Europe’s most relaxing vacation spots
It’s not known at the “City of Baths” for nothing. Budapest is one of the few places where you can experience traditional Turkish baths dating back to the 16th century. It’s also the only capital in the world offering thermal waters with healing qualities. Széchenyi Baths boasts 18 pools, 15 of which are spring-fed thermal. This is also where you can indulge in a game of water chess, perfect for mind and body.
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Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris
Forget the heaving crowds at the Eiffel Tower and head to the Institut du Monde Arabe. It’s centrally located on the banks of the Seine in the 5th arrondissement, and many people consider the award-winning design more beautiful than the Eiffel Tower. Visit the fascinating collection of Arabic art and design or go straight to the 9th floorwhere you can view Notre Dame, the Seine, and the fabulous rooftops of Paris. There’s also an excellent restaurant.
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Tiergarten isn’t exactly a hidden secret, but it’s where you’ll find an oasis of calm right in the middle of the city. Perfect for a day of walking or biking, you can also picnic by the lake or try one of the restaurants that surround it. It is truly an idyllic spot that “delights you with unexpected surprises in the form of monuments and statues. Because of its size, you might want to jump on a tour bus to see the entire park from the comfort of your seat.
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The Ropewalk, London
Just around the corner from the famed Borough Market, there is a tiny market tucked under the arches in Bermondsey on Maltby Street. This is where locals meet food artisans who offer tasty treats ranging from carved-to-order ham to black pudding Scotch eggs. Vendors change regularly and the best time to visit is on an early Saturday afternoonwhen the more laid-back atmosphere leaves plenty of time to chat and grab a pint.
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Perfect for a day trip from Pisa or Florence (and ideal for escaping the crowds!), Lucca is packed with ancient ruins as well as marvelous palaces and churches so elaborately designed they look like wedding cakes. This is the birthplace of Puccini so opera lovers should head to his home, which has been open to the public since 2011. The medieval city walls are popular for both walking and cycling and the Roman amphitheater is perfect for a sit-down for a rest.
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Often called the Latvian Riviera, the coastal town Jürmala lies just 25km west of Riga. With mud baths, mineral waters, and a 33km stretch of white sand beaches, relaxing is the key word here. Once you’ve had your fill of spas and beach time, there are great seafood restaurants and plenty of nightclubs where you can kick up your heels. For culture, visit the renowned concert hall Dzintari, or stop by one of the regularly scheduled art exhibitions.
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This Unesco World Heritage site on the Baltic Sea straddles Lithuania and Russia, with a 98km long peninsula dating back to prehistoric times. While the pristine beaches are certainly a draw, hiking the towering dunes, cycling the winding paths, or sampling the local seafood will also be high on your list. From Gdansk you travel througth russia and wandering in the sparsely populated local villages all the way to Lithuania that will have you longing for simpler times.
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The Crooked Forest, Gryfino
Despite only having been planted in the early 1930s, the 400 hundred trees in Poland’s Crooked Forest remain a mystery. Is the grove the result of man-made intervention or did nature create these unusual shapes? Magically hushed and mysterious, you’ll find plenty of time for living in the moment here. The city of Gryfino, which dates back to 1254, is close by and perfect as your base for a relaxing and unusual holiday. Drive with car from Poznan or Berlin to get there.
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Text: Judi Lembke
Published: May 26, 2015
Last edited: January 27, 2016