Immerse Yourself In Culture In These HIP European Cities

Top Picks

We’re having a bit of a love affair with Europe at the moment. Perhaps it’s indulging in Netflix series’ like Emily in Paris or re-watching movie classics such as The Tourist or Under the Tuscan Sun; but the architecture, the fashion, the food of Europe is undeniably alluring. To do it right, however, it’s always best to ‘live like the locals.’ To really immerse yourself in the local culture, head to the shops, the bars, the hangouts that aren’t always part of the usual tourist trap. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track and experience your European destination to the max. From Amsterdam to Aarhus, we’ve handpicked the HIP-est cities you’ll want to head to next.

Burano, Italy

Venice’s Rainbow Island, the fishing village of Burano, is known for its distinctive candy-coloured houses and exquisite lace work. Anyone who has visited Venice can attest to its charm and beauty but at times the volume of tourists can get overwhelming. This is where Burano (and its sister island, Murano) truly shine. Nestled in the northern part of the Venetian Lagoon, these tiny islands offer the sort of tranquility not available in proper Venice itself. Burano is connected to Mazzorbo by a long wooden bridge, or just twenty minutes by ferry from Piazza San Marco, and on a clear day you can even make out the mountains in the distance across the emerald green waters. It’s widely believed that native Venice was born in this unique island destination. Home to colonies of flamingos, and bursting with hundreds of lilac Limonium flowers, also known as ‘sea-lavender,’ step back in time and enjoy the most colourful and peaceful side of Venezia.

To experience this unique slice of Italy, head to CasaBurano. There are 13 rooms scattered across the island, each transformed by local designers to offer an authentic stay, where guests can truly live side-by-side with the local community. From Fontana Arte fans and Moroso chairs to glass showers and ergonomic mattresses, each of the rooms have been carefully designed right down to the very last detail.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Did you know that Amsterdam was built on poles? No, neither did we. Eleven million of them to be precise, given the city is placed around a metre or so below sea-level. Much like Venice, this vibrant city is full of canals and around 2,500 colourful houseboats decorate the waterways. When you’re not exploring the city from the water, the next obvious choice is by bicycle. Most of the locals pedal everywhere, so make sure you rent one for the full experience. Just be sure to double lock them as it’s not uncommon for them to go for a ride too! The Netherlands is infamous for its liberal views, with marijuana being legal there decades before it was even a thought across the pond. It was also the first country to legalize gay marriage. The inner area of Amsterdam is the busiest, with endless options to keep you entertained all night long… but if you’re not in the mood for riotous fun, head outside of the inner canal where the pace is that little bit slower. The Anne Frank House is a humbling experience, which has been preserved as best as possible since Anne and her family were hiding there during WW2. Art lovers will adore the Van Gogh museum which pays homage to the legendary Dutch artist, with the contrasting Stedelijk Museum of Contemporary Art right next door. For a slice of history head to Oude Kerk (literally meaning ‘old church’) but don’t be alarmed by the sculpture of breasts right outside – you are in Amsterdam after all! The Jordaan is widely regarded as the most beautiful residential neighbourhood of the city, with chocolate box houses and restaurants lining the canal. Fun fact: it’s a Dutch tradition to start the day eating chocolate sprinkles, hagelswag, which are then put onto pancakes, granola and so much more.

In the beautiful heart of the artsy Jordaan, sits the historic Canal House boutique hotel, and the perfect spot to start your Dutch adventure. Overlooking the King’s Canal, this 23 room bolthole succeeds in blending a plush décor of purple and black with the best G&T’s in town. We don’t mind if we do.

Lisbon, Portugal

Roman historians claimed Lisbon was founded by Ulysses, Homer’s mythical hero, on his journey home from Troy. As Europe’s second oldest capital, Lisbon is bathed in history, and decorated with the most beautiful ancient architecture. From winding cobbled alleyways to steep city slopes, Portugal’s capital is fast becoming one of the must visit destinations in Europe. Standing tall at 147 ft. the fabulous neo-gothic Elevator de Santa Justa, is not only the city’s only vertical street lift, but one of its most celebrated sights too. In fact, Lisbon is full of funiculars thanks to its steep heels, so your Fitbit is going to thank you. Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo is Lisbon’s most photographed street, in part thanks to its decorated tram, painted by local artists. Walk along the banks of River Tagus (Rio Tejo), or wander through the beautiful gardens of Parque Eduardo VII, one of the city’s largest parks. The São Jorge Castle, set on São Jorge hill, is one of the oldest man-made structures in all of Europe, originating in the 8th-century. Illuminated nightly, and one of the city’s most emblematic landmarks. Lisbon also boasts Europe’s longest bridge, Vasco da Gama, at a record-breaking 12.3 km long, spanning across the magnificent Tagus River. From sleepy seaside towns to bustling city action, this Portuguese capital won’t fail to impress. Bairro Alto is the city’s party district, with Rua Cor-de-Rosa (aka Pink Street) literally paving the way to the best cocktails and clubs in town. But take heed, most clubs in Lisbon don’t open their doors until midnight, so get your beauty sleep first.

