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Ferne Arfin   28 December 2018

101 Best things to do in Europe in 2019

Now is a great time to start planning – or at least thinking about – your next vacation or getaway. No pressure, just a little idle day dreaming to get you through the long, cold nights of January.

What better way to detox from December’s annual physical and mental overdose of festive cheer than a bit of leisurely vacation browsing.  To inspire you, here’s my pick of 101 of the best things to do in Europe in 2019 for a start. You can look forward to festivals, museums, restaurant openings and visits to castles; ski trips, surfing and sunbathing on tropical beaches. And alongside the familiar there’s plenty that’s new: have you ever considered stalking wolves and bears in Transylvania? Or learning to cook Romanian gourmet food?

So let’s get started, there’s more to see and do all around Europe than you might have imagined.

How to use this list

In case you’re not in the mood to consider and follow up on 101 suggestions all at once, I’ve made it easy for you. Just click on the month you’re interested in in the table of contents below. It’s a link that will take you straight to that month in this list where you’ll find a manageably short selection of things to do. Or, of course, you can scroll through the whole list if you’d rather.

And, if you know of something really cool to do in Europe in 2019 that we’ve managed to overlook, please let us know by adding your comments at the end of this article.

Happy holiday planning.

Table of Contents: 101 Things to do in Europe in 2019

1. Shake off your New Year’s Eve hangover with a freezing dip in the sea. As part of Edinburgh Hogmanay, they call it the Loony Dook. At 12:30 on January 1, “Dookers” – some in costumes, some in very little – parade down South Queensferry High Street and then plunge into the Firth of Forth near the Forth Bridge. 2. See Hogwarts in the Snow, on until 27 January at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London-The Making of Harry PotterNot only will the fabulous Hogwarts be snow covered and twinkling, but the Great Hall will be dressed in silver and icicles for the Yule Ball and lined with Christmas trees. 3. Shop the sales  The after-Christmas sales in all the top fashion capitals of Europe are famous. You can pick up great style bargains in Milan, London, Madrid –  where the clothing rebajas start on January 7 – and best of all Paris, where the designer bargain hunt starts January 9 and lasts a month. After you’ve shopped till you drop, think about enjoying Paris like a local with these ideas from ParisUnlocked4. Enjoy Rome without the crowds. After Epiphany, January 6, everyone goes back to their normal routines in Italy and the winter tourist hordes leave Rome. It’s a great time to take in the sights and fabulous museums. At the Capitoline Museum, Rome of the Kings: The Story of Archaeology  showcases ancient finds from the 10th century BC, virtually the founding of Rome and long before the Caesars. 5. January is a great time to visit Athens, when it’s not crowded and the temperature is relatively mild. You can explore the Acropolis and some of the world’s best museums in relative peace. Visit the underrated Museum of Cycladic Art for the Crete:Emerging Cities exhibition. 500 works of art from the lost cities of Aptera, Eleutherna, and Knossos will leave Crete for the first time. Many have never been seen in public before. 6. Eat Cassoulet in Paris This almost legendary dish, a rich combination of beans, confit duck and sausages is the sort of warming indulgence that cries out for cold weather and long pre and post-dinner walks. Follow the Obamas to try it at La Fountaine de Mars, a bistro near the Eiffel Tower and the Champs de Mars that specializes in the cuisine of the southwest of France. 7. See the Northern Lights in relative comfort from your glass igloo at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, in Saariselka, Finland. The village, about 250 kilometers inside the Arctic Circle also offers dog sledding, cross country and downhill skiing and reindeer rides. 8. Get on your skates and go ice skating at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton  until January 13. 9Take a wintry hike to a cozy country pub in the English countryside. We like The Royal Oak in Yattenden, Berkshire. Their website even helpfully suggests nearby country walks. 10. Take a Sound of Music Tour in Saltzburg, Austria and follow in the footsteps of Maria and the Von Trapp Family

