An annual girls getaway is a tradition many women look forward to. Whether you’re traveling with your best friends, mom, or second cousin once removed, sharing a special travel experience is something you’ll always remember. To help you start planning, we’ve rounded up eight awesome girlfriend getaways across Europe. Each one appeals to different interests, from skiing in Switzerland and shopping in Paris to road-tripping through the Balkans and city hopping in Russia.
For Girls Who Love the Outdoors: Switzerland
Wedged between France, Italy, Austria, and Germany, Switzerland is a tiny nation that packs a punch. Switzerland’s incredible scenery makes being outdoors a pleasure, at any time of year. In the winter, head to Zermatt for the best skiing in the Swiss Alps and snag Instagram-worthy shots of the snow-capped Matterhorn. Check out Lucerne in the spring and summer months, when the medieval city’s emerald-hued lake and rolling hills create the perfect backdrop for hiking, biking, and kayaking. In the fall, visit Interlaken, Switzerland’s extreme sports capital. The region’s vibrant autumn foliage will make activities like skydiving, canyoning, and river rafting even more breathtaking.
Hotel Picks: In Zermatt, we love the cozy Chalet Hotel Schoenegg for its majestic views (pictured above) and prime location close to skiing, shopping, and dining. In Lucerne, Seehotel Hermitage Luzern is a chic lakefront property with a tiny beachfront and boat rentals. Plus, guests can use free paddle boards to explore the lake at their own pace. In Interlaken, the budget-friendly Hotel Roessli is a family-run property where nightly rates include perks like free breakfast and Interlaken bus passes.
For Girls Who Love Fashion: Paris
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but Paris is constantly evolving as a top fashion capital. Even ladies who have been to the City of Light before will find something new in one of its many stylish districts. In the 8th Arrondissement, the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore is a hot spot for upmarket names like Givenchy, Hermes, Lanvin, and Louboutin, while the trendy Marais is home to cool vintage finds like Noir Kennedy and Free’P’Star. Travelers hunting for effortless “French girl” pieces should check-out L’Appartement Sezane, the brick-and-mortar outpost of an online fashion brand with a cult following. Fans of U.S.-based Madewell might be familiar with some of Sezane’s pieces (the two brands often collaborate).
Hotel Picks: Carrie Bradshaw fans will recognize the flower-filled balconies of the Hotel Plaza Athenee, where the fashionista first laid eyes on the Eiffel Tower. It’s no surprise Bradshaw stayed here during her first trip to Paris -- the Plaza Athenee is a legendary and exceedingly fashionable property, which has been favored by designers like Christian Dior and Rudolph Valentino over the years. Since quadruple-digit nightly rates aren’t attainable for most travelers, the Hotel Dupond-Smith is an excellent upscale (but more affordable) option in the fashionable Marais.
For Girls Who Just Wanna Have Fun: Barcelona
No doubt about it, Barcelona is fun. The city isn’t as jam-packed with historical sites, museums, and cultural venues as heavy-hitters like London, Paris, or Rome, leaving travelers with more time to enjoy the city’s easygoing lifestyle. In the morning, walk along Las Ramblas, an outdoor pedestrian thoroughfare that’s home to the city’s most famous food market, La Boqueria. In the afternoon, head to La Barceloneta, the city’s happening beach, or stroll around Park Guell, a hilltop green space that features the quirky stylings of renowned Catalan artist and architect Antoni Gaudi. Once the sun sets, the party starts -- and doesn’t stop. Barcelona is known for its nightlife, and the city doesn’t disappoint. From multi-tiered nightclubs to intimate jazz cafes to underground concert halls, this city has it all, on any night of the week. Not sure where to start? Head to Placa Reial after midnight and you’ll surely stumble upon something fun. After a few drinks, head to a late-night tapas joint and soak up the alcohol with local favorites like bombas (fried potato croquettes), pa amb tomaquet (crusty, toasted bread rubbed with fresh tomato, olive oil, and maybe a little garlic), and crema catalana (a thick custard dessert).
Hotel Picks: Kabul Hostel labels itself a party hostel, and has a happening scene to back up its claims. The rooftop bar is popular during happy hour, and on most nights, the party scene continues into the wee hours. The hostel is located on Placa Reial, one of Barcelona’s top spots for nightlife, and is mere steps from the lively Las Ramblas. Kabul Hostel offers female-only dorms, which may appeal to women traveling together. If your fun girls getaway calls for something a bit more upscale, the W Barcelona is located on the beach, stylishly decorated, and has a party-hearty atmosphere throughout the day and night.
For Girls Who Like All Things Trendy: Portugal
Every few years, travel trends change and new destinations move into the spotlight. Right now, all eyes are on Portugal. Trendsetters (and followers) can start their trip in Lisbon, Portugal’s dynamic capital city. Easy on the eyes (and the wallet), Lisbon attracts visitors with its storybook hilltop neighborhoods (we’re looking at you Alfama), cozy wine bars and authentic tascas, and historical sites like the Sao Jorge Castle and the Belem Tower. Plus, the city’s yellow cable cars are quite Instagram-worthy. No trip to Lisbon is complete without sampling a pastel de nata -- crispy, buttery pastry cups filled with an eggy custard and topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Pasteis de Belem is the iconic cafe that serves the “original” pastries, but newcomer Manteigaria may have perfected the art. From Lisbon, it’s possible to take day trips to other popular destinations, like Porto, the Douro Valley (for wine), and the Algarve (for the beaches). The charming town of Sintra, with its fairytale hilltop castle, is an easy 40-minute train ride from Lisbon.