Set in medieval Alfama, and next door São Jorge castle, discover Solar Do Castelo. Built on the ancient kitchens of the Royal Palace, this historic bolthole offers 20 individually decorated rooms in medieval contemporary style. Think thick castle stone, heavenly rich ochre, turquoise walls and bundles of charm.

Salzburg, Austria

If you love Venice, you’ll adore Salzburg. Heavily influenced by Italy since the 16th century, this historic town owes more than a nod to the Italians. Venetian architect Vincenzo Scamozzi was commissioned to design a new city layout, and then under his successor, Santino Solari, the city underwent a remarkable makeover that made Salzburg the masterpiece it is today. Picture the breathtaking Alps as the backdrop to this historic city, which rests along the banks of the Salzach river, and you can start to appreciate its stunning beauty. Austria’s fourth largest city, and the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (even his skull is still there), Salzburg literally translated means ‘salt castle’ and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. From romantic gardens to the famous Salzburg festival — the city’s annual major event with operas, plays and concerts held throughout the city — your cultural cup will literally runneth over. Fortress Hohensalzburg is an 11th- century hilltop fort that towers over the city and one of the most iconic landmarks. And don’t miss a photo opportunity at Mirabell gardens with its 17th-century palace. Fright alert - the zwerglgarten, or “dwarf garden”, is home to creepy disfigured statues, which are in stark contrast to the perfectly landscaped gardens. You have been warned.

Close to the Baroque-style 17th-century Salzburg Cathedral, Residenzplatz and all the 15th and 16th-century architecture, Hotel Goldgasse is the stuff of fairytales. Starting life as a coppersmith’s workshop some 700 years ago, this historic haven still retains much of its Medieval charm.

Nicosia, Cyprus

According to Greek mythology, Nicosia was a siren, and venetian walls form a border around this historic city, with their unusual snowflake-like shape. The archbishop’s palace, an 18th-century Neo-Byzantine architectural structure, is the city’s most important religious, national and political building. But for those in search of something more up to date, head to Ledra Street. It’s Nicosia’s 1km long narrow and best-known street that’s a hive of buzzing cafes, bars, shops and restaurants. Eleftheria Square is the impressive main square and home to the most astonishing gardens and cascading fountains. Meander along its paths as you breathe in the visual sights, sounds and smells of the city. If you’re a hipster and you know it, Ermou street has your name on it. Offering an eclectic array of alternative bars and both modern and traditional coffee shops, you can stay here from your morning Greek coffee to your late night Ouzo. Savour traditional meze at Büyük Han, the restored caravanserai, and the most significant sight of the Turkish part of Cyprus. Greek fare such as keftedes (meatballs), stuffed aubergine and their famous pastourmas (spicy sausage) are always a winner too. Finish off with classic baklava and Turkish delights. No Greek holiday is complete without a full and contented belly.

MAP Hotel is Nicosia’s first smart hotel. A place where you can build your own bespoke oasis. With fully customizable rooms and suites, you can adjust everything from the temperature to the lighting. Not only that but its fully equipped Grid Gym is the perfect place to work off any excess but oh so delicious Greek calories.

