One con­ti­nent, many coun­tries to take a hol­i­day cel­e­brat­ing history, food, fes­ti­vals and the arts

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - BEST OF EUROPE 2018 - KERRY PAR­NELL

The Euro­pean Capitals of Cul­ture 2018 are Val­letta in Malta and Leeuwar­den in the Netherlands. Malta – an is­land with strong ties to Aus­tralia – kicks off its year­long fes­tiv­i­ties with an open­ing cer­e­mony in Jan­uary and its historic car­ni­val the fol­low­ing month.

Other high­lights in­clude a pageant of the seas and film fes­ti­val in June and arts fes­ti­val in July.

Leeuwar­den-Fries­land also has an open­ing cer­e­mony in Jan­uary. The city – home to the no­to­ri­ous spy Mata Hari – has an ex­hi­bi­tion on the in­ter­na­tional woman of mystery, and events through the year in­clud­ing a pro­duc­tion of Aida and the idio­syn­cratic Oran­je­w­oud fes­ti­val in June which has per­form­ers play­ing al­most 24 hours a day. VALLETTA2018.ORG, FRIES­LAND.NL


Football fans won’t want to miss the 21st FIFA World Cup in Rus­sia from June 14 to July 15, with or with­out Aus­tralia. The first and fi­nal matches are in Moscow’s Luzh­niki stadium.

With a boom in ho­tel con­struc­tion for the tour­na­ment, there are plenty of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions. One of the most stylish is The StandArt Ho­tel – Rus­sia’s first De­sign Ho­tels mem­ber, with its Art Nou­veau fa­cade and mod­ernist in­te­rior. Rooms start at 12000 RUB a dou­ble (about $270). FIFA.COM, STANDARTHOTEL.COM


Lin­ers con­tinue to add new ports and itin­er­ar­ies. Next year Sil­versea sends Sil­ver Spirit to three new North­ern Euro­pean ports – Borgholm and Sundsvall in Swe­den and Kemi in Fin­land, on its Stock­holm to Copen­hagen tour in July. Prices start at $10,200. And Sil­ver Muse will visit the Greek is­land of Spet­ses for the first time on its Venice to Athens tour in June. Prices start at $12,100.

There’s a new clas­si­cal mu­sic voy­age, BRAVO! A Cruise of the Per­form­ing Arts, which de­parts from Southamp­ton, UK, to Spain and France. The seven-night Celebrity Cruises trip has 30 artists per­form­ing in­clud­ing Kather­ine Jenk­ins. Prices start at $3200.

Cruise Trav­eller and Riviera Travel are launch­ing a 20-night tour of Por­tu­gal which in­cludes flights from Aus­tralia, a stay in Lis­bon, over­land tour to Porto and a seven­night cruise on the Douro River. Prices start at $11,195.

Viking Cruises is of­fer­ing a new Ukraine trip from Kiev to Odessa. The historic 11-day route lets you fol­low in the foot­steps of the Vik­ings, Tatars and Cos­sacks. Prices start at $5895.

And Aus­tralian-owned Pere­grine Ad­ven­tures has added 20 new small ship char­ters for 2018 in­clud­ing Ice­land, Lis­bon to Malaga and Croa­tia. Prices start at $2735. SIL­VERSEA.COM, CRUIS­ING.COM.AU, CRUISETRAVELLER.COM.AU, VIKINGRIVERCRUISES.COM.AU, PEREGRINEADVENTURES.COM


Next year’s Tour de France starts in the idyl­lic Noir­moutier-en-I’lle in West­ern France on July 7 and cul­mi­nates in Paris on July 29.

The best way to en­joy Paris is as a lo­cal. Pe­tite B & B Apart­ments’ favourite is the pretty Amelie-style apart­ment, Lisette, in Mont­martre.

Prices start at €149 a night (about $225). LETOUR.FR, PETITEBNBS.COM


The fa­mous Rock of Gi­bral­tar on the tip of Spain, has two new at­trac­tions. The re­cently opened Wind­sor sus­pen­sion bridge is a free pedes­trian cross­ing that spans a 50m gorge. If that doesn’t get your adren­a­line go­ing, how about the new Sky­walk with glass-bot­tomed path­ways be­ing constructed at the top of the Rock? VISITGIBRALTAR.GI


