If you are one of the roughly 6981872 million people (rough estimate) who have always dreamed to go on a whirlwind luxury trip around Europe, now is the time to act on your fantasy. For real. Dozens of European countries are suddenly cheaper to visit because of the weakened euro, especially for American and British travellers whose currencies are doing extremely well (something not applicable to Canadians, sadly, with our loonie sinking lower everyday).
I may not be American nor British but I know that a lot of you guys are one of the two, which I why I decided strike the wanderlust chord while playing the budget card in this post. Now is not simply as good a time as any to go to Europe; now is the best time, with your hard-earned dollars and pounds stretching much farther than they probably ever will.
Why Now, Of All Times?
Here are a few interesting numbers to help strengthen my case: TripAdvisor just released its TripIndex Europe report and found that the cost of a one-week trip to Europe has declined by an average of 11%, inside and outside the Eurozone. Compared to last summer, travellers can expect to pay about 20% less on hotels and 8% less on roundtrip airfare. And because the weakened euro has major impacts on local businesses as well, virtually every on-the-ground expense (including restaurants, wine, tours and even souvenirs) are substantially cheaper too.
And while traditionally inexpensive European destinations (like Romania, the Czech Republic, the Balkans, to name a few) remain rather attractive options, the whole point of travelling right now is to leverage this historic exchange rate and visit the more expensive countries of the Eurozone.
Although Paris will always be one of the most expensive European capitals, it really doesn’t get cheaper than it does now. But if you want to stretch your dollars even further, try to remain as far as possible from the City of Lights and visit regions that actually represent what France is all about (remember that most French people think of Paris as a parallel universe). The possibilities for an epic holiday in France are pretty much endless… and in this case, they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
- Enjoy the laid-back seaside vibes at Ile-de-Ré
- Hike sleeping volcanoes in Auvergne
- Tour the cheese factories in Normandy
- Master the art of French living in Tarn
- Drive the wine route in Alsace
- Visit Renaissance castles in the Loire Valley
- And, if you must, tour the luxury hotels of Paris
Germany – Half-Timbered Houses Route
I recently drove the Half-Timbered Houses Route in Western Germany and it was an incredible experience – the romantic and photogenic villages were simply idyllic. This 3000-kilometer long route showcases two million half-timbered houses in various styles (the highest density in the world), scattered in 100 or so medieval towns from the North Sea to Switzerland. I visited Stade, Nienburg, Wernigerode, Hann. Münden and Gelnhausen.
Not to mention that I got to drive on those famous German highways that don’t have speed limits. it was both terrifying and exhilarating (it should be noted that I couldn’t get past 140 km/h).
Italy – Emilia Romagna
I’ve never been a huge fan of Italy because I always thought there were too many tourists – somehow the idea of being elbowed in the ribs by massive crowds of foreigners in St Marks Square wasn’t too appealing to me. That was until I was made aware of the non-touristy regions, like Emilia-Romagna, often considered to be Italy’s greatest gastronomic treasure. While most visitors will head to Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples, those of you interested in a more local experience should beat the crowds and visit Bologna, for example, home to the oldest university in the world and some of the most gourmet traditions like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di Parma, tortellini and much more.
The Iberian peninsula was always the least expensive option as far as the eurozone was concerned, and that continues to be true even with the low exchange rates. Portugal is an often underrated yet extremely worthwhile destination, with a strong naval history (populating Brasil, for example, just that!), fabulous architecture and delicious seafood cuisine – not to mention a more than appealing climate and stunning and varied landscapes, from forest-covered hilltops to dramatic cliffs along the Atlantic Ocean.
- Stroll the colourful streets of Obidos
- Visit wineries in and around Porto
- Relax in Cascais
- Work on your tan in Tavira on the Algarve Coast or in Lagos
- Get lost in Principe Real, one of Lisbon’s prettiest neighbourhoods
- Hop on a river cruise up the Douro
I have such fond memories of Spain. Perhaps my mind is selective and chose to remember the best, but I can’t seem to find anything bad to say about this lovely country. All I can picture is the white-washed villages, the incredibly friendly locals and the surprisingly delicious food. Spain is, to me, one of the most interesting European countries, seeing as each of its province is different from one another and provides a completely distinct experience. Also, the weather.
- Drive up the Rock in Gibraltar and mingle with monkeys
- Do a tapas crawl in Grenada (where tapas are free when you order a drink)
- Eat all of the seafood in San Sebastian
- Retrace Don Quixote’s steps in Toledo and Consuegra
- Live the epicurean life in Girona and Cadaques
- Hike up to Mirador de la Tajadilla
- Take in the Moorish culture in Grenada and Cordoba
- See the hanging houses in Cuenca