As vaccines roll out – not just across the U.S. but around the world – and news of countries reopening follows, our travel excitement grows. And who among us hasn’t fantasized, at some point in the last year, about Europe travel in summer 2021? As members of the EU begin welcoming vaccinated travelers, the fantasy of traveling to Europe has officially become reality. Europe travel to Iceland, Greece, Italy, and Croatia, among other countries, began in May. And the first 10 days of June will see France and Spain reopen their borders to fully vaccinated travelers.
The question of whether or not travel to Europe will be possible in summer 2021 has been met with the answer we waited 16 months for: yes. As our editors start globe trotting once again, returning to dream destinations from the English countryside to the Sicilian coast, we’ve taken into account the new openings and noteworthy happenings around Europe to determine the must-visit European destinations of the year.
Here, Travel + Leisure‘s places to visit when you travel to Europe for summer 2021.
This mountainous principality tucked in the Pyrenees between France and Spain is well worth a weekend visit for its sweeping mountain views, medieval architecture, and endless hiking trails. And now, adventure outfitter Epic Andorra is giving outdoor enthusiasts a new way to appreciate the microstate. It recently debuted Travessa Andorra, a trekking itinerary that can be customized in three-, four-, and five-day routes, depending on how much ground you’re game to cover. The journey involves walking, biking, skiing or some combination thereof; snowmobiles and 4×4 can also be deployed on the longest trips. Each night, Epic Andorra will set you up with accommodations in some of the region’s traditional bordas (erstwhile shepherding outposts that have been converted into charming cabins). Regardless of which option you choose – the longest goes from La Rabassa to Ós de Civis, the shortest from Pas de la Casa to Arinsal – you’re guaranteed to pass through spectacular scenery filled with rugged peaks, winding rivers, and picturesque villages. -Sarah Bruning
There are plenty of compelling reasons to point yourself toward this mitteleuropa metropolis of 3.5 million in 2021 and beyond. Joining other art-and-culture heavy hitters on Museum Island, the long-awaited 323,000-square-foot Humboldt Forum flicks on its lights for the first time in Summer 2021. Part faithful reproduction of a royal Baroque palace that once sat on the same site, the structure boasts exhibition halls, including the Ethnographical Museum, and four restaurants. The city’s main repository of 20th-century art, the Neue Nationalgalerie, shut down for renovation in 2015 with no discernable re-opening date. Finally, the day has come: this August, the gallery will show off its renewed high modernist design, complete with the signature clean geometric forms and immense glass windows of original architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. But perhaps the biggest cause for celebration occurred last autumn, when the infamously delayed Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport finally opened for commercial airlines to begin their initial descent into the German capital. -David Farley
Hungary’s capital, which typically sees 12 million annual visitors, needs no introduction. The city – including the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle, and elegant Andrassy Avenue – is a bona-fide UNESCO World Heritage Site. And this summer, two new hotel arrivals, Matild Palace and Kozmo, are added incentive to hit Europe’s ninth-largest city. Now part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, the 130-room Matild Palace was built in 1902 in the height of the Belle Epoque days along with its sibling, the Klotild Palace, which together were meant to be a gate onto the Elisabeth Bridge. Today, rooms at the Matild Palace feature dark wood furnishings, turquoise velvet armchairs, marble baths and more. The property also debuts the first outpost of Spago by Wolfgang Puck in Europe, as well as a rooftop bar. In the rapidly changing Józsefváros neighborhood, Kozmo – part of Leading Hotels of the World – marries a historic brick facade with minimalist interiors. Rooms, 60 in all, including 24 suites, are bright and sprawling by European standards, with classic details like panel molding and parquet floors. Walk to the Central Market nearby, or take a dip in the spa pool. -Tanvi Chheda
County Kildare, Ireland
