As the days get longer and the numbers on the thermometer rise, the signs that it’s time to plan your summer vacation are piling up. In the name of familiarity, many of us will opt for the usual activities like a day trip to the local water park or watching baseball in an air-conditioned living room. But for those who are craving a little more adventurous, out-of-the-box excitement, there’s Europe.
This summer, cross the Euro-trip you’ve always dreamed of going on off your bucket list. Whether you’re looking to visit the famous sights or explore off the beaten path, these destinations are sure to provide the memorable moments your summer vacation deserves.
While England and Italy may be the first spots to pop into your mind, it’s hard to find a more authentically European destination than Czech Republic’s capital city. History buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike will love strolling through Prague’s historic streets while taking in views of the colorful baroque buildings and gothic cathedrals.
When you’re not taking a tour of one of Czech Republic’s many castles, or immersing yourself in the history of Old Town Square, you’ve got to take a visit to Charles Bridge. Completed in the beginning of the 15th century, the bridge was the only means of crossing the Vltava River for centuries. Check out the statues of saints and Catholic figureheads that line the bridge, though you’ll have to swim through all the painters, musicians, venders and tourists that frequent the bridge in the summertime to get close to the stone memorials.
Where to stay:
Carlo IV, The Dedica Anthology, Autograph Collection: Czech Republic has more castles than any other nation, so what’s more fitting than staying in one? Occupying the Carlo IV, a former 19th-century neo-renaissance palace, this ornate hotel will have you feeling like royalty from the moment you walk through the door.
Prague Marriott Hotel: Not exactly the history type? Then you need a room at Prague Marriott Hotel, a contemporary destination that combines unparalleled service, elegant décor and convenient amenities. Be sure to make a reservation at its on-site steakhouse, Midtown Grill, where you can fuel up after an eventful day of sightseeing at nearby attractions such as Old Town Bridge Tower.
If captivating architecture is what you’re looking for, Czech Republic isn’t the only destination you should visit. The buildings and neighborhoods of Italy’s Floating City act as a testament to the city’s history and its primary trading partners. Differentiating it from mainland Italy for influence, Venice showcases the places of the world it interacted with most as a maritime trade powerhouse for centuries. From famous Byzantine structures such as Saint Mark’s Basilica, to the Islamic influences on Doge’s Palace, you’ll have a range of engineering feats to appreciate during your visit.
After taking a Gondola tour of the city, those hankering for a refreshing swim can take a short water bus ride to the Venice Lido. A 7-mile long sandbar enjoyed by locals and tourists alike during peak summer months, the Lido offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of Venice without placing you too far from the city. Since the tourist crowd tends to frequent neighborhoods such as San Marco, taking a daytrip to the beach can pull back the curtain for an authentic look at how Italians unwind.
Those visiting in late August should consider sticking around for an extra week or two to attend La Biennale di Venezia, the Venice Film Festival. Each year, thousands of Italians congregate at the Lido to celebrate recent films and promote international cinema. Founded in 1895, the Venice Film Festival is the oldest and most prestigious film festival in the world, making it a motion picture mecca for movie aficionados.
Where to stay:
Grand Hotel Dei Dogi, The Dedica Anthology, Autograph Collection: A former palace radiating Italian extravagance, this hotel combines contemporary comforts with the “period luxuries” of its original design, such as marble accents, splendid frescoes and majestic chandeliers.
JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa: Situated on Isola delle Rose, a gorgeous private island, this five-star hotel features an on-site spa where you can indulge in revitalizing treatments and rejuvenate your weary muscles following an eventful day exploring the City of Canals.
While many come to Lisbon to take in the sights, it’s the tastes of Lisbon that will stick with you after you return home. There are many wine bars in the city, but true connoisseurs need to take a tour of the wineries just outside Portugal’s capital. Opt for a trip to one of the oldest estates in the area, Quinta do Gradil, where you can enjoy Portuguese cuisine paired with their finest blends, or visit Adega Mãe for a look at innovative and state-of-the-art wine producing technologies. Whether the wine is made using classic or contemporary methods, you won’t be disappointed with the outcome.
