From summer raves in Ibiza to autumnal truffle hunts in the Dordogne, we explain where to go and when in 2016. Just don’t forget to send us a postcard.
Switzerland’s glistening slopes may seem like a far cry from the sullen skies of London, but skiers can be slaloming their way down pristine pistes within a few hours of leaving the capital. Simply hop on a flight to Geneva – consistently ranked one of the world’s happiest cities – and in the time it takes to watch back-to-back episodes of Narcos you’ll have arrived at the gateway to some of Switzerland’s finest slopes. Before you head home, shop for chocs in downtown Geneva and stroll along its beautiful lakeshore.
If your wardrobe is starting to look like a charity shop’s discount rail, head to Milan this February as it plays host to the annual Fashion Week (24 Feb-1 Mar), which should offer a glimpse of what’s hot and what’s not in 2016. Failing that, this northern Italian city could be a fine destination for a Valentine’s break. Far from being a boring industrial metropolis, as it’s often portrayed, the city’s Gothic architecture, bountiful restaurants and pulsating nightlife could prove an amorous alternative to Paris, where every other love-struck couple will be smooching.
Must we explain why you should be in Dublin this March? Okay then, three words: St Patrick’s Day (17 March). This annual holiday, held to honour the patron saint of Ireland, plays out much as you would expect: packed pubs, plenty of singing and enough Guinness to sink a ship. Hang around for a couple of days to watch Ireland take on Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in the Six Nations. Hell of a craic.
Go out in Amsterdam this April and you could be painting the town… orange? Yes, that’s right: everything is orange in the Dutch capital on 27 April as the city celebrates King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day). The annual jamboree, first held in 1885 to honour the birth of Queen Wilhelmina, is less regal nowadays and far more hedonistic with DJs, bands and a whole lot of booze seeing revellers through until sunrise the following day.
There’s never a bad time to visit Spain, and Madrid in particular, but May is one of the best. Not only can British travellers take advantage of two bank holidays back home (which means less time off work), but they can also delve headlong into some of the city’s feistiest fiestas. The month kicks off with Dos de Mayo (2 May), a patriotic festival celebrating the city’s 1808 rebellion over French forces. The merriment continues for San Isidro (15 May), during which Madrid’s citizens honour their patron saint with traditional dancing, food and concerts.
The blooming lavender fields of Provence are one of France’s most beautiful spectacles and best visited between June and August. So what’s the plan? We advise booking a B&B, hiring a bike and exploring the fragrant fields, while cramming your phone with enough pictures to bring down Instagram. Then, slip off to one of the region’s many vineyards to sample the region’s other feted speciality: wine.
If you think Zurich is a bit on the dull side then you clearly haven’t visited in July when the city plays host to the annual Zurich Fest. The three-day soirée is a chance to imbibe folk music, local cuisine and a glass or two of Switzerland’s little-known plonk. Funfairs, concerts, mobile discos and a firework display that could raise the dead are some of the other highlights. Blow away the hangover with a dip in Lake Zurich.
Edinburgh plays host to the largest arts festival in the world every August, which also happens to be the best chance you’ll have of seeing the sun in Scotland. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the highfalutin Edinburgh International Festival, Fringe has become the greatest showcase for performing arts on Earth, featuring everything from comedy and cabaret to theatre and spoken word. Up for it? Then get a move on – shows and hotels sell out fast.
A master of reinvention, Rotterdam was annihilated during WWII but has since emerged as one of Holland’s most exciting destinations – particularly for culture vultures. Rather than the step-gabled buildings you’ll find in Amsterdam, Rotterdam is lauded for its modern, cubed architecture. As well as being a doyen of design, the city has some wonderful museums, such as The Boijmans, which contains a mix of contemporary art and works by Dutch masters such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
Europe’s premier party destination signs off for 2016 this October, when the island’s clubs close for the winter. Pacha and Sankeys keep the vinyl spinning all the way to Halloween, when it’s still warm enough for a restorative dip in the Med. In fact, while the rest of Europe starts to shiver, Ibiza is still relatively clement come October so make sure you stock up on vitamin D before heading home.
A new route for City Airport, Bergerac is beautiful any time of the year. However, the city, and wider Dordogne region, is arguably most striking in November – and not just because of the rich autumn hues. No, the reason why Dordogne is best saved till November is because of the food. For autumn is truffle season, when the feted fungus starts finding its way onto Bergerac’s menus. If you’re not content quaffing this local delicacy, head out on a truffle hunt, a time-honoured tradition in these parts.
We love a German Christmas market in Britain; the trouble is they don’t travel well. Glühwein and bratwursts don’t taste the same on the streets of Blighty as they do in Germany. So accept no imitations this Christmas: head to Frankfurt, home to one of the country’s largest Christmas markets, for the authentic experience. And when you’ve spent your Euros in the pop-up bazaar, explore the Museum of Modern Art, catch a performance at the Old Opera House and take a wintry walk along the ravishing riverside.
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