”
Those in search of an adventure should follow Christiane C.’s lead and head to Germany for an epic bike ride along the Elbe River. “I cycled myself from Magdeburg to Dresden and was amazed at what I found,” she writes. “The people, culture, and landscape were all equally stunning and wonderful. It was a trip of a lifetime.”
Hoping to exert a little less energy on your travels? Maggie M. identifies Marbach as a more idyllic alternative in Germany. Known for being the birthplace of poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, the quaint medieval town offers everything you’ll need to sit back, relax, and enjoy some hard-won repose.
Slovenia’s Lake Bled gets the nod from Kirsty M. She suggests rowing out to Bled Island to explore its centerpiece: the 17th-century Church of the Assumption. “Climb the steps and ring the wishing bell,” she recommends. “It’s truly magical.”
We’d be remiss to finish our list without mentioning Iceland, which has experienced a dramatic surge in tourism in the past decade. Elaine C. remarks on the Nordic island nation’s diverse scenery, which includes icebergs, waterfalls, thermal spas, and more. “It’s a great place for nature lovers with an adventure streak,” writes Elaine. “I came away from Iceland with a feeling of exhilaration.”
Megan Heltzel is an associate producer on National Geographic Travel’s digital team. Follow her on Twitter @MeganHeltzel.
What’s your favorite place to visit in Europe? Give us the goods in the comments section below for a chance to appear on Intelligent Travel.