Europe is calling: Why now is the time to book next year's international adventure

Greece: Zakynthos Island. Italy: village of Manarola. Croatia: Dubrovnik.
Greece: Zakynthos Island. Italy: village of Manarola. Croatia: Dubrovnik. Photo credit: Supplied

As borders reopen globally, international tourism is back with a boom and no-longer flightless Kiwis are flocking to Europe's countless bucket-list locales, meaning the time is now to plan your adventure if you're eyeing a getaway in 2023.

With the ability to have breakfast in Paris and then dinner in Prague, the travel opportunities in Europe are almost overwhelming, no surprise then that it's home to 12 of the 20 most visited countries on Earth.

"Certain countries and areas may actually be busier in 2023 than in 2019. The key message for us is to book as early as you can," says House of Travel's Europe expert Angela Webber. 

Capacity is returning but flights from down under aren't yet back to pre-pandemic levels, meaning seats are selling out fast and prices are at a premium. And depending on your destination and desired travel dates, space in accommodation may already be filling up, meaning the earlier you book the more choice you'll have. 

While you might already be tempted to click out of this tab and start booking flights yourself, it could save you a lot of time, money and stress to get in touch with an agent instead. As Angela advises, booking through an agency removes hassle and lets you focus on imagining the holiday you want instead of getting bogged down by tiresome admin.

"We will do everything for you," she says. 

"We can book all the elements of your holiday. We can book your airfare, your cruise, your tour in Tuscany - whatever you need. We can also book your travel insurance, which is very important in these times. You'll also get all the knowledge of our staff who'll work with you to put together the trip you want, which is what we love to do."

But travel agents come with another major bonus: having someone to call when things go wrong. Anyone with a few air miles under their belt knows the terror of watching one cancelled flight lead to a cascading itinerary catastrophe. A travel agent is your insurance against that nightmare. 

"If anything goes wrong, we're here to look after it for you," says Angela.

"If your flight gets cancelled or you get COVID and you're on a coach tour, we are there for you. You don't have to be the ones on the phone trying to get hold of the airline and be stuck on hold for hours."  

But whether you book through an agent or fly solo, the real question is - where are you heading first? 

House of Travel and Newshub have teamed up to bring you an insider's guide to some of the most spectacular European countries to visit, how to get around them, and most importantly, what to eat when you get there. 


Naousa village, Paros.
Naousa village, Paros. Photo credit: Supplied

The historical home of democracy, philosophy and much of contemporary culture is on every traveller's must-see list for good reason. From watching the sunset over ancient Athens to partying all night in modern Mykonos, Greece has something to offer every visitor at every age. There's enough to fill several lifetimes, so don't try and pack everything into a single trip. To maximise your efficiency, an island hopping trip or cruise is a perfect way to see a 'best of' collection of sights and wonders while still giving you space to unwind. 

First timers will want to party it up at hotspots like Santorini but seasoned travellers wanting time away from bustling crowds can visit the islands of Folegandros, Sikinos, Ios and Anafi which provide a slower pace paired with the same stunning scenery.  

But while the Greek islands are often headliners on a trip, the mainland and its astounding ancient history shouldn't be ignored. Visit the site of the Oracle at Delphi, walk the Corinth Canal or marvel at the Acropolis before strolling down to the Plaka district and soak up some culture. 

As for how to ingratiate yourself with the locals, Angela has some evergreen advice: "Learn to say hello and thank you in the local language. It goes a long way with the locals in any country you visit."

What to eat and where:

  • Paraportiani Taverna, Mykonos – Divine seafood risotto. 

  • Lithos Tavern, Athens - Order the Moussaka, you won't regret it. 

  • Restaurant Pelekanos, Santorini - Spanakopita (a savoury spinach pie) is exceptional. 

  • Krinos Patisserie, Athens - Order the Loukoumades (deep-fried pastries soaked in honey and cinnamon).


Dalmatia, Croatia.
Dalmatia, Croatia. Photo credit: Supplied

While the Greek islands are renowned, they can't quite compete with the sheer variety of Croatia's thousand-island Adritic coast. Countless coves, bucolic beaches and stupefying sunsets over the sea - Croatia is king when it comes to coastline. But there's plenty to behold in urban centres like Dubrovnik too and keen-eyed Game of Thrones fans will recognise the city's scenery featuring heavily in HBO's fantasy mega-hit. Again, Angela recommends taking to the ocean as the best way to see as much of the country as possible. 

"If you're there for a week and want to see as many Islands as you can, I would suggest a small ship cruise. If you want to maybe spend more time on islands, then I would do an island hopping program and use the ferry between the islands and then stay a couple of nights at each." 

What to eat and where:

  • Junior, Hvar – Family run local seafood restaurant with Drunken Octopus as a menu highlight.

  • Kapetanova Kuca, Mali Ston – Order the Black Risotto, add oysters from the bay and wash it all down the island's Peljesac wines. 

  • Buffet Vis, Vis – Famous for a deliciously simple dish of sardines, homemade olive oil, fresh garlic and parsley.

  • Le Bistro Esplanade, Hotel Esplanade, Zagreb - Make an incredible Esplanade Štrukli (baked traditional hand-pulled dough filled with local fresh cheese).


Tuscany, Italy.
Tuscany, Italy. Photo credit: Supplied

A deep sense of history paired with vibrant modern culture is everywhere in Europe but nowhere venerates the old and celebrates the new quite like Italy. From the canals of Venice to the winding streets of Naples, each region boasts some of the most iconic architecture on Earth paired with uniquely exquisite food, wine and culture. 

But for travellers who have already marvelled at the Colosseum, climbed the bell tower and looked down on the Duomo in Florence and are ready for something different, Angela recommends gathering the whanau and booking a villa in Tuscany. This allows you to slow down, soak up the environment and not just imitate a local but live like one.  

"You can have your cappuccino in the morning and then go shopping in the markets and either eat out or take delicious fresh local produce back to your villa and make it yourself. Having a rental car with you is awesome because you can spend time exploring the area at your own pace." 

And if Greece and Croatia haven't given you your fill of island life, head over to Sicily & Sardinia for more sea, sun and sumptuous pasta. 

What to eat and where:

  • La Tonnarella, Conca dei Marini, Amalfi Coast – Incredible caprese salad, vongole pasta and seafood dishes. Was a favourite of Jackie Kennedy and they still have a pasta dish on the menu that they made especially for her. 

  • Trattoria Anna Maria, Bologna - The best tagliatelle al ragù you'll ever eat. Quick tip: there is no such thing as 'spaghetti bolognese', spaghetti is too thin for rich meat sauces. Try this dish and you'll realise why it should be 'tag bol' not 'spag bol'.     

  • Antica Pizzeria Brandi, Naples - The birthplace of the iconic Pizza Margherita. 

  • Laboratorio Pasticceria Roberto, Taormina, Sicily - Cannoli is to die for. 

Of course, this isn't even close to an exhaustive list and there are infinite experiences awaiting in Europe. If you're ready to start planning, head on over to House of Travel to work with their passionate and experienced team to craft your bespoke adventure.   

As for anyone on the fence about whether it's time to take the plunge and start travelling, Angela's message is simple: 

"Life is short! You gotta get out there and do it."

This article was created for House of Travel.