A Hilton report claims that travel in 2024 will be all about relaxation – labelling it the ‘Year of the Great Recharge’ – and who are we to doubt a giant American multinational luxury hotel chain? It may be our rapidly advancing years, but we are all on board. In this chaotic modern world of constant communication, getting away from it all has never been more critical.
Peace is relative, of course, and one person’s tranquillity is another’s Tartarus, but we’ve put together a selection of the most relaxing destinations in Europe that should cover all the bases. Whether you want extended walks, rolling hills, thermal spas or donkeys, relaxation is waiting with open arms.
Wales Coastal Path, Wales
An 870-mile walk might not be everyone’s idea of relaxation, but the Wales Coastal Path isn’t your average 870-mile walk. Established in 2012 and split into eight smaller sections, it is the first walking path dedicated to a nation’s entire coastline, showcasing the majestic natural beauty of wonderful Wales. What better way to clear the head than a long walk?
Kruševo, North Macedonia
From the sea to the mountains and the highest town in Macedonia (okay, fine, North Macedonia). High as in elevation, don’t get any ideas. Kruševo sits 1,350m into the mountains, nestled beautifully in a valley and glistening with all the glory such a setting promises. Kruševo hasn’t always been a place of peace; the tumultuous 10-day existence of the Kruševo Republic suggests as much, but today, it is a gorgeous place to take stock and fill the lungs with air.
Small but perfectly formed, Perast is the undoubted highlight of Montenegro’s marvellous coast. The ‘hidden gem’ epithet it often attracts is way off the mark, but the stone houses and shimmering waters of the village are a match made in a tranquil heaven. The two graceful islets are the cherry on top of this gorgeous cake.
Las Wolski, Poland
A little slice of splendour just 8km from Krakow, Las Wolski is a wooded wonderland a world away from the busy streets down below. It straddles the line between excitement and peace, offering a range of activities to go alongside, you know, just being in all that nature. The mysterious Camadolese Monastery is hidden within.
The rolling hills, the endless colours, the implausibly delicious wine, the sheer Tuscany of it all. Yes, it is a cliche, but Tuscany is every bit as reinvigorating as its reputation suggests. Even Florence fits the bill despite its energy and excitement. Tuscany gave Europe its Renaissance, a direct product of living stress-free. Well, that and Medici money, but that isn’t so important.
Croatia’s most popular islands have lost tranquillity points as visitor numbers grow, but peace is still waiting if you know where to look. A short ferry ride from Šibenik, Prvić is one such spot, a quiet fishing village best known for its role in the life and work of 16th-century polymath Faust Vrančić. We can’t promise you’ll invent new machines here, but you’ll be too relaxed to be disappointed.
Explore Prvić and four other magical Croatian islands without cars here.
We’re a little torn on adding Budapest, what with it being a renowned city of hedonism, but we can’t really argue with those thermal spas. The Hungarian capital offers a broad range of experiences, but nothing beats its outdoor spas and baths.
Will Iceland ever lose its charm? We have stopped trying to predict the future at In Your Pocket HQ, so we aren’t answering our question, but the Land of Fire and Ice remains as magical as ever. That nickname doesn’t suggest much relaxation, but Iceland is tailor-made for calm adventures in nature that may or may not be soundtracked by that untitled Sigur Ros album.
You don’t need to be retired to enjoy the tranquil glory of the Algarve. Quite the opposite; a day spent wandering the streets of Faro, Silves, Portimão and the rest might be just what the doctor ordered. Old fishing villages nestle up to brilliant restaurants, with plenty of nightlife options for letting the hair down. That can be relaxing, sometimes, we swear…
Olomouc is the perfect antidote to the packed streets of Prague, offering a relaxed, smaller version of the Czech capital. It doesn’t have to be relaxing, but even the beer-centric adventures here come with a certain amount of lolling. Rent a bike and visit some of the small breweries in the area, from pedal to pivo and back again.
