The insider's guide to Europe

The Lowdown

Samos is one of Greece’s north Aegean islands scattered off the
Turkish coast. This vine-draped island with stunning beaches and
turquoise water was the birthplace of the philosopher and poet,
Pythagoras. One of its most impressive archaeological sites is the
fortified port of Pythagoreion, scattered with Greek and Roman
monuments, a tunnel aqueduct and the Herion, temple of the Samian
Hera. Loukas Taverna is in Manolates, in the north of Samos (00 30
2273 094 541). For more details see

Sunvil (020-8758 4758;
offers a week in a studio apartment in Kokkari, Samos, from £657
per person. The price includes return flights from Gatwick,
self-catering accommodation and transfers.


Yvonne Sorensen, Managing Director, Berns Hotel Group (

“When I feel like escaping, I take the ferry to Sandhamn, a
beautiful island in Stockholm’s outer archipelago. Open all year,
it’s a Swedish idyll with long sandy beaches and forests where you
can pick berries and mushrooms. I first came in the 1980s and fell
in love with its serenity and the cosy village life. You can either
rent a cottage or check into The Sailors Hotel or the more upmarket
Sands Hotel. There are five restaurants in the village. My favorite
is the Sandhamns Vardshus, serving classical Swedish food.”

The Lowdown

Known to Swedes as Skargarden, many of the 30,000 or so islands
of the Stockholm archipelago offer a popular weekend retreat.
Sandhamn, two hours by ferry from Stockholm, is a magnet for the
well-heeled, dotted with historic pilot cottages, fishing huts and
summer homes. Mermaid (00 46 8 1200 04045; offers
ferry crossings from Stockholm for SEK290 (£29) return.

Accommodation options on the island include: the Sailors Hotel
(00 46 8 574 504 00;;
doubles from SEK2,390/£238); The Sands Hotel (00 46 8 571 530 20;;
doubles from SEK2,500/£248); and the Sandhamns Vardshus (00 46 86
795 830;; doubles from
SEK990/£96). For more information see

Stockholm Arlanda is served by BA (0844 493 0787;, SAS (0870 60
727 727;;
Norwegian (00 47 21 49 00 15;


Charlotte Juhl, VP Jewellery, Georg Jensen (

“One of the many charms of Copenhagen is that you can reach
several beaches and experience the countryside on your bike. My
favourite escape is not far from Copenhagen: Dyrehaven – a stunning
forest park half an hour north of the city. It is maintained as a
natural forest and has herds of deer. My perfect summer day would
start out from Copenhagen around 10.30am. I’d cycle along
Osterbrogade, then to Strandvejen with the stunning view of Oresend
on the right. After entering Dyrehaven through the beautiful red
gate at Klampenborg, I’d have lunch at Peter Liep’s legendary Hus
restaurant, stroll through Bakken amusement park, then lie on
Bellevue Beach before heading back. Finally, I’d join the queue for
an ice cream at Lydolph in Hellerup.”

The Lowdown

The former royal hunting grounds of Dyrehaven and the seaside
villages of Klampenborg and Hellerup are easily accessible from
Copenhagen and are popular in summer. Two popular beaches are
Bellevue and Charlottenlund Strandpark. Peter Liep’s Hus is at
Dyrehaven 8 (00 45 39 640 786;;
Lydolph’s Isbar is at Strandvejen 167 in Hellerup (00 45 39 627
747). For more details see

The Skorvshoved Hotel (00 45 39 640 028;, south of Dyrehaven, is a
charming 22-room hotel that dates from 1660 and is set in the
middle of an upmarket, seaside enclave. Doubles from DK1,500


India Mahdavi, architect and designer. Home Chic by India
Mahdavi with Soline Delos, £19.95, Flammarion (

“In July, I usually go to Arles, when Les Rencontres d’Arles
Photographie starts, which is really interesting because the whole
city becomes very international, full of photographers, artists and
exhibitions. For me, it’s a mix of work, pleasure and culture. I
eat at La Chassagnette, which I love because all the food is local
and delicious, and Chez Bob, a little mas (farmhouse) restaurant. I
like having everything nearby: Avignon, the Abbaye de Montmajour
and the L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which is great for antiques.”