Close enough to Dublin and also surrounded by grassy expanses, County Kildare combines the best of all worlds. Visit the fairytale setting of the Donadea castle and the surrounding forest; amble along the Grand Canal; and catch a race at the Curragh (the area’s horse-breeding reputation precedes itself). If that’s not reason enough to put County Kildare on your radar, the 169-room Carton House, opening this summer after an extensive two-year renovation, will be. The gorgeous Palladian-style main house goes back to 1739, while the estate (measuring a whopping 1,100 acres) dates all the way to 1176. Along with preserving original features such as the stucco plasterwork ceiling in the Gold Salon, the reimagined property adds four restaurants and bars, including the book-flanked Whiskey Library. Nearby, along a private one-mile stretch of the River Liffey, the 140-room K Club, renowned for its golf courses, welcomes new owner Michael Fetherston, who is keen on investing in the property, starting with the new terrace restaurant, The Palmer. -Tanvi Chheda
When Greece reopened in mid-May, it was the first time both foreign travelers and Greek citizens could explore the country in more than a year. And that’s one of the most remarkable things about traveling to the Cyclades right now – you’re rediscovering the iconic isles of the Aegean along with the Greeks who’ve been locked down for a year. With Delta and United launching new direct flights to Athens as of July, it’s easier than ever to get to Greece from hubs like New York City, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. There’s an impressive amount of new luxury hotel talent popping up in Greece this summer, too. On Mykonos, Kalesma opened in late May. The suite- and villa-only hotel is a collaboration by local hoteliers, featuring design work by the same studio that just finished Mykonos’ new airport. While on Mykonos, visit The Wild Hotel, which captivates guests with a private beach, newly redesigned suites, and a brand new cliffside restaurant opening in June. Hop over to Santorini, where you’ll find serenity and incomparable sunsets, along with two of the island’s best resorts – Grace Hotel, Auberge Resorts Collection and Andronis Concept Wellness Resort – in Imerovigli. Or, try a sparkling new private villa on for size at Santorini Sky, at the island’s highest point, in Pyrgos. Finally, after embracing the quintessential white-and-blue Cycladic scenery, change it up by heading south to Cayo Exclusive Resort & Spa for a Cretan wellness experience on the Spinalonga inlet. -Maya Kachroo-Levine
London’s hospitality crowd didn’t rest during lockdown, and travelers can finally reap the benefits: brand-new hotels to visit include the Mayfair Townhouse, a stylish retreat offering private garden suites and vibrant eating-and-meeting spaces between Shepherd Market and Green Park; Nobu Hotel London Portman Square with a buzzy new Nobu restaurant, a Japanese gin bar, and a pilates studio in Marylebone; and the sceney NoMad London, the brand’s first property outside the U.S., across from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. It’s also an exciting time in Indian fine dining: the owners of celeb-loved Gymkhana are opening Bibi with “Top Chef” Chet Sharma this summer, and Benares has regained its Michelin star under executive chef Sameer Taneja. In the fall, Carlo Scotto will bring the elaborate tasting menus he was known for at Xier to Amethyst (three or four courses at lunch and six or 15 at dinner, because now that we can dine out again, why not go big?). Frieze and Pace are both opening new gallery spaces to make room for more art and more eyes to coincide with Frieze London in the fall. On the relaxation front, Sea Containers London’s new spa program is based around easing travel-related woes, and the Roman-style pool steals the show at the new Spa at 45 Park Lane. And for a relaxing English countryside retreat an hour and change outside the city in Ascot, Dorchester Collection’s Coworth Park just opened its stunning North Lodge, a private three-bedroom cottage surrounded by lush gardens that’s worth extending your trip for. -Nina Ruggiero
