With the curtain falling on the madness of 2017 and the prospect of a back-to-rights 2018 on the horizon, now is the best time of all to start casting your eye across the continent for a new destination to explore. Ever the bastion for a tempting getaway, Europe is looking forward to an excellent range of events and festivities across each of its countries, a dazzling cavalcade of sights and experiences waiting to be discovered. With this in mind, here are some of our top tips for 2018 in Europe.
Sunny, vibrant, colourful - Portugal is the relaxed family member of the Iberian coast. With its glorious stretches of flawless coast and its rich, verdant valley regions, Portugal has long been a travellers' favourite. In the last few years, Portugal has truly developed into a classy destination; Lonely Planet reports that just last year, seven new Michelin stars were awarded across the country, honouring the fine traditions of Portuguese cooking and baking. The natural side of Portugal has also been embraced with new natural parks created and beaches earning cleanliness status. More importantly however, after the heart-rending balladry and heart-breaking top knot of Salvador Sobral in last year's Eurovision, Portugal plays host to the singing competition in May of 2018. Visitors may like to revel in the absurdity and abject cheesiness of one of the most fun television events in history.
After a relatively unperturbed 2017, where this Scandinavian country maintained its high standards, Norway is set for a magnificent 2018. While its timeless and ancient beauty has lured visitors for centuries, Norway's refined culture and striking landscapes are the perfect oasis of calm after a turbulent 2017 and the chosen destinations for travellers of taste and distinction. With the threat of global warming wreaking havoc on climate and nature alike, it would be best to take the opportunities which Norway has to offer as soon as you can; with melting ice caps and strange weather patterns, this Scandinavian nation's stunning natural beauty is at risk.
After being gifted the FIFA World Cup, Russia has stepped to the fore in the tourism scene, and the sense of occasion is obvious across this enormous country. With new hotels, restaurants and attractions in time for the influx of visitors for the World Cup, there has never been a better time to visit this majestic country. While we wouldn't advise visiting during the event itself, Russia is well worth your time and its resplendent cities are a delight to get lost in, particularly the historic St Petersburg with its golden palaces and diverse treasure troves. Moscow's superb metro system is also worth mentioning, with its atmospheric interiors, and web-like network of underground tunnels.
It's never been a secret that we at Rail Discoveries love Switzerland, its soaring Alpine beauty, its distinct elegance and its spectacular and glorious panoramic rail journeys. Sublime natural landscapes aside though, Switzerland is of particular interest in 2018 thanks to the opening of the Stoosbahn, also known as the Schwyz funicular railway. Replacing a cable car, this funicular railway is now the Europe's steepest, and trundles its way up to the village of Stoos. Expertly designed, the carriages are shaped like barrels and are engineered in such a way that passengers are always on their feet despite the maximum gradient being 110%. This exciting new addition to a nation of already-great rail journeys, makes Switzerland a must visit destination for 2018.
Having enjoyed a barrage of positive press in the past two years, Croatia, across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, is swiftly become the destination of choice in Europe. Indeed, it is often hard to see why Croatia has not been ruined by the tourist industry. Its agreeable climate, magnificent Dalmatian Coast and colourful cities are ripe for exploration, and the fact that it takes in fewer visitors than its illustrious Italian neighbour makes this the ideal destination for those who want to step off the beaten track. One of Croatia's favourite attractions is the remarkable and gorgeous Plitvice Lakes National Park. Looking like they have just stepped off the pages of the National Geographic, the Plitvice lake are a special example of what happens when nature's finest colours come together in a kaleidoscope of natural beauty. White rock hangs under verdant green trees, the magnificent whites and turquoises of the lake water leaps down almost artificial waterfalls and the sun beams down on an idyllic paradise. Croatia is a top tip for 2018, best to visit before it becomes everyone's favourite.
All in all, 2018 looks to be a brilliant year for European travel. Keep an eye out for other top picks, and if you have any suggestions yourself, sound them off in the comments below!