Our Favorite European Hot Spots

The best movie houses

Red velvet seats, the sprawling balconies, the little neighborhood movie houses where screenings begin late because the ticket-taker and the projectionist are the same person, obscure films screened just for the heck of it… No city in the world beats Paris for film screenings and movie houses. La Pagode is a late-19th-century pagoda built by a millionaire director of Le Bon Marché department store for his wife (she left him anyway, but filmgoers can thank her). It has been a cinema since 1930. One screening room's walls have tapestries of dragons, and an authentic musty smell. La Pagode also serves tea in a lush Japanese garden. (57 bis, rue de Babylone, 7th arrondissement, The mythical Le Grand Rex is Europe's largest single screening room; it seat 2,650 and has two balconies, fountains and a fake minaret. Opened in 1932, it still shows movies and hosts concerts on Paris's Grands Boulevards. (1, boulevard Poissonnière, 2nd arrondissement, www.legrandrex.com). Studio 28 in the Montmartre district dates to 1928. It features a garden café in its interior courtyard (10, rue Tholozé , 18th arrondissement, www.cinemastudio28.com.
—Tracy McNicoll

Poland's most charming small city
It's not on the tourist trail like Warsaw or Krakow, but the splendid Polish city of Lublin has as much charm as her bigger, more popular rivals. There are fantastic eateries, great pubs, a glorious cathedral and a charming cobbled old town. Head to Lublin Castle, which is now a museum, for great views of the city. My favorite pub is U Szewcow, in the old part of the city and recently expanded. I've spent many afternoons and into the evenings sitting out front with friends, munching on kielbasa and sipping pints of beer.
—Ginanne Brownell

The best spot for sunbathing and bird watching
Comino is a tiny limestone island between Malta and Gozo that was once a hideout for pirates and smugglers. It's only 1.5 by 0.9 miles small, but it offers some of the best sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling in the Mediterranean. It is also a national park and bird sanctuary, where you might glimpse a genuine Maltese falcon. The sheltered Blue Lagoon is a tiny cove lined with pristine white-sand beaches and populated by fabulously fit Italians and Greeks.
—Barbie Nadeau

The best literary café
Tucked into one of the warmest squares in the heart of Bohemian Napoli in Italy, just a few blocks from the National Archeology Museum, the Intra Moenia literary café is surrounded by palm trees and within sight of open Roman ruins. Inside, it's lined with books and manuscripts, posters of authors—a great place to read and be inspired. Down the street toward the bay, the chaos of Naples's street life looms, but this outdoor café a few blocks away feels like you've got the city all to yourself. Great place for fresh salad, bread and a generously poured glass of house wine. (Letterario Intra Moenia, Piazza Bellini, 70)

The best art museum
The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 22 miles north of Copenhagen, merits its quiet reputation as a "destination" museum. The Lousiana beautifully exhibits a stunning collection of Calder and Kiefer, Bacon and Dubuffet, Picasso and Rauschenberg. It sits in parkland on the North Zealand coast; Henry Moores's sculptures have never looked so good (www.louisiana.dk).
—Stryker McGuire

The best seaside village
Global warming gets some credit for the superb swimming and sailing in Torekov, a pearl of a fishing village in southwestern Sweden. Frequented by the Wallenbergs and other monied Swedes, Torekov nonetheless lacks pretension. After a morning swim, line up (in your bathrobe—don't ask, it's a tradition) for fresh bread at Parkis by the park. As if to keep Torekov a secret, the tourist office's Web site is in Swedish. E-mail them; they speak your language.

The best ancient mosque
On the European side of Istanbul, the Rustem Pasa Mosque, which dates from the Ottoman Empire, is smaller and much less touristed than the Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sophia, but to me it's more beautiful and peaceful. The entrance isn't particularly grand, but once inside you'll see some of the most amazing Iznik tiles and mosaic work ever. It feels like a tiled garden—excellent for chilling out and contemplation. A bonus: the Spice Market is right next door. It's hard to believe you are in Europe.
—Rana Foroohar

The best Art Nouveau architecture
Riga likes to call itself the world capital of Art Nouveau, and a quick stroll bears out the claim. Streets are lined with grandiose examples of the style—houses and public buildings that serve as monuments to the city's glory days as a cosmopolitan port in the last decades of Tsarist rule. Hugely ornate facades swirl with extravagant detail. It may be a tad extreme for some tastes, but it's never boring. The city's return to prosperity means many of these treasures, such as Riga's Graduate School of Law, have been lovingly restored; UNESCO has recognized Riga as a world heritage sight.
—William Underhill