Benedictine monks created a series of hermitages in what is now a national forest in the Beiras region of central Portgual. A great escape from the summer heat, this 250 acre woodland contains 400 species of trees and superb specimens of understory plants. After you climb to the top, you can dine al fresco on the patio of a nineteenth-century hunting palace built by King Carlos.
The island of Moen is a short trip from Copenhagen, Denmark, but it feels like thousands of miles away. Grassy fields and white chalk cliffs lead to the sea, and the villages are, for the most part, untouched by tourism.
Ammersee is one of several recreational lakes in upper Bavaria, about an hour from Munich by suburban train. A popular weekend destination for German families, the place has an unhurried charm that makes it worth the trip. It’s also the home of the Kloster Andechs, whose monks make one of the finest beers in Germany.
Wuerzburg is the most northern point on Germany’s “Romantic Road.” Settled in the Bronze Age, this “City of 100 Churches” has splendid examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and modern architecture.
Best known for its thriving port and the place where you catch the ferry to Greece and Turkey, this city in the bootheel of Italy makes a nice introduction to the culture of the south. The pace of life is slow, and the people are warm and inviting. Kick back before you head to more exotic parts and have some pasta!
Situated on the Vistula River, Krakow is the second largest city in Poland. Like Prague, it has beautiful architecture spanning several historical periods and a thriving cultural scene. Unlike Prague, it is still a charming city that you can enjoy without having a squeeze through dense crowds.
This little region of mountains and gorges, a couple hours’ drive from the Mediterranean, is a wilder and more regional version of the South of France than one finds near the Cote d’Azur. The province of Languedoc-Rousillon, home of the Herault region, has great wine and is an ideal place to spend a week just hiking and relaxing among hospitable locals. Try to make it during July, when the cherries are ripe.
This large protected area in the Spanish province of Burgos, north of Madrid, contains some of the oldest juniper trees in the world, as well as gorges and plains above which eagles soar. It’s a nice day trip from Burgos itself, the capital of Old Castile for five hundred years and home to one of the finest Gothic cathedrals in Spain. The food here’s not bad, either — especially if you like wild game meat.
Bruges is a charming canal city in the north of Belgium. Known for its impressive amount of intact medieval architecture, including the famous 13th-century belfry, it is the perfect city for wandering around as every direction will take you to see something fabulous.
There are many small villages on lakes in Austria, but Hallstadt is probably the most charming. It is not undiscovered by tourists; nevertheless, it is a picturesque, clean and comfortable place to dine al fresco in the summer or enjoy an Alpine winter.