Discover Europe’s Magical Allure

Discover Europe’s Magical Allure

Malcesine, Italy

Maybe it's the ancient history, the to-die-for pasta, the world-class vino, or the picture-perfect landscape, but one thing is certain: A getaway to anywhere in Italy has success written all over it.

Though Venice, Rome, Milan, and the Amalfi Coast are the usual go-to places, there are other wonderful options, such as Malcesine (pronounced mal-CHAY-see-nay), on the eastern shore of Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) in northern Italy.

What to do: Stroll through this quaint lakeside town's many lovely squares, listen to the water as it laps against moored boats in the harbor, or enjoy a freshly pressed espresso at a local café.

Malcesine isn't just a walk-and-shop locale. Climb the steps to nearby Malcesine Castle, a medieval fortress where other hopeless romantics often get married. Hop on a cable car and ride up to the top of Monte Baldo or partake in any number of outside activities available in the area. Ample opportunities exist for climbing, canyoning, yachting, biking, or hiking. If you like windsurfing, you're in luck. Malcesine and nearby Torbole and Limone sul Garda boast some of Europe's best windsurfing conditions. Enthusiasts travel from all around the world to experience the challenge of the afternoon winds on this area of the lake, and professional competitions are held here for the sport.

If you want to see more of Italy on your trip, only 25 miles away is Verona, where you can pay a visit to the famed fake balcony from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Or, consider ferrying your rental car from Malcesine to Limone sul Garda, where you can drive your car through the same tunnels James Bond famously drove in Quantum of Solace.

When to go: If you visit Malcesine during late winter, bring a jacket. The temperature can be cool, with lows nearing 30 degrees Fahrenheit and highs reaching a max of 50. You can expect to enjoy about five hours of daylight in late winter. If you travel there in the spring or early summer months, you'll be rewarded with warmer temperatures and longer days, and you can take a ferry or hydrofoil to other charming cities around the lake. Avoid visiting in August unless you are a glutton for extremely high temperatures and tourists galore.

Strasbourg, France

Paris might be the French destination of choice, but the Alsatian city of Strasbourg, with the River Ill on two sides, certainly holds its own in the romance department.

What to do: Make sure your camera battery is fully charged before visiting the city's most famous landmark, the 466-foot tall Strasbourg Cathedral. Outside, you'll find stunning Gothic architecture; inside, among other great works of art, is a 16th-century astrological clock. While admiring this unique timepiece, toss a coin through the grates on the floor and make a wish. Then climb the inner stairs of the church to the top, channel your inner gargoyle, and find breathtaking views of the city.

Just a short walk from the cathedral you'll find one of the city's most visited neighborhoods, La Petite France, where a working canal runs through the quarter, half-timbered fairytale houses crowd the cobblestoned streets, and businesses and homes share a postcard-perfect ambience.

This lovely French city also offers museums, peaceful city gardens, parks, and shopping for everyone. Whether you're interested in high-end boutiques, souvenir shops, or culinary storefronts filled with Alsatian biscuits, chocolates, and canned foie gras, you won't be disappointed.

When to go: Strasbourg, whose city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a year-round treat. However, it's best to avoid travel from mid-July through August unless you are a crowd-lover. If you are planning a winter holiday, consider visiting the city during its annual Christmas market, the oldest one in France.


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A drive along Germany's Romantic Road leads to Hohenschwangau Castle.


Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

If you've ever been stationed in Germany, then you know no list of romantic European destinations would be complete without mention of beautiful Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps. These two mountain resort towns reside side-by-side, doubling the charm. Plus, an active duty or retired military ID card will allow you to reserve a hotel room in the Armed Forces Recreation Center Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch.

What to do: Take in the historic sites during a drive along Germany's Romantic Road, which leads to the castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, or during a stroll down the streets of Garmisch, working your way to Ludwigstrasse in nearby Partenkirchen. Feeling parched? Stop by the famed Fraundorfer Restaurant and Inn for a warm bierlikor in the cool weather or a cool schnapps in warmer temperatures.

If you're looking for outdoor adventures, hike the majestic Partnach Gorge year-round, except for a brief time period in the spring when the winter snow melts. Enjoy the sight of the cascading waterfalls and feel the spray of the falls on your face from the trail that runs alongside the gorge. Evening tours by torchlight are possible, too. Go downhill or cross-country skiing or snowboarding on the area's many pistes and trails. If you'd rather watch skiing than do it, visit in February or March and buy tickets to attend any number of FIS Welt Cup skiing events to cheer on U.S. team members.

For spectacular views, take the cable car up to the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, at about 9,718 feet above sea level, or visit the top of Mount Osterfelderkopf and venture out onto the observation terrace and look down into the Hollental Valley.

When to go: Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a year-round treat. Go anytime!