The most luxurious ways to travel Europe

The Eilean Sionnach Lighthouse is now a luxury accommodation on a private island. Photo / Provided

Europe gave the world two great gifts: the locomotive and the internal combustion engine. A little concession for all the ideas they get.

There is nothing you can’t find in Europe that you couldn’t find elsewhere before. Pasta is as Italian as Confucian. The Enlightenment coffeehouses in Vienna and Amsterdam wouldn’t have gotten very far without Ethiopian caffeine or Far Eastern ideas. Since the 1900s, most people have worn head-to-toe imported fabrics.

But to paraphrase Vogue – it’s not a question of “who wore it first” but “who wore it better”.

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What Europe has is style. Bowl full of show off.

A Saville Row suit may be indistinguishable from a suit in Hong Kong for sewing, but they still have the guts to charge 10x more.

It’s that kind of arrogance that brings travelers to Europe.

Food wagons on snow-covered trains. Bombastic cultural festivals. Working public transport. Castles, grand hotels and palaces that will excite Wes Anderson and Walt Disney.

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The continent is one of the busiest for travelers. With 44 countries, 24 languages, and 201 protected cheese varieties packed into a slightly larger area than Australia, it’s easy to get around. Choosing an appropriate mode of transportation requires more thought.

Here are the sweetest ways to tour Europe next year.

La Dolce Vita: The Orient Express is getting an Italian-inspired makeover next year.  Photography / Accor, Orient Express, Dimore Studio, Unsplash
La Dolce Vita: The Orient Express is getting an Italian-inspired makeover next year. Photography / Accor, Orient Express, Dimore Studio, Unsplash

Fellini on Rails – Orient Express in Italy

Next year, the Orient Express will invite passengers to La Dolce Vita services across Italy’s spine. That should excite luxury lovers more than Anita Ekberg at the Trevi Fountain. With six new luxury sleeper trains running from Lagos in the north to the southern regions and Sicily, we doubt there will be much sleep.

Forget the Poirot-like 1930s concepts you might have about the train. This is a renewed service inspired by the Italian new wave of the 60s.

Orient Express's 60's inspired wagons traverse Italy.  Photography / Accor, Orient Express, Dimore Studio, Unsplash
Orient Express’s 60’s inspired wagons traverse Italy. Photography / Accor, Orient Express, Dimore Studio, Unsplash

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In 2024, the Italian line plans to extend its routes to Paris and Istanbul. There is also Hotel Minerva, a new Orient Express Hotel that will open at Stazione Roma Termini to allow for extended stays during the Roman Holiday. Also billed for 2024.

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orient-express.com/high-life/a-grand-return-to-italy-with-la-dolce-vita-train

Fridtjof Nansen approaching Grunnfjorden, Norway.  Photograph / Provided, Hurtigruten
Fridtjof Nansen approaching Grunnfjorden, Norway. Photograph / Provided, Hurtigruten

Scandinavian but beautiful – MS Fridtjof Nansen

Nothing makes luxury more appealing than the contrast of rugged arctic landscapes. Pointless conveniences such as panoramic lounges and steam rooms exist across Europe’s beautiful and sparse regions that jut into the Arctic Circle. So, sailing north on a luxury ship is extra perfect.

Like the cruise ship Roald Amundsen, Hurtigruten was a pioneer in bringing tourists to the far north.

Sea facing sauna in MS Fridtjof Nansen.  Photograph / Provided, Hurtigruten
Sea facing sauna in MS Fridtjof Nansen. Photograph / Provided, Hurtigruten

The cruise ship strikes a fine balance between satisfying guests’ curiosity with underwater observation drones and their appetites at the three restaurant options on board.

MS Fridtjof Nansen, named after the Norwegian naturalist, offers a route from Hamburg to Iceland. Scandinavia’s definition of “style” falls short compared to the rest of Europe. This is not a baroque Venetian steamboat. It offers sumptuous Expedition Suites and ocean-facing birch saunas.

While it may seem permissive, you can enjoy the experience relatively guilt-free. Built in 2021, the Nansen is the newest of Hurtigruten’s hybrid electric ships.

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While sailing west – as the Norsemen are not used to – Nansen stops by the Faroes, Skye and Iceland.

Cycladic superyacht MY Summer Fun.  Photograph / ADL;  Facebook
Cycladic superyacht MY Summer Fun. Photograph / ADL; Facebook

Greece with Superyacht

A weekly superyacht. Is this an exaggerated question?

The Aegean is the natural harbor of the white ship fleets.

Nowhere else would gaudy multimillion-dollar cruisers look out of place. However, they are part of the landscape, as are the white sand, plaster houses, and ancient marble swaying between the Greek Islands.

