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First-Time Europe: 12 Must-See Cities

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From Paris to Prague, London to Amsterdam, Dubrovnik to Berlin, here are a dozen centers of European culture that make a great ensemble on a virgin trip to Europe. For a continental tour that is semi-holistic, allow at least three weeks, as this gives you a couple of nights or more in each city. We've represented each destination with a favorite hotel and included both budget and luxury properties, themselves memorable parts of any European vacation.
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Strand, London WC2R 0EZ, UK
Having built the Savoy Theatre, English agent Richard D’Oyly Carte opened a nearby hotel in 1889 to accommodate the wealthy American patrons who came to see the celebrated Gilbert & Sullivan operas. In the years following, the hotel...
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44 Boulevard Richard Lenoir, 75011 Paris, France
Chef Flora Mikula just opened Auberge Flora near the Bastille Market (which runs Thursdays and Sundays). Three themes—vegetables, nature, and bohemia—define the decor, which complements Mikula’s Provencal cooking.
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Rosenthaler Str. 72A, 10119 Berlin, Germany
St. Oberholz Café is best known for its role as an informal hub for Berlin’s start-up community. Local companies like Soundcloud started their business over a St. Oberholz coffee, and the place is still popular with young,...
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Kongens gate 5, 0153 Oslo, Norway
Located a stone's throw from Oslo's medieval Akershus Fortress, Grims Grenka is a Scandinavian design hotel with über trendy interiors. It has a gorgeous rooftop bar, large rooms equipped with state-of-the art technology, and a restaurant...
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Professor Tulpplein 1, 1018 GX Amsterdam, Netherlands
You'll need deep pockets to stay at the Amstel, Amsterdam's landmark hotel that's overlooked the Amstel River since 1867, providing nightly luxury for royals and celebs from Queen Elizabeth II to Michael Jackson and The Rolling Stones. But if you...
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Tržiště 9, 118 00 Praha 1-Malá Strana, Czechia
At the Aria Hotel, you’ll find a floor dedicated to opera, another to classical music, and others to jazz and contemporary. The hotel’s music director, Ivana Stehlikova, can advise you on cultural events in the city. The hotel is...
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Landstraßer Gürtel 5, 1030 Wien, Austria
This place is almost too cool for Vienna, but based on the reviews it's a much needed breath of fresh air in this fairly stuffy imperial capital that is finally channeling its "inner Berlin." I like it.
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Pfingstweidstrasse 102, 8005 Zürich, Switzerland
The opening of a branch of the hypercool 25hours hotel mini-chain is a breath of fresh air in this clean yet stoic financial hub. Designed by native son Alfredo Häberli, the hotel location might seem a tad off, but trust me—Zurich West...
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Ul. Pera Čingrije 7, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
We were in awe when we looked off our balcony at Hotel Bellevue in Dubrovnik, Croatia...and saw this! The clean, clear waters of the Adriatic and Miramar Bay are mesmerizing and just the right temperature to cool you off after a day of...
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Merrion Street Upper, Dublin 2, Ireland
A Georgian grand dame just off St. Stephens Green in downtown Dublin, the Merrion has been around in one form or another since 1760, when it was a set of four stately homes owned by English nobility. Today, it is elegance incarnate. An excellent...
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Nordnesparken, 5005 Bergen, Norway
It was August, so it seemed a perfectly sensible idea. I'm in Norway, land of the fjords—let's go for a splash in one! Bergen has a lovely little lido that offers you just that opportunity. Sure, you can swim in its heated outdoor pool, but the...