The Lowdown

The Unesco World Heritage-listed city of Arles in Provence is
scattered with Roman sites. It also perches on the edge of the Parc
Naturel Régional de Camargue (, a vast mosaic of marshes and
lakes, set on the delta of the river Rhône and the Mediterranean

Les Rencontres d’Arles Photographie ( takes places this
year from 1 July to 22 September. Hotel du Cloître (00 33 4 88 08
10 00; has double rooms from €90,
room only. Restaurant highlights include Chez Bob (00 33 4 90 97 00
29; restaurant
) and La Chassagnette (00 33 4 90 97 26 96; See


John Rocha, fashion designer (

“I love Ballymaloe House in County Cork and have done for very
many years. My wife Odette and I first visited 26 years ago and
have been back many times since. Whether escaping to one of the
cottages beside the cookery school or relaxing in the house, it is
a fabulous break. The Allen family have been running Ballymaloe for
more than 40 years now and it really is a special place.”

The Lowdown

One of Ireland’s most celebrated foodie hotspots, Ballymaloe
Country House Hotel (00 353 21465 2531;
is just outside the village of Shanagarry in bucolic surroundings
20 miles from the city of Cork. Doubles start at €170 with
breakfast and self-catering cottages start at €400 per week, with
short stays also available. The Ballymaloe Cookery School (00 353
21 464 6785; has afternoon demonstrations
as well as short and long-term cookery courses, with classes
starting around €70.

East Cork’s charms are rich and varied. Its dramatic coastline
is interspersed with long beaches and fishing villages such as
Ballycotton, with its pretty harbour and bracing, clifftop walk.
Nearby Midleton is also home to the historic Midleton Distillery
(00 353 21 461 3594; where Jameson whiskey
is made. The town also hosts a bustling farmers’ market every
Saturday morning ( See Tourism Ireland

Cork is served by Aer Lingus (0871 718 2020;
from Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol; Ryanair (0871
246 0000; from
Liverpool, Gatwick and Stansted; Jet2 (0871 226 1737; from


José Avillez, chef and proprietor of Lisbon’s
Michelin-starred Belgrano Restaurant (

“Comporta village is located at the base of the Troia Peninsula
in one of the most beautiful regions of Portugal – the Alentejo
Coast. The village is on one side of the Sado Estuary and is only a
five-minute walk from the beach of the same name. Here, you can
find amazing beaches, pine forests, rice fields, nice restaurants
and charming boutiques. I love to go to Comporta with my wife and
my two baby boys. We often stay at the Vale do Gaio Hotel near
Torrao. It’s a wonderful place to be with your family and

The Lowdown

Comporta is set on a beautiful swathe of Alentejo coastline,
about two hours’ south of Lisbon. A patchwork of beaches, rice
fields, marshes, fishing huts and the protected Sado Estuary
reserve, it is known for its laid-back scene and devotees include
the French shoe-designer Christian Louboutin. It is tipped to be
one of the country’s next big destinations and there are rumours of
developments by luxury hotel chains, including Aman and Alila …
so go now.

Doubles at the Vale do Gaio (00 351 265 669 610;
start at €90 including breakfast. Other accommodation around
Comporta tends to be self-catering cottages such CasasNaAreia (00
351 934 418 316; a collection of four
fishermen’s huts stylishly redesigned by a local Portuguese
architect that sleep up to eight and cost from €500 per night
including breakfast. For further details see Visit Alentejo (

Lisbon is served by easyJet (0843 104 5000; from
Gatwick, Luton, Bristol, Edinburgh and Liverpool; TAP Portugal
(0845 601 0932;
from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester; and BA (0844 493 0787; from


Lorenzo Castillo, interior designer ( Recent projects include
London’s Hispania Restaurant (

“When the dog days come in July, Madrileños dream of escaping
the city. This is when I really need fresh air, a green escape, the
best food and a relaxed social life. For me there is only one place
in Spain that offers this – Asturias. It’s the best preserved and
wildest region in Spain, with pristine beaches, backed by the Picos
de Europa mountain range.

The architecture is very traditional and there are nice, small
villages, which are well-preserved because they were spared the
economic development in the 1960s that ruined much of the Spanish
coast. Tourists in this part of Spain are mostly native Spaniards.
I’ve spent most of my summers there since I was a child and I still
go every year with all my family. Traditions are very important and
change is shunned.

What I like most, is the food – some of the best in Spain based
on the finest raw materials such as seafood. Cider is a local
staple too, which you can’t export because it spoils when it leaves
the mountains behind.”

The Lowdown

Often referred to as “Green Spain”, Asturias occupies a corner
in the north-west, with miles of sandy beaches on the Bay of
Biscay. It has unspoilt seaside resorts such as Llanes, Ribadesella
and Gijón. The Picos de Europa National Park dominates the region’s
dramatic interior, a highlight of which is the Covadonga Lakes. For
more details contact the Spanish National Tourist Office (

Inntravel (01653 617001; has a selection of
self-catering “casas rurales” near the inland village of Arriondas.
A week in a one-bedroom apartment costs from £798pp including car
hire, but not flights; easyJet (0843 104 5000; flies
from Stansted to Oviedo.