Photo by Ashley Buttle , ccl

11. It’s Chinese New Year See how they usher in 2019, The Year of the Pig, in Manchester, England, Europe’s biggest Chinatown. 12. Meet your Valentine among all the melted cheese lovers at a Neal’s Yard Dairy Fondue Night supper on February 14, in the tasting room above their Borough Market shop in London. Check out all their other classes and events throughout the year. 13. Head to the UK National Parks from February 15 for some stargazing during the Dark Skies Festival. The national parks of Northumberland, North York Moors, The South Downs and the Yorkshire Dales are all participating. 14. Buy Bohemian Garnets in Prague Paris and Rome may be the obvious choices but more and more people are discovering Prague as one of the most romantic cities in Europe. While you are exploring its cobbled streets and colorful Gothic architecture, stop and buy some garnet jewelry. They’ve been mining garnets in the Czech Republic for hundreds of years. There are a lot of fakes in the tourist areas. To be on the safe side, visit a branch of Granat Turnov, a co-op of jewelers and goldsmiths that’s the world’s largest producer of Bohemian garnet jewelry.  15. Bundle up warm and take a wintry stroll along the canals of Amsterdam. Some of the prettiest canal walks – and houses – are in the neighborhood known as The Jordaan. Eating Europe, a company that offers great foodie walking tours around European capitals, led by locals, can guide you. 16. Pour your heart out to Juliet at the Casa di Giulietta, Juliet’s House, in the romantic city of Verona. Romeo and Juliet may be fictional characters to the rest of us, but they take the story very seriously here. You can ask for romantic advice, by letter, and a team of local agony aunts will advise. Or just throw yourself into the spirit of the story and stand on Juliet’s balcony to recite some Shakespeare. 17. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams  opens at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum this month. Book early for this likely blockbuster exhibition. 18.  Carnival de Nice from 16 February to 2 March is THE winter event of the Cote d’Azur  – hands down the one of the best carnivals in Europe. There are 6 parades, 17 floats, more than 1,000 dancers and musicians from everywhere. The theme, King of Cinema, celebrates the 100 anniversary of Victorine Studios, a mecca for talented film artists since 1919. 19. Finish off the carnival season with  Carnival in Barcelona, between 28 February  and 6 March. Different neighborhoods stage their own processions and festivities but the central area of El Born is a good place to start.

20. Travel Blogger Juliana Marchian tips us off that now is the time for foodies to head for Sibiu in the Southern Transylvanian district of Romania. It’s been named a European Region of Gastronomy in 2019, so restaurants and cafes in the area will be showing off an Eastern European cuisine that may be new to you. Watch for upcoming events here.  21. Discover the Oldest Ski Resort in the Pyrénées. Font Romeu is also one of the oldest ski resorts in France. Beautiful and less frantic than most Alpine resorts, it’s family friendly and low key with opportunities for dog sledding and snow boarding as well as alpine and cross country skiing. 22. Nearby, be amazed by the heart-stopping power of the sun on a guided tour of the Solar Furnace (Le Four Solaire). This scientific project takes advantage of this region’s 300 days of sunshine a year to experiment with tapping and controlling the energy of sunshine. Just watching a whole hillside of polished mirrors follow the sun like a field of sunflowers is wonderful. 23. Spend a magical night on the Pic du Midi. The scientific station at 2877 meters (about 9500 feet) offers unforgettable views from the top of the Midi Pyrénées across the whole of the mountain range and a pretty big chunk of France and Spain. There’s also stargazing, – from your room, from the center’s terrace or through the 400 mm Smith-Cassegrain telescope in one of the Pic du Midi domes. The cable car ride to reach the Pic is pretty spectacular too. 24 Ski Mt Olympus in Greece. Visit the home of Zeus in early March and try ski-mountaineering – if you are adventurous, super fit and a very good skier. The Crown climb visits the three highest peaks and has the longest descents in Greece. Or choose more family friendly Greek skiing on Mt Parnassos, near Apollo’s shrine at Delphi.  25. Brace yourself for avant-garde music at Berlin’s MaerzMusik festival, the last ten days of March in 2019. In typically earnest intellectual German style, it’s described as a  “festival for time issues”,  dedicated to exploring the phenomenon of time in its socio-political, philosophical and artistic dimensions. Right. It’s also a festival of contemporary music.  26. Celebrate traditional Florentine New Year In March? Yes, Florentines traditionally celebrate the New Year with the start of the church calendar on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25. Events include a morning parade in medieval dress with medieval music from the Palazzo Vecchio followed by feasting at an outdoor market in the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata  27. Head for the tiny Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg for the Dikricher Cavalcade a pre-Lenten carnival with a Northern European slant. The village, about 26 miles from the capital, Luxembourg City, stages a three and a half hour parade with 60 floats, thousands of marchers and plenty of the local Diekircher beer on tap. The current parade has been going on every one of the last 42 years, but the tradition dates to the second half of the 19th century when an early cavalcade celebrated the marriage of Count Otzenbach of Stolzembourg with the Countess Schumpelsberg of Bourscheid. And if that all sounds a bit Mouse that Roared that’s because this country, barely 50 miles long, 35 miles wide and landlocked between Belgium, France and Germany, inspired the Peter Sellers film. 28. Le Lavandou on the French Riviera is the scene of one of Europe’s most colourful traditions, Le Corso Fleuri or Carnival of Flowers. The culmination of a whole weekend of  parades of flower decorated floats, flower inspired events and big floral displays comes at 4:30 in the afternoon on March 18 with the Flower Battle. Then, thousands of participants and spectators stage a flower “war”, throwing blooms and branches at each other and covering the streets – and themselves – with scented blossoms, leaves and loads of pollen.

