Europe holidays

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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Travel

10 of the best attractions in Emilia-Romagna: readers’ travel tips

Fast cars, slow food, hilltop castles and open-air art galleries … Our readers pick their highlights of Emilia-Romagna – classic Italy without the crowds

On a hilltop between Bologna and Imola is Dozza, a handsome village of classic medieval appearance, with an unexpected twist. The entire village is an open-air gallery with around 100 artworks displayed wherever space allows. Murals adorn walls, doors and archways, showcasing a variety of styles by many different artists. Guided tours must be pre-booked but it is always open and accessible to all. Every two years, notable artists are invited to contribute to the collection, keeping it at the cutting edge of modern art. And in the enoteca regionale, more than 800 wines from Emilia-Romagna are available in the beautiful vaulted cellar of the fort. A fine day out.
marthah

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Travel

Berlin’s popular Thai Park faces threat of closure

The iconic but illegal Preussenpark food market could become a victim of its own success as officials clamp down over hygiene and safety regulations

Under the last of the summer sun, Thai hawkers dish up noodle soups flavoured with garlic and coriander, and prepare spicy papaya salads to order by hand. The sea of women in floppy brimmed hats, cooking street food under multi-coloured umbrellas, looks straight out of Bangkok, but this is western Berlin.

Thai Park, an open-air food market and popular tourist attraction usually wraps up at the end of October. But this year it is ending on a troubled note – the illegal market might not be allowed to resume in 2018.

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Travel

10 of the best-value family ski trips

Winter sports breaks can be seriously expensive during February half-term and the Easter holidays but there are bargains if you know where to look

Action Outdoors is the UK partner of UCPA, a French non-profit group that works to make outdoor sports holidays affordable. Its all-inclusive ski trips offer some of the best value going, with ski hire and 12 hours of tuition included in the price. Les Contamines, in the Mont Blanc region, is a friendly, quiet resort with higher than average snowfall that’s often overlooked in favour of big-hitting neighbours Chamonix and Megève. The slopes are especially suited to beginner and intermediate skiers, and the town is picturesque.
From £654pp at half-term (departing 10 February) with action-outdoors.co.uk, including 7 nights’ full-board, 6½ days’ lift pass, 12 hours’ ski instruction, 6½ days’ ski equipment hire and evening entertainment. Accommodation-only options are available and under-3s go free. Return Eurotunnel crossings from £150 per car. Tolls and fuel about £136 according to viamichelin.com

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Travel

10 of the best winter sports resorts in Europe for skiing and more

Not everyone is thrilled by the idea of a week’s skiing and little else; here are ski bases with the full St Moritz array of winter fun but without the Swiss original’s steep prices

The winter sports holiday was famously born in Switzerland in September 1864, when a canny hotelier in St Moritz wagered a party of British visitors that if they returned in winter and the sun failed to shine more than in summer, he’d foot their bill. Statistically, he was on safe ground. They returned, and the rest is history.

Today, St Moritz offers everything from golf, cricket and horse racing on the frozen lake, to the Cresta Run and bobsleigh. But it’s expensive. Here are 10 less well-known destinations that offer more than just skiing.

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Travel

Best little ski resorts in Europe: readers’ travel tips

Head to these lesser-known – and often cheaper – ski areas, some with challenging off-pistes and others with family-friendly runs and hotels, but all with breathtaking scenery

Villars is only two hours on the train from Geneva airport and it is possible to get a tram up into the village of Gryon, making the journey from airport to piste very easy for weekend skiers. Gryon and Villars have a wide range of blue and red pistes, which are excellent for families or skiers wanting to perfect their technique. However, the area’s best-kept secret is the glacier at Diablerets: incredible off-piste terrain with 2,000-metre verticals from top to bottom. The best thing is that it doesn’t attract the large numbers nearby Verbier does.
tomglancey

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Travel

10 of the best no-fly holidays from the UK

Put off air travel in these days of cancellations and bankruptcies? Why not take the train? From quick hops across the channel to journeys that become part of the holiday, we pick trips that cut out the airlines completely

Virgin Trains’ Rail & Sail tickets to Ireland are one of Britain’s best-kept travel secrets. It’s possible to buy a ticket from a local station to Dublin for £46 or less each way, with train and ferry all on one ticket. The train takes the scenic north Wales coast to Holyhead (sit on the right hand side for the sea views), passing under the imposing battlements of Conwy Castle. The crossing to Dublin takes 3¼ hours. Stay at Kelly’s hotel (doubles from €74 B&B) if you want to be in the (noisy) centre of the action (it’s above Hogan’s bar) or at Ariel House (doubles from €110 B&B), 2km from the city centre, for peace and quiet (unless there’s a big rugby or football match on – it’s next to the national stadium).