Sylt, Germany

The North Sea island of Sylt has got to be one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, until now. Located at the northern tip of Germany, bordering with Denmark, this island boasts 40km of untouched white beaches, attracting surfers and sunbathers from far and wide. Comprising twelve villages, each of them offering their own unique flavour, this dreamy island promises a sense of freedom, lightness of spirit and simply being at one with yourself, and your dreams. Locals embrace both tradition and modernity, and the result is a unique place where idiosyncrasies are celebrated; a way of experiencing nature in new dimensions, where a journey across the island will take you on a journey through time. There are 12,000 beach chairs carefully placed across the island. There are also five lighthouses that make every photo opportunity picture perfect. Brace yourself for ‘ring riding’ from May through to August, armed with lances galore as they gallop towards the small brass ring. If you’re looking for wellness you’ve definitely come to the right place. With an air rich in iodine, its cleaner than the mainland and in the ‘littoral zone’ (the part of the beach between the water and the high tide mark) the air is filled with droplets of seawater, that not only offers health benefits when breathed in, but also cover the skin in a health-inducing film. Don’t miss out on open air beach saunas with the mesmerising sound of the sea as your background music. Is there a better definition of bliss?

Named after one of our favourite drinks, Mimosa Suites is just a stone’s throw away from the pristine Westerland beach. All 15 newly refurbished spacious suites come equipped with cooking facilities, underfloor heating and Molten Brown bath products. Guests can also use the spa facilities of the neighbouring TUI Blue Hotel. Now, exhale.

Lecce, Italy

On the stunning Salento Peninsula sits the Baroque city of Lecce, the heel of Italy’s boot. Enjoying a warm mild climate year-round, this charming Puglian city is often dubbed “Florence of the South.” Roam around the city as you take in extravagant architectural gems and pretty façades. From old Roman ruins to opulent churches, marvel at the flowery style of “Leccese Baroque” (the city’s distinctive architecture) which includes sandstone sculpted piazzas and monuments such as Porta Napoli and the Duomo. This style is owed as much to the materials used as the skill of the architects. Majestic must-see sights include the Roman Amphitheatre at Piazza Sant’Oronzo and Lecce Cathedral, which lights up at night for a spectacular vista. If a dip in the crystal clear blue waters is more your shot of limoncello, then head to Castro marine, a rocky beach surrounded by cliffs. Word of warning though — access is via steep steps, so only for those with a head for heights, and the stamina to walk back up! Papier-mâché is a phenomenon unique to Apulia, so art lovers will enjoy the fine and fascinating array of creations on offer here. Come for the history, the beaches or just to watch the world go by with a glass of rosé and the most incredible seafood antipasti. Salute!

A fifteenth-century palazzo that has been transformed into a work of art. We’re talking about Palazzo de Noha. Blending the best of contemporary fine art and design whilst maintaining the historical elements of the property. This luxurious design hotel also comes with a rooftop solarium, infinity pool and charming terrace gardens.

Aarhus, Denmark

Denmark’s second largest city certainly packs a punch, despite being absolutely tiny. Pronounced ‘or-hoose’ this cosy Danish city dates back to the late 8th-century and is amongst the oldest cities in the country. As you can imagine everything you could possibly want is within walking distance, and there’s really something for everyone. Being in the Lake District, expect spectacular woodlands, lakes and majestic hills. The iconic harbour is home to the emblematic Iceberg, a unique apartment building that looks exactly like it sounds. Whilst you’re there be sure to take a dip at the Harbour baths – designed by Bjarke Ingels. The Dane’s aren’t afraid of a little cold, so when in Rome… or Aarhus! The Insta-worthy Infinite Bridge, Den Uendelige Bro, is a must-see too, as is the ARoS Aarhus kunstmuseum with its spectacular rooftop sculpture, ‘Your rainbow panorama’, that you can actually walk inside. By contrast, the Old Town Open Air Museum is where you can take a walk through days gone by. Foodies will drool at Aarhus’ street food market where you can eat with the locals. But if fine dining is more your style, the city is home to some of the country’s finest Michelin-starred restaurants. From Denmark’s favourite dish, the humble hotdog, to more unusual dishes such as calves’ liver with beetroot, Aarhus is taking new Nordic cuisine in bold and fascinating directions.

Villa Provence in the heart of Aarhus delivers French flair with a Danish twist. A firm celebrity go-to, next to the vibrant Latin Quarter, the oldest preserved neighbourhood in the city, this romantic hotel has everything on its doorstep. The décor is gorgeous Provençal style, with four poster beds, free standing tubs and one room even painted in the colour of a Van Gogh painting. We’re in love.

recommended HIP Hotels

Explore Canal House Amsterdam
Explore Solar Do Castelo Lisbon
Explore Villa Provence Aarhus
Explore Hotel Goldgasse Salzburg
Explore CasaBurano Venice
Explore Palazzo De Noha Lecce
Explore MAP Hotel Nicosia
Explore Mimosa Suites Sylt