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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 wealthy American patrons who came to see the venue’s celebrated Gilbert & Sullivan operas. In years since, the hotel...
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44 Boulevard Richard Lenoir, 75011 Paris, France
Flora Mikula, one of France’s rare female top chefs, has given up her gastronomic restaurant Les Saveurs de Flora to open her dream Paris place, a small urban auberge in the 11th arrondissement where travelers can mingle with les citoyens...
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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
Sleek and sexy, from the subtle lighting in the lobby to the seven-story central atrium featuring works by contemporary Russian artist Ekaterina (aka Ekaterina Ganchukova), the First Hotel Grims Grenka has an artistic, chic feel that sits nicely...
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Professor Tulpplein 1, 1018 GX Amsterdam, Netherlands
An Old World grande dame of the 19th-century tradition, the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam presides over the Amstel River from its waterfront perch at the eastern edge of the original city. An imposing example of a Dutch take on French...
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Tržiště 9, 118 00 Praha 1-Malá Strana, Czechia
Prague’s deep-rooted, centuries-old relationship with music – surviving both occupation by the Germans then the Communists – is reflected Aria Hotel Prague, where all of the 51 rooms are named after famous composers or musicians,...
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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 25hours brand is known for its playful take on the hotel experience, and this Zurich establishment follows suit. With an interior concocted by local designer Alfredo Häberli, the space features the usual mix of colorful, offbeat...
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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...