The joys of holidays in Europe
Ranging from the salt-spraying waves of the wild Atlantic Ocean to the misty primeval forests of Poland to the sun-cracked islands of the southern Aegean, the continent right next door covers a startlingly diverse list of landscapes, cultures and environments. It's got something for all sorts of traveller, no matter if you're keen on relaxing stints by a Tuscan poolside or intrepid wanderings through snow-capped Alps. If you're having trouble deciding precisely where to go, there are oodles of inspiring tips for holidays in Europe coming right up.
The best holiday destinations in Europe
Pining for a relaxing fortnight away with the family and friends? Cue holiday homes in Italy, which often put a private pool and cypress-peppered gardens on the menu. Villas like that are available all over tried-and-tested regions like Umbria and Tuscany, Campania and Puglia. For something a little different, you could strap on the hiking boots and make for the craggy Alps – glimmering lakes like Como and Garda await within. Or, there are the isles of Sicily and Sardinia, fringed with sands so white you'll need your sunglasses at hand.
You can pick out holiday homes in Croatia all along the see-through waters of the Adriatic Sea. In the south, that could mean a pad close to the fairy-tale keeps and castle walls of Dubrovnik – a city now famed for its role in Game of Thrones. Up north, that might signal an adventure around Istria, where the landscapes are blanketed in olive groves and cities like Pula burst with eye-watering Roman relics.
Portugal's potpourri of regions makes for a potpourri of holidays in Europe. Head to the houses in Portugal's southern Algarve for classic sand, sea and sun. The gateway to the province is buzzing Albufeira, where rows of happening bars give way to the cliff-backed stretches of Praia da Marinha. Closer to Lisbon, chic apartments beckon in cool Cascais and architecture buffs will wonder at the romantic turrets of Sintra. Further north, moody Porto takes over with its brooding wine cellars, verdant Douro Valley and lashing waves for the surfers.
You can give your holidays in Europe a Gaelic twist by hopping across the Celtic Sea to Ireland this year. A place steeped in myth and legend, it's peppered with homey cottages and farm conversions. They could put you near the jaw-dropping vistas of the Ring of Kerry – a particularly celebrated driving route around the west coast – or the Neolithic mounds of Newgrange in County Meath. Meanwhile, holiday homes in Dublin promise a place to stay between bouts of Guinness drinking, rugby watching and James Joyce reading.
To crank up the mercury levels and guarantee the sun, Greece in the summer is one of the top picks in all of Europe. Among the hottest places of the lot is the island of Crete, which sits between the Aegean and the Libyan seas with its pink-tinted beaches at Elafonisi and come-get-lost-in-me Venetian streets at Chania. Elsewhere, holiday rentals Greece could be the perfect honeymoon pad, offering perches on the high cliffs of stunning Santorini, or great family escapes, with large pools and gardens in Kos, Rhodes or the Peloponnnese.
Ah, France – a place to munch on crunchy baguettes, to strut the glitzy Cote d'Azur, to wonder at priceless Monets and Manets, to spy the Eiffel Tower and the bulbous domes of Montmartre. Between the borders of this enticing nation, you'll find swish villas perched on hills above the pine-ringed bays of the French Riviera. You'll catch hidden cottages with pools by the caves and characterful chateaux towns of the Dordogne. You'll uncover holiday homes in Brittany, where salt-washed beaches converge on medieval cities brimming with moules-frites
Dog-leg-shaped Corfu is the treasure of the Ionian Sea. Quintessential Greece from head to toe, it's all whitewashed villages, fish-sizzling tavernas, boat-bobbing harbours and hidden pebble coves scented with pine and eucalyptus. Some folk will make straight for the chic villas of Kassiopi in the north – a land of white-hued rocks and turquoise seas that's peppered with some of the most luxurious Corfu accommodation of all. Alternatives include the immersive cobbled lanes and soaring Venetian castles of Corfu Town itself, not to mention the idyllic inlets and monasteries of Palaiokastritsa on the west coast.