Cultural trips

Travel

Mysuru, India, city guide: what to see, plus the best yoga centres, hotels and restaurants

Famed for ashtanga yoga, wellbeing is a way of life in this magical south Indian city – and fantastic markets, food and architecture all add to the allure

Mysuru (formerly known as Mysore; it was renamed in 2014) has hovered under the tourist radar for years and is often overlooked in favour of southern cousins such as Kochi and Puducherry. But the former royal capital of the erstwhile eponymous princely state is a slow-reveal pleasure, a place of culture, eccentricity, architecture, beauty and manners; a gently pious, highly literate and quietly arresting city, connected to nature and imbued with the sacred.

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Travel

Taos, New Mexico: a road trip of highs and pueblos

Snowboarders love the unpisted gullies of Taos, in New Mexico. Off the slopes, the region’s adobe villages offer an insight into Native American culture and a chance to support local communities, as our writer discovers on a road trip

In the biting cold of the dark, incense-scented St Jerome chapel, tour guide Francisco Velarde, or “Flying Hawk” in his native Tiwa language, is explaining his people’s history to a small audience of tourists huddled in pews in their ski jackets. His ancestors, the “red willow people”, have lived here in Taos Pueblo for 1,000 years, he says, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the US; an unusually successful revolt made them the only tribe to never be displaced on to a reservation. It’s a fascinating history, especially from the mouth of this passionate, streetwise student, part of Native American hiphop group Po.10.Cee, which has 27 albums to its name.

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Travel

Readers’ best travel discoveries of 2017

From a Norwegian glacier to an exotic garden in Chennai, and from vegan burgers in Warsaw to a sherry bar in Madrid, readers share their holiday highlights

Looking for a walk to complete the day before tackling the mammoth Trolltunga hike in April, we decided on the trail to Buerbreen glacier. The starting point was a 20-minute drive from our base in Odda. The walk was brilliant: three hours of streams, rickety-looking bridges, ropes and scrambling brought us to the glacier. With the added beauty of having the trail to ourselves, this was a wonderful hike seemingly bypassed by those aiming for the famous Trolltunga rock shelf nearby. We stayed at Trolltunga Studios (doubles from £70): best value and location to hit the trails in this beautiful part of Europe.
cand82

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Travel

Top 10 last-minute Christmas and New Year activities in London

The run-up to the big day doesn’t have to be all shopping malls and panto: we pick cool, offbeat and cultural events and gift-buying opportunities across the capital

It’s magical enough at the best of times but for Christmas Kew Gardens becomes a magical wonderland of light – from a flickering fire garden to laser beams shooting from the iconic Palm House. A trail through the grounds is lit by over a million lights, and the North Pole village is home to Santa and his elves, and plenty of toasted marshmallow.
• Until 1 Jan 2018, adult £18.50, child £12, kew.org/christmas

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Travel

Penang guide: what to do, plus the best bars, restaurants and hotels

Its street food scene is legendary and the capital George Town, one of the hottest destinations in Asia, now buzzes with nightlife – but the verdant island’s beaches and jungle are also worth exploring

This exotic tropical island off the north-west coast of Malaysia is one of the world capitals of street food, with a dazzling array of cuisines from the island’s Chinese, Malay and Indian communities. But after eating my way through everything from Hokkien black noodles, succulent giant prawns steamed in rice wine and spicy assam laksa, to roti canai dunked in a rich lamb curry, I discovered that Penang is a lot more than just a foodie paradise.

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Travel

Travelling in the Andes: readers’ travel tips

From subtropical Colombia to Tierra del Fuego in the shadow of Antarctica, our tipsters have explored, eaten, slept and imbibed among these astonishing peaks

The Quilotoa Loop is a network of hiking paths connecting a series of indigenous Kichwa villages in the Ecuadorian Andes. Although challenging, the routes are not beyond novice trekkers. Winding through incredible valleys dotted with horses and llamas, the main loop culminates at beautiful Laguna de Quilotoa, set in the caldera of a long-extinct volcano. After two or three days’ hiking, it’s an astonishing and rewarding sight. Start your trip in the tiny village of Insinliví and you can enjoy a night of luxury before the hard work begins. Hostal Llullu Llama is one of the friendliest and best-equipped guesthouses in the Andes – there’s even a hot tub.
Dorm beds from $19, including breakfast and dinner, llullullama.com
David Ross

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Travel

Get a kick out of karate at Okinawa’s new fight club

With karate now included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, we check out a new complex dedicated to the martial art on Japan’s most southerly islands

Spinning, hissing, arms and legs pistoning: the 12 men are like steam locomotives. Karate master Morio Higaonna is supervising their training session. His attention turns to me. “It’s no good just watching,” he says. “You have to take part.” Higaonna takes one of my hands and interlaces his fingers with mine in what would be, in other contexts, an intimate clasp. There is a pause before, with shocking rapidity, he pulls my fingers up and back. I swear loudly and flap my hand to relieve the pain.