On the way to the Pic du Midi

En route to the Pic du Midi by cable car

 29. Ah, April in Paris; can anyone even hear those words together without singing them in their heads? Before you get all carried away with the wonderful romance and color of Paris in bloom, read what Courtney Traub, editor of Paris Unlocked thinks about how to make Paris magical while keeping it real 30. If you are still keen on seeing April in real technicolor glory, you’d better head for Keukenhof Gardens, near Lisse, about 25 miles from Amsterdam, to see the amazing tulip fields in blindingly bright bloom. Eight hundred different varieties of tulips and seven million flowers bloom during the short visiting season between the end of March and mid May. 31. Now is a great time to visit Cauterets, the 19th century spa town in the French Pyrénées. With the snow melt underway, the sound of rushing water is everywhere. In April Cauterets is  a kingdom of water.  32.  It’s all happening at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum this month. The Mary Quant Exhibition opens on April 6 and it’s a must for fans of the 1960s – mini-skirts, colored tights, hot pants, geometric haircuts and Twiggy (make that Dame Twiggy since this year’s New Year’s Honours List). How can you miss it? Later, on April 11, the V&A Jewellery Gallery re-opens after a refurbishment that really shows off its collections, from historic sparklers to the latest designs in plastic, wood and even paper. 33. Lille, the Flemish city in Northeast France becomes Mexico for most of 2019 as its year long program, Discover Mexico and Find Eldorado gets underway on April 27. Organized by Lille 3000, it’s described as a celebration of culture with exhibitions, transformations, celebrations, concerts, shows and events all over the city until December 1. 34. Stop off at London’s Royal Academy to see Cul-de-Sac, the mind bending and space changing installations of Phyllida Barlow. Barlow creates the impression that her large-scale work is somehow about to tip off an edge or is too unbalanced to stand. It’s all a clever illusion. 35. Visit the new Scottish Design Galleries at the V&A Dundee. In its first venture outside of London, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s spectacular new waterside building in Dundee is filled with special commissions and activities as well as wonderful examples of Scottish design from the mundane to the fabulous. Highlights range from a pair of Hunter wellies to an amazing winged tiara. 36. The Aklapela Festival is a music festival with a difference. Held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from April 26 to 28 this year, it gathers klapela groups from all over the Dalmatia region  to perform their particular national form of  a capella singing that is so special it’s registered on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Just in case you need an excuse for a spring break in this delightful walled city on the Adriatic.

37. Manga at the British Museum Enter graphic a world where art and storytelling collide in the largest exhibition of Manga ever held outside of Japan. From May 23 through August 26, the Manga exhibition at the British Museum looks at the art’s global appeal and explores its history and forms from anime to ‘cosplay’.  The museum promises the exhibition will be “ground breaking”. 38. Did you ever imagine you could photo “stalk” bears and wolves in Europe. Mammals long extinct elsewhere in Europe roam freely in the Carpathian mountains of Romania. Travel writer Emma Frances recommends a guided tour in May when birds are migrating and the bears are waking up from hibernation. She suggests  wolf expert and guide Dan Marin who was was once named Best Guide in the World. 39. Take a Walk in Jane Austen’s Footsteps    Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, is the site most intimately connected with the author and where she wrote some of her most celebrated works. Join a guided walk in her home village on May 10 to learn more about village life and how she drew inspiration from this tiny place. 40. Double Fantasy – John & Yoko opens at the waterfront Museum of Liverpool in early May.  The free exhibition features personal objects, art, music and film from Yoko’s private collection to tell their story in their own words. 41. Beat the tourist season with an early visit to Monemvasia, Greece’s answer to the Rock of Gibraltar. This sheer-sided monolith, tethered to the mainland by a narrow causeway, hides a medieval village clinging to its seaward side and a ruined crusader fortress on its summit. A true marvel of the Peloponnese that is, remarkably, little known. 42. Tallinn Old Town Days , with its theme of Tallinn 800, celebrates the 800th anniversary of this colorful Estonian city at the end of May and beginning of June. Its early medieval old town is considered one of the best preserved in Europe. 43. Edinburgh International Children’s Festival May  25 to June 2 brings together world class theater, dance, puppetry and multi-media for young audiences. The festival opens with a free weekend of pop-up performances and arts activities at the National Museum of Scotland. 44. Explore the Black Forest  There’s a lot more to Germany’s Black Forest than chocolate cherry cakes and cuckoo clocks and May is the best time of year to find out. Discover its vineyards on a cycle trip, hike the woodlands of Germany’s largest nature park, take a spa break in Baden Baden or do a foodie tour of its Michelin and Gault Millau restaurants.


