As football frenzy settles following Sunday’s final World Cup match, two nations are still garnering a bit more attention than usual. From France’s wine region to Croatia’s pebble-stoned coast, this is our pick of the cities to go and places to stay in the finalists’ home countries.
Home to romantic cities, lavender landscapes, and palm-lined boulevards, France is packed to the brim with diversity. From medieval villages and world-famous cities, to snow-capped peaks and oceanside bliss, these are the destinations to discover.
A firm favourite on most European itineraries, no visit to France is complete without a trip to Paris. An epicentre of culture, gastronomy, fashion and world-famous sights–Eiffel Tower, The Louvre and Arc de Triomphe just to name a few–this capital city captivates and seduces travellers of all types. Book a stay at The Peninsula Paris, located at the heart of the city, this five-star hotel promises a peaceful respite from the city bustle. It houses a selection of reputable dining destinations serving up the finest fare and libations, plus there’s an onsite Concierge team that can recommend undiscovered but beautiful sites away from the crowds.
Ramatuelle is a picturesque commune situated atop a hill along Cote d’Azur. Not far from French Riviera hotspot Saint Tropez, Ramatuelle spans a peaceful corner of a peninsula, dotted with woodland and clusters of honey-hued stone buildings. The historic Ramatuelle village is small but sweet, made up of a labyrinth of narrow cobble-stoned lanes lined with bougainvillea-covered buildings, boasting striking views across the Mediterranean sea and neighbouring towns. For accommodation, you can’t go past La Reserve Ramatuelle, a well-hidden contemporary paradise. With just 19 suites and eight guest rooms, if the uninterrupted vistas don’t entice you, the indulgent spa with 11 treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, fitness and steam room will.
For ski-enthusiasts seeking piste perfection, look no further than Courchevel. Located in Les Trois Vallées, neighbouring Méribel and Val Thorens, Courcheval is one of the most renowned and extensive ski resorts in the world. Suitable for both families and advanced skiiers, this glamorous resort has been the snow-covered destination of choice for astute globetrotters since the 1940s. Stay at ski-in/ski-out hotel, Cheval Blanc Courchevel; a charming and intimate Maison with 36 rooms and suites, the town’s only three Michelin-starred restaurant, a Kids Club, and spa.
With scenes that look like they’ve been plucked straight out of a fairytale, this whimsical city has often been overlooked, but is undeniably one of France’s best-kept secrets. As well as an old-world charm, emblematic architectural heritage, UNESCO-protected medieval centre and fountain-strewn squares, Bordeaux, most importantly, boasts an enviable wine scene. Just outside of the city centre, visitors will find rolling hills, wineries, and luxury property Les Sources de Caudalie. The five-star hotel features a two Michellin-starred restaurant, 60 individually styled guest rooms, and the Vinothérapie Spa, offering grape-based treatments.
At the north eastern end of the country in the Alsace region, Strasbourg sits perfectly located on the German-French border. With a storied past and regular stints as the subject of a tug-of-war between nations, Strasbourg is a little different to other French cities with German influences coming through in the architecture, cuisine and culture. Make sure you visit the Strasbourg Cathedral, the highest-surviving structure to be built during the medieval period; and La Petite France, a photographic area of cobblestoned streets and colombage (‘half-timbered’) houses dating back to the 1500s and 1600s. Chateau De I’lle is the perfect place to stay. Located just outside the city surrounded by woodland, the expertly restored 19-century castle offers an atmosphere of utter relaxation, and features 62 rooms, six restaurants, an outdoor pool and 24-hour room service.
A small coastal town with big character, Dubrovnik is also known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. Located at the southern tip of the country, nestled between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, the city has catapulted to fame since its gated Old Town served as the setting for the King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Awash with orange rooftops contrasting against the deep blue of the surrounding seas, Dubrovnik has incredible historical sites, beautiful beaches, and plenty of luxury accommodation, including Villa Adriatic. Situated just moments away from the Old Town city walls in a private residential neighbourhood, Villa Adriatic is perfect for bigger groups, sleeping up to 14 guests and featuring an outdoor pool, and plenty of indoor and outdoor entertaining spaces.
Located in the northwestern region of Croatia, this idyllic Istrian city is one of the most beautiful coastal towns in the world. A maze of cobbled alleys and colourful buildings rising from the sea, the town is arguably one of the most picturesque in Europe. Equal parts urban and nature, Rovinj is home to a romantic Old Town, stunning restaurants, pebbly beaches, and the beautiful forest park, Punta Corrente. To stay, Hotel Lone is ten minutes walk from the centre; a member of Design Hotels, the family-friendly hotel expertly blends minimalist architecture with contemporary interiors, and features 248 guest rooms, multiple restaurants, a fauna-framed outdoor seawater pool, and wellness spa.
The largest of many islands dotting the Adriatic sea, Hvar is only reachable by private boat or ferry from Split. Serving up a laidback, Mediterranean vibe alongside history and culture, the entire island is small (only 68km long and 10.5km wide) and perfect for those seeking sun-soaked adventures and relaxation. Visitors can meander through the smooth marble alleys and yacht-lined harbour of Hvar town, take a day trip to the other-wordly Pakleni islands, or explore the rest of the island by ATV. Stay at Little Green Bay, a beautifully restored farmhouse completely immersed in nature. Owned by a Parisian designer and her hospitality-expert brother, Little Green Bay has just 15 rooms, a bistro serving the finest Mediterranean fare, and an outdoor spa.
Known as Croatia’s greenest island, Mijet is the most forested island in the Adriatic, with much of the land space being occupied by the protected Mijet National Park. Here visitors will also find sandy stretches of beach, a welcome escape from the rocky beaches, two salt water lakes, plus a handful of small villages populated by just a very small number of local residents. There’s only one hotel on the island, so overnight visitors will stay at Hotel Odisej Mljet. It is located at the northern end of the island, right alongside the national park and features well-equipped guest rooms, a swimming pool, a hair salon, spa and wellness facilities. Alternatively, day trips from Dubrovnik are available.
Croatia’s inland capital, Zagreb, offers a striking contrast from the Adriatic Coast. Less sea, more city, it’s often said to be the less crowded equivalent of Prague and Vienna with its Austro-Hungarian architecture, museums, music venues and manicured green spaces. There’s a big market scene, with small producers serving up everything from local delicacies, flowers, and antiques across almost every neighbourhood. It’s Christmas market is also relatively unknown, but said to be one of the best in the world as the heart of the city transforms into a festive oasis. Stay at Esplanade Zagreb Luxury Hotel, a glamourous hotel housed in of the most famous buildings in Zagreb, featuring the best of five-star facilities and at-home comforts.
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