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Best ‘Armchair Travel’ Books: Escape to Paris, London, Italy & More Without Leaving Home!

Woman's World books editor (and book lover!) shares her top 11 reads that provide a perfect escape

In the midst of freezing winter weather and weekends spent inside, there’s no better way to pass the time than reading a book that transports you elsewhere. These escape-style travel books — also referred to as ‘armchair travel’ novels — allow you to soak up the sun in Tuscany, stroll the shores of Santorini or solve a mystery in Paris all from the comfort of your reading chair.

Here, we rounded up some of our favorite travel novels — both new and old — that are sure to fuel your wanderlust. Keep scrolling to discover 11 of the best ‘armchair travel’ novels, from mysteries to romance to memoirs and more. Happy reading!

For a witty romantic-comedy set in California…

Try People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily (Armchair Travel Books)

Fans of When Harry Met Sally will delight over this wildly funny and tender rom-com set in sunny Palm Springs. When they met in college, wild-child Poppy and straight-laced Alex didn’t hit it off. Then after doing a car-share for summer break, the unlikely pair became best friends. Now, years after college, Poppy works in New York City while schoolteacher Alex stayed in their hometown — but every summer, for a decade, they’ve taken a vacation together. Until two years ago, when they ruined it all. They haven’t spoken since, but when Poppy gets a work travel assignment and asks Alex to join her, he agrees. Can they fix their friendship and address the truth that’s been hiding in plain sight for so long?

What readers are saying: “I finished this book in one day and immediately started reading it again. It’s a heartfelt, laugh-out-loud, funny story that has now made it into my top five of all time. Poppy and Alex and their story had me laughing and crying. The characters’ chemistry and banter makes this book that much better. This is the perfect book to help you escape and feel warm fuzzy feelings all over!”

For a heartfelt journey of hope and healing set in Italy…

Try One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle   (Armchair Travel Books)

Bestselling author of In Five Years, Rebecca Serle is known for her powerful stories that tug at the heartstrings — and this novel, set on the colorful coastline of Positano, is unforgettable. When Katy’s mother, Carol, dies, Katy is shattered. To make matters worse, their mother-daughter trip to Positano — the magical town where Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father — is already planned, so Katy decides to go alone. As soon as she arrives at the Amalfi Coast, she’s warmed by the charming local residents, the delicious food and beautiful cliffside views. Katy even starts to feel her mother’s spirit and comes to learn that those we love never leave us. 

What readers are saying: “Rebecca Serle writes books that stick with me. In Five Years is one that I will never forget, and now One Italian Summer is another. Also, I now want to drop everything and go to Positano immediately. This novel makes you feel like you are in Italy, which is one of the things I love most about it. I imagined myself there with sun kissed skin, eating all the pasta, and drinking all the wine. The best stories allow you to lose yourself in them. This one, as quick of a read it was, did just that for me. I wanted to linger on every page, in every scene.”

For a lushly written, uplifting story set in Greece…

Try The Summer House in Santorini by Samantha Parks

The Summer House in Santorini by Samantha Parks  (Armchair Travel Books)
‎ One More Chapter

Readers will fall in love with this lush, picturesque novel that follows Anna as she runs away to Greece in a last-ditch attempt to hide from a failed relationship, a stagnant career and a complex family. After learning she has inherited a dilapidated summer house from her estranged father, she arrives in Santorini with its lovely villas, blue-tiled roofs and turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea. Soon, Anna begins to rebuild the house — and her life —but in the process, she begins to uncover life-altering family secrets. Will these secrets threaten her blossoming romance with Nikos, the handsome and so-charming local?

What readers are saying: “This is a fun book set in a beautiful location. The author, Samantha Parks, does a great job of helping us picture the island of Santorini and fall in love with the quirky inhabitants of the island. Some call this a beach read, but truly, I think it’s a great book for any time of year. How about in the middle of winter, when you’re tired of snow? Great start for a debut author!”

For an enchanting historical mystery set in Paris…

Try The Paris Mystery by Kirsty Manning

The Paris Mystery by Kirsty Manning (Travel Novels)

Set in 1938 Paris, The Paris Mystery is a new novel, the first in the Charlotte ‘Charlie’ James series, written by Australian author Kirsty Manning. It’s 1938 and fearless Aussie reporter Charlotte ‘Charlie’ has arrived in Paris eager to make a fresh start. As a new corespondent for a British newspaper, she’s chasing her first big scoop. To make new contacts, she befriends Lord and Lady Ashworth. Lady Eleanor knows people in Parisian high society. So when she invites Charlie to her decadent annual party, a Circus Ball, it’s the perfect place to meet everyone. The ball is full of glitz and glamour…that is until there’s a murder. Now, Charlie vows to crack the case — while searching for clues at lavish parties, wine bars and couture houses. Will she uncover the culprit still lurking in the City of Lights?

What readers are saying: The Paris Mystery is what readers need…armchair travel to another place and time that is filled with dazzling glamour and intrigue.”

For a story about family ties and starting over in London…

Try With Love From London by Sarah Jio

With Love From London by Sarah Jio (Armchair Travel Books)
Ballantine Books

This tale about family secrets and forgiveness by bestselling author Sarah Jio sparkles with heart and wit. When Valentina Baker was 11 years old, her mother, Eloise, fled to her native London, leaving Val and her father in California. Now a divorced librarian in her thirties, Val is still not over her mother’s abandonment. In a twist of fate, she receives news that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the Book Garden, the quaint bookshop she opened almost 20 years prior. Though the news is tragic, Val takes the chance for a new beginning and hops a plane to London. A story about making peace with the past, uncovering secrets and finding hope for the future.