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Travel

Frankfurt city guide: what to see plus the best bars, restaurants and hotels

Goldman Sachs’s CEO tweeted that he’ll be spending more time in the city after Brexit. He won’t be the only one. We asked a local journalist to show us around

As someone who grew up in this city, I’m familiar with what you think you know about it: it’s dull, it’s cold, everybody talks about money, there is no subculture, no real nightlife, and why aren’t you in Berlin already?

Let me stop you there. First, we are a good-humoured, friendly bunch, who are interested in getting things done without being pretentious about it. That’s why there are always new places popping up. The Museum of Romanticism is being built right next to the poet Goethe’s birthplace and is due to open in early 2020. The Altstadt, the old town destroyed in the second world war, is being reconstructed – not as a Disney fantasy but as a modern version of its former self.

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Travel

Shenzhen’s new V&A-approved culture centre to showcase city’s artistic side

The Chinese megacity has grown rapidly over the last 35 years and with its new Sea World Culture and Arts Centre opening in December it’s looking to make as big an impact in culture as it has in industry

Shenzhen is a border town, tech hub, factory floor and somewhere Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has labelled a “generic city”: malleable enough to change its form with the times.

This Pearl River Delta megalopolis is China’s richest city, having grown from 30,000 inhabitants in 1980 – when it was designated the first special economic zone – to almost 12 million today. With Shenzhen’s mushrooming size (the fourth-highest megatall in the world, the Ping An Finance Centre, glares across the river towards Hong Kong) comes ballooning ambition, because Koolhaas’s generic city is now eyeing developments in art and design.

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Travel

The best city breaks in Germany: readers’ travel tips

Riesling and Romans, baroque and bratwurst … our tipsters point to alluring cities from Bavaria to the Hanseatic northern ports – but sidestepping Berlin – taking in great food, museums, spas and bars
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One of Bavaria’s oldest cities, Augsburg is a delightful base for a cycling journey on the “Romantic road” or a relaxed city break. Visit the Fuggerei, Europe’s most venerable social housing project, founded by the Fugger banking dynasty in the 16th century. Residents are charged only a nominal rent provided they attend mass daily – just as in the 1500s. The Brechthaus in the old artisan quarter of Lechviertel is the birthplace of Bertolt Brecht and offers insights into the great playwright, poet and director’s Augsburg youth, US exile and uneasy relationship with the GDR after eventually taking up residence in East Berlin. Enjoy hearty portions of knödel (dumplings) and spätzle (soft egg noodles) at Bauerntanz on Bauerntanzgasschen for around €25 a head. The Hotel Riegele, opposite the railway station, is comfortable, moderately priced (doubles €92 B&B) and a short stroll from the city centre.
Brian Weston

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Travel

St Petersburg: city of revolution turns itself around – again

This year all eyes have been on what happened in Russia’s cultural capital 100 years ago, but we ask local artists and musicians for the lowdown on its best 21st-century clubs and arts venues

“You won’t find anything like this in Moscow,” Kolya Dubinko, a St Petersburg native, insists. We’re sitting on a wooden bench next to an old sailing boat outside newly opened bar/club Machty (Masts). The venue – which on this particular evening is hosting a selection of techno DJs and producers on Moscow label Gost Zvuk Records – occupies a former factory known as Priboi that once produced radio-electronics. It’s in a relatively secluded spot at the far end ofVasilievsky Island, one of the oldest parts of the city, on the Shkiperskiy canal. Machty simultaneously reflects the city’s intimate relationship with water (St Petersburg has 93 rivers and canals and 800 bridges), its industrial Soviet past and its 18th-century baroque architecture. Kolya ushers me through a small gate that leads to the canalembankment and I’m hit by biting wind from the Gulf of Finland, laced with smells of fish and engine oil.

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Art

Naked attraction: art and tragic tales in Modigliani’s Paris

As Tate Modern prepares a new exhibition of his work, including 12 of his famous nudes, Louise Roddon explores the artist’s haunts in Montmartre and Montparnasse

Poor Amedeo Modigliani, what a tough life he led. I’m thinking this as I climb the steps to his last studio in Montparnasse. It’s a classic artist’s garret with peeling paint and poor lighting, and climbing the countless floors on a narrow stone tread, leaves me winded. It wouldn’t have been easy for a man with advanced tuberculosis. With Tate Modern about to stage its Modigliani exhibition, I’ve come to number 8 Rue de la Grande-Chaumière, his final home before he died tragically young in 1920. At 35, he wasn’t just a victim of TB, but was suffering the toll of a lifetime’s enthusiasm for alcohol and drugs.