Greek National Opera, a venue for Summer Nostos at the FSNCC

 45. The Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park in the recently created Nouvelle Aquitaine Region of France hosts the 10th anniversary running of the world’s first and only eco-marathon this month. Maraisthon, June 15 and 16, boasts a small and continually decreasing environmental footprint despite the fact that runners travel from all over the world to compete in a route that extends from Niort almost all the way to La Rochelle on France’s Atlantic Coast. 46. Raise a glass of Waterloo Beer to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815.  The beer is brewed at the famous Mont-Saint-Jean Farm in the middle of the battlefield, on the edge of Wallonia, French-speaking Belgium. The Duke of Wellington chose this ancient farmstead as his field hospital. 6,000 men were treated as the battle raged all around them. Today it’s a museum, cafe and microbrewery. 47. Celebrate the arrival of full blooming summer in the high Swiss meadows with hike on the Zermatt Flower Trail, beneath the Matterhorn. 48. Or have a bird’s eye view of Switzerland’s explosion of wildflowers by on a tandem paraglide or hang-glide over Interlaken.  49. Party in Athens for eight days at the Summer Nostos Festival, June 23 to 30 in 2019. It’s a huge multi-arts and sports, indoor and outdoor festival at the new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. Music, theater, dance, opera, sports competitions, indoor and outdoor fun with world class performers and artists from just about everywhere – and its almost all free. 50. Isola La Maddelena  La Maddelena, an archipelago and national park off the northeast coast of Sardinia, is named for the only inhabited town on its largest island. For something completely different, La Maddelena offers sophisticated Sardinian food, comfortable and laid back hotels and nightlife, and miles of deserted beaches and coves. A Mediterranean holiday destination without the frenzy other island getaways at this time of year. 51. Tour the Islands of Slovenia  You’ll need a car or a bicycle to do it because there are no sea islands off Slovenia’s tiny coast on the Gulf of Triest. Instead there are islands formed by meanders of rivers – with whole towns on them, underground archipelagos of islands in vast cave systems, river islands, castle islands and lake islands. Among the best, Bled Island in the Julian Alps. It’s in the middle of Lake Bled, a glacial lake warmed by natural hot springs that keep it a constant 26 degrees Celcius (that’s about 79 degrees Fahrenheit) year round. After you tour the historical religious buildings on the island, go for a swim in the clear, cobalt lake. 52 Join a Jewish Walking Tour in Vilnius The Lithuanian capital was once one of the major cities in the Jewish Diaspora. Because of its Talmudic scholars, it was sometimes known as the Lithuanian Jerusalem. Jews had been settled in the area from the 8th century, hundreds of years before the city was actually founded. About 94 percent of Lithuania’s Jews were killed in the Holocaust, the highest percentage genocide of any country. Eighty thousand Jews from Vilnius were among the 100,000 people from that city taken to the forest of  Paneriai and brutally murdered. Let local Jewish guides from the small remaining community show you the important sites from early medieval to the 20th century.