While we’re on that train of thought, let’s go ahead and throw this seismic spanner into your relaxation station. Believe it or not, Europe’s most insane city is also one of its most relaxing. Berlin is exciting, but it is also a city of immense culture and greenery, packed with gorgeous walks and meditative marvels. No city takes you out of modern stresses quite like Berlin.
If you can afford it, the French Riviera will melt away your worries in a wave of glitz and glamour. Nice is the epicentre of it all, a place of history and heritage that is very much alive in the 21st century. What can be more relaxing than sitting beside the sea with a cocktail? It does sound nice, right? Every time, every single time.
Scottish Highlands, Scotland
Pack up the van and head north; it is time to forget the mess of modern Britain and embrace its most marvellous region. The Scottish Highlands are a land of mysterious mountains and legendary lakes, the sort of place that makes alliteration inevitable. Will you find Loch Ness? No, you’ll be too busy taking deep breaths and heady sighs as you gaze at the landscapes. Don’t forget the rain jacket; this is Scotland, after all.
Modriča, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Modriča itself is a quiet town in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, but everything we have ever dreamed of waits just 10km away. The fantastic Monogram Distillery and Hotel brews arguably the country’s finest rakijas (and serves excellent food), while the nearby Agro-Nika Farm is home to more than 150 donkeys. We all have different tastes, but a night of rakija and a morning hanging out with donkeys is pretty much heaven, as far as we’re concerned.
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Bled gets most of the attention, but Bohinj likes it that way. That old modifier isn’t as accurate as a decade ago, as Lake Bohinj is now firmly on the radar, but there is enough serenity here for everyone. Nestled in the magic of Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s largest lake is a real ‘get away from it all’ type of place, especially when married to a night in the spa at ECO Hotel Bohinj. Don’t spend all night in the sauna, obviously. That would eventually be stressful, by which we mean deadly.
The pancake-flat lands of Northern Serbia are perfect for relaxation, no matter where you find yourself. That could be wandering the old streets of Novi Sad, admiring the stunning architecture in the centres of Subotica and Sombor, or letting history wash over you in gorgeous Sremski Karlovci.
Danube Delta, Romania
Flora and fauna flourish in fabulous seclusion here, although it is obviously a shame that quietude doesn’t begin with an F. The Danube Delta in Romania is where Europe’s second-longest river is at its most delightful, serving up splendid landscapes where the aforementioned beasts and blossoms can thrive. The protected Nature Reserve is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Bucharest and the (Bucha) rest.
No, you don’t have to hang out with the Moomins, but yes, you do have to swim in the ice. Who said relaxation was supposed to be relaxing? Come on, jump in, get over the initial existential trauma and let the euphoria take over. Either that or spend your days with culture inside Turku’s many fascinating (and warm) museums on the banks of the river Aura. The choice is yours.
The eagle-eyed among you will notice that many of these relaxing destinations have something in common: water. The human body is 2385% water, as we all know, so that isn’t a great shock, and the calming influence of H2O makes Cadiz a joyous spot for the soul. The Andalusian charmer can get a bit raucous, but those long days swimming in the Bay of Cadiz are days to be savoured. One of Europe’s oldest continually inhabited cities, Cadiz has been a place of poise forever and ever.
We’re sticking in the north for the final entry, as much for nostalgic reasons as anything else. Pärnu is all timber villas and sandy beaches, an Estonian resort town as charming as you assume an Estonian resort town could be. If you are wondering where to find us, we’ll be sat on the beach, book in hand, fighting a battle against the bitter Baltic winds, a battle we don’t mind losing. Well, there or with the donkeys in Modriča, of course.
The place is named Bath, after all. Arguably England’s most beautiful city, high society has flocked to Bath for centuries, looking for relaxation and restoration, preferably in thermal waters surrounded by gorgeous architecture. The town started life as a Roman Spa, and as we all know, when in Rome…