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Paying for the maintenance of a superyacht Sisyphus is not something anyone would envy. But tour operators Kensington Yachts will let you live the fantasy of a nine-day cruise.

Landscape of Mesariá and Cyclades Islands in Greece.  Photo / Getty Images
Landscape of Mesariá and Cyclades Islands in Greece. Photo / Getty Images

Accommodation is aboard MY Summer Fun, a stylish 101-foot motor yacht with a private crew of eight, including a private chef. With a jet-ski and a series of “water toys”, the ship lives up to its namesake and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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The itinerary for Mykonos and the Cyclades departs from Athens and the Grande Bretagne hotel, although cruises can be tailored to the tastes of travelers. This is your chance to see Santorini like a superstar and the secluded coves of Milos. The ship charges a fantastic €50,000 for the weekly summer schedule. In the words of Roman Abramovich, how do you put a price on a superyacht?

Kensington also offers a luxury cruise on the ferry route with 11 nights in the Cyclades.

kensingtontours.com/yachts/itineraries/exclusive-greek-island-hopping-by-yacht

kensingtontours.com/tours/europe/greece/luxurious-greek-island-escape

Jacobite crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct on the Scottish West Coast Railway.  Photo / UK, Unsplash
Jacobite crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct on the Scottish West Coast Railway. Photo / UK, Unsplash

Lighthouse in Skye and Jacobite

The far end of the road to a glitzy superyacht may be the highland romance of the Jacobite Steam Train.

From Ben Nevis and Fort William to Port Mallaig, the Scottish West Highland Route races through a landscape that seems straight out of the pages. Foreign and John Buchan. The 134 km steam train route is one of the most iconic rail journeys in the world. This is unapologetically old school.

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It’s speeding along the Glenfinnan Viaduct towards the west coast in Caledonian glory – yes, in “Harry Potter.”

The old first-class wagons have a somewhat chic but undeniably book vibe.

Grab a good novel and enjoy the view from your private compartment with a glass of champagne.

The Eilean Sionnach Lighthouse is now a luxury accommodation on a private island.  Photo / Provided
The Eilean Sionnach Lighthouse is now a luxury accommodation on a private island. Photo / Provided

Continuing the book theme, a short jump from Mallaig to Skye and Eilean Sionnach.

The former lighthouse keeper’s cottage has been converted into a luxury accommodation. Appropriately, the lighthouse was built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s father. Treasure Island Fame. This private island has no staff other than a friendly local boat captain. Far enough away from the summer crowds of Skye but close enough to almost touch Cuillins, it’s a way to see Scotland’s most popular Isle in style.

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visitscotland.com/info/see-do/the-jacobite-steam-train-p292641

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isleofskye.com/accommodation/self-catering/sleat/sleat-east/eilean-sionnach

Sailing on the Canal du Midi near Carcassonne, France.  Photo / Getty Images
Sailing on the Canal du Midi near Carcassonne, France. Photo / Getty Images

Canal du Midi – a cruise with more charm

Europe loves river cruises. From the operatic Rhineland to the Danube, cruise ships twist the terrain like a Wagner snake. It’s sumptuous but as subtle as a dollop of whipped cream on strudel.

France takes a different approach to traveling to Mitteleuropa.

The Canal du Midi organizes small-scale river holidays with suavité. Stretching along the Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France, the old Canal Royal runs through two Unesco Heritage sites.

A barge vacation in France doesn’t sound very appealing, I hear you say. Mais non, mon brave! There are some incredible character accommodations floating on the canal with all the charm of a gentile country hotel. Five-star options like the Hotel Fleur de Lis, with its four-poster bed and a pool in the bow, would be enough to make even Louis XIV blush.

La Salon in Esperance on the Canal du Midi.  Photo / Private Luxury Cruises
La Salon in Esperance on the Canal du Midi. Photo / Private Luxury Cruises

Starting from Toulouse, the stronghold of French club rugby, the Canal stretches through linden trees towards Narbonne and the Mediterranean.

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The most imposing landmark is perhaps the fortified castle city of Carcassonne.

As a traditional trade route, there is no shortage of good local food on the canal that cuts through the Languedoc wine region. An excellent excursion for gastronomy. The local delicacy, Les petit pates of Pezenas, will be reassuringly familiar to New Zealanders. This is a mince pie with style.

Away from a sleepy backwater, the Canal provides a dreamy, bespoke cruise on a river cruise.

francebarging.com

hotelbarges.co.uk/canal-du-midi-hotel-barge-cruise.aspx?id=HEW871

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