Struggling for inspiration for next summer’s adventure? We’ve scoured the travel press, browed the forums, consulted the experts, examined the events diaries and asked our holiday advisers one simple question: where should we go next year? We whittled it all down to ten places on trend and on track to give you a holiday to cherish next summer.
Potatoes in Leeuwarden
European Capital of Culture for 2018 (with Valetta in Malta) this enjoyable, easy-going Friesland city promises a year-long spectacle for all the family. Giants! Art! Music! Potatoes Go Wild! Sailing on the grass! Nope, we haven’t got a clue either. But it sounds like fun to us – and Friesland’s quietly captivating countryside is just made for walking, cycling, kayaking, horse-riding…Find out more here.
Nearest parc: Duinrell
The Fast Life on the French Riviera
The French Grand Prix will return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2018 after an absence of 10 years, at the fabulously psychedelic Circuit Paul Ricard (see main pic above) – also known as Le Castellet – which last staged the event in 1990. Expect to see a shocking amount of Champagne wasted. And expect the Riveria to have extra va-va-voom in June, ahead of the event on the 24th.
Twin cultures in Perpignan
Perpignan is the last major town in Languedoc before the Spanish border. Half Catalan, half French, you’ll see the street names written in both languages. It’s a lovely, sunny, multicultural city with palm-lined squares, stately mansions, palaces and narrow medieval streets; a great place to visit for a taste of regional life. The Cathedral Saint-Jeans, with its solid stone-and-brick walls is an impressive sight. Elsewhere there are tranquil gardens at the Jardin Sant-Vicens (Rue Sant-Vicens), and a pleasing huddle of restaurants in the old town, fusing the best of both country’s cuisines.
Nearest parc: Criques de Porteils
The sound of music Lisbon
There’ll be music in the air in Lisbon next May (whether it’s to your taste or not is another matter) as the city hosts the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time ever. Cue a city giddy with gloriously kitsch pop. Lisbon’s always a good bet – a European capital with a tangible Latin soul, great bars and gorgeous weather. Climb the vertiginous streets of the Alfama for the city view. But keep your dancing shoes handy, as you can expect a bit of a party in May, when 40 countries come to battle it out amid glitter, sequins and frankly silly lyrics.
Nearest parc: Guincho
Street eats in Palermo
Like food? You’ll love Sicily’s delicious capital. The best seafood in Italy – so fresh it is often served raw to get a real taste of the sea. The island’s complex, colourful social history has helped shape a cuisine that both nods to its mainland neighbour, and carves out its own, parallel culinary traditions. Sicily’s been well placed to soak up, and put its own particular spin, on cuisines from around the rim of the African, European and Middle Eastern landmasses. And Palermo’s a real highlight – smitten with streetfood, a stroll through Palermo is akin to a saunter down one huge, al fresco buffet table. Does that sound like your sort of food holiday? It does for us. Try: Palermo Street Food tours.
Nearest parc: El Bahira
Normandy’s Opal Coast
The beaches are famous, of course. But Mont Saint-Michel is a definite must see. The rocky island has a population of just 44 people – but around 3,000,000 people visit it each year! Mont Saint-Michel and its beautiful bay is on the list UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Caen, the capital of Lower Normandy is a historic city with a castle to explore and the famous Abbey aux Hommes – part Romanesque, part Gothic masterpiece; begun in 1066 by order of William the Conqueror. Caen is a family friendly city to visit, with parks, al fresco cafes and a lovely, pedestrianised web of old town streets.
Nearest parc: La Cote de Nacre
Styria – Austria, naturally
They call Styria the Green Heart of Austria. They have a point. This mountainous, forested state in southern Austria is a land of spas, castles, rivers and characterful old towns. Graz, the riverside capital, is a Renaissance gem, with great museums and a bustle of great bars and foodie places. But it’s the countryside you’ll most remember, perhaps cycling along lakeside paths, or diving into those inviting blue waters. Or maybe it’s the therapeutic waters you’ll be drawn to. Thermal springs feed the region’s rejuvenating spas – considered some of the best (and least expensive) in Europe.
Nearest parc: Bella Austria
Ghosts of the past in Girona
The ancient, walled city of Girona has been conquered by Romans and Moors over the years and wears those influences in its architecture and cuisine. Islamic for two centuries, the city has boasted a large Jewish population too. The old town is a warren of narrow lanes, which is complemented by the river, and the overall impression is of a medieval city, with excellent museums and plenty of high-end boutiques, galleries and restaurants. Make sure you take in the thriving Rambla and head upwards through the Jewish quarter – tightly packed streets of El Call – towards the cathedral, which dominates old Girona.
Nearest parc: Cala Gogo
Wine and magic in Blois
In the very heart of the Loire Valley, the royal town of Blois is packed with animated streets, paved squares, restaurants and taverns. In summer, the courtyard of the Château Royal de Blois comes alive with recreations of battles and fencing during the summer. While, elsewhere in the town La Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin combines interactive visits and shows by magicians. Wine, of course, looms large here. Most of the traditional restaurants in Blois are situated between the Château and the river, with well-stocked cellars showcasing the region’s delicious Sancerre, Pinot Noir and Touraine wine.
Nearest parc: Le parc de Fierbois
Urban cool in Hamburg
Few cities are as electrifying as Hamburg. Just one look at its mind-blowing Elbephilharmonie Concert Hall shows you that this is a city with a swing in its stride. Glorious new buildings aside, the city shows its grittier site in the bohemian Sternschanze neighbourhood, where the warehouses and cobbled lanes are animated every weekend with stalls selling vintage clothes, books and paintings. The city’s also enjoying a craft beer revolution, with scores of new brew-pubs complete with fairy light-illuminated beer gardens the perfect place for a seasonal session ale.
Nearest parc: Sudsee Camp