53. The Palio di Siena  Siena’s Piazza del Campo will be heaving with 10,000 spectators on July 2 for the world’s wildest – and some say greatest – horse race. The Palio is a lawless, dangerous bareback race in which 10 riders do three circuits of the Piazza to win honor for their neighborhood and the winner’s banner. They’ve run it in the center of Siena since the 13th century and it’s wrapped in pageantry and spectacle. If you miss July, they run another Palio in August.Have a look.  54.  Celebrate Bastille Day at Jazz à Juan in Juan le Pins on the French Riviera. Europe’s oldest jazz festival celebrates its 58th year this year with 10 days of concerts in an atmospheric pine grove from July 12 to 21. The line up is announced in March but Jamiroquai and Diana Kraal are already signed up for this all-seated event. 55. Eat, drink and party all night at  Trädgården. Dance the night away, play ping pong, watch a live concert or just drink beer and enjoy the vibe at this popular outdoor nightclub under the Skanstull bridge in the Södermalm area of Stockholm. 56. Discover Old Rauma and the colourful wooden towns of Finland. Listed by UNESCO, as an excellent example of a well maintained traditional Nordic wooden town, it is a colorful place to explore on foot, stopping to buy some handmake local lace or relax in a cafe. Finland, with its dense forests, actually has many charming wooden towns, Find more to visit here.   57. Visit the Mark Rothko Art Center in the Daugavpils Fortress, Latvia. Discovering the small countries that were once invisible parts of the former Soviet Union, is opening up whole new areas for curious travelers. Rothko, whose family emigrated to America in 1914, was born in Daugavpils (then part of Russia and called Dvinsk). Now the art center, in the town’s early 19th century fortress, is the only place in Eastern Europe where original works by Rothko, can be seen. If you are there between July 12 and 14, you can see the fortress come alive with re-enactors, defending it against Napoleon’s forces as they would have in 1812. It’s the Festival of War History Reconstruction Clubs (no doubt catchier in the original Latvian).  58 Go Surfing in Portugal –  Portugal’s short, Atlantic-facing coast, with its constant sunshine is a surfer’s paradise year round. But in July, the Atlantic warms up making it easier to get the most out of perfect tubes, giant waves and the longest runs in Europe. Check out Veerle Helson’s book Surf & Stay. Spain and Portugal , based on her six months chasing the waves, for ideas. 59. Latitude  The Latitude Festival in Southwold, Suffolk, England, is one of the the countries more creative music festivals. In a calendar stuffed with outdoor and camping music festivals, this is a music and art festival. Besides multiple stages, family oriented events and colorful art and light installations, there are pastel colored sheep and new age wizards wandering in the woord.  60. Kolner Lichter  If you’re a fan of fireworks set to music, head to Cologne on July 13 for Kolner Lichter – or Cologne Lights. It’s Europe’s biggest synchronised music and fireworks event and it’s a whole day affair, on both sides of the Rhine, with concerts and events from 2p.m., leading to the fireworks at 11:30.

Jamie Cullum at Jazz a Juan in 2009

Jamie Cullum at Jazz à Juan Jazz Festival in Juan les Pins 

61. Liverpool celebrateInternational Beatles Week August 21 to 27  with seven days of non-stop music (starting at 5a.m. for true fans) on stages all over town, tribute bands, musicians who attended iconic sessions at the Cavern Club, a free concert on Mathew Street and the annual Beatles auction. It’s the 50th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road and the 60th of the opening of the Casbah Club. There are parties, a convention at the Adelphi Hotel and a whole lot more. 62. Thanks to our friends at The Travel Magazine  for tipping us off about The Bravio delle Botti, in the Tuscan town of Montepulciano. It’s a week-long Renaissance-style festival culminating in a race that’s also a test of strength between the different neighborhoods or contranda. Contestants vie to push heavy barrels up a steep hill through the town. But, let Jim Chamberlain tell you about it with his words and pictures. 63. Follow the trail of Count Dracula on the anniversary of his arrival at Whitby Abbey on the North Yorkshire coast. In his novel, Bram Stoker writes of a shipwreck that brings the Count to Whitby on August 8. Not so coincidentally, that was the date that Stoker noted down when he first learned of  Vlad the Impaler and discovered the name Dracula in the Whitby public library. The skeletal ruins of the abbey give a decidedly spooky edge to the town at sunset. 64. Monaco Art en Ciel Go mad for fireworks over Monte Carlo harbor during the first two weekends in August (the last two in July as well). It’s the International Fireworks Competition, the biggest event of its kind in Europe, with fireworks experts from all over the Continent competing to outdo each other in artistry, color and noise. Fireworks begin at 9:30p.m. in August, with free concerts before and after. 65. The Edinburgh Festivals – August is festival time in the Scottish capital with two enormous arts festivals filling the city with hundreds of thousands of visitors and tens of thousands of performances for most of the month. The Edinburgh International Festival is the curated, highbrow event with theater, dance and opera companies selected from all over the world. A highlight will be Sir Ian McKellan (maybe Gandalf to you) in several performances of his solo show, Ian McKellan on Stage, celebrating his 80th birthday with a trip around his best loved roles. But the real biggie is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It’s the biggest performing arts festival in the world. Theater, comedy, physical theater, dance, circus, musicals, opera, cabaret, children’s theatre. spoken word and assorted events are all included. And if you have the nerve and can find a playing space and raise some funds to pay for it, you can put on a show. In 2017, there were more than 53,000 performances of nearly 3,400 shows. This year, both festivals will run simultaneously, from August 2 to 26. If you want to go, now is the time to book your accommodations.

