With high-speed modern rail services whisking travellers from city centre to city centre at speeds of up to 320km per hour, exploring Europe by train has never been easier. It’s also eco-friendly (around 10 times lower carbon emissions than travelling by plane) and much easier to book tickets than you think…
Despite its beautiful location in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this Southern France town is often overlooked as a tourist destination. It’s also located near the Spanish border meaning it has flavours of both Spain and France with a little North African thrown in for good measure. Head past the sprawling suburbs and go straight to the old town where you’ll find palm tree-lined cobbled city squares, a warren of shady alleys and the majestic Mallorcan kings’ 13th-century palace. With over 320 days of sunshine, the nearby beach (only a 10-minute bus ride away) is a good option too.
This is our favourite city in Belgium. While most head for Bruges, this small but perfectly formed city is probably Europe’s best-kept secret. Once one of the most powerful cities in Europe, today it’s a laid back place with a faint bohemian air. With its collection of Michelin-starred restaurants, quirky boutique stores, picture-perfect canal-side medieval architecture, and a rich calendar of cultural events, it makes a perfect place to kick back for a day or two.
This city is so popular with the rich and famous it’s sometimes known as the Monte Carlo of Switzerland. Located near the border of Italy, Lugano is blessed with a warm climate, beautiful Alpine scenery and a large natural mountain lake – perfect for a spot of waterskiing or boating. The historic town centre is traffic-free and filled with Lombardy style buildings, alfresco cafes and a packed calendar of cultural events. If you time your visit around springtime, the beautiful camellia flowers will be out in full bloom.
Although this is one of the most beautiful and oldest towns in Germany, 2000-year-old Koblenz is vastly underrated. It occupies a beautiful position on the banks of the romantic River Rhine just where it meets the River Mosel. Surrounded by a backdrop of four mountain ranges, vineyards and forests this part of Germany is arguably one of the most picturesque. Also home to a superb collection of grand townhouses, beautiful churches, castles and palatial residences it’s an ideal place to stop and explore.
This under-the-tourist-radar beach resort (located in the province of Castellón) is home to an annual music festival that draws thousands of rockers and ravers from all corners of the world. Although if you’re planning to explore just the place itself then we’d recommend avoiding the month of July (accommodation around festival time can be booked up for months in advance). Other reasons to visit include the six kilometres of sandy beaches surrounded by beautiful high mountains, the fine sunny weather and the historic centre complete with a Neoclassical 18th-century church.
Despite being surrounded by green hills and Alpine peaks, Turin isn’t always the first city on people’s minds when they plan their trip to Italy – the city’s industrial car making past tends to deter the tourist masses. Although it’s a city that’s starting to change with the aid of a handful of gorgeous design hotels, impressive contemporary galleries and exhibition centres. Make sure you also head for Turin’s historic centre, home to beautifully preserved baroque palaces, art nouveau mansions, time-warp coffee houses and a labyrinth of shady arcades lined with designer stores.