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Music

The alt city guide to York

It’s time for the Romans and Vikings to make way for a new insurgency in the North Yorkshire jewel: a sparky, creative scene fuelled by innovative music, food and drink outlets

What images come to mind when you think of York? The Minster, steam engines, Romans and Vikings, a city resisting the 21st century? But look beyond that twee facade, outside York’s narrow medieval streets, and a very different city is asserting itself.

“It’s definitely getting more vibrant,” says Danielle Barge, editor of webzine Arts York. “In recent years, a lot of people have started independent projects: small theatre and film companies, artists’ studios, music promoters. People are almost in artistic rebellion. They’re taking it upon themselves to say, ‘if no one else is going to make it, we will’.”

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Travel

Eyes on the prize: on the civil rights trail in Washington DC

As America lurches to the right, we check out the cultural heritage sites associated with Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement

At his memorial in Washington DC, the statue of Martin Luther King is half finished. The legs and back disappear, like a ghost, into a slab of uncarved white marble. His face is determined and resolute, but not yet satisfied. A line from his “I Have a Dream” speech, from 1963, is etched into the rock: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” His sculpture is unfinished for a reason – the struggle continues.

Parts of the Capitol building, the Statue of Freedom, and even the White House, were built by men in chains

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Travel

Guadalajara city guide: what to do, plus the best bars, restaurants and hotels

Visitors often overlook Mexico’s second city but it is both cosmopolitan and – as capital of the state where tequila and mariachi originate – quintessentially Mexican

Far from Mexico’s well-trodden tourist trail, the colonial city of Guadalajara is one of this vast nation’s most overlooked destinations. In the western state of Jalisco, Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest metropolis, and the birthplace of two of its most emblematic exports: tequila and mariachi music. It is sunnier and less overwhelming than Mexico City, while offering better value for money and a more “Mexican” experience than gringo-orientated resorts of the Yucután peninsula.

Proud Tapatíos, as Guadalajara’s 4.5 million residents are known, take hospitality seriously and love to showcase the very best of their culture. The city’s historic centre houses its most obvious attractions, such as the twin-towered cathedral and the labyrinthine Mercado San Juan de Dios, Latin America’s largest indoor market. The stately Hospicio Cabañas, a former orphanage with fiery murals by José Clemente Orozco, is Unesco-listed and worth a visit, along with the Zapopan district’s imposing stone archway and majestic 17th-century basilica.

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Travel

Elena Ferrante’s Naples – a photo essay

We follow in the (fictional) footsteps of the heroines of My Brilliant Friend and its sequels, into the alleyways, gritty apartment blocks and piazzas of this energetic and fascinating city

Lenù and Lila, the fictional protagonists of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, forge their friendship in a deprived area of Naples, just east of the cacophonous central station. The books follow the girls’ fraught relationship as they navigate the distinct social and economic divides of the city, both railing against and succumbing to the expectations of women as they struggle to be defined by something other than the violence and poverty of their post-war upbringing.

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Travel

Toon and Tyne: Newcastle united … on a city walking tour

From the grandeur of Grey Street and Central station to the bridges over the Tyne, this walk takes in Newcastle’s fine Victorian architecture and industrial heritage

Just as the King Edward Bridge over the Tyne is about the most dramatic rail approach in the land, so the crossings visible down the gorge provide an equally impressive finale for the visiting walker. But first, there is the small matter of the city itself.

Don’t leave Newcastle Central station without taking in the iron majesty of the place. If you sense that you have arrived in one of the great industrial cathedrals of the 19th century, there is a reason. It was designed by John Dobson, the most renowned church architect of his day (in the north of England). Here, his nave-and-aisles format unfolds in a mighty eastwards curve to follow the course of the pre-existing railway lines. It is just as it was in August 1850, when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert formally opened it, though they were 13 years too early to catch the palatial neoclassical frontage of the portico.

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Travel

Bologna city guide: what to see plus the best bars, restaurants and hotels

The opening of a foodie theme park will further elevate Bologna’s reputation as Italy’s culinary capital but the city has plenty more to offer, including superb art, music and medieval architecture

Europe’s oldest university town (it was founded in 1088) has been a haven for intellectuals and creative types since luminaries such as Dante and Petrarch passed through in the 14th century. Cultural capitals can ossify with time, but the constant influx of young blood into Bologna has kept the city alive. In the evenings, cafes flood with Bolognesi, from high-society ladies to stylishly scruffy undergraduates arguing politics and sipping Aperol spritzes.

Piazza Verdi attracts musicians and dreadlocked punks, while bars under the arches of Piazza Santo Stefano are a lovely spot for a sundowner. At weekends the central Via Ugo Bassi and Via Rizzoli, along with perpendicular Via dell’Indipendenza, are pedestrianised and fill with shoppers and street performers. At nightfall, crowds from the student bars along Via Zamboni and the more upscale options on Via del Pratello spill into the streets.

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