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66. Enjoy La Dolce Vita on Lake GardaThe big food, wine and harvest festivals take place in the spring and autumn so August is a great time to visit. The sun shines, the temperature is warm but not uncomfortably so and the crowds are thinner. Try Bardolino for its vineyards, informal resorts and fish. 67. Les Choralies of Vaison La Romain  For the first nine days of August, the streets and squares of this fragrant Provençal town are filled with singing. For Les Choralies, choirs, choral conductors, people who love singing and audiences who enjoy listening to it flock to the town to participate in concerts, take lessons, share musical scores and, if my visit to Vaison La Romain is anything to go by, simply burst out singing in the open air cafes all over town. A highlight of this festival are the evening concerts in the town’s ancient Roman Theater. Magic. 68. Les Choragies of Orange – Plan your travels well and you should also be able to catch some of the last week of concerts in the Antique Theatre of Orange, 30 miles away. Les Choragies, the oldest of France’s music festivals, celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019. It’s mostly opera with a few extra treats. On August 3 the Fantasia Ciné-concert combines live performance by the National Orchestra of Lyon with Disney film extracts from 1949 and 2000 – all in the atmosphere of one of the most complete Roman theaters in the world.

69. See a Baroque opera in an authentic Baroque theater.  Drottningholm Palace Theatre was built in 1766 in the private residence of the Swedish royal family, on an island near Stockholm. It is preserved in its original state, with its original stage machinery and most of its original sets. The theater is one of only two baroque theaters in Europe still used as working playhouses (the other, in the Czech Republic hosts a festival in September, see below). “Ariodante” by Handel will be staged in this UNESCO listed theater from August 3 to 17, looking much as it did when it was first produced.  70. Asylum Steampunk Festival  is set to take over the center of Lincoln for a weekend in August 2019 (though specific dates are yet to be announced. It’s a colorful celebration of everything steampunk, with costume competitions, art, literature, music, and fun, plus a market to buy and sell all the gizmos dials, top hats, funny glasses and weird accessories needed for the full steampunk look. The claim its the biggest steampunk festival in the solar system. Well, it is probably the longest running steampunk event in the world.

71. Baroque Festival at Český Krumlov Castle The second of Europe’s two original Baroque theaters hosts an annual Baroque Arts Festival every September ( in 2019, September 20 to 22). Like Drottningholm (see August, above) the castle theater has all its original stage machinery and many of its sets and librettos as well as props and even original costumes. The festival is a combination of opera and instrumental music. It’s held at the castle theater, about 100 miles south of Prague over motorways and good roads. 72. Blogger and Britmums co-founder Susanna Scott of tipped us off about the World Festival of Puppet Theaters – or to give it its proper name, Le Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionnettes – held in Charleville-Mézières, France, September 20 to 29. At least 170,000 spectators descend on the town in the Ardennes region of France for this colorful event, held every two years. Puppet artistry and mask work ranges from pure children’s theater to challenging avant gard performances aimed at adults. September marks the start of the harvest and heritage festival season all over Europe.  73. If you like Flamenco, plus equestrian events and plenty of partying, head for the Spanish village of Villamartín in the Cadiz region of Andalucia for the Feria de Villamartín, more formally known as the Feria de Ganado y Fiestas de San Mateo. By day it’s a cattle market for the buying and selling of beasts; but the nights turn into a celebration of all things Flamenco and Andalucian. 74. White Truffles in Buzet. In the Croatian town of Buzet they celebrate the start of their truffle hunting season with a festival on the second Saturday in September. Ten kilos of truffles, along with 2000 eggs, go into the giant omelet they make and share. 75. Armata in Spetses celebrates a milestone in the Greek War of Independence, the naval battle of Spetses. On September 8, 1822, Greek forces, under the woman admiral, Bouboulina, defeated the Turkish fleet. The event, in the second week of September, culminates with a giant show of pyrotechnics during which a full sized replica ship, built for the occasion, is burnt down to the water. It’s not too late to get to a music festival. 76. Into the Trees, in Pippingford Park, Tunbridge Wells, is a family oriented, multi-arts and activities festival, 13-15 September. The focus is really on camping in the woods, but every evening there’s a campfire session with music, storytelling and performances.  77. Keith Haring at the Tate Liverpool   The Tate Galleries around the UK (London, Liverpool, St Ives) plan their exhibitions well ahead of time. This one, the first major UK exhibition of artist and activist Keith Haring, runs from June to November. Go in September when the crowds will have thinned out considerably. The tickets are already on sale 78. Olafur Eliasson Stunned visitors to the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with his Weather Project , a giant glowing sun seen through fog in 2003/4. In 2019, he virtually takes over the London gallery from early summer, through to January, with a major survey of his career so far. In addition to works inside the galleries, the show will include major installations in the riverside galleries outside. And he is even putting his mark on the Terrace Cafe with a new version of a vegetarian canteen from his Berlin studio.  79. Find The Six Forgotten Giants, around Copenhagen. The playful sculptures, by artist Thomas Dambo, are made of recycled and found materials, usually with the help of local volunteers. They’re hidden in the woods of Copenhagen’s western municipalities. Find them on an “open air sculpture treasure hunt” – the map is on Dambo’s website. The perfect excuse for an autumn walk in the Danish woods.