What readers are saying: “This book is the perfect book to sink into after a long day at work or when you’re trying to relax. When I was reading this, I felt like I was transported into a wonderful, beautiful new world, and I didn’t want to leave. If you’re intrigued by its description or if you’re a book-lover looking for an escape, I highly recommend that you check out this book!”

For an escapist novel about wealthy families set in Singapore…

Try Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Armchair Travel Books)

Glamorous scenes, family drama and luxurious moments abound in this international bestselling novel by Kevin Kwan. The story follow professor Rachel Chu, who is traveling with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, back to his home city of Singapore for his friend’s wedding. It’s also an opportunity for her to finally meet his family for the first time. Before long, Rachel is facing a meddling mother, crazy rich relatives and a shocking truth that may derail her future with Nick.

What readers are saying: “Wonderful escapism! I loved, more than anything, the rich and luxurious way the writer describes this over the top and opulent world. Most of all, I enjoyed the description of the food and the fashion. The world of the crazy rich is a reality that I cannot imagine…like going on a private jet to Australia or buying big and sparkling jewelry. But now I actually can imagine it!”

For a historical fiction set in Rhode Island…

Try The Lost Summers of Newport by Beatriz Williams,  Lauren Willig, and Karen White

The Lost Summers of Newport by Beatriz Williams,  Lauren Willig, and Karen White (Armchair Travel Books)
William Morrow Paperbacks

This sweeping historical novel written by bestselling authors Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White allows readers to step foot into beautiful Newport, Rhode Island — in the past and the present. Andy Figuero is currently in Newport to produce a reality show about restoring historic homes. But as she takes on the task of documenting the crumbling Sprague Hall, while being banned from speaking to the elderly owner, past secrets arise. Spanning three time periods — and the secrets hidden in each — the story of Sprague Hall and its inhabitants is interwoven into the lives of America’s royalty (the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, and others). A sumptuous story that covers a century of juicy history from the Gilded Age to the present day!

What readers are saying: “This is a tale of three generations of strong women told from three different POVs — and it has such a beautiful setting and a plot that had me invested. I loved the alternating timelines! I also loved the armchair travel aspect of this novel — it’s full of detailed descriptions that transport you to another place and time.”

For an inspiring memoir set in Tuscany…

Try Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

 Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (Armchair Travel Books)

In this iconic New York Times bestseller, chef, poet and travel writer, Frances Mayes takes readers into her Tuscan home called Bramasole. Bought as a fixer-upper, Frances moved into a Tuscan villa as a way to show people the power of embarking on their own journeys that they believed would make her happy. Filled with recipes, beautiful descriptions and inspirational messages, this classic and memorable book always has something for everyone.

What readers are saying: “What an inspiring book! I felt like I was in Cortona, Italy, with the author. She writes in such a way that I could see the soft nuances of colors on the Italian hillsides, and I could hear the Italian voices and laughter in the marketplace. I could feel the warm sun and hear the crack of the thunderstorm. I could smell the rain in the air. This book really transported me to the little village in Italy.”

For a sweet, lighthearted story set in the Carolinas…

Try The Seaside Café by Rochelle Alers

The Seaside Café by Rochelle Alers (Travel Novels)

Stunning coastal settings and a warm cast of characters…this novel whisks readers away to the beaches of North Carolina. Following a betrayal, Kayana Johnson moves back to lovely Coates Island to help her brother run the Seaside Café. After Kayana meets two patrons, Leah and Cherie, who feel like kindred spirits, they start a book club. Soon, the trio unpacks the drama in their books and their lives. It is a tale of love, friendship and new beginnings.

What readers are saying: “Rochelle Alers did an excellent job of describing Coates Island — and I could actually feel like I was there while reading! I was intrigued by the description of the book about three women who form a summer book club. A four-star read!”

For an evocative story about self-discovery set in Rome…

Try Six Days in Rome by Francesca Giacco 

Six Days in Rome by Francesca Giacco   (Armchair Travel Books)
Grand Central Publishing

Filled with beautiful scenery, emotion and Italian charm, this captivating debut novel written by Francesca Giacco follows Emilia, who arrives in Rome reeling from a broken heart. She dreamily wanders every corner of the city, eating food, drinking wine and reflecting back on memories. Then, while climbing a hill near Trastevere, she meets John, a handsome American expat. As their initial connection deepens, Emilia finds herself on a journey of true self-discovery.

What readers are saying: “I’ve never been to Rome, and yet this book suddenly makes me nostalgic for this warm, beautiful city full of orange hues! The descriptions of the streets, food and people are so rich and nuanced. I love a novel that just pulls you in while also making you think about the complexity of its characters even after you put it down. Just such a gorgeous read!”

For an exciting romance set in the wilderness…

Try Something Wilder by Christina Lauren

Something Wilder by Christina Lauren  (Armchair Travel Books)

Heartfelt, charming and fun, the latest saga by best-friend author duo Christina Lauren is a stand-out page-turner! As the daughter of a treasure hunter, Lily Wilder now uses her father’s maps to guide tourists on hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. But when she runs into the long-lost love of her life, Leo Grady, in the canyons, the duo have a chance to take another kind of adventure­ — rekindled romance.

What readers are saying: “Christina Lauren does it again. This story has a mix of adventure, romance, friendship, love and loss. It’s a totally different book than the other ones that I’ve read, but I enjoyed this one just the same. You definitely get Indiana Jones vibes with this second-chance Western romance.”

For more book recommendations, click through the links below!

10 Books to Read If You Love ‘Bridgerton’: These Romances Will Make You Swoon!

Best Audiobooks to Keep You Company, From Celebrity Memoirs to Rom-Coms & More

And for all things books, click here!

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