When it comes to choosing the best holiday destinations, Europe is hard to beat (along with the UK, of course) and it boasts a whole host of city escapes, beach holidays and adventures.
Just a short hop from Britain, the top holiday destinations in Europe aren’t just about the excellent food, wine and culture. A trip to the continent allows you to reduce your carbon footprint by travelling closer to home and can be plenty of fun if you get there by train.
If you prefer cold weather locations, you can head far north to the likes of Lapland and Iceland. Or if it’s sunshine and being by the sea that takes your fancy, Madeira (even in winter) or the Greek islands are a terrific choice.
As we become evermore conscious of taking trips abroad and keeping the preservation of our environment in mind, overtourism can be tackled by visiting the lesser-known parts of Europe. Georgia, the Albanian Riviera and even alternative cities in the Netherlands are just a few of the places to explore as you avoid busy Barcelona and Paris.
The best holiday destinations in Europe can take you to incredible lakes and mountains, too. You’ll find clean air and amazing views in Austrian Tyrol, while Switzerland is home to the magical Glacier Express, where you can ride through the Alpine scenes on the beautiful red train.
Browse the best holiday destinations Europe has to offer for a 2020 holiday you’ll never forget.
The hottest destination for 2020 (according to us and ABTA), Georgia is ideal for going off the beaten path and exploring a new corner of Europe. The capital Tbilisi is buzzing with great wine bars, restaurants and Georgian culture.
Go beyond the city and there are impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites to explore and the scenic Caucasus Mountains to hike. Georgia is packed with traditions, arts and breathtaking views just waiting to be discovered in 2020.
2. Swedish Lapland
If it’s Europe’s best holiday destinations for crowd-free bliss that you’re after, Lapland is a terrific winter option and Sweden is where you’ll find the most unique experiences, from sleeping in an ice hotel to spending the night in a treehouse.
Swedish Lapland is also home to one of the best places in the world to watch the Northern Lights, the Abisko National Park. With virtually no light pollution and an Aurora Sky Station, so you can get up high to watch them from a viewing terrace, it’s no wonder that it’s a top spot for skywatchers.
There’s more to France than Paris and if you head to its beautiful vineyards, you’ll see exactly what we mean. The delightful Champagne region is the place to go if you like the finest of wines. Here, you can visit the best Champagne houses, taste your way through the wineries and soak up the serenity of the French countryside.
You won’t want to miss a visit to the city of Reims, where you can marvel at its magnificent cathedral, take a cellar tour and stroll its cobbled streets. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or have a new interest in Champagne, a mini-break to northern France is the perfect way to get to know your tipple.
4. Northern Norway
This part of Europe will always hold a special place in our hearts. Northern Norway is where we’ve seen some of the best Northern Lights displays in the world – we’re talking the whole sky turning green!
It’s also where you can visit some of the most captivating places in the country – there’s the northernmost city of mainland Europe Honningsvag, the northernmost point of mainland Europe the North Cape, the beautiful Lofoten Islands and the Northern Lights city of Tromso.
5. Lake Thun
Blessed with countless lakes, Switzerland is a dream for waterside escapes. Lake Thun, nestled between majestic mountains and close to the towns of Thun and Interlaken, is particularly beautiful in winter. Here, you can cruise the deep blue water taking in the dramatic landscapes and quaint mountain villages.
Another wonderful way to take in Switzerland during the colder months is with a ride on the Glacier Express. Known as the world’s slowest express train, it will take you past snow-covered forests and over hundreds of bridges on the rail journey of a lifetime.
This cool European city offers all the ingredients for the perfect short break – the amazing architecture, fantastic foodie spots and many museums. Rotterdam makes for a great alternative city to Amsterdam, but is also wonderful to visit alongside Holland’s famous capital.
You can take to the trendy port city during a mini-cruise to the Netherlands in spring when the spectacular Keukenhof Gardens are in bloom. A visit to the lesser-known city of Arnhem and quaint village Veere are also worth your time.
Wonderful in winter or summer, Madeira is a garden lover’s dream and a fabulous island escape. While many Brits head for the Balearics or Canaries, this Portuguese isle remains fairly less trodden in comparison. With its lush green interior and abundance of walking opportunities, you’ll love getting out and about in Madeira.
Don’t miss the stunning Palheiro Gardens, afternoon tea at the luxurious Belmond Reid’s Palace and the capital Funchal’s lovely market.
8. Rhone River
Love French food? Head to the gastronomic heart of the country in 2020 on a peaceful river cruise. With picturesque Avignon, underrated Lyon and picturesque Tournon to discover, you’ll be spoilt for choice as you take to the markets, vineyards and historic cities along the Rhone River.
In 2020, you can make it a trip to remember as you join Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr. and food writer Tom Parker Bowles on a cruise through the region.
9. Albanian Riviera
The Mediterranean isn’t all about Spain, Greece and Italy. Head for Albania and you’ll find beaches that are just as glorious, but without the crowds. From the picturesque bays of Vlore to the stunning sandy stretch of Gjipe, you won’t believe the beauty of Albania’s beaches.
Coastal towns Himare and Sarande are worth checking out and you won’t want to miss the hiking in Albania. In the Llogara National Park, you can walk among alpine meadows and dense forests before reaching the views of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.
10. Lake Como
One of Europe’s most glamorous holiday destinations, Lake Como is where you’ll find chic towns and neoclassical villas dotted along the water. Bellagio is the most famous town on the lake, while picturesque Cadenabbia affords a fantastic position on the water’s edge for exploring other parts of Como.
A trip to Lake Como also places you close to Switzerland, where you can easily reach St Moritz for a day trip and ride the wonderful Bernina Express.
For a European escape art lovers can appreciate, a visit to the French village of Giverny, where artist Claude Monet lived, is a must. Home to the house and gardens which inspired the painter, the village is at its most peaceful on a Sunday morning, when you can take in the beautiful blooms and quaint streets.
In 2020, you can explore Giverny on a short break to France with former Country Living editor Susy Smith, who fell in love with the picturesque village when she first visited and featured it on the front cover of the magazine.
Marvellous beaches, history and TV connections, Corfu is the Greek island every Durrellsfans should see. From the Venetian architecture of Corfu Town to the little church of Mouse Island, the sun-drenched island has plenty to offer.
On a tour with a real-life member of the Durrell family Lee Durrell, who is the wife of the late Gerald, you’ll learn about the family, visit locations from the TV series and even check out the ghost village of Old Perithia.
13. Finnish Lapland
Looking for an adventure like no other? Take to Finnish Lapland where a wealth of activities await. There’s snowmobiling, husky sledding and snowshoeing during the day.
By night, you can get cosy in a glass-roofed cabin to watch the Northern Lights and even learn how to capture them on camera with an expert photographer. Now is the perfect time to head north on a winter holiday to remember.
14. Ziller Valley, Austria
If you like your European breaks with clean mountain air and picture-postcard country views, Austrian Tyrol is the place for you. The Ziller Valley, or Zillertal, is part of it and a real treat in the summer when the meadows are ablaze with colour and you can witness the traditional methods of farming.
There’s hiking, rock climbing and biking to enjoy as you take in the lakes and mountains, plus steam train rides to experience – don’t miss the nostalgic Zillertal Railway which takes you past incredible scenery.
This post was originally published on Country Living.