Six Forgotten Giants in Copenhagen

Teddy Friendly, one of Six Forgotten Giants by Thomas Dambo, photo by Martin Heiberg courtesy of Visit Copenhagen

80. See Course Landaise in Labastide d’Armagnac during Armagnac en Fête the last weekend in October. The tiny, Medieval village (700 inhabitants) celebrates the end of harvest and beginning of distillation of its namesake product with a traditional village fair of eating, drinking and entertainment. But while the entertainment at your village fair might be a tombola or the high school marching bands, here they dance with bulls (actually very angry longhorn cows ). Acrobatic young men dressed in white actually leap over the backs of bulls looking just like the Minoan wall paintings of Knossos. Course Landaise, in which the bulls are not hurt, is played throughout the southwest of France, from February to November. 81.Bex Hall of Life Beyond Borders recommends the autumn color, dramatic views and wild life watching of Krajinski Park, Lahinja in Slovenia. Someplace different for fall foliage touring? 82. Hertford Food and Drink Festival is one of the clear signs that the autumn harvest season is well underway. It fills the town center and castle precinct for a whole weekend, October 11 to 13, with local produce, street food, world food stalls, cooking demonstrations and plenty of music. A highlight is the Hertford Castle Beer and World Food Festival on the Sunday. 83. Speaking of beer, it wouldn’t be October without Munich’s Oktoberfest, but actually there’s more to the festival in September than October. Nevermind. This year it runs from September 21 to October 6. Stuart Forster of Go Eat Do has gone, eaten and done at the world’s biggest city festival and tells us all about it. 84. Brassigaume, The International Festival of Small Breweries, hosts its 21st gathering in Marbehan, Belgium in October (dates to be announced on the website), It does what it says on the label – showcases small craft and artisan breweries from all over the the place. Of course, they are usually mostly Belgian beers and the variety of styles and flavors produced in this small country definitely makes this festival worth a stopover while you are in Europe for Oktoberfest. 85. Nuit Blanche literally means white night, but in Paris, its the annual “Sleepless Night”, October 5 in 2019. It’s an all night event of art installations, exhibitions, spontaneous performances and happenings on a route that winds through most of the districts of central Paris. Restaurants and cafes along the route stay open all night for the event and public transportation runs all night as well. And its not just a festival for ravers. There are family events too. It’s all an excuse to see Paris in a new light – moonlight, neon lights, street lights. 86. Visit England’s most haunted places The National Trust owns and maintains hundreds of the most historic houses and buildings in England and Wales. Naturally, many of them have ghost stories associated with them, Winston Churchill even saw a ghost while painting in his own studio in Kent. By the end of October, the Trust has packed up and closed down most of its properties for the winter so this is a good month to see if you can spot one of the ghosts in the dying light of the dying season.

