Venice, the most romantic of cities, is worth visiting at any time of year but particularly in October and April when the weather is pleasant and the city is less crowded.
There’s so much to do in Venice – visit historic churches and art galleries, take a gondola ride along the quiet canals, browse the stalls at the Rialto Market, visit the Doges Palace or head over to Murano, home of the glass factories or Burano with colourful shops selling hand-made lace. It’s delightful to sit sipping Prosecco in St Mark’s Square or sampling afternoon tea at Florian’s, the world’s oldest café opened in 1720 but that’s not easy on the pocket.
Venice doesn’t have to be expensive if you know where to stay. We recommend Giudecca, a string of small islands, which offers a wonderful view of St Mark’s Square from across the water.
Home to the Palladio-designed Il Redentore church and the famous Cipriani hotel, it’s a more tranquil place to stay and is just a short boat ride from the centre of Venice.
There are several excellent restaurants on the island which won’t break the bank – and for breakfast, there’s nothing nicer than sitting by the water with a pastry and a coffee from Majer (www.majer.it). The main hotel on Giudecca is the Hilton Molino Stucky but there are some stylish, well-priced Airbnbs. Take a look at the houses available to rent for a weekend at https://www.starfishapartments.it.
The golden domes and copper-green spires of Krakow’s Wawel Castle are an impressive and memorable sight, particularly when viewed from across the Vistula river. Krakow Cathedral as well as Wavel Castle – once the seat of the Polish monarchy – are set on Wawel Hill and here you’ll find an arcaded courtyard, half-covered in frescoes and Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of the Lady with Ermine. Arguably the most beautiful of Poland’s cities, Krakow has a wonderfully preserved medieval centre at the heart of which is the main square, Rynek Główny where St Mary’s Basilica, The Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) and the monument to Adam Mickiewicz, Poland’s national poet are located.
The city’s Kazimierz Jewish Quarter was used as the backdrop for Steven Spielberg’s iconic film ‘Schindler’s List’ and the actual Oskar Schindler Factory is now a museum.This atmospheric area is also home to the Jewish Galicia Museum, with an exhibition of 140 pictures depicting the lives of Polish Jews, The Old Synagogue and The Ghetto Heroes Square, once the biggest open space in the Krakow Ghetto. Modern Krakow is all about eating and drinking – there’s a host of cafes, bars and restaurants. Try The Old Town Restaurant & Wine Bar, which serves traditional Polish and European cuisine with gluten free and vegetarian options.
Edinburgh is a majestic city, full of history, architectural gems, hidden courtyards and secret gardens. Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline and is worth a visit for the views it affords over the city. Edinburgh’s Old Town, named to differentiate it from the Georgian ‘New Town,’ is a UNESCO Heritage site. Wandering the cobbled streets, it’s easy to believe you’ve stepped back in time. Lined with quaint shops, the sweeping curve of Victoria Street linking George IV Bridge with The Grassmarket is said to have inspired Diagon Alley in JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ books.
The Old Town is packed with traditional pubs and restaurants. The White Hart Inn in the Grassmarket is one of Edinburgh’s oldest inns whilst Sandy Bell’s is a popular folk music venue. Mary King Close was buried under the Royal Mile in the 19th century when the Royal Exchange was built on top of it and now perfectly preserved, you can visit and hear tales of murder and mystery told by costumed guides. The Royal Mile leads to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Edinburgh home of the Queen with portraits, tapestries, antiques and gardens which include the ruins of the abbey, open during the summer months. (www.rct.uk/visit/palace-of-holyroodhouse). The New Town, home to the famous Princes Street, offers a mix of shopping, dining and culture.
Stroll in Princes Street Gardens, visit the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery which are within walking distance of each other or take a look at The Georgian House on Charlotte Street, revealing life in the late 18th century when the New Town was new.
Bolzano may be a bit off the beaten track, but this beautiful city - the bilingual capital of Italy’s South Tyrol - is really worth the effort. The nearest airports are Verona, Innsbruck and Bergamo and then you’ll need to take a train into the mountains.
Once a city of merchants, Bolzano has charming, narrow streets filled with architectural gems, a mediaeval castle, fascinating museum, an abundance of green spaces and beautiful mountain views. Stroll along Via dei Portici in the heart of the historic centre where charming shops are tucked beneath arched porticoes. Take a bus from Piazza Walther and visit the Roncolo Castle, set high up in the mountains and dating from 1236. Amongst the castle’s frescos is the oldest fresco representation of King Arthur’s Round Table.
