paris eiffel tower

Paris delights from every angle. (Photo: Getty Images)

Culture + Style

When You’re Ready to Jet Set, Upgrade Your Travels on a Luxury Europe Vacation

If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing it well, as the saying goes. So if you’re planning a luxury European getaway with all the trimmings, here are five destinations where you can splash the cash on sumptuous dining, cultural deep dives and one-of-a-kind private tours that will remain etched in your memory bank.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Paris

As the world’s fashion capital, Paris pays tribute to the art form at Palais Galliera. Located in a former palace dating to 1894, the fashion museum hosts permanent collections tracing the history of fashion from the 18th century to the present day through a mind-boggling 200,000 designs, accessories and images. Private guided tours of temporary exhibitions that spotlight icons like revolutionary haute couture designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel are available.

Walking into Officine Universelle Buly a Paris will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a grand old apothecary that hasn’t changed since perfumer and cosmetician Jean-Vincent Bully founded it in 1803. Follow your nose and take your pick from the dozens of vintage-style-packaged beauty items featuring all-natural ingredients. Ask to have your initials embossed on the box in true French tradition.

Situated under the arches circling the Louvre’s main courtyard, Le Café Marly might just be one of the least obvious yet most stylish spots to chow down. Revel in unparalleled views of I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid accompanied by marinated artichoke in a truffle sauce followed by seared beef tartare with herbs.

Santorini

santorini at sunset
Santorini is famed for its sunset views. (Photo: Getty Images)

With its shimmering navy blue Aegean waters and soaring caldera cliffs, Santorini is perfectly attuned to those yearning for a tranquil yet lavish escape.

Jet off to the island’s dramatic Red Beach and White Beach and explore hidden coves aboard a head-turning, Italian-designed, 43-foot Pardo motor yacht that is all yours for the day.

Reserve a private wine-tasting tour with Andriana Foi, founder of The Wine Connoisseurs, taking in two to three estates. Sample some of the Cycladic isle’s rarest wines, such as Hatzidakis Winery’s naturally sweet red Voudomato 2008 or Gaia Wines’ white Assyrtiko Wild Ferment.

Take a seat atop the rooftop of sea-facing restaurant Naos, situated in a restored mid-19th-century captain’s mansion in Oia village. Chef Spyros Agious, who earned his stripes at London’s high-profile Le Gavroche, fashions haute Hellenic cuisine with native produce like fava (yellow split pea), Santorini’s original superfood. Restaurant critics rave about the sardine nigiri in an aged Vinsanto wine teriyaki.

Venice

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Splurge on a trip to Venice. (Photo: Getty Images)

There’s much more to Venice than St. Mark’s Square, the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge.

Don cat’s-eye shades, Sophia Loren–style, and opt for a private yacht cruise of the northern lagoon isles of Murano, Mazzorbo, Torcello and Burano aboard a sleek Riva Aquariva.

Invest in a timeless, handcrafted wool and silk scarf from Emilia Burano, master lace-makers spanning four generations, to wear at an opening night black-tie performance at La Fenice Opera House in San Marco, where works by Rossini, Verdi and Stravinsky, among others, debuted.

The city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is much greener than you might expect. Access to the tree- and flower-filled Royal Gardens of Venice, which were created in the early 19th century during both Napoleonic and Austrian rule, is limited due to their environmental and historical significance. The gardens sit beside the Piazza San Marco, and advance bookings are required for groups of 10 or more visitors.

Make dinner reservations at Gianni Bonaccorsi’s Michelin-starred Il Ridotto, which defies its seemingly touristy location on a busy piazza east of St. Mark’s with conspicuously creative five-, seven- and nine-course tasting menus focused on fish or meat.

Barcelona

guell park barcelona
Barcelona’s architecture is filled with whimsy thanks to Antoni Gaudí. (Photo: Getty Images)

Cosmopolitan Catalan capital Barcelona offers a giddy combination of cutting-edge art, high-end gastronomic temptations and vibrant shopping.

Book a private tour of Bellesguard house, one of Antoni Gaudí’s most unique yet little-known creations. It was built between 1900 and 1909, and architecturally it falls somewhere between Gothic style and modernism.

It takes just eight minutes to fly by helicopter from Barcelona to its nearest winery, Alta Alella Mirgin, a young estate founded by the Pujol-Busquets Guillén family. Taste natural wines produced with organically grown grapes and named after birds that inhabit the Serralada de Marina Natural Park as you take in Mediterranean views.

When Toulouse-born chef Romain Fornell opened Caelis in 2004, he earned a Michelin star within a year, the second in a career that saw him collaborate with Alain Ducasse early on.

In a space dominated by chic black interiors dipped in gold, Caelis serves up inspiring contemporary cuisine, reinterpreting elements of Catalan tradition in three tasting menus featuring dishes such as a crab, caviar and cauliflower emulsion and an artichoke beurre blanc in a vegetable veil.

Algarve

algarve portugal coastline
Join a new crop of jet setters in the Algarve. (Photo: Getty Images)

Vacationers flock to the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, to bask in its year-round sunshine and stretch out on the blond-sand beaches dotted along its 125-mile-long coastline.

Beyond these obvious attractions, the Algarve has also gained a reputation for exceptional dining with the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the country.

In Almancil, São Gabriel has retained its star status for more than a decade. Chef Leonel Pereira prefers to keep things simple, looking to the hyperlocal dishes he grew up with and sourcing salty delights, including bluemouth rockfish and bluefin tuna, from the Atlantic.

Vintners in the Algarve are also making a name for themselves, producing fine traditional whites with indigenous grape varietals including Aragonês, verdelho and alvarinho. At Quinta Dos Vales, banker-turned-winemaker Karl Heinz Stock hosts al fresco wine tastings among the hundreds of modern sculptures he has quietly shaped over the years.

Catch the sunrise on a one-day yoga retreat aboard a catamaran that departs from Faro Marina and drops anchor at a secret island where you can snorkel in the crystalline waters of the Ria Formosa and even spot a seahorse if you’re lucky. Wind down with hatha yoga and a sound healing session followed by a hearty organic brunch.