Encompassed by the ski fields and precipitous summits of the Austrian and French Alps and the winding waterways of the River Po, the northern Italian region of Piedmont is a land of rolling vineyards and red-hued villages; regal cityscapes like Turin and gorgeous hilltop castles. In 2014, the region’s wine growing areas were added to the UNESCO list, making it unquestionably one of the most beautiful cultural spots to visit this year.
Flanked by monstrous sleeping giants of mountains and beset by oodles of creaking glaciers, chiseled fjords and mirror-like rivers, the northern Norwegian town of Tromsø is the perfect place to go this year to enjoy rugged Scandinavian environments straight out of Disney’s blockbuster, Frozen. What’s more, the city has a charming old core of quaint, painted timber homes, and more than its fair share of fine-dining establishments.
Never mind those wild and ancient cliffs, those breathtaking arches jutting out into the waters of the English Channel, the bubbling resort town of Lyme Regis and that 100 miles of yellow-sanded beaches sloping elegantly down into the rolling surf. Dorset is now also a veritable TV star, having featured heavily in ITV’s acclaimed recent drama, Broadchurch.
The gateway to the wondrous fjords of Ísafjörður and the glaciers of Drangajökull, the bubbling pools of the Blue Lagoon, mighty volcanic peaks and some of the continent’s best viewing spots for the Northern Lights, Reykjavik is one truly hot (or cold, depending on your outlook) destination for 2015. What’s more, with new air routes now connecting the town with New York’s JFK, and the nation’s own low-cost flier, WOW Air, offering flights to cities right across Europe, it’s never been more accessible.
Pilsen, Czech Republic
One half of 2015’s two European Capitals of Culture (alongside Mons in Belgium), Pilsen is most-oft associated with its eponymous pivo (beer). However, the old Bohemian city actually dates from the 10th century, and touts a chocolate box of an old town that’s riddled with Renaissance municipal buildings, gothic architecture and even one colossal Moorish-style synagogue.
Gower Peninsula, Wales
Poking its way out into the swells of the Bristol Channel, the Gower Peninsula is a patchwork of wide, cliff-backed sand beaches, secluded pebble coves and windswept hills dotted with ancient Celtic treasures, all criss-crossed by hiking trails and dotted with campsites. With nearby Swansea still celebrating 100 years of its revered poet, Dylan Thomas, beaches like Tor Bay and surf-washed Llangennith will no doubt be a little more lively than usual in 2015.
Novi Sad, Serbia
This metropolitan jewel of northern Serbia is famed across the planet as the home of the EXIT festival, which was proclaimed once again last year as the Best Major European Festival. And as if that still isn’t enough reason to make a beeline for the historic town in 2015, beauty also abounds on the Pannonian Plain; between the mind-blowing elegance of the Petrovaradin Fortress, the winding banks of the Danube and the gothic gems of the Novi Sad old town.
Faroe Islands, Denmark
Steeped in Viking legend and touched with a rugged beauty like nowhere else in Europe, the Faroe Islands burst forth from the wild swells of the Norwegian Sea in a medley of snow-dressed cliff tops and chiseled rocks draped in meadows of green, tunneled through with cave systems galore. What’s more, visitors here in March 2015 will be able to witness a total solar eclipse.
If you have yet to marvel at the wonders of the soaring Swiss Alps then 2015 is the year to do it. And where better than at Lauterbrunnen, in the heart of the Jungfrau Region? This quaint little village lies between the sheer faces of its eponymous valley, set to the crashing waters of the Staubbach Falls and the wondrous glaciers of the mountaintops all around.
Having joined the Eurozone on the January 1 2015, Lithuania is now just a tad more accessible for travelers heading to the continent than before. That means its exquisite medieval capital is also on the menu, complete with that majestic baroque old town, the soaring heights of the Gediminas Tower, and the curious, bohemian dive of the Republic of Užupis.
Clinging to the rugged edges of Mount Parnassos, the ancient site of Delphi is beset by rolling swaths of olive plantations and the limestone precipices of the mountains all around. It also offers up majestic views of the Gulf of Corinth, lots of history and a journey into the old religious rites of the ancient Greeks, not to mention something a little more off-the-beaten-track, as booming tourist crowds return to the Aegean Islands in the summer.
Not only is the iconic region of Tuscany set to continue to offer travelers that enchanting mix of terracotta hill towns, rolling farmland dotted with slender cypresses, and earthy local marketplaces laden with Montepulciano reds and homemade Lampredotto sandwiches in 2015, but its culturally-rich capital topped the Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards last year too.
Country Atrim, Nothern Ireland
With the fifth series of HBO’s blockbuster, Game of Thrones, set to kick off in April 2015, it’s likely that fantasy fans will be flocking to spy out filming locations in the rugged backcountry of Northern Island. Particular draws include the windswept coastal stretches of Murlough Bay, the cave systems of Cushendun and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge of Larrybane.
With a fresh government now gracing the parliament of Greece, there’s a chance that a newfound confidence will be bolstering the nation’s economy this year. That means 2015 is your chance to case out the majestic island of Crete as it’s on the up, weaving between the tavernas of Venetian Chania, the rugged coastline of Falasarna bay and the bubbling party strips of Malia in the east.
With plenty of more air connections set to join up Portugal’s second-largest city with the rest of the continent this year, this charming town sprawled out over the hills of the Douro River valley has never been more accessible. Visitors can explore rows of ice cream-colored old buildings in the UNESCO-attested Ribeira district, sample the finest port and taste the legendary Francesinha sandwich too.