North, East, South, West And Everywhere In Between

Your ultimate guide to Europe's most unexpected summer destinations. Words by Cam Hassard

By Cam Hassard, 22/3/2018
Brought to you by Qantas

From essential experiences to can't-miss destinations, we've partnered with Qantas to bring you an incredible travel tale each month.

In case you haven’t heard, folks in the know are predicting Australia will shiver through a chilly winter this year. So what better way to tackle the cold than by avoiding it completely?

Europe is excellent most of the time, but it’s in the summertime that the continent really comes into its own. Your long-haul flight into London opens up a world of possibilities, so make a break for the Old World and lose yourself in its historical, cultural and hedonistic pleasures.

Whether north, south, east, west, or smack-bang in the middle, we’ve rounded up a few of the hottest – and most unexpected – European destinations for 2018. Read up, get inspired, and go plan yourself an epic Northern Hemispheric break.

North

Lapland

Lapland

Image: Andrea Ullius / Flickr

In the cooler months (and we’re talking “beyond-subzero cool” here), Lapland is a winter wonderland, coated with epic quantities of ice and snow, perfect for saunas and skinny-dipping under the incredible emerald lava of the Northern Lights.

In the summertime, however, Lapland transforms into something completely different, though no less intoxicating.

Lapland

Image: Timo Newton-Syms / Flickr

More a cultural area than a region set by geographical lines, Lapland incorporates parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and even Russia, though it’s the Scandinavian turf that attracts the most folks, with millions of vibrant blooms bursting in colour, lush forested wilderness, and Midnight Sun, where the “Nightless Night” persists for months on end.


Faroe Islands

Image: Eric Welch

The Faroe Islands

There the Faroe Islands lurk: all the way up in the Norwegian Sea, half-way between Iceland and the UK. The Danish-owned Faroes comprise a self-governing archipelago of spectacular volcanic islands, popular with bird-watchers, hikers, and fans of off-the-beaten-track locales.

There’s something epic about these islands, where the ethereal meets the earth, the cliff-face meets the heathland, and the magical meets the real. Be charmed, be transported, and be intoxicated by their sheer natural beauty.


East

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro. Image: George Kedenburg

Montenegro

While past perceptions of Eastern Europe might have rendered this part of the continent second fiddle to tried-and-true Western capitals, these days, it’s an entirely different scene in the modernised East. With revamped centres like Montenegro leading the charge, there’s never been a more alluring moment to gravitate across.

Montenegro is a visually stunning country of majestic mountains, spectacular beaches and Adriatic wonder. Coastal towns Budva, Herceg Novi and UNESCO-protected Kotor ought to be high on your Euro summer hit list.


Kyiv, Ukraine

Image: Francisco Anzola / Flickr

Kiev, Ukraine

“Kiev?” you say. “In Ukraine?” Yep! Kiev is a long way from Ukraine’s eastern border, and while it may not be as readily connected as other Eastern European hubs, there’s little effort involved in getting there.

Dripping in 12 centuries of rich history, monumental post-Soviet architecture, and golden domed Orthodox churches, Kiev offers a highly unique taste of Eastern European life. Add friendly locals, scant tourists, widespread English dialects, and excellent bang for your tourist buck, and you have one of the wisest and most satisfying destinations in Europe.


South

Cascais, Portugal

Image: Pedro Ribeiro Simões / Flickr

Cascais, Portugal

At just 30km west of Lisbon, coastal Cascais has provided summer respite for Portuguese locals for centuries. Cult author and national treasure Fernando Pessoa spent as many days as he could surrounded by the healing ocean air here, and even the royals got on board, with King Luis I turning this old maritime village into his summer residence around the turn of the 20th century.

These days, faded royal grandeur meets a decidedly sleepy, port-town vibe, making it perfect for an Iberian summertime escape.

When the capital swells with tourists, head for Cascais and lap up the golden sands en route to historic Sintra, Estoril, and the nearby Boca De Inferno (the natural rock formation).