Wim Pijbes, director of the Rijksmuseum (

“My favorite summer escape is to watch the fascinating dynamics
of Rotterdam harbour by night. It is a man-made Grand Canyon-scale
complex where you can admire the world’s largest and most
impressive ships. Its size and scale never fails to inspire me. One
of my favourite places to eat is the beautiful Art Deco, Hotel New
York, at the end of “the pier of tears” – the point where millions
of Europeans left the old Continent for a new life in the New
World. When I visit the Hotel New York it’s always a good moment to
consider your own present state of life.”

The Lowdown

Rotterdam is the Netherlands’ second city and the largest port
in Europe – its harbour stretches for 24 miles to the North Sea,
incorporating the new port of Maasvlakte 2. Doubles at the Hotel
New York start at €180 including breakfast (00 31 10 439 0500; Wilhelmina Pier is set on the
Kop van Zuid peninsula, bordered by the Nieuwe Maas River and
Rijnhaven. Also known as Manhattan on the Maas, Rotterdam’s
contemporary architecture reaches new heights this year with the
completion of New Orleans, The Netherlands’ highest residential
tower, which forms part of De Rotterdam complex designed by Dutch
architect, Rem Koolhaas ( Hook of Holland is Rotterdam’s
closest beach resort. For information see

Stena Line (08447 707 070; has connections from Harwich
to Hook of Holland; PO Ferries (0871 664 2020;
offers services from Hull to Rotterdam.


Cristiano Perfetti, co-founder of SBU Jeans ( which marks
its 20th anniversary this year and goes online in September

“The beautiful and almost unknown island of Ponza is my
favourite summer escape. The best hotels are Grande Hotel Santa
Domitilla, the Hotel Bellavista, with rooms overlooking the sea,
and the Hotel Mari, on the edge of the busiest square in Ponza
town. The food is superb, especially the local seafood. Try the
restaurants of Acqua Pazza, A Casa di Assunta and Il Tramonto. To
get the most out of the island it is essential to hire a boat or a
dinghy and explore the beautiful coves and bays such as Cala Felice
and the famous Chiaia di Luna beach. By boat, you can reach the
uninhabited island of Palmarola, which has the most beautiful water
in the Med.”

The Lowdown

Ponza, 20 miles long and three miles wide, is the largest of six
islands in the Pontine archipelago, 23 miles off the coast of
Lazio. Doubles at the Grande Hotel Santa Domitilla (00 39 0771 809
951; start at €115 with
breakfast. Doubles at the Hotel Bellavista (00 39 0771 800 36; start at €90 with
breakfast. The Hotel Mari (00 39 0771 801 01;
has doubles from €90. Acqua Pazza is on Piazza C Pisacane (00 39
0771 806 43;, A Casa di Assunta is on Via
Aversano (00 39 0771 820 086) and Il Tramonto is on Via Campo
Inglese – Le Forna (00 39 0771 808 563). For more detail, see

The easiest way to get to Ponza is by hydrofoil from Anzio or
Formia, operated by Vetor Aliscafi (; single
fares €36. Medmar ( runs a seasonal ferry service
from 14 June from Fiumicino airport and Formia.


Angelika Taschen, founder of Angelika Books (

“I’ve just returned from the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea
and the bathing resort of Binz. It is full of 19th-century villas
built in a style known as resort architecture. During the Nazi era,
the gigantic “Strength Through Joy” resort was built in Prora next
to Binz, planned as Europe’s largest seaside resort – it shows the
Nazis’ pathological egomania. Besides history and architecture,
Rügen is remarkable for its nature. I enjoyed some exceptional
hikes in the Jasmund National Park through beautiful beech forests
and along cliffs.”

The Lowdown

Set in the North Sea off the Mecklenburg-Pomeranian coast, Rügen
is Germany’s largest island with miles of fine, sandy beaches and
an unspoilt interior. Binz has a pretty promenade and a beach lined
with wicker chairs. Stay at the Ceres Hotel (00 49 38 393 66670;, overlooking the promenade,
where doubles start at €160, BB. For more details see

Reach Rügen via Hamburg or Berlin, with an onward connection by
rail ( Fred
Holidays (0808 250 7824; has five-night breaks to
Rügen with flights from London, rail connections and BB, from

1 thought on “The insider's guide to Europe

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