Europe is a treasure trove of amazing sights, sounds, tastes and views. And don’t get me wrong I am a sucker for the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum, but there is something about enjoying one of those magical views alone: no crowds, no selfie sticks. Here are my top 10 hidden gems that you just have to see to believe!
1. Agricola Brandini Vineyard, La Morra Italy
This is my absolute favorite vineyard in Italy and it is off the beaten path near Torino in Northern Italy. Come for the Barolo and stay for the hand made pasta! Seriously, if you are lucky enough to do a wine tasting and lunch here you will be dying to come back! That’s why I’ve been there twice in the past 5 years! One of the few Barolo producers, Agricola Brandini offers not only rare wines, but also some of the finest country-style Northern Italian food that you find, oh and there will not be a crowd, just call ahead if you want to visit!
2. Hidden Beaches near Portinatx, Ibiza
Do I have to say anymore? Hidden beaches sign me up! Seriously, Ibiza can get crowded during high season so you have to head to the hard to get to beaches if you want privacy, this one near Portinatx requires a boat!
3. Casta Diva Resort, Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como may not be a secret, but Casta Diva, the most unique luxury hotel certainly is, for Americans at least! With almost exclusively European clientele, you will be hard pressed to hear an American accent if you are visiting. Oh and just look at this view, definitely a must see!
4. Bike Riding Around the Grand Canal, Versailles, France
The Palace of Versailles is probably at the top of the tourism spectrum, right behind the Eiffel Tower. However, while everyone else is fighting for space inside the palace you should be cruising around the world-class gardens outside on your rental bike! The gardens and grounds are usually free to enter, so the 20-30 euro bike rental is totally worth it! Feel like Marie Antoinette while you cruise around the Grand Canal, wind in your hair!
5. Lake Garda, Italy
Most Americans head to Lake Como, if they want that “Italian Lakes” experience. However, unless you are staying at Casta Diva, I say skip Lake Como and head to Lake Garda for a more uniquely Italian vacation feel. The roads around the lake are just magical and the views of the mountains are unforgettable. Oh and with plenty of family owned luxury hotel nearby, like the Grand Hotel Fasano, you will be pampered like Italian aristocrats have been for centuries!
6. The Brasserie at the Grand Hotel Trois Rois, Basel, Switzerland
The Grand Hotel Trois Rois is known for their 3 Michelin Star restaurant, Cheval Blanc. And unless you have unlimited funds to throw down on a dinner there, the place to be is the next-door brasserie. I experienced a Michelin-level dinner there for far less than we would have dropped at Cheval Blanc and the views were just as great and the service was just spectacular! So worth it!
7. Hugel Winery, Riquewihr, France
I love visiting vineyards and wineries. My favorite is when the winery is located on or near the vineyard. And the Hugel house has been there for hundreds of years so all that history is so interesting to learn about. And the pro tip is to call ahead and ask for a tour because they don’t have set organized tours. But even if you just go to the tasting room, the knowledgeable staff will treat you to several of their fabulous wines. This is especially great for the Riesling lovers! Oh and the town is a medieval walled city, so just walking around in Riquewihr makes the visit worth it!
8. Castle Road, Germany
If there is one thing Europe doesn’t have is a castle shortage. However, many of the famous ones, like Neuschwanstein, will be overrun with tour buses as soon as the weather gets nice. So if you want a more intimate experience, drive along the “castle road” in Germany and make your way towards the Main River and there will be plenty of lesser known, but just as interesting castles to stop by and tour. And they are all complete with amazing river and valley views.
9. Café de Paris, London
London is one of those cities that you could visit a 1000 times and not do the same thing twice. So the next time you hop the pond, start your night out at Café de Paris for a cabaret show and dinner! The humor, the music, the dancing are just so much fun you won’t want to leave!
Now I know Cannes is world famous for the Film Festival, however, Cannes in late September/Early October is just a magical place. The crowds are gone, the water is warm. I keep going back again and again and I have discovered that this is the prime time to head to the Riviera, the shoulder season is such a winner.