Top Ten European Holiday Spots Revealed
With the holiday season now in full swing, many across Europe are making travel plans to enjoy the upcoming winter holiday in one of many great getaway spots across Europe.
Europe is the second-smallest continent, only 2 per cent larger than Canada and the third most populous, home to 11 per cent of the world's population. Its 47 countries are holiday nirvana, spanning Alpine mountains, historic cities and coastlines on both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Seas.
With that said, here are my 'Top 10' most iconic holiday hotspots in Europe to explore yourself. 10. Costa Brava
For me, the loveliest of all the Spanish Costas, the Costa Brava is one hour north of marvelous Barcelona. Among the fragrant Aleppo pine trees and intimate rocky bays, this is where package tourism to Spain began but unlike other Costas that soon became densely packed, the steep rocky coastline has kept many places blissfully free of overdevelopment.
This is the upmarket Costa with the Pyrenees and the French border close by. Cultural highlights include the Dali Museum at Figueres and Barcelona itself. Steer clear of the mass-market parts - Lloret de Mar in summer is not fun - and head north to authentic Spanish villages and towns like Girona, Begur and Pals. 9. Cornwall
Yes it rains too much and yes it is a good five-hour journey from London by rail or road but Cornwall has been rolling out the welcome mat for visitors for many years. From cool surfing dudes riding the waves on the north coast to retired admirals sailing between the coves and bays in the south, Cornwall is one of the most loved parts of the UK.
After losing out for several years to more obvious glamour resorts in Europe, Cornwall has upped its game. It has created world quality visitor attractions like The Eden Project, offers accommodation from bargain but modern B&Bs to New England-style beachfront villas and is becoming a notable foodie venue.
Now Captains of industry take their own children back to where they fondly remember their own bucket and spade holidays. Just don't forget the waterproofs. 8. Mallorca
Golfers and cyclists, adrenalin-charged sailors and low-key beach lovers, families and couples: The largest Balearic Island, a year round Mediterranean home for many expats, has it covered.
Big enough to offer this variety yet small enough that everything is within one hour from Palma's capacious international airport, Mallorca has been a favourite island destination since the early years of package holidays. For the past decade the local government has successfully concentrated on smartening the island up and now whether you like it bright and buzzy or calm and sophisticated, Mallorca delivers. 7. The Greek Islands
Thrilling cultural history, geographical beauty and a simple welcoming lifestyle have made the Greek islands a true legend. Over 21 million tourists arrived in 2014, from backpackers right through to billionaires on their super yachts and with over 2,000 islands the Greek archipelago is more than up to catering for them all.
Highlights include Crete, the largest island and home to the mythical Minotaur, and the wonderful beaches of Mykonos, a truly international island. The Venetian architecture and ancient olive trees of Corfu are popular with the British while the Greeks themselves head to little-known Kea in the Cyclades, easy to reach within two hours of Athens by car and boat. Classy Skiathos is the one that bagged some of the very best beaches, 65 of them, while car-free Spetses immediately off the beautiful Peloponnese peninsula is simple, perfect, authentic Greece. 6. Paris
Of all the great cities of Europe, Paris is perfect for either a first time visitor or one who returns regularly every year. Compact, intimate and refreshingly familiar - look, The Eiffel Tower, there's the Arc de Triomphe, bonjour Notre Dame - the French capital is also the place to sit and stare over a café au lait or aperitif, a favourite continental occupation.
The City of Love and Light has wonderful museums, modish shopping and enough style to satisfy any Francophile. It is the capital of cuisine in a cuisine-obsessed country and an historic centre for intellectual and philosophical thought. And if that isn't enough, the former court of Versailles and the châteaux of the Loire are both a day trip away. 5. The Swiss Alps
There's a great deal more to Switzerland than just chocolate, cuckoo clocks and ever-accurate watches. The country famously began life as a summer holiday destination, a sun warmed mountain playground for aristocratic Victorian walkers in the crystal-clear Alpine air. When the owner of the Kulm Hotel in St Moritz, Johannes Badrutt, wagered his regular summer guests to return in winter to enjoy sparkling sunny days or else he would cover all their holiday costs back in 1864, he provided the impetus for the country's current year-round appeal.
Alpine mountains cover 65 per cent of landlocked Switzerland and include the majority of Europe's 4,000 metre peaks. Summer visitors still come but are now jointed by winter tourists who love the small ski villages just as much as mega-watt resorts such as Verbier, St Moritz and Zermatt. 4. Rome
All roads lead to Roma, the Italian city where history, food and art combine to lip-smackingly good effect. The Eternal City is the centre of fashion, religion and politics for Italians and holds endless architectural fascination from the ruins of the 1st Century BC Forum right up to Zaha Hadid's Maxxi Museum of Twenty-first Century Arts.
Take an early morning walk around the Campo de'Fiori flower market as it sets up, stroll across to the Vatican to marvel at The Sistine Chapel or elbow aside the crowds to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain. Rome is now the second most popular tourist city in the world according to Travellers Choice Destinations but it is also a liveable city with great food and warm if chaotic local life. 3. Ibiza
Ibiza was Europe's celebrity hangout again this summer as the paparazzi snapped everyone from US actor Will Smith to tennis ace Rafael Nadal relaxing on the Balearic playground. The hippies who discovered the island in the 1970s are still hiding out in the quiet north or around Las Dalias market but they have been joined by stylish families and a party crowd keen to check out the White Isle's legendary nightlife.
Understated yet sophisticated, bohemian yet also cosmopolitan, Ibiza is Europe's most successful comeback queen. Hot new destinations include Lio, part restaurant, part cabaret club in Ibiza Town where eating out becomes a theatrical event. Make time to try the Blue Marlin beach club in Cala Jondal or the more family friendly Nassau in Playa d'en Bossa and don't forget to make a day trip to the delightful tiny island of Formentera where you should hire a bike or scooter for a tour before finishing off with a feet-in-the-sand paella on the beach at Kioska Pirata. 2. Tuscany
Renaissance highlights come at you faster than an Italian on a Vespa in Tuscany, the most loved and visited Italian region. UNESCO figures show that sixty per cent of the world's most important art is in Italy and half of that is in Florence, the cultural capital of Tuscany since Renaissance times. But walk into a small church in a quiet town well off the tourist route and you might well discover a beautiful dusty fresco in a dark corner.
Idyllic rural strade bianche - white roads - lined with blood red poppies give way to cities with culture on tap. Seven Tuscan areas are UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the centre of Florence, The Duomo in Pisa with its famous Leaning Tower and the Val d'Orcia which includes Siena.
Tuscany has diverse landscapes from beaches to olive groves to hill top villages and even a ski resort at Abetone. There's world class yet authentic local food and wine and a lifestyle that can seem as little changed as the rural views. Bellissimo. 1. South of France
France is the world's favourite tourist destination attracting an astonishing 83 million annual visitors and the sun-dappled South of France is high on most must-see lists. From lunch at Le Club 55 on Plage de Pampelonne, the oldest and still the most iconic beach club in St Tropez to a slow stroll along the beautiful wide boulevard of the Cours Mirabeau in the Provençal town of Aix-en-Provence the lifestyle is mesmerising.
This is an area of plane trees, sunflowers and vines mixed with Roman ruins, Belle Époque beauty and Modernism. From the 1920s artists and writers came here to live and scandalised society with their bohemian behaviour, setting the tone for the area's hedonistic perfection. Beauty and sunshine with culture and history: I am convinced that the South of France is where most of us would live if we could.