12 European Destinations Perfect for Your Next Group Trip
There are few missions more intimidating than planning a group trip.
It can feel like an almost insurmountable task to please every single person when planning a family reunion, friend getaway, or colleague retreat. You can’t do it all. But these 12 destinations have it all.
Whether you need physical activities for the athletic members of your group, art museums for the cultural buffs, or spa treatments for those who just want to kick their feet up while they’re away, these 12 European destinations have enough variety to please all the different people in your group.
Now all you have to do is make sure everybody stays on their best behavior.
Danube River Cruise
If you know planning your group vacations is best left to the professionals, board a Danube river cruise. A river cruise keeps everybody with one home base (no rushing between hotels and having to go back because somebody forgot something) but keeps the culturally curious on their toes with calls in major cities like Vienna, Munich, and Budapest. A Danube river cruise will stop along vineyards, historical landmarks, and stunning natural cliffs. And, above all, it’s easy to meet each other for dinner on a cruise ship.
Rhine River Cruise
Much like the Danube, a Rhine river cruise flows through some of Europe’s most fascinating attractions. However, the Rhine is a perfect choice for groups who prefer more modern energy. A typical cruise will stop in Amsterdam, Cologne, Strasbourg, and Basel. The Rhine itself is a busier river, with 68 locks and several low bridges to navigate. It’s also a great choice for history buffs, as the Rhine was a key landmark during the end of World War II.
Rhone River Cruise
France’s version of the river cruise is a perfect choice for groups who like wine: learning about it, seeing it, and drinking it. After all, this is the area famous for producing Cote du Rhones and Beaujolais. But even those who are staying dry will find plenty to entertain themselves. A typical Rhone cruise includes stops in the historic palace of Avignon, a tour of the ancient Roman arena in Arles, and stops to see where Van Gogh painted some of his masterpieces.
There’s much more to Britain than London (although the capital is a fantastic jumping off point). Gather your troops and head into the English countryside. Learn about the history of British literature in the Lake District, go horseback riding along the coast in Cornwall, or hole up in a pub in East Anglia to get a feel for the culture. Plus — for any travelers in your group who are difficult to please — there’s no language barrier.
Ireland is an ideal vacation for groups looking to bond. There are so many more unique experiences in Ireland than swashing pints of Guinness and hiking sweeping green landscapes (although both are fantastic). Literature lovers can retrace the histories of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and W.B. Yeats. Those who prefer nature can spend time with the puffins of Skellig Michael. Rent a car and drive along the never-ending, winding highways. Join a party, make new friends over a couple pints, or even sleep in a castle. Ireland delights in the unexpected.
Even the Debby Downer of your group will find something fantastic in Italy. From the country’s remarkably well-preserved history in Rome to the glamorous seaside retreats of Cinque Terre, there is truly something for everybody in Italy. Shout “Forza Azzurri!” at a football (not soccer) game, learn how to make genuine Italian pasta from a genuine Italian nonna, or just while away the afternoon soaking up the sun on one of Italy’s famed beaches. There’s no chance of getting bored. Italy has enough art, nature, fashion, architecture, and fancy sports cars to keep your entire group entertained for weeks.
Spain is a country of diverse and beautiful landscapes. There are beaches, deserts, mountains, forests, and even volcanoes — all within just a few hours’ drive of the country. Follow the history of the Spanish Civil War in Madrid or visit the former filming locations of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns in Almeria. If your group prefers to party, head to Ibiza. If you’d rather take it slow with the family, relax in Valencia. The Spanish lifestyle prioritizes nothing if not variety.
Considered by many to be the up-and-comer of western Europe, Portugal offers memorable experiences to groups that prefer a more laid-back vacation. Tour the lush Duoro Valley by train, boat, or helicopter, and be sure to sample the port wine for which the area is famous. Portugal also has a bounty of very old castles, dating back to medieval, gothic, and Moorish times. From Porto in the north to Lisbon in the south and more than 1,100 miles of picturesque coastline, Portugal is a destination with something to please everyone.
In terms of landscapes, France has a buffet: mountains, beaches, cities, caves, and cliffs. The brooding, rocky beaches of the northern coastline house immense history from World War II. The glamorous beaches of the south evoke a sense of year-round paradise. Head into the Alps for skiing, through the wine country of Bordeaux for a boozy tour or around the Loire Valley for a tour of some of the world’s most fabulous chateaux. A trip around l’Hexagone, as the French call their mainland, offers history, food, culture, nature, sports, and a sense of joie de vivre. In short: enough variety to entertain even the most persnickety people in your group.
A Finnish spa is an unlikely place for bonding, but within 10 minutes of sweating together in a wood lodge, everybody in your group will feel closer. After the sauna, explore Helsinki for a more urban cool experience or head up to Lapland to drop off the grid completely. If you go in the summer, you can experience the midnight sun but if you go in the winter months, you’ll have a better chance of spotting the northern lights.
If your group gathers around to watch Game of Thrones every week, take them on a trip to the real filming location. The city of Dubrovnik is famous as the setting for the series’ capital, King’s Landing. But the Dalmatian coast is photogenic enough that even those unfamiliar with the show will want to visit. Ancient stone fortresses, art galleries, and open-air markets are all charming places to while away the hours. Whatever you do: don’t leave without sampling the local and fresh fish, cheese, and wine.
Although all the pictures of Iceland don’t lie (it’s really as fantastic as it looks), there’s much more to the island country than hikes through the wilderness. There’s a thriving art scene in the capital of Reykjavik, Viking museums for history buffs, and foraging classes for those who want to get into the culinary scene. But the scenery in Iceland is so stunning, it might make a hiker out of the least athletic person in your group.