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Travel

Smoke on the water: a boating holiday adventure in France

On a family break along the Canal du Rhône au Rhin, Emma Cook and Co are out of their comfort zone, especially when their new boat breaks down. Still, there’s always Strasbourg to savour

It’s a beast of a boat, more Puerto Banús than Canal du Rhône, satin white curves and chrome handrails gleaming in the sun.

And it’s ours for the week. This is Horizon, the shiniest and newest addition to the range by Le Boat, the canal boat specialist which offers self-drive craft along the waterways of mainland Europe, UK and Ireland.

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Travel

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

In the 20 years since the Guggenheim opened, the Basque port city has not looked back – the museum acting as a magnet for great art and architecture as well as buzzing nightlife and restaurants

This year sees Bilbao celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Guggenheim museum, an institution that brought art and its lovers to the north coast city, and started an urban relaunch in which its industrial past was overlaid with fluttering palms, promenades and a proliferation of wonky, asymmetric, eye-popping glass and steel buildings by many of the world’s best architects – Norman Foster, Philippe Starck, Santiago Calatrava and Arata Isozaki among them. Thankfully, Bilbao’s old Basque soul remains intact. The additions enhance the old city, and tourism hasn’t disrupted the enviable lifestyle of its inhabitants, in which lifelong friendships, culture, pintxos (Basque tapas), and the spirit of football figure large.

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Travel

Czech out Brno for a cheaper, calmer city break

Booming Brno, with its creativity, history and subterranean mystery, is the perfect antidote to overrun Prague and its forests of selfie sticks

The phenomenon of “overtourism” has been in the news a lot this summer. How cities such as Prague and Vienna are swamped with visitors, restaurants booked weeks in advance, bars rammed with outsiders taking selfies. But about halfway between those two honeypots is another city also served by budget airlines from the UK that is far from swamped. In fascinating and surprising Brno, getting a table on a Saturday night is no problem, and it’s rare to hear anything but Czech in the streets.

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Travel

UK holidaymakers set to pay for making Spain their favourite getaway

Spain is the top destination for British tourists but increased demand is straining resources and prices may rise by up to 10% for 2018 holidays

With a record 18 million people visiting last year, Spain is by far the most popular foreign destination for UK holidaymakers. But as the country “fills up” with tourists – picking a package deal to the Costa del Sol or the Balearics over Tunisia, Egypt or Turkey – prices look set to increase.

Much of the rise in visitor numbers has been caused by ongoing security concerns over travel to north Africa and Turkey. Travel to Turkey suffered last year due to a failed military coup and from 2015 until July this year – when the Foreign Office updated its travel advice – British tourists were warned not to travel to Tunisia, following a terrorist attack on a beach in Sousse that killed 38 people.

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Travel

No ticket required: see top art for free at Venice’s San Giorgio Maggiore

A short vaporetto ride from the Doge’s Palace, the island of San Giorgio Maggiore is not only a lovely landmark, but a setting for free major art shows, especially during the current Biennale

Across the water from the Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark’s Square, the island of San Giorgio is an integral part of the classic Venetian vista. The white facade and tall bell tower of Palladio’s majestic 16th-century church were immortalised in paintings by Canaletto, Monet and Turner. The church is one of the few in Venice that does not charge an entry fee, and inside there are paintings by Tintoretto – including his Last Supper, painted in 1592–94 – Jacopo Bassano and Palma Giovane.

But Palladio’s masterpiece is only one of many surprising free attractions here. San Giorgo is the headquarters of the Cini foundation, whose arts centre, next to the church, hosts regular, free, exhibitions.

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Travel

Mountain highs: trekking without borders in the Balkans

It’s no easy stroll … but a spectacular new Balkan trail provides soaring peaks, lake views and memories of friendly locals – and real endeavour

The views from Kosovo’s highest peak are incredible. Or so I’m told. It’s a tricky thing to confirm in blanket murk and howling winds. I’ve just leaned into a gale to reach the 2,656m summit of Mount Gjeravica, where a shabby concrete marker displays a defaced plaque commemorating Kosovo’s first and only Olympic medallist. At this point, the marker and the plaque are the only things I can see. All around, clouds rush and squalls blow. “Yesss!” shouts the man next to me, holding on to his hat. “I love it!”

