We’ve drawn up a list of the five most stylish cities in Europe, each one only a cheap flight away. We picked these based not only on the overall effect that fashion has on the town. It’s all very well having lots of expensive shops, or lots of resident designers. What these iconic cities have is style, elegance, grace, and international renown.
Paris has long been synonymous with elegance and chic, to the point that its reputation has far outstripped the reality. While the cliché is an exaggeration, Paris still does boast some of the most stylish architecture, most fashionable boutiques and the most beautiful people. There’s something about the atmosphere which, when combined with staggeringly good food and long, tree-lined avenues, creates a sense of timeless propriety. Visitors would be wise to remember that it is a living city and that there are carjackers and industrial estates to accompany the boulevards and boulangeries.
Berlin’s recent history has made it a young and vibrant city. Its eagerness to regenerate itself has given rise to some stunning public spaces and a trend-setting attitude. While it doesn’t have the centuries-old reputation that Paris has, it has a certain charm which is immediately present when you step off the plane or train. The main station (Berlin Hauptbahnhof) is one of the largest in Europe and retains the grandeur of the original 1882 building, even though it is only about five years old. The history of East Berlin is particularly poignant in comparison to the sprawling shopping centres offering luxury clothes and designer accessories – visiting the museums is a must.
London is one of the most stylish cities in the world. Thanks to a history of alternative fashion, a passion for subcultures and a “Cool Britannia” reawakening in the 1990’s, the city thrives on style, elegance, and a traditionally English eccentric twist on the continental status quo. Inexpensive shops in Camden and Soho boast some of the most ‘in’ threads, and the market stalls in and around the centre are altars to quirky, alternative looks.
Rome’s illustrious history is not all that it has to offer. Of course, it was the capital of the Roman Empire which ruled over Europe for more than 700 years, and it’s been the seat of the Pope for the best part of two millennia. Aside from all that irrelevant history, it boasts exactly the kind of exquisite shopping you would expect from an Italian fashion powerhouse. If you do end up in Italy in search of some raw fashion, cities like Florence and Milan also boast thriving fashion industries dating back hundreds of years.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a distinct enclave in Spain. There is controversy over whether or not it should be an autonomous region. Style wise, it inherits a vast amount of the Mediterranean look from Spain, but more importantly it has its own, unique vibe – the eponymous Gaudi architecture is everywhere, putting a bizarre twist on established architectural norms and filling the city with colour. It’s a big settlement – one of the biggest in Europe – and the majority of it echoes the meticulously decorated city centre. A visit to Barcelona is not complete without a trip to the as-yet incomplete La Sagrada Familia, the city’s enormous near-psychedelic cathedral.