Nothing screams summer like the briny smell of the sea while basking under the warm Mediterranean sun. However, Europe can get rather touristy during August. Ironic, since we are after all trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday life during the summer break. Places like Santorini, Ibiza and Barcelona are no doubt packed with daunting crowds during the season, but if you are willing to travel slightly off-the-grid, there are many hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered.
Here are seven under-the-radar European cities to check out for your summer resort getaway.
As Croatia enjoys its limelight post-FIFA, the Internet is currently thirsting over its president’s bikini pictures. Game of Thrones fans might have seen parts of Dubrovnik in the HBO series (think King’s Landing) but never actually stepped foot into the sunny city. Its limestone pavements, Baroque buildings and the glimmer of the Adriatic Sea will never cease to amaze even the most jaded Europe-travelling tourists.
For an authentic yet luxurious getaway, Villa Dubrovnik might be the most Croatian option for you: built from grey Brac stone, styled by two local designers, and boasting sea views to die for. Spend your days relaxing at its serene spa, dine at Restaurant Pjerin an ambitious Michelin-stared Mediterranean restaurant or just sip on icy cocktails while dipping into the indoor pool to beat the heat. As much as we love spending our holiday indoor, you should really be outdoors exploring the beautiful and rustic city.
Croatia’s very own historical city has not one, but two UNESCO World Heritage sites— The Cathedral of St James and St. Nicholas Fortress. While they are majestic sights to behold, the town of Šibenik is much more than the four fortresses that are built around the city. Having lunch at Pelegrini, one of the best restaurants in Dalmatia and Croatia, exploring the Krka Waterfalls, talking a walk in the Mediterranean Garden of St Lawrence are just some of the many things you can do in town.
We recommend hitting up the sleek and striking D-Resort Šibenik, a boutique hotel that sticks out against the backdrop of the old Croatian port town. The sweeping architectural lines draw inspiration from the curves of D-Marin Mandalina located below. The resort employs the dramatic usage of concrete and timber to break up the boundary between the exterior and interior, and glass walls to preserve the spellbinding Adriatic views, and hardwoods floors that blend seamlessly with the balconies so that light and space permeates every nook and cranny of D-Resort. Spend the day in your very own private pool at the exclusive villas, or pick your favourite lounging spot at the main pool while indulging in snacks, juices, and cocktails. Perched right next to the marina opens up a galore of destinations to discover such as the Kornati Islands and Šibenik old town. Otherwise, you could always chum around at the hotel spa to unwind.
The largest port in the Middle East, Limassol is the second largest town in Cyprus known for its rich nightlife. Home to many medieval landmarks such as the Limassol Castle, the Kourion ruins, churches, monasteries, and the Port of Limassol—one of the busiest port in the Mediterranean transit trade, the up-and-coming city has evolved into a cultural exchange hub for tourists and ships alike. The charms of the new and old world make Limassol a truly unique destination for the ones looking for a cool summer retreat.
Definitely hit up Londa Beach Hotel, a hip beach resort in Limassol that combines the warmth of the Mediterranean summer with the coolness of the chic cosmopolitan city. Built in the 1980s, it was given a luxurious and sophisticated treatment by Italian designers Letizia Caruzzo and Paolo Rancati with ultra-modern designer furnishings, together with local antiques and Cypriot lace on the bed linen. Luxuriating at the infinity pool, sipping cocktails at the bar or relishing a romantic candlelit dinner feels extra boujee when the indulgent activities are accompanied by a spectacular ocean view.
The cities of old and new Paphos are enveloped by a shroud of mythicism mainly due to the folklore that the city is the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. The stunning seaside city sits right by the beautiful beaches and plenty of archaeological sites such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tomb of Kings (which has no kings buried in there), Paphos Medieval Castle and the Baths of Aphrodite.
Paphos is a glorious family holiday destination for beach lovers. What is there not to love when the city has 27 beaches along the coastline spanning over 50 kilometres, of which 12 beaches were awarded the ‘Blue Flag’, an international award for the best beaches. Almyra Hotel is the best contender for your ultimate family coastal-resort that is stylish to boot. Aside from its gorgeous, sea-facing, family-sized accommodations, Almyra also provides a bastion of babysitting and childcare services so you and your spouse could have a romantic escape into Paphos’ embrace knowing that your kids are in good hands.