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Art

10 of the best new art exhibitions in Europe for autumn 2017

It’s blockbuster art show season across Europe, with old masters, surrealists and 60s radicals in the spotlight at the continent’s top galleries
This autumn’s best art in the UK

Get immersed in the imaginative work of South African artist William Kentridge at Salzburg’s Museum der Moderne. Featuring his multimedia, cinematic installations, with playful animation and tricksy, theatrical filming evocative of early cinema, Kentridge’s work tackles themes ranging from revolution and colonialism to loneliness and comic tragedy. If you miss it, a further exhibition of his work is showing at the Reina Sofia in Madrid, from 1 November until next spring.
Until 5 November 2017, Adults €12, concessions €8, museumdermoderne.at

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Travel

Cruise control: a more sustainable alternative in Croatia

Croatia’s hot spots are overflowing with cruise ship passengers but there is a more sustainable way to see the Dalmatian coast – on a 31-passenger vessel that can put in to smaller ports off the big-boat radar
Top 10 small-scale cruises worldwide

‘And now,” said the old man with the moustache and the guitar, “Rod Stewart, Sailing. Together, please!”

The welcoming committee was waiting on the quayside as our ship drew in. Behind the musicians – at this point battling bravely through John Denver’s Take me home, country roads on the accordion – a small crowd had started to gather. Kids stopped their bicycles to stare and a group of old ladies made themselves comfortable on a bench to watch us disembark. It’s not every day that tourists come to Opuzen.

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Travel

Holiday guide to Somme, France: what to see plus the best restaurants, bars and hotels

The area of northern France known for battlefields and memorials also has pretty landscapes, unspoilt beaches and some of the country’s best cuisine – all just a short hop from the UK

This bucolic region of north-east France is forever associated with memorials of the first world war, but it has a lot more to offer visitors, from unspoilt countryside to quaint coastal resorts that even few French people know about. The Somme is named for its river, with an immense estuary where it empties into the Channel. The Baie de Somme, as it is known, was where William the Conqueror gathered his army before setting off to fight the English at Hastings, and today these unique wetlands offer a host of ecological and wildlife holiday activities.

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Travel

The best walks in northern France: readers’ travel tips

Canals, wetlands and amazing coastline in Normandy and Picardy offer great hiking – plus excellent fish cafes and crêperies for refuelling in afterwards

The GR21 running 186km from Le Havre to Le Tréport takes in Normandy’s classic coastline, green countryside, architecture and second world war sites. I recommend taking the boat to Le Havre and doing the first few days up to the beautiful port town of Fécamp. You will see the best of the stunning white cliffs, vistas painted by Monet at Étretat and a wealth of history. As an official GR path, the walk is clearly waymarked in red and white, but there are handy maps at the tourist office in Le Havre. It’s easy to find accommodation and supplies at the towns en route and buses and trains back to Le Havre are regular and take around an hour.
seine-maritime-tourisme.com
Savas Arici

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Travel

The Ibiza yoga retreat that’s like the fitness Olympics

Fly and flop this is not. YogaFit’s affordable retreats include nearly 100 yoga and fitness classes, from beach circuits to Bhangracise and twerking. Rachel Dixon does a fitness heptathlon … in a day

I am struggling to do a burpee (a sort of supercharged squat thrust). I don’t usually find it this difficult – but then I don’t usually do it while balancing on a surfboard in a swimming pool. This is what you do in Floatfit, one of a whopping 93 classes on the programme of YogaFit, a retreat in Ibiza. It is a far cry from the average yoga holiday, which might offer a couple of classes a day. Here, my record was seven different classes in one day. It is also more affordable than most: guests can stay for just three night, or up to seven.

YogaFit is the brainchild of London-based Lyndsay Jay, a fitness instructor (and model), who, twice a year, takes over the Cala Blanca beach resort on Es Figueral beach on Ibiza’s quiet north-eastern coast. The usual holidaymakers are replaced by 30 hyperactive instructors and hundreds of sporty guests, who can mix and match yoga and fitness classes.

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Travel

Health kick in Croatia: a paleo regime on the luscious Adriatic coast

The path to health and fitness doesn’t have to mean tough love. This seaside break provides fresh seafood, rest, relaxation – and a visit to a Game of Thrones location

The first relief: there is coffee. The cave-dwellers inspiring the version of the paleo regime on offer at Hotel Ola, a stone’s throw from Split airport, clearly needed their morning pick-me-up as much as I do. Also, they obviously appreciated a modest glass of wine now and again, which is surely fair, given that grapes can be hunter-gathered and fermented, can’t they?

As this might suggest, I’ve come to Croatia not because my body is a temple, but because it’s a two-up, two-down (with chunky ground-floor extension) in need of a little loving restoration. Some of the decor is a bit worse for wear, and the fuses keep blowing. Before long, this corporeal frame I call home will reach its half-century, and I’d rather it did so with its hinges oiled. Can a few days of a Mediterranean version of the paleo diet – in which carbs are reduced, proteins and healthy fats increased, processed food eschewed and fruit and vegetables abound – set me on the road to wellness?

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