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12 Things to do in Europe this summer

Greece's Meteora and its awe-inspiring Monastery of Holy Trinity.

Whether it’s exploring a museum dedicated to cats in Montenegro or getting slathered in chocolate in Czech Republic, there’s no shortage of unusual things to do in Europe. We’ve handpicked some of the coolest experiences on the continent for you to try.

1. Sleep in the same Tuscan castle as Dante once stayed in

Hailing all the way back to the 13th century, Castello di Gargonza is the same castle where Dante Alighieri of Divine Comedy fame spent his exile. And you can actually spend the night here. Sitting within an ancient fortified village in Arezzo, Italy, the time-turning property retains its original character: rooms cut into rock, looming wooden staircases and blackened fireplaces remind guests of simple times gone by.

2. Wander cat lover’s paradise in Montenegro

Two cats sit on a stone wall overlooking the town of Kotor with its red-tiled roofs, mountains, and a cloudy sky in the background, near the famous cat museum.

Kotor is a cat haven. The ancient fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast is absolutely packed with the four-legged felines, leading to the creation of a Cat Museum in charming Old Town. Your admission fee (just one euro) helps support the local whiskered community. The aptly named Hotel Cattaro is your perfect home-away-from-home during your stay – a centuries-old building that’s now a four-star boutique bolthole.

3. Marvel the work of giants in Northern Ireland

The famous natural wonder The Giant’s Causeway is an unmissable sight in Northern Ireland. Unlike any other in the world, visiting the weird and wonderful rock formations is one of the most unusual things to do in Europe. The 40,000 basalt columns were the result of a volcanic eruption, although legend goes it was built by a giant. No visit here is complete without a snuggly stay in Ghan House.

4. Savour a Bohemian chocolate massage in Czech Republic

When was the last time you had a life-restoring massage in a Baroque castle dating back to 1699? Chateau Liblice is a four-star sanctuary based in Liblice, a pamper extravaganza of Finnish saunas, sun parlours (a revolutionary way of safe sunbathing), hydro-massage showers, herbal wraps and all kinds of full body massages (including a chocolate massage, dreamy).

5. See the smallest city in the world in Croatia

A narrow cobblestone street in the Hum, the smallest town in Croatia

With barely 20 residents, the teeny town of Hum in Istria’s centre is one of the most unique and amazing things to do in Europe. Legend goes that it was built using the stones left over when giants were building towns close by. Sample the local beverage, biska, a special brandy spiced with mistletoe. Hotel Villa Astra is just over an hour’s drive away, with seven beautiful guest rooms, sea views, a secluded beach, swimming pool and infectiously good vibes.

6. Wrap your head around a monastery in the sky in Greece

Greece's Meteora and its awe-inspiring Monastery of Holy Trinity.

If you’re looking for day trips from Thessaloniki, this is one of the most amazing things to do in Europe. Arguably the weirdest monastery in the world, the Holy Trinity Monastery is built on the ‘meteora stones’ which translates roughly to ‘in the middle of the sky’: the idea being that the religious building would be closer to God. Make Capsis Bristol Hotel Thessaloniki your base for the heavenly trip.

7. Take the train through Slovenia’s largest cave

Wrap yourself in a kindly-provided green felt cloak (to shield you from the humidity) and enjoy a minitaure train ride through underground lakes, fairytale stalactites, lofty rock formations and a labyrinth of tunnels. Postojnska Jama is the largest cave system in Slovenia and home to strange creatures named ‘human fish’. To make your trip to Ljubljana even more memorable, spend the night in Antiq Palace – a 16th-century former residence of several noble families and now a stunning historic hotel.

9. Stuff your face at the Time Out Market in Lisbon

Also known as the Mercado da Ribeira, the Time Out Market is a curated wonder of tastes. It’s the first market in the world where each restaurant and stall has been chosen by an independent panel of experts. From sparkling Portuguese seafood and prego-dedicated spaces to American-style hamburgers and Lisbon’s first and only croquette store, if it doesn’t get four or five stars in Time Out, it’s out.

Where to stay: Take your pick of historic hotels in the heart of Lisbon. Those more inclined to decorative havens within a medieval castle village will adore Solar Do Castelo. Or, if an award-winning 17th-century stays with chic modern updates sounds more to your taste, try Heritage Avenida Liberdade Hotel.

8. Catch the work of charlatans in Vienna

People viewing artworks in a brick-ceiling gallery with paintings on white walls, illuminated by track lighting.

If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Europe, this completely off-the-wall art experience shouldn’t be missed. The Museum of Art Fakes is stuffed with replicas made by famous forgers, this (ironically) one-of-a-kind gallery is totally unforgettable. You can stay in the oldest hotel during your Vienna visit: Hotel Stefanie dates all the way back to 1600 and is still ran by the same family (now in its fourth generation).

10. Visit a vampire graveyard in Kraków

Deep beneath Old Town’s main square lies a 4,000-square-metre archaeological excavation with a difference. Rynek Underground – which spans back seven centuries – features remnants of everyday life in the Polish city over the years. But also included in the displays are suspected vampires, due to the methods used for burial. Brilliantly, the medieval graveyard is brought to life with holograms and multimedia trickery. Just 20 km south of Kraków is Hotel Dwór Sieraków, a four-star historic hideaway that’s retained its 19th-century charm with 30 rooms decorated in charming English style.

11. Snap a Santorini sunset

Sunshine, stargazing and souvlaki: dreamy little idylls are hidden in every corner of Greece. Arguably, the best of them all are in Santorini. Esperas Santorini is a magic retreat for loved-up couples, with its turquoise pool carved into the rock and intimate spots for canoodling over cocktails as the sun goes down. Sunset chasers can do no wrong checking into Aigialos Hotel. You’ll feel like you’re at the centre of the universe, watching the silky sky and sea lazily wind down and change colour.

12. Stay in an olive oil hotel in Tuscany

Handsome, peaceful and comforting, Villa Campestri like stepping into an old Italian postcard. But this gorgeous 18th-century stay is very real. It’s the first olioteca in Italy, where you can sample the the highest standards of olive oil, whether drizzled on a Tuscan dish or as part of a stress-melting massage.

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