Hotel Picks: Memmo Alfama Hotel is a chic boutique property in the Alfama neighborhood. It has a rooftop pool and terrace that overlooks the Tagus River and is within walking distance of local shops, restaurants, and wine bars. Travelers looking for a more central location, closer to public transportation and historic sites, might prefer Brown’s Central Hotel.
For Girls Who Love a Good Road Trip: The Balkans
Though there isn’t a universal consensus on the exact borders of the Balkan region, the name generally refers to the former Yugoslav states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. The region is home to otherworldly scenery, quaint towns and villages, and a whole lot of history. The best way to explore the Balkans is by car, but always keep your passport and car rental insurance handy for frequent border crossings. Some can’t-miss highlights include Slovenia’s Lake Bled, Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatian seaside destinations like Rovinj, Split, and Dubrovnik, Bosnia’s Stari Most, and the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. If you’d prefer to take day trips, Dubrovnik makes a great starting point. Mostar, Bosnia, and Budva are all within a three-hour drive from Dubrovnik. Plus, it’s easy to take day trips (by boat) around the scenic Elafiti islands off Dubrovnik’s coast.
Hotel Picks: In Dubrovnik, “Game of Thrones” fans will love The Pucic Palace in the center of Old Town. The hotel is housed in a beautifully restored 18th-century palace, and is close to the show’s famous “walk of shame” stairs. Travelers who would prefer to be by the beach should compare rates at Neptun Hotel Dubrovnik, which is a 20-minute bus ride from Old Town but offers sweeping seaside vistas, a pool, and wellness facilities.
For Girls Who Have Never Been to Europe: Ireland
If you and your girlfriends have never been to Europe, Ireland is a good place to start. The Emerald Isle is home to some of the world’s friendliest people, and you won’t have to contend with an intimidating language barrier. Start your trip in Dublin by sitting down for a pint at a local pub, or visit the Guinness Storehouse for a real taste of Ireland’s most famous beer. Head west to Galway for charming cobblestone streets and the country’s best traditional music scene, or south to Cork for young college-town culture. For stunning cliffs-meet-coast scenery, check out the Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, and the Aran Islands.
Hotel Picks: Anyone who appreciates a good fairytale will love Ashford Castle, a stunning 13th-century castle located on a 350-acre estate. Expect sprawling manicured lawns, forested paths, and richly decorated interiors. Nightly rates are pricey, so save up by staying in hostels if you plan to visit other parts of the country. We like the Generator Hostel Dublin and the Boutique Hostel Galway.
For Girls Who Have Been Everywhere in Europe: Russia
For seasoned travelers to Europe, Russia is often a final frontier. A difficult visa process makes visiting Russia a bit tricky for American travelers, and dicey U.S./Russia relations can be off-putting for some. But, Russian history is fascinating and top tourist attractions, like the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and Red Square in Moscow, are as visually arresting as they are culturally engaging. Not ready to take on Russia as solo travelers? Join a tour group to help ease any wariness about traveling through this nation.
Hotel Picks: Staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg will make you feel like Russian royalty. Plus, the luxury hotel is conveniently located within a 10-minute walk of the Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace. Housed in a distinctive Art Nouveau building, the Hotel Metropol Moscow has been a Moscow institution since 1907. Its opulent common spaces allude to a bygone era. Conveniently, the Metropol is also a short stroll from the Bolshoi Theatre and Red Square.
For Girls on a Budget: A European Cruise
Though cruises can cost a lot of money upfront, they can be budget-friendly options. A cruise allows travelers to see multiple parts of Europe without the hassle of constantly changing hotels and fretting over transportation logistics. Food and most on-board activities are included in the cruise rate, but land-based excursions can be pricey. However, budget travelers can still disembark and enjoy the local port without spending too much money. Many of Europe’s port cities -- Athens, Barcelona, Rome, Stockholm, and Venice -- are beautiful places that can be explored on foot for free (or on the cheap).
Cruise Picks: The Norwegian Breakaway offers a nine-night sailing around northern Europe, with rates starting around $1,200 for an inside stateroom. All rates include free dining at eleven restaurants, including the buffet, a noodle bar, and 24-hour sports bar. Entertainment includes nightly performances at the Breakaway Theater, a comedy club with stand-up and improv acts, and typical cruise activities like trivia, cooking demonstrations, and dance classes. Oceania offers a seven-night Mediterranean sailing on the Riviera, with rates starting at $1,500 for an inside stateroom. The Oceania Riviera is a smaller luxury ship with a focus on food. There are more than a half-dozen unique restaurants and dining experiences on board, along with cuisine-inspired enrichment programs and shore excursions. Decor is upscale throughout, and cabins are spacious, with particularly comfortable beds. There is one pool, as well as two whirlpools, but additional entertainment options are somewhat lackluster.
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