Portugal has plenty of family-friendly destinations to enjoy, as well. Take one of the regularly departing buses from Lisbon to the golden coastline of Costa da Caparica. Speckled with local shops and delicious restaurants, this iconic beach is the perfect place to let your worries wash away. Though more populated than the country’s isolated surfing spots, the gorgeous shore and refreshing water at Costa da Caparica are sure to act as the ideal backdrop for making a splash on your family vacation.
Where to stay:
Fontecruz Lisboa, Autograph Collection: A contemporary oasis in the heart of Lisbon city centre, this unique hotel offers delicious local-inspired dining, complimentary valet parking, 24-hour room service and a convenient location near Lisbon Portela Airport.
Lisbon Marriott Hotel: Savor the resort-inspired setting of this hotel, home to a refreshing pool, popular restaurants and picture-perfect gardens near several of the city’s historic hot spots.
No matter how long you plan on vacationing for, there are a few landmarks that you just can’t leave Europe without visiting. Three of them are found in Spain’s capital. The first is the Royal Palace of Madrid, the largest royal palace in Europe by floor area. The official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, though King Felipe VI and the Royal family live in the more modest Palace of Zarzuela, the Royal Palace is used for state ceremonies and is famous for its collection of historic artwork.
The second destination is not related to the Spanish dynasty, but that doesn’t stop the locals from treating its home team like royalty. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is home to the professional soccer club – or fútbol, depending on who you ask – Real Madrid. While the season may not be going on during your visit, there’s still a chance you can catch an exhibition or pre-season match. If not, you should certainly take a tour of the stadium anyways to fully immerse yourself in the sports culture that Madrid prides itself on.
If you can relate more to artists than athletes, perhaps admiring the plethora of works housed at the Museo del Prado is more your pace. Showcasing European paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, Madrid’s world-famous museum is almost as much of an art piece itself as the works it holds. The Prado Museum is the gold standard for Spanish art collections, making it a must-see for historians and artists alike.
Where to stay:
Hotel Palacio Del Retiro, Autograph Collection: Converted from a palatial home built in the beginning of the 20th century, this unique hotel treats its guests to a historic location and ambiance, while providing the luxuries of a full-service hotel such as an on-site spa and sauna.
Courtyard Madrid Princesa: To explore the heart of Madrid from the comforts of a contemporary, stylish and affordable hotel, book one of the spacious accommodations at Courtyard Madrid Princesa. Make your friends jealous when you share photos of your vacation to social media using this modern hotel’s free high-speed Wi-Fi.
While famous for its enormous beer halls, weisswurst and pretzels (and rightfully so), there’s much more to Munich than its refreshments. Rent a bike or a rowboat to explore the English Garden, named for the rolling hills and open landscaping reminiscent of the English countryside. The large public park reaches from the city center to the city limits, and features several beer gardens, monuments, jogging paths, biking paths and a boating lake.
If you still have energy after exploring the park, go for a different type of climb at Frauenkirche, also known in English as the Cathedral Church of Our Lady. Take the stairs all the way to the top of the Gothic church’s twin towers which feature stunning views of the city and the Bavarian Alps. The towers are visible from all over the city, making it one of Munich’s most famous landmarks.
Where to stay:
Courtyard Munich City Center: Offering easy access to Frauenkirche and the English Garden alike, this modern hotel features stylish accommodations at an affordable price, meaning you’ll have even more money to spend at the three-story beer garden, Hofbräuhaus am Platzl.
Munich Marriott Hotel: After trekking all over the English Garden, you’ll need to rejuvenate your weary muscles. Lucky for you, this upscale property boasts an on-site spa, HIMAPHAN, where you can enjoy a massage, body scrub or other therapeutic treatments.
Ready to experience Europe for yourself? Receive a special rate on your European getaway this summer when you book your airfare and accommodations through Vacations by Marriott.