17 Ways To Do Europe After Lockdown

It’s a way off yet – but you can still dream and plan with our ultimate luxury guide to avoiding cliches and crowds.

By Natasha Dragun & Richard Clune 07/05/2020

There will always be another European summer – and with that in mind we’re happy to provide some dreamy plans and an undisputed cure for the quarantine blues. From sailing the Med in a multi-million dollar superyacht to an overlooked French island, the best dining and most exclusive accommodation, we’ve pulled together the ultimate luxury guide to avoiding cliches, crowds and finding newfound fun for when we next can. 

Corsica, France

‘We’re not French and we’re not Italian – we’re Corsican’. It’s a refrain proudly ousted by locals across this mountainous Mediterranean island known to most as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The claims of autonomy, despite being one of 18 French ‘regions’, coupled with the Franco and Italian influences, make this a unique European option that delivers on picturesque hilltop villages, passionate locals and stunning white sand beaches lapped by transparent waters. The food culture here is strong – so too the growing luxury market, especially along the southern coast around towns such as Porto Vecchio and the enchanting Bonafacio.

The Thinking Traveller holds the keys to the island’s most indulgent villas – Cala d’Istria and I Bruzzi two Robb Report faves – though exquisite and exclusive hotel offerings come in the form of Porto Vecchio’s Casadelmar and, further south, the elevated Hotel Version Maquis Citadelle.

Take a week, grab a car or a bike and soak up this remarkable island that remains comparatively overlooked when compared to some of its closest neighbours.

thethinkingtraveller.com; casadelmar.fr; hotel-versionmaquis.com

Kea, Greece

Yes, a Greek isle that isn’t Mykonos and which still curiously flies somewhat under the radar – at least until One & Only opens its doors here in 2021.

Overlooked by the hordes who push on past to islands better-known, Kea (Tzia) is, in fact, the closest to the mainland, located just an hour from Lavrio.

On offer is a wonderful local setting that delivers a ritzy yachting scene around Koundouros and Vourkari and, beyond, the subtle charms of a dusty island of desirable space and general tranquillity.

There’s also some brilliant wreck diving to be done and many secluded beaches on which to laze. That’s if you can be bothered leaving accommodation such as that on offer by White Key Villas – newcomer, Villa Ligaria, proving to be a side of secluded Grecian perfection that comes with private beach, pool, and heightened levels of chic.

whitekeyvillas.com

Million-Dollar Med Cruise

What does $1.13 million a week get you on the Med? Seventy-two metres of lavish cruise power, it turns out.

Available exclusively for charter, superyacht Coral Ocean has more than enough space for a neat group of 12 (plus crew) to sail and explore some of Europe’s most picturesque ports.

Gleaming bathrooms aside, the appealing, designer cruiser comes with plunge pool, spa and gym. If that’s not enough to keep you and yours entertained (well, working off any excesses) she’s also fitted with a full suite of fun – jet ski, wakeboards, stand-up paddleboards, towable inflatables, more – and a main deck that can easily accommodate a party of 80.

ahoyclub.com

Capri Palace, Italy

Italy’s original luxury island retreat, Capri, is where the who’s who convene to shop for designer fashion and sip limoncello in bougainvillea-draped villas. The sun-kissed isle in the Bay of Naples has attracted Europe’s beautiful people for decades, many of them checking in to the iconic 1960s Capri Palace, styled on an 18th-century Neapolitan palazzo.

In April, the grande dame will welcome visitors once more, fresh from a revamp courtesy of the Emirati Jumeirah Group. The brand’s Italian foray is a polished version of the original, its 68 airy rooms each a vision in white.

Public spaces, meanwhile, come with pops of colour thanks to a collection of contemporary artworks by Mirò, Magritte and Warhol, among others.

While its foundations are storied, the hotel’s chefs are as forward-thinking as they come, securing three Michelin stars across the two restaurants and promising endless culinary highlights.

capripalace.com

Aman Jet Charter & Concierge

Unlike other upscale hotel brands with private jets, Aman Resorts’ new sky-high offering is more like a luxe charter than set (read: forced) itinerary.

Here, you and 11 of your closest can sink into Italian leather armchairs on board the brand’s Bombardier Global 5000, carefree considering a private concierge has customised everything from in-flight meals and beverages to various ground itineraries at Aman’s no-luxuries-spared properties (there are now five across Europe).

Touch down first, say, in Montenegro, where Aman Sveti Stefan’s 58 rooms sit pretty in 600-year-old stone houses on a private fortified island. Connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, the exclusive property is within easy reach of pink-sand beaches and various World Heritage-protected villages.

From here, buckle up and jet south toward Amanzoe in the Peloponnese. This architect-designed aerie, around 60 kilometres southwest of the Greek capital, affords views for days: a mise-en-scène of olive groves that tumble toward the Aegean. Speedboats await to zip you between secret coves or out to the islands of Spetses and Hydra, with helicopters on call to convey you to Athens’ hilltop Acropolis (at these heights, the journey takes just 15 minutes).