In­spired by the Dur­rells to visit the beau­ti­ful is­land of Corfu? Now you can do it in a lit­tle more lux­ury than the zo­ol­o­gist’s fam­ily with the open­ing of Ikos Das­sia. The enor­mous re­sort has 403 rooms and vil­las, many with pri­vate pools, seven restau­rants, a pri­vate beach and spa. They also have a Dine Out op­tion where you can eat at lo­cal restau­rants at no ex­tra cost. Open­ing May, rooms start at €232 a night (about $350). IKOSRESORTS.COM


With 2018 the Year of Ital­ian Food, visit the new foodie theme park in Bologna. FICO by Eataly World is the world’s largest agri-food park, where you can lit­er­ally see the food grown, har­vested, pro­cessed and put on your plate at one of the 40 restau­rants on site. En­try is free. At the other end of the coun­try, Aus­tralian cook­book queen Lyn­dey Mi­lan is host­ing a Food and History Ad­ven­tures of Puglia and Basil­i­cata tour. The six-day trip in May in­cludes meet­ing ar­ti­sanal food and wine mak­ers, ac­com­mo­da­tion in historic palaz­zos and cook­ing classes. Price $4999. EATALYWORLD.IT, SOUTHERNVISIONSTRAVEL.COM


If a cruise doesn’t float your boat, how about a new rail jour­ney through some of the world’s finest scenery? Golden Ea­gle Lux­ury Trains has launched the Cham­pagne Ex­press which goes from Venice to Paris, via Monte Carlo, Grasse, Bur­gundy and Cham­pagne, com­plete with a trip to the Moet & Chan­don es­tate. It ends with a two-night stay in Paris. Priced from $US12,495 (about $16,255). GOLDENEAGLELUXURYTRAINS.COM


With its mu­se­ums, bistros, craft beer and hip ho­tels, Ger­many’s Ham­burg is hav­ing a re­nais­sance in part thanks to the re­cent open­ing of the stun­ning Elbphil­har­monie con­cert hall. Next year the water­front city will see sev­eral new ho­tels open­ing, with the ar­rival of The Fon­te­nay on the banks of Al­ster lake – a dra­matic curved struc­ture cov­ered in porce­lain tiles. All 131 rooms have wa­ter views. Rooms are from €355 (about $536) a night.

The Ad­ina Ham­burg Spe­ich­er­stadt opens with 202 apart­ments, a bar, pool and restau­rant. Rooms are from €101 a night. The Sydney-based ho­tel group is cel­e­brat­ing its 10th year and as the only Aus­tralian ho­tel group op­er­at­ing in Europe, guests get a lit­tle touch of home while in Ger­many – there’s even Vegemite at break­fast. THEFONTENAY.DE, ADINAHOTELS.COM.AU


Au­drey Hep­burn wed there, Sophia Loren lived there, and after a $717 mil­lion makeover, Switzer­land’s Bur­gen­stock Re­sort is tipped to be the big­gest ho­tel open­ing in the world.

Of­fi­cially launch­ing in spring, the enor­mous re­sort on a moun­tain ridge has four lux­ury ho­tels, 12 restau­rants, spa, ten­nis courts and a golf course. Guests ar­rive via boat across Lake Lucerne and take the fu­nic­u­lar rail­way to the top. BUERGENSTOCK.CH


Next year is the Euro­pean Year of Cul­tural Her­itage and one of Spain’s most cul­tural cities, Va­len­cia, is cel­e­brat­ing its 20th an­niver­sary of the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the City of Arts and Sci­ences. The huge fu­tur­is­tic com­plex houses a plan­e­tar­ium, Europe’s largest aquar­ium, opera house and gar­dens. A new cul­tural cen­tre, Bom­bas Gens, in an Art Deco pump house, is also the home of a Miche­lin-starred restau­rant.

Next year lux­ury ho­tel Mar­ques House opens, hous­ing the Va­len­cian in­sti­tu­tion Café Madrid, where the fa­mous cock­tail, Agua de Va­len­cia, was cre­ated. The city’s Fal­las fes­ti­val in March is some­thing you will never for­get. Re­cently added to UNESCO’s Cul­tural Her­itage list, huge pa­pier mache sculp­tures are placed around the city, be­fore get­ting burned.

A new Fal­las tour lets you see the ren­o­vated mu­seum and meet lo­cal artists. Tick­ets €20 adult, €16 child. VISITVALENCIA.COM


There’s plenty to de­light trav­ellers in Europe from the Blue La­goon in Comino, Malta, and Rock of Gi­bral­tar, Spain, to Ger­many’s hip Ham­burg.

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