Malaga, Spain

Image: Elvis Bekmanis

Malaga, Spain

When it comes to Spain, it’s hard to go wrong: stick to the north and lap up the best of the Basque, hit Barcelona or Madrid and get lost in big-city life, or venture south to any one of the nation’s spectacular, culturally-rich regions.

In the past, Costa Del Sol city Malaga wasn’t a tourist draw, but the southern port city has been revamped in recent years to become a popular choice among European vacationers. It’s cheaper than the bigger cities, for one, and its cultural scene is seriously happening, with newly constructed Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Picasso Museum, and Centre Pompidou leading the local renaissance to put the city right on the Andalusian cultural map.

Malaga, Spain

Image: Quino Al

The food here is incredible, the locals are friendly, and the city simmers away in its own delectable southern style.


West

Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux. Image: Juan Di Nella

Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Epic Mountains? Proximity to the Atlantic? Rural French splendour: vineyards, cheese, and countless artisan delicacies? Tick, tick, tick.

Located along France’s western coast, Nouvelle-Aquitaine is possibly the most criminally overlooked of all France’s incredible regions. Bordeaux (town and region) can be found here; so, too, can Cognac, La Rochelle, Biarritz, and charmingly historic university hub, Pau.

There’s more national parkland here than you can imagine – Toulouse and the Pyrenees are close neighbours – and a day trip across the Spanish border is an effortless task. Leave the French Riviera to the coconut-oiled masses; Nouvelle-Aquitaine is the new South of France.

Giant's Causeway, Ireland

Giant’s Causeway. Image: Aaron Kato

Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

Road trippers, make your way quick-smart to Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway. Though it’s just one of the many epic road trips you’re likely to encounter along the greater Irish peninsula, heading this far north is a particularly rewarding choice.

You’ll likely encounter less traffic, for starters, while the Causeway’s 195km of ancient coastline, 800-year-old castles, and 40,000 volcanic basalt columns are likely to offer more than a few awe-inducing moments.

Rev that engine and be wowed by the ancient wonders of Ireland’s north.


Bruges, Belgium

Image: Wolfgang Staudt / Flickr

Bruges, Belgium

Black comedy hit In Bruges did a lot more than just boost the careers of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson; it put cosy Belgian city Bruges on the map. Not that it wasn’t there before, mind you, but in the decade since, this quaint fairy-tale hub has become something of a cult pilgrimage for European wanderers.

Think tasty Belgian beers, boat cruises along medieval canals, bike riding through cobbled streets, magical architecture, and a historical feel that’ll rival any European hotspot.


Central

Berlin, Germany

Image: Hector Bermudez

Berlin, Germany

Say what you want about Berlin’s long and incessantly bleak winter – it begins sometime around November and drags out until May – but, as sturdy Berliners who tough out the greyness year after year know all too well, there’s a mighty great light at the end of that dark tunnel.

Nowhere else in Europe – or even the world – are the first rays of summer responsible for as incredible a transformation as they are in Berlin. It’s an explosion of life, a three-month party where lake swimming (clothing optional), forest frolicking, and canal-side revelry takes centre stage deep into every 10pm sunset and beyond.

Berlin’s summer appeal is nothing new, but it’s a perpetual must – for those who’ve been and done it, and those who’ve yet to.


Wroclaw, Poland

Image: Roman Kraft

Wroclaw, Poland

If you can pronounce the name of this city off the bat, congratulations: you’re both a high linguistic achiever and you’re on your way to experiencing one of the most attractive and alluring cities in Central Europe. Pronounced “VROT-swav” (not “rock-lore”), Wroclaw is one of the best spots to experience Polish culture, history, and it’s many culinary pleasures.

Wrocklaw’s market square, Rynek, is at the heart of its Old Town, with historical buildings bright with washes of colour and lanes cobbled and full of amazing monuments and medieval architecture. Dine on pierogi (Polish dumplings) and bigos (pie), knock back a few Polish brews, and get lost in the city’s charm.

Check out Qantas flights and begin your next adventure.

(Lead image: Nick Karvounis)