It doesn’t take much longer to fly on to Aman Venice – a gilded rococo palazzo with sumptuous Jean-Michel Gathy interiors at your disposal. Step outside, and a polished mahogany motorboat awaits on your Grand Canal doorstep.

aman.com

East London

Young, cool, chic – all adjectives worthily used to describe East London since the hipsters moved in during the early naughties. OK, late ‘90s.

While postcodes in this formerly industrial part of town are now ever-popular among tech creatives and advertising types – even Hackney boasts dads sporting three-piece Richard Anderson creations pushing Bugaboos – a new breed of upscale travellers are also making their mark on this once-maligned part of town.

Why leave Mayfair, you may ask? Because, beyond the comparative and alluring edge of the East, the area now boasts some of the city’s most happening hotels – like Nhow, a design-driven bolthole and the UK’s first outpost from the NH group.

Following the lead of its older European siblings –  Milan, Rotterdam, Berlin – the new London Nhow comes with style to spare. Think bright and bold interiors with whimsical flourishes that nod to their location: a larger-than-life mural of the Queen, a sculpture of Big Ben in the lobby, cockney rhyming slang carved into tables.   

Helping to cement the eastern appeal is Nobu Hotel Shoreditch – a slick designer destination and the brand’s first European hotel, replete with eponymous restaurant serving Japanese-Peruvian menu favourites – including signature Black Cod Den miso as well as a first in breakfast.

There’s a buzz to the east not found elsewhere in the capital. While the independent galleries have been booted by various tech start-ups, there’s still some exciting ventures like the pending launch of Fotografiska London and planned exhibitions from the likes of Annie Leibovitz, Sally Mann, David LaChapelle and Helmut Newton.

As for dining, we’re for Champagne delivered at the press of a button at Bob Bob Cite (a rather curious upscale French affair that’s best experienced first hand), the New-Nordic Lyle’s, the energy and voluminous stylings of The Ned and its various offerings (inclusive of some rather decent upstairs digs) and the wonder of the cocktail menu at Untitled Bar on Dalston’s Kingsland Road.

nhow-hotels.com; london-shoreditch.nobuhotels.com

Zizanj Private Island, Croatia

Dalmatians call it fjaka – a deliciously lazy mood of utter contentment. And it’s found in spades on Croatia’s turquoise-sea-rimmed islands, from Hvar to Korcula.

When done sharing the sand with strangers, set your yacht’s GPS for Zizanj Private Island. One of the country’s lesser-known – but no less alluring – slips of land, Zizanj is only accessible to visitors who rent it on an exclusive basis. Aside from luxe villas with space for 14, there’s nothing else to distract you on this drop in the Kornati Archipelago. Well, aside from an olive grove producing a punchy extra virgin oil that will spoil you for all others of its kind.

Here there are no roads and no cars – meaning the only way to get around is on foot or via the water.

‘A’  is for Adriatic bliss.

Submarine Exploration

Ocean going vessel Scenic Eclipse is a bombastic union of high-end expedition frivolity and serious underwater exploration – replete with a shiny six-seater U-Boat Worx Cruise Submarine 7 known as the Scenic Neptune.

Self-described as the world’s first ‘discovery yacht’, the 228-passenger Eclipse is designed to conquer the world’s most remote regions – also, colder northern European waters.

As for the Eclipse’s sub, it can sink to a depth of 300 metres, allowing a personal Bond moment well below the waves this summer – and beats getting wet.

scenic.com.au

Cheval Blanc Hotel, Paris

France, Paris, 1st district, Pont des Arts and Samaritaine building

One of the most anticipated openings of the year and for good reason. The Parisian newcomer – a first city outpost for the LVMH brand – lands in the thick of things next to the Seine and adjacent to Musee du Louvre this May. Housed in the landmark, and lavishly updated, La Samaritaine building, a tightly-held 72 rooms and suites means a boutique feel with Art-Deco interiors by Peter Marino.

Art runs throughout the property, which also boasts swimming pool and terrace alongside a Dior Spa.

Adding further appeal is new, in-house restaurant from three Michelin-starred chef Arnaud Donckele – a venture set to celebrate the city with a largely locally-sourced menu wrapped in his trademark inventiveness.

chevalblanc.com

Forte San Giorgio, Capraia, Italy

An exclusive rental unlike anything else you’ll come across – a sensitively, luxuriously and ecologically refurbished 16th century fortress on the tiny island
of Capraia in the Tuscan Archipelago between Italy and Corsica.

$87,600 a week (high-season) means eleven bedrooms, ten bathrooms, two infinity pools, direct sea access, endless space and walking distance to local restaurants and so much more.