The Guntschna Walk, in the northern part of the city, is one of a series of beautiful. Starting near the old church of Gries, the path winds up the mountain slopes – and is a delightful place to stroll on a summer’s evening. For a special meal, try the Ristorante Castel Flavon on the southern side of Bolzano. The journey from the city centre is worth it – especially if you are lucky enough to get a table with a city view. (www.haselberg.it/it/ristorante)
Dubai is a city like no other, a city of contrasts - surrounded by deserts and offering luxurious hotels, the world’s best shopping alongside traditional souks, beaches, stunning architecture and endless activities. If you want to make the most of the warm weather, there’s a choice of clean, well-maintained beaches in the city including Sunset Beach (Umm Suqeim Beach) which has a stunning view of the Burj Al Arab. If you want a livelier beach then The Beach by JBR has a cosmopolitan atmosphere. For an incredible shopping experience, head to Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping destination with over 1,200 stores including a branch of Bloomingdales.
At the heart of the mall, you’ll find an ice rink and aquarium. There’s also the Mall of the Emirates, another giant shopping centre with a more relaxed feel than Dubai Mall - and it’s also home to an indoor ski centre. A world away from the modern shopping centres are the souks. Wander around the labyrinthine walkways of The Gold Souk in Old Dubai to find authentic Arab designs, the Textile Souk on the Bur Dubai side of the creek, fine art and sculptures at the Souk Madinat. Eating out in Dubai is a real pleasure – there’s a huge range of restaurants which have attracted celebrity chefs and countless smaller ones.
Toronto may not seem the obvious place for a city break, but Canada’s largest city is the most fascinating, multicultural destination offering art, food, beaches, shopping and nightlife. If you enjoy museums and galleries, there’s a host of them from the Art Gallery of Ontario to the quirky Bata Shoe Museum.
Toronto’s diversity is evident in the range of cuisine on offer – Persian, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Chinese and so much more. Toronto, on the shores of Lake Ontario, has beaches, waterfront paths, water sports including kayaking and stand-up paddling and huge green spaces including Queens Park, Kew Gardens and High Park, home to Toronto’s Zoo. In the winter months, skate outdoors – City Hall has a lovely ice rink.
There are so many great places to shop in Toronto but The Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto is the busiest shopping mall in all of North America which isn’t surprising given the variety of shops, places to eat and drink and the world’s largest multiplex theatre. Yorkville is also a great place to shop with speciality stores, fashion, jewellery and antique shops and art galleries. The Hazelton Lanes shopping centre has over 100 exclusive shops and restaurants. If you’re not tired out by the day’s exploring, Toronto has a vibrant nightlife with theatres including the lovely Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre that offers backstage tours.
Montpellier is the medieval, Mediterranean, French city, you might not yet have heard of. It is the 7th largest city in France (3rd largest on the south coast) and it’s currently the fastest growing city in France.
Less than 3 hours from Barcelona and just 11km from the Mediterranen, Montpellier is an ideal spot if you want discover a historical yet young city, rich in so many different resources and hidden treasures. A multifaceted land of the South, a city that embodies a mosaic of culture, wellness, and trade surrounded by some of the very finest natural World Heritage sites.
Montpellier is bursting with tiny medieval streets symbolizing its glorious history . Rue de la Valfère, Rue du Bras de Fer, Rue de L’Argenterie are sure to take you back in time and introduce you to a whole new world… Our recommendation? Forget all about your map, and just follow your instincts as you wend your way along these narrow streets. Why not go shopping in the boutiques with their vaulted ceilings and visit designers, antique dealers and tearooms, or see some art at Carré Ste Anne (closed actually), Galerie St Ravy etc... enjoy a journey back through time!
Massive gates, huge, luminous courtyards, stairs with wrought-iron balustrades – Montpellier and its surrounding area together boast almost 80 private mansions of the classical period. Nowadays these private courtyards, veritable hidden gems, can only be visited on guided tours organised by the Tourist Office… However, keep your eyes peeled! When you turn a corner in the street, you might just happen on an open door and be able to take a rare glimpse inside. This adds a whole new dimension to strolling through the city
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