Want an Instagrammable getaway sans loud blaring music and throngs of tourists? Meet Ios, the lesser-known Cycladic islands, sandwiched between touristy Santorini and Mykonos. The island has the same romantic qualities of the two but boasts a serenity like no other. Wander into the hypnotic Greek city of Chora that comes to vivid life at night, comb pristine beaches with crystal pebbles and soft sand that are untouched by urban development, and get your picture-perfect moments at the Panayia Gremiotissa Church and Evangelisimos Cathedral.
The blue and green colour story of Agalia Luxury Suites breaks up the drab browns in its surrounding precinct, reflecting the cobalt azures of the Aegean Sea. Its interior melds traditional Cycladic features such as the arches and whitewashed walls and contemporary lighting and artwork to give Agalia a modern edge in the rustic island. Each of the 16 suites is stylistically the same. Think luxury bathrooms made from exquisite marble, with “floating” beds that seem to hover above the ground. The hotel group owns several private beaches such as Papas, Pikri Nero, and Chamouchades so you could soak up the sunshine in peace, or settle into the Erego beach club & restaurant, beach bar or Pathos Sunset lounge. The hotel can arrange boat excursions to these beautiful areas but if staying on dry land rocks your boat, experience Ios’ relaxed culture as you head into the town of Chora. As the dusk approaches, grab some aperitif at the poolside bar before savouring an alfresco dinner at the open-air restaurant before you submerge into Chora’s buzzing nightlife.
Porto Heli, Greece
Move over Nice and Cannes, Porto Heli is the new exclusive secret Grecian Riviera located at the northeastern Peloponnese coast. You could opt for a three-hour ride from Athens Airport, or luxe it up with a ferry ride from Athens or just hop on the chopper and get there in 25 minutes. There are endless activities at Porto Heli. Lap in the turquoise bay of Aegean Sea, traverse the islands of Spetses and Hydra, trek through the ancient ruins to discover Epidaurus—a UNESCO-protected amphitheatre or even explore Dokos coast to seek out the world’s oldest shipwreck for the diving aficionados.
An Aman holiday is the epitome of an uber-luxurious jaunt. It has been said that once you’ve stayed in an Aman-owned resort, you’ll never turn back. That’s why Amanzoe is your best bet if you have the cash to shell. The resort houses 38 guest pavilions, four villas, and an Aman Spa that you could retreat to. Combining Aman, the Sanskrit-derived word for ‘peace’ with Zoe, the Greek word for ‘life’, Amanzoe offers panoramic views of the tranquil countryside and the Aegean Sea, along with a private Beach Club in a picturesque bay. Best of all, it is a 10-minute drive from the tavernas and vibrant city nightlife.
Antalya Province, Turkey
Turkey’s fifth-most populated city, Antalya was seen as an entry into the Turkish Riviera, or more commonly known as the Turquoise Coast. Located right on the Gulf of Antalya, the well-preserved city is nestled near the western Mediterranean coastline. The city had been ruled by many empires throughout its existence so expect to be surrounded by a blend of architectural influences, such as Hadrian’s Gate built by the Romans and the neighbourhood of Kaleiçi which bear influences from Greek, Seljuk and Ottoman architecture.
Check out Villa Mahal while you are in Antalya. The boutique resort rests on a hillside amid olive groves and lime, fig and frangipani trees, overlooking the azure Bay of Kalkan. The villa boasts a gorgeous floating infinity pool and restaurants with a majestic view of the Lycian coast that makes it worth the trip down. To soak in every bit of the summer sunshine, each of the 13 rooms gets a sunlounger-topped cliff-clinging platform to themselves so you could lounge and sunbathe to your heart’s content.
Villa Mahal, Villa Dubrovnik, and Almyra Hotel are just three out of a thousand over luxury hotels and villas curated by Mr. and Mrs. Smith.