All of Spain is celebrating this summer after months of Covid-induced lockdowns. And fully vaccinated Americans can now join them, as the entire country opens to stateside travelers this month. That feeling of optimism is especially strong in Madrid, thanks in part to two of the biggest hotel openings in years. Last fall, the Four Seasons made its debut in the country – an opulent collection of seven historic buildings (the oldest of which date to 1887) as part of the Centro Canalejas urban regeneration project. Here, the once crumbling downtown neighborhood of Puerta del Sol is alive again, and beyond the property’s 200 guest rooms, there’s a sprawling food market, a commercial gallery of shops, one of the largest spas in Spain, and a restaurant helmed by chef Dani García that’s already become one of the most coveted reservations in town. Several blocks east, meanwhile, the storied Ritz hotel has rebranded and become the Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid. Spanish architect Rafael de la-Hoz and French designers Gilles & Boissier have breathed new life into this formerly stuffy (though legendary) property, with a near-perfect location steps from one of Europe’s great cultural institutions, Museo del Prado – which itself is in the midst of completing an extensive renovation by Foster + Partners. -John Wogan
Northern + Central Italy
Italy, a longtime reader favorite and T+L’s 2021 Destination of the Year, has something for every traveler. Food and wine lovers flock to the country’s northern and central regions, like northwestern Piedmont, home to the Barolo and Barbaresco communes producing wines of the same names. There, the newly opened Casa di Langa hotel is a destination in its own right. Guests can take cooking classes, enroll in a “wine academy,” and embark on truffle-hunting excursions without ever leaving the 100 plus-acre estate. Further south, in Tuscany, smaller cities and picturesque villages like Siena and Lucca surround the popular tourist destinations of Pisa and Florence. Opening in early 2022, Monteverdi can serve as a home base for exploring Val d’Orcia, a quintessentially Tuscan landscape and UNESCO World Heritage Site. In nearby Umbria, after visiting one of the region’s olive oil mills, settle into the new Castello di Reschio, a 1,000-year-old castle impeccably restored into a luxury hotel on the nearly 4,000-acre Reschio compound. -Erin Agostinelli
Some of the regions of Italy hit hardest by a lack of American tourists over the past year are poised to make the biggest comebacks in 2021, including Rome, to where COVID-free flights have already launched from New York and Atlanta. The first Italian outpost of the millennial-favorite Hoxton brand opened in May near the Villa Borghese gardens, and Ian Schrager’s Rome Edition will bring a rooftop terrace with bites, cocktails, and views that are sure to draw a crowd later in the year. In Sicily, Taormina’s historic San Domenico Palace hotel has been given a Four Seasons makeover and is now accepting reservations for its July opening. Overlooking Mount Etna and the Ionian Sea, it will have a clifftop infinity pool and cloistered courtyard filled with idyllic lemon trees. Meanwhile, the family behind two of Taormina’s Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Villa Carlotta and Villa Ducale, opened Q92 in the heart of UNESCO World Heritage city Noto and in Palermo, Villa Igeia, a Rocco Forte Hotel, just opened with stunning views across the bay. For those seeking an ultra-private escape for their first COVID-era trip abroad, The Thinking Traveller has added new Sicilian villas for rent exclusively through the site. On the northeastern coast of Sardinia, a new Baglioni Resort opened in June, with a private beach and restaurant collaboration with Michelin-star chef Claudio Sadler. And while shiny new resorts are a draw, perhaps the best reason of all to visit Southern Italy this summer is to surround yourself in the unchanged, nostalgic familiarity of it all, a comforting thought after forced time away. –Nina Ruggiero
A slew of new additions are coming to Norway’s capital city this year, and with direct flights from the U.S. resuming this summer and borders anticipated to reopen soon, now’s the time to start plotting your Oslo itinerary. The most anticipated 2021 arrival is that of the MUNCH Museum, an enormous waterfront space that will hold the world’s most extensive collection of works by Edvard Munch, along with galleries featuring works by other Modernist and contemporary artists. With the recent addition of SNØ, summer travelers can get the best of both worlds: the massive winter sports complex offers year-round downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and even ice climbing. While you’re in town, pay a visit to Maaemo, the three-Michelin-starred fine-dining venue that reopened in a brand-new location last March, and stay at Amerikalinjen, a boutique hotel that opened in 2019 within the century-old headquarters of the long-defunct Norwegian America cruise line. Get to the city before everyone else catches on: with the new National Museum opening next year, Oslo is poised to be the next uber-cool Scandinavian destination. -Lila Harron Battis
