From Cretan cooking classes to dining in a horse-drawn carriage in Vienna, Europe is awash with unique and wonderful experiences to make our bucket list goals reality.
Make the year ahead your most fulfilling and enriching yet with our list of once-in-a-lifetime adventures to try in 2020…
1. Learn to cook like a Cretan
Greek chefs have a close relationship with the country’s traditional cuisine. Sampling sunshine-drenched, garden-fresh ingredients, such as honey, herbs, legumes and meat from neighbouring lands allows foodies to taste these traditions in their purest form. Avli Lounge Apartments – seven 17th-century suites in the old city of Rethymnon – allows you to experience an even richer taste of Mediterranean cuisine, organising exclusive cooking classes and wine tastings at its award-winning restaurant.
2. Enter the wild, wild West… in Sweden
Completely immerse yourself in another world at High Chaparral – a Wild West theme park and post-industrial museum of cultural treasures based close to Värnamo in Sweden. From buffalo and train robberies to paddle steamers and panning for gold, this is the real deal. Hotel Hestraviken is closeby – a delightful yellow manor in the activity-filled, soul-restoring forests of Småland. Read more about the hotel and its unique experiences to try here.
3. Dine in a horse-drawn carriage in Vienna
Shave precious time off your sightseeing by combining it with a riding dinner: a Viennese whirl around the city, horse and butler in tow. Local delicacies, personal service and a front row view of Vienna’s most impressive sights, this world-exclusive horse-drawn dinner is a story to tell the grandchildren. End your day in uniquely spectacular fashion by staying at the oldest hotel in the city – Hotel Stefanie – a 17th-century stay with modern comforts.
4. Sail the Santorini caldera
If you want to a caldera view in Santorini, stay in Oia. The award-winning Esperas Santorini, in particular, offers heart-melting views of the volcanic sea from unique rooms carved into rocks. If you want to look closer, book a boat trip. The natural scenery is arguably most beautiful experienced on a sunset sailing trip.
5. Sing by candlelight in a Norwegian village
Haaheim Gård – with its garden of 1,500 roses and its twilight suppers accompanied by opera, theatre and enchanting talks – is by far one of the most unique hotel experiences you could book this year. The romantic retreat is like stepping back in time, with dreamy vintage-style guest rooms designed for your absolute comfort.
6. Spoil your taste buds at St.Moritz Gourmet Festival
Savouring a country’s food takes us closer to its heart. From Jan 31 – Feb 8 2020, you can explore a roster of cultural cuisines at the St.Moritz Gourmet Festival. A star-studded cast of guest chefs combined with top international dishes makes this a fairytale holiday for food lover’s. Distinguished executive chefs from partnering hotels will also be cooking up delights, including our very own luxurious members: Waldhaus Sils (a Wes-Anderson-esque hotel in Sils Maria) and 19th-century retreat, Badrutt’s Palace Hotel.
7. Slather yourself in gold in a Slovakian palace
Those craving true extravagance this year can do no wrong escaping to Hotel Royal Palace. As its name suggests, this regal treasure excels in five-star luxury. From the healing thermal spring in its Royal Bath (which dates back to 1281) to royal massages and wellness treatments involving actual gold (a world-exclusive speciality), this Slovakian stay will have your jaw on the floor the moment you arrive.
8. Hunt for giants in Ireland
Flanked by wild waves and handsome cliffs, the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim is a must-visit UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’ve still not explored the area, do it in 2020. Two idyllic historic hotels are closeby: Bushmills Inn (a restored coaching inn with adjoining mill house) and Georgian beauty Ghan House.
9. Eat your way through northern Italy
Italy is a living larder and the best way to experience it is to eat your way through the country. We’ve sampled the best places to dine in north and central Italy to create a carb-fuelled road trip for foodies. From South Tyrol to Tuscany, you’ll be stopping only to be plied with olive-oil-drizzled focaccia and gorgeously plump tortellini. Your kind of holiday? Tuck in.
10. Step inside legendary Welsh castles
While we’re planning itineraries, this tour of Wales’ most majestic medieval castles is the perfect way to explore the country’s fascinating history and heritage.
11. Take a historical cruise on a centuries-old ship in Norway
Agatha Christie, eat your heart out. Named M/S Henrik Ibsen, this beautifully preserved ship retains all the hallmarks of its glory days. Think original English antiques, plush ruby sofas, crystal chandeliers and a regal blend of mahogany and brass. Let it glide you down the Telemark Canal, taking in Norway’s most splendorous surroundings. Top of a fairytale day with a fairytale stay: 19th-century wonder Dalen Hotel awaits. The owner of this dragon-style stay is also owner of the M/S Henrik Ibsen, so organising a day trip on the canal will be effortless.