Cruising along the Mediterranean coast, treating yourself to a wellness weekend and exploring European cultural metropolises. When the year is still so completely blank in front of me, there’s hardly anything better than dreaming of new travel adventures and maybe even making the first plans. Are you feeling the same way?
For your holidays in 2021, I have a few well-tested travel treasures up my sleeve, all of which have one thing in common: Unlike the European tourist hotspots, you’ll experience these five underrated cities and regions away from the crowds. My 2021 holiday tips are a mix of short and long trips, with something for every type of traveller – from Mediterranean road trips to active holidays in Germany.
Road trip through the unknown Liguria
On a trip to Liguria, most tourists are drawn to the famous Cinque Terre. Fortunately, because instead you can enjoy your peace and quiet on the western coast and in the hinterland of the northern Italian region.
Like in the mountain village of Borgomaro, where time seems to have stood still in a charming way. Without a lock, a bicycle leans against the wall of a house. A few metres away, a pot of leftover pranzo stands on the steps.
Under the old stone bridge, the Impero ripples through the village and makes its way until it pours into the Ligurian Sea at Imperia.
In addition to the picturesque hinterland, the sophisticated Italian Riviera beckons to be explored. From San Remo, the Via Aurelia, one of the most beautiful coastal roads in Europe and an ancient Roman route, leads to Imperia. The port city consists of the Porto Maurizio district with its pretty old town and the Oneglia district, which is great for strolling and shopping. My favourite place in Imperia is the piazza at Borgo Foce (cover picture) right by the sea. Colourful houses with folding shutters line the square here with bars and restaurants.
A real hotel treasure for your Liguria holiday 2021 is the charming Relais del Maro. A beautiful, family-run hotel in Borgomaro – more precisely, an albergo diffuso, where the rooms are spread throughout the village, giving you an authentic insight into village life. And what can I say – I really didn’t want to leave.
Best time: In spring or late summer.
Getting there: By own car or rental car.
Where to stay: Definitely book at least one night at the sustainable and family-run Relais del Maro*.
Where to eat: Dine in the most beautiful Mediterranean atmosphere in Imperia at I Sognatori on the terrace.
Don’t miss: The dreamy mountain village of Borgomaro.
City & Beach Life in Marseille
France’s oldest and second largest city enchanted me from the very first minute. An exciting mix awaits you in the metropolis on the Mediterranean. Sometimes Marseille is dazzling, sometimes creative and multicultural. Other corners have a morbid charm.
In addition to the famous Vieux-Port, the historic district of Le Panier also captivated me. Just like the picturesque ports Port du Vallon des Auffes and Port de Malmousque in the west of the city.
In addition to numerous sights and culinary surprises, Marseille’s beaches tempt you to spend some relaxing hours. City and beach is simply an unbeatable combination, isn’t it?
Best time: A pleasure at any time of year. In some years, the bathing season in Marseille starts as early as February and lasts well into autumn.
Getting there: There are inexpensive direct TGV connections from plenty destinations around Europe to Provence. From Frankfurt am Main you can travel to Marseille in under eight hours without changing trains.
Where to stay: Stay in style at the environmentally friendly Hôtel Belle-Vue* with a sensational view of the old harbour. You can stay at Mama Shelter* for a reasonable price and in a relaxed, casual atmosphere.
Where to eat: Perhaps the best pizza is at L’Eau à la Bouche, the creamiest organic ice cream at Le Glacier de la Corniche. Typical pastries for the region are orange-flavoured navettes.
Don’t miss: Go up to Marseille’s landmark, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, at sunset.
Cycling holidays in the Sauerland
Holiday in the Sauerland? That’s only for retired people? No way! Anyone who longs for secluded nature, moments of pleasure and rambles through romantic little towns is in exactly the right place here.
The best way to explore the German low mountain region that stretches across Westphalia is from the saddle. Cycle through mystically beautiful forests, along lush green meadows and in the footsteps of history, and fall into a rural bed in the evening. What more could you want?
If you spend your holiday in the Sauerland without getting on your bike, you are definitely missing out. Because in the Sauerland, beautiful and mostly asphalted cycle paths await you, leading through wonderful nature and picture-book landscapes.
The well-signposted SauerlandRadring winds its way through the region on 84 kilometres and connects the towns of Finnentrop, Eslohe, Schmallenberg and Lennestadt. Some sections are particularly picturesque, cycling along an old railway line and relics from bygone times can be seen again and again along the route.
Best time: From spring to autumn. In summer, the Hennesee invites you to swim.
How to get there: By train to Meschede, Grevenbrück or Lennestadt.
Where to stay: I can recommend the Forellenhof Poggel* in Eslohe and the Pension Möser* in Saalhausen as cosy places to stay for a relaxing break.
Where to eat: Delicious and with a wonderful view of the water, you can dine at H1 am See.
Don’t miss: Outdoor wellness in the Saalhausen spa gardens.
Culture under orange trees in Córdoba
Cordoba is the third largest city in Andalusia and home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites. No other city in the world has more cultural monuments listed by UNESCO than Cordoba. There are: the Mosque of Cordoba, the historic city centre, the Medina Azahara and the Festival of the Courtyards. During the latter, every year in May, the patios famous for Andalusia are decorated and otherwise closed gates are opened to visitors.
Away from the mosque, I found Cordoba to be wonderfully unagitated and authentic. Most tourists only come to Cordoba for a day trip to visit the mosque. Especially in the morning and evening hours, you almost have the city to yourself.
Even though Cordoba is quite small, it is worth spending two or three nights in the Andalusian city to wander through the pretty streets, sample the fantastic restaurants and soak up the Andalusian lifestyle.
Best time: In late winter or spring, when the orange trees are in bloom.
Getting there: I had visited Córdoba during my train trip through Southern Europe. If you have less time, you can rent a car or travel by plane, for example from Seville.
Where to stay: Cosy studios furnished with attention to detail await you at La Casa del Rio*.
Where to eat: Restaurante La Boca offers an excellent vegetarian lunch menu in a chic ambience. Or sit outside under the orange trees.
Don’t miss: Be sure to visit the Palacio de Viana. Standing in front of the palace, you have no idea what treasures are hidden behind its walls.
Wellness & culinary pleasures in Marburg
Drift through winding alleys, take relaxing strolls along the water and wander through enchanted gardens. Feast in fantastic restaurants and end the evening in the hotel SPA. That is my idea of a perfect weekend trip.
The Hessian city of Marburg, which enchanted me from the first moment, is made for an enjoyable wellness weekend.
In addition to the pretty old town and the Landgrave’s castle, Marburg offers a whole range of great restaurants. Whether tapas reinterpreted, veggie sushi or Mediterranean dishes – I have rarely eaten as well as I did during my city trip to Marburg.
Best time: Any time of year.
How to get there: By car or train. From Frankfurt am Main it takes about an hour by train to Marburg.
Where to stay: On the edge of the old town, you’ll stay in style with a spacious SPA at the Hotel VILA VITA Rosenpark.
Where to eat: Delicious sushi awaits you in the Marburg dining room. Another culinary highlight is the table buffet in the Bückingsgarten restaurant.
Don’t miss: Mini hike to the Waldschlösschen restaurant in Dagobertshausen.
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