It took more than a decade of dedicated work to bring this unique property, a listed National Monument of Architectural and Artistic Merit, back to life and it simply cannot be overlooked in thinking about 2020’s ultimate European sojourn.

thethinkingtraveller.com

Restaurant Mirazur, Menton, France

This exquisite, Cote D’Azur fine diner largely flew under the radar – at least until its announcement last year as the world’s best. Chef Mauro Colagreco has taken from his Italian-Argentinian heritage, paired to French learnings under the likes of Alain Ducasse, to deliver a unique menu – forged on what’s available from an impressive rear garden and the ocean it overlooks. Two so-called ‘surprise’ menus are offered and run to nine courses and unparalleled views for approx. $426 per head.

mirazur.fr

Private Train Travel

When the journey matters just as much as the destination, there’s no better way to see the world than by rail. And when the rail journey demands decadence, there’s no better company to enlist than Golden Eagle.

With two trains click-clacking across Europe, the luxe line is ideally enjoyed on a private charter. Think of the cabins on the Golden Eagle Danube Express as moving five-star hotel rooms, transporting you across captivating Balkan landscapes in serious style. Or, spend 15 vodka-fuelled days on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express between Moscow and Vladivostok, enjoying what is arguably the world’s most epic rail ride.

Butler service, ensuite bathrooms, high-tech entertainment and Michelin-esque restaurant meals are just some of the on-board luxe.

goldeneagleluxurytrains.com

Rome’s Grand House

Hospitality brand The Grand House allows access to some of Rome’s most prestigious residences, while providing the high-touch services you’d expect from a five-star hotel. Included on their books of Roman apartments is a three-bedroom pied-à-terre owned by an art collector in a historic building just steps from the Pantheon, and a five-bedroom abode in a Renaissance palazzo on Piazza Mattei – the seat of the aristocratic Costaguti family for centuries.

Here, at the Costaguti home, period details like original frescoes, terra cotta floors and marble fireplaces are juxtaposed with contemporary art and mid-century furnishings by Charles and Ray Eames, Verner Panton and Achille Castiglioni. Services include 24/7 concierge, access to The Clubhouse for work and luggage storage, exclusive tours and dining options and the general ability to peek behind curtains usually drawn on tourists.

thegrandhouse.com

Volcano Dining, Iceland

When you’re sated by the parade of eye-popping courses at Catalonia’s three-Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca, and you’ve lingered over every bite at Copenhagen’s NOMA, the only European culinary experience left to thrill is one that sees you seated in an extinct volcano.

Jacada Travel has created the world’s coolest (hottest?) meal, served inside a magma chamber of Iceland’s Thrihnukagigur Volcano. You could fit the Statue of Liberty tilted on her side in here, but instead, the luxury operator sets an intimate scene with starched linens and crystal and a menu entirely of your design. Befitting of such a setting are helicopter transfers and the night’s lighting – time your visit right and feast under the glow of the Aurora Borealis.

jacadatravel.com

A Plummy Guide To Paris

There’s something quite wonderful about staying in a well-appointed city apartment – tranquil, private and grafted to tangible emotions that touch on being ‘local’.

Of the wealth of operators that ascend well beyond Airbnb, The Plum Guide opens the front doors of some seriously luxurious properties across continental cities – each vetted by humans, not algorithms.

The Bilbury, Paris, is a standout worthy of some summer downtime. Located in the central 8th arrondissement, a mere meander from the Champs-Elysees, Arc De Triomphe and most luxury distractions, the two-level, light-filled and spacious apartment boasts five bedrooms, four bathrooms, impressive views, designer touches and an enviable terrace.

plumguide.com

Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc, Antibes, France

This is the elevated setting of F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night, where A-Listers play whether attending the Cannes Film Festival or not – a place that simply must be experienced, if only to realise lofty expectations can be met and to engage the ‘Haute Cote’ at its finest. 22-acres of luscious grounds wrapped by the ocean, 117 rooms of which the Eden Roc Suite is best and a cliff pool that only furthers romantic notions of historic Riviera glamour.

hotel-du-cap-eden-roc.com 

Kate Moss’s pad, Cotswolds, England

Give the British Cotswolds a twirl this European summer – all green charm, rolling hills, quaint gastro pubs and more just two hours west of London (quicker still by chopper, with a wealth of transfers available from the capital). Once here, opt for a stay at contemporary villa Barnhouse – the centrepiece of the sprawling Lakes by Yoo estate and a property boasting interiors styled by the supermodel Kate Moss.

Put aside any images of what such wording may first prompt – this ‘barn’ is a slick, if colourful, slice of airy living shielded by stunning woodland and which features five bedrooms, private pool, fireplaces, art by Damien Hirst and an insight into Moss’s musical taste via a slate of chosen records to play. The villages of Thornhill and Claydon are a five-minute drive away.

mrandmrssmith.com

 

This story comes from our latest Autumn 2020 issue. To purchase a copy or to sign up to an annual subscription of Robb Report Australia & New Zealand click here. To stay in touch with all the latest news click here.

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