DIP INTO THE CLASSICS
One continent, many countries to take a holiday celebrating history, food, festivals and the arts
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
WORLD CUP COMES TO RUSSIA
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
TOUR DE FRANCE HITS PARIS
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
LUXURY RESORT IN CORFU
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
FOOD THEME PARK
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
TAKE THE CHAMPAGNE EXPRESS
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
HAMBURG GETS HIP
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
SWITZERLAND’S NEW RESORT
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
VALENCIA LOOKS TO FUTURE
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.