5 dreamy European destinations to add to your spring and summer travel bucket list

Europe has long been a favored vacation destination for Americans. More Americans traveled abroad in 2023 than pre-pandemic in 2019. Of the more than 20 million Americans who traveled overseas, most of them took flight to Europe. Often inspired by movies, many tourists dream of taking romantic trips to the cobblestone streets of European cities to visit quaint cafes, explore rich history, and view stunning artwork.

However, more Americans are stepping out of their comfort zones to places not often seen on movie screens. These travelers want to experience new destinations, off the beaten path of crowded Roman streets and Parisian cafes, but still close enough to comforts like reliable flights, public transportation, speedy Wi-Fi, and luxury accommodation.

Contiki looked at data from the U.S. News and World Report‘s rankings of the best European vacations and highlighted some of the list’s locales that are less commonly visited by Americans. Though some usual suspects made the top of the list—Rome, Paris, London, and Amsterdam—several new hotspots are making their way onto Americans’ travel radar.

With an abundance of Michelin-star restaurants, World Heritage Sites, ancient ruins, volcanic excursions, and more, these destinations are gaining popularity for all the right reasons.

A bright sunset ver famous landmarks in Budapest.
givaga // Shutterstock

Budapest, Hungary

Straddling the Danube River sits Hungary’s thriving capital, Budapest. Offering tons of historic architecture, spas and thermal baths, spirited nightlife, and hearty traditional cuisine, it’s no wonder this ancient city is catching new attention. May and June will be the best months to visit, just before the summer heat can kick temperatures up to the 80s and 90s. 

First things first, decompress after a long flight in one of Budapest’s most famous attractions, the public thermal spa bath, Széchenyi, located in the city park—but get there early to miss the crowd! Take a step back in time through the enchanted medieval neighborhood of Castle Hill, where the Buda Castle is home to the Hungarian National Gallery and the neo-gothic terrace Fisherman’s Bastion provides the best panoramic views of the city overlooking the river.  Make time to stop by the Great Market Hall, the oldest indoor market in the country and try a lángos, a sort of fried pizza—and if you’re looking to splurge a little more on flavor, add sour cream and cheese on top

View of boat on the canal in Plaza de Espana, Sevilla.
leoks // Shutterstock

Seville, Spain

Seville, the capital city of the autonomous community of Andalusia, is in southwestern Spain. Known for its lively springtime festival season, Seville hums throughout March and April with the sounds of Spanish guitar, flamenco music, and popping bottles of fino, a dry sherry. During this time, the Semana Santa (Holy Week) and the Feria de Abril (Spring Fair) drive up hotel prices, so plan accordingly.

No matter when you visit, take some time to stroll through the artistic district of Santa Cruz, where a maze of narrow alleys, hidden squares, and colorful buildings takes you through some of the city’s fascinating history. You can also tour 80 chapels and floor-to-ceiling artwork at the 16th-century Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in the world and the final resting place of Christopher Columbus.

View of the new port of Kyrenia (Girne), North Cyprus.
MarinaDa // Shutterstock

Cyprus

Located in the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey, the island nation of Cyprus is steeped in history. Of course, you can visit Cyprus year-round, but if you want to skip the summer heat and crowded beaches, it’s best to avoid traveling here during July and August and instead visit in May or June.

A must-see is the Pafos Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with prehistoric and ancient Roman ruins, consisting of an impressive amphitheater, temples, and vibrant floor mosaics depicting Greek mythology. Entrance tickets to these attractions cost just a few euros.

When you’re ready to soak up some sun, you can choose from 77 Blue Flag-certified beaches. Enjoy quiet sunbathing with Wi-Fi at Konnos Bay or DJ sets and lively beach parties at Nissi Beach.

Village of Varenna on Lake Como.
StevanZZ // Shutterstock

Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como sits at the foot of the Italian Alps, offering natural beauty, historic villas, and, of course, incredible food and wine. The best way to explore Lake Como is by boat, which you can rent or choose to experience on a guided tour. Cruise the water with a glass of local Lombardy wine in hand and enjoy the breathtaking sights of the Alps and other towns dotted around the lake.

You’d be remiss not to try Ristorante Sociale’s risotto con filetti di pesce persico, a Como specialty made with perch from the lake. Visitors can also take a transfer from Lake Como to Milan or Saint Moritz by way of the Bernina Express, which entails a picturesque ride through the Alps.

While spring arguably brings the best views of Lake Como, summer is prime time for water sports and the historic Festival of San Giovanni in June.

Square with a statue in front of muesum Albertina in Vienna with historical Hotel Sacher and Vienna state opera in the background.
Guniva // Shutterstock

Vienna, Austria

The capital of Austria is nestled between the Alps and Carpathian mountains, also along the Danube River (only a two-and-a-half-hour train ride away from Budapest). This city’s café culture invites tourists, who are usually scrambling to fit all the attractions into their limited schedule, to take in the city like a local and enjoy a long coffee break. Vienna is also famous for its beer gardens where you can relax on a picnic table surrounded by greenery with a Czech Budweiser and a schweinsbraten (roasted pork). 

For music lovers, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a city that has influenced classical music more than Vienna. Here you can visit Beethoven’s grave, Mozart’s former residence, experience world-renowned opera concerts, and endless music museums. 

To get a full taste of what this city has to offer, it’s best to go in April and May when you can enjoy the walkable city because of milder temperatures and fewer crowds.

Story editing by Cu Fleshman and Carren Jao. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.

 

This story originally appeared on Contiki and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

Provided by Stacker

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