One&Only’s first European resort opened in Portonovi in May, a major development for the Adriatic seaside gem that bills itself as the new European riviera. With Medieval villages, historic palaces, secluded coves, and mountains-meet-sea views, it’s clear why the luxury wellness-focused brand chose the Montenegrin coast for such a milestone moment. Chenot Espace, O&O’s holistic spa, offers bespoke, multi-day, doctor-led programs, and those looking for a truly active vacation can explore the mountains with ultra-trail athlete Saša Kulinović. The on-site Italian restaurant, Sabia, is run by Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients. One of the sunniest stretches of Adriatic Sea year-round, Portonovi’s Boka Bay has long been an in-the-know yachter’s paradise, and now, with the prestigious arrival of One&Only, it will get more of the recognition it deserves. For those visitors who fall head over heels, the resort has waterfront residences for sale, too.-Nina Ruggiero
In the heart of Provence, with both the charms of the southern coast and the French countryside, Arles is in the midst of a cultural resurgence worth traveling for. The Frank Gehry-designed LUMA Arles art center, a steel tower that draws inspiration from Van Gogh’s Starry Night, is set to open in June. And Museon Arlaten – the historical center of Provence, documenting 19th-century culture du sud – finally reopened in December 2020, after an 11-year closure. The museum, a UNESCO monument, underwent a €23 million renovation, bringing hefty modernization to the space, juxtaposed against the centuries-old relics within. Finally, this summer, Les Rencontres d’Arles, the city’s photography festival, will return with exhibitions from heavy-hitting international artists exploring identity, culture, and sense of place. The festival, which each year plays host to some of the most important exhibitions of the photography world, was canceled last year for the first time since its inception in 1970. -Maya Kachroo-Levine
After a year of decreased tourism (and one very exciting volcanic eruption), Iceland is welcoming travelers back with new must-visit experiences. If luxury living is on your itinerary, make a beeline for the Reykjavik EDITION, a new hotel coming to the Old Harbor port in August 2021. You’ll find it near the iconic Harpa Concert Hall – the location can’t be beat for those who want to experience the old-city charm of the harbor, the bustling shops of Laugavegur Street, and the restaurants sprinkled throughout the Miðborg neighborhood. Bad views don’t exist at this hotel, as its locale offers up vistas of the harbor, the nearby Mt. Esja, and Snæfellsjökull glacier. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in a bouncing crowd of live music fans, the Iceland Airwaves festival will return to the capitol November 3-6. This year’s showcase will span jazz and synth pop to blues and indie rock, featuring Eurovision favorite Daði Freyr, the all-female rap group Daughters of Reykjavik, and more. To add to this year’s Airwaves excitement, Björk is also hosting a series of orchestral performances featuring some of her early-career collaborators this September. While tickets to the live performances are sold out, fans around the world can pop in via livestream (tickets are available on the Iceland Airwaves website).The land of hot springs also added a new geothermal spa to its roster for those looking to add another stop after the Blue Lagoon. The newly opened Sky Lagoon is a quick drive from downtown Reykjavik in Skerjafjörður featuring an infinity lagoon with expansive views across the Atlantic Ocean. -Erika Owen
This remote portion of northern Sweden has long appealed to anyone hoping to spot the Northern Lights. Accommodations there tend to be as singular as the setting, and the long-awaited Arctic Bath hotel is no exception. With its main structure floating in the Lule River, the 12-room property consists of six overwater rooms and six cabins set on the adjacent land. Wellness is a central tenet, so spa programs focus on nutrition, exercise, and the mind, in addition to body pampering with Kerstin Florian treatments. Sustainability is another throughline: The Scandi aesthetic was created using natural wood, stone, and textiles, and the menu at the onsite restaurant emphasizes local produce and ingredients, including wild meats and fish. Activities help guests explore the surrounding wilderness through fishing, moose safaris, and other pursuits. -Sarah Bruning