Europe continues to exceed expectations for vacationers with innumerable experiences for both first-timers and devotees. Hopscotching across the continent, here’s a roundup of what to see and do, and a sprinkling of places to call home for a few nights.
We just missed the 125th birthday of the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. But Britain offers many ways to celebrate into 2016, including booking the Agatha Christie Tour of Britain or attending the annual, week-long Agatha Christie Festival in September in her hometown of Torquay, Devon (southwest England, three hours by train from London).
This year is also the Year of the English Garden and the 300th anniversary of “Capability” Brown, best-known for designing gardens and landscapes at some of England’s grandest stately homes including Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth, Highclere Castle, Burghley, Weston Park and Compton Verney. There are events throughout the year, and many gardens not usually open to the public will be accessible. For more information on these two experiences, visit visitbritain.com.
For Northern Ireland, 2016 should turn out to be a mouth-watering year, as plans fall into place for the Year of Food and Drink. During this year of celebrating traditions and experiences in Northern Ireland’s cooking and dining, a monthly calendar will have different themes: January is Breakfast Month; February is Love Local (food); March is Heritage & Traditions; April is slotted for Brewing and Distilling, etc. For more information, visit tourismni.com.
Swedish tourism officials report that the famous IceHotel in Jukkasjarvi, whose guest-occupancy season is normally curtailed by summer meltdown, has found a way to stay open year-round: a permanent, sleek 20-suite building. Here above the Arctic Circle, “summer” guests, will be able to hike 24/7 in this land of the Midnight Sun. For more information, visit icehotel.com.
Switzerland’s new marketing campaign, “The Grand Tour of Switzerland,” introduces the country via self-drive trips to 51 Swiss towns, over five Alpine passes, visiting 44 top attractions, including 11 UNESCO World Heritage sites on 6- to 8-day rides. By next summer, Switzerland will have signposted the entire points along this high-adventure itinerary.
On the hotel landscape, The Ritz-Carlton (ritzcarlton.com) has taken over Geneva’s historic Hotel de la Paix. When the hotel re-opens in late 2016, renovations and remodeling will have reduced the room count from 84 to 75. As part of Chaplin’s World (chaplinmuseum.com/en)—due to open this spring in Vevey on the shores of Lake Geneva—the four-star, 145-room Moderntimes Hotel debuts Feb. 1. Also in the lake region and already open is Love Yurt, a nomadic-style yurt situated on the summit of Rochers-de-Naye (altitude 6,560 ft.). The Height of Love package includes yurt accommodations and train transfers for two. Up in ski territory, Michelin-starred (and Hotel-of-the-Year honored) Alpina Gstaad is expanding on its foodie activities when following Fondue at Sunset, at the Saanerslochgrat mountain restaurant, guests ski down by torchlight. For more information on new accommodations and must-dos in Swizerland, visit myswitzerland.com.
Focused on both youth and the Catholic faith, and positioned as a tribute to Pope Saint John Paul II, the World Youth Day 2016 celebrations will take place in Krakow July 25-31. Two-million young people, including 30,000 from the U.S., are expected to attend. For more information, visit poland.travel.
In the Europe: Looking Ahead piece that ran in the December 2015 issue, you’ll find more information on what’s new for 2016 in Europe.