87. Book your tickets for the Nutcracker in Vienna or Budapest. Both are magical places to see this magical holiday event ballet next month. In 2019, the ornate and historic Hungarian State Opera is closed for refurbishment so performances will be at the modern Erkel Theatre. The Vienna State Opera, with its Renaissance style, 19th century building, will be a more festive option, at least for this year.  88. Join the olive harvest at in the Peloponnese November is the season for picking olives in this mountainous region of Greece. At Eumelia Farm, you can participate in the harvest, take part in olive oil tastings and learn to cook with local produce in a beautiful setting. Dates of the harvest experiences are announced on the Eumelia website in early October. 89. Celebrate the black truffle in Vaucluse The Truffle season is officially declared open, in mid November, with a proclamation in Richerenches, a hamlet of Valréas , where the biggest truffle market in Europe is held every Saturday from mid November. This market has a small retail section, though generally the truffle markets are for professional traders only with little chance for the public to buy. Friday morning truffle markets in Carpentras are held in the courtyard of the Hotel Dieu, with a small retail market in front to the tourist office. The Wednesday morning wholesale truffle market in Valréas is held at the roundabout in front of the war memorial.  Throughout the season, which extends into March, a number of farms and guesthouses offer truffling weekends when you can accompany the farmer and his dogs on a “dig”. 90. Book your tickets for a Panto in Britain. These very British holiday season shows combine slapstick, outrageously silly or slightly rude humor of the nudge nudge wink wink variety, cross dressing Panto dames and traditional stories (Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, Aladdin and others) in a raucous family entertainment that has to be seen to be believed. The shows run throughout the holiday season and some well into February but tickets sell out almost as soon as they go on sale so get in early. 91. Friday Lates at the British Museum Every Friday, the British Museum stays open until 8:30p.m., hosting free guided “spotlight” tours of the collections, food and drink and creative entertainment in the Great Court. If you’re visiting in September, it’s a great way to finish off a day of sightseeing. Friday Late events are posted in advance on the Museum website. 92. Look for lynx in Montenegro Also wolf, bear, chamois and doe in the mountainous dome in the north of the country. For most western tourists, this small corner of Eastern Europe with its dense forests, deep canyons, high villages and towns is still relatively undiscovered. Explore the wildlife of Mt Durmitor from Zabljak, the highest town in the Balkans. There are 40 kinds of edible mushrooms on the mountain so find a guide who can identify them. 93Autumn is a good time to visit Anafiotika reports Bex Hall of Life Beyond Borders. The village, within the larger “village” of Plaka, itself part of Athens, climbs the hill of the Acropolis with tiny white houses and winding lanes, like a transplated settlement on a Greek island. Climbing through the brilliant white neighborhood is definitely better in cool weather. 94. Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market , the largest authentic German Christmas Market outside of Germany or Austria, starts in mid November and runs to around December 23 or 24 in Birmingham England. The whole center of Birmingham is lined with stalls selling holiday gifts and treats. It’s the place to get in the holiday mood early, with plenty of  glühwein and gemütlichkeit. And surprisingly, it regularly makes the top 10 in visitors polls of the best Christmas markets in the world.

95. Go Baroque for Christmas There is something about baroque architecture, with all its lacy, sugary details that just lends itself to traditional Christmas festivities, preferably dusted with snow. Why not experience the fun of a traditional European Christmas market or fair in a cities dripping with baroque. The Advent Market of Zagreb, in Croatia, has been voted the best in the world for three years running for its variety of magical decorations and free entertainment all over the city. You can’t find a more Baroque city than Vienna and its Schönbrunn Palace hosts Christmas and New Year’s Markets from November 23 to January 6 this year. It’s open every day – even Christmas. 96. Celebrate Jane Austen’s Birthday, December 16, at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, England. 97. Commemorate  Renoir on the 100th anniversary of his death, 3 December at two of his atmospheric homes. The recently restored Renoir house, atelier and garden in Essoyes, France was the summer home of Renoir and his family and it is where the artist and his family are buried. We’re not certain the house will be open to visitors next December but if it’s closed, you can visit an exhibition in the tourist office and console yourself with lots of bubbly – Essoyes is a village of  l’Aube en champagne. Further south, the Renoir Museum in the French Riviera town of Cagnes-sur-Mer  , Renoir’s final home and the house he died in, is open year round. Hour long guided tours, in French and English, are offered Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons during the winter. 98. Encourage the return of the sun after the longest night in typical northern European fashion – with fire. For Brighton’s Burning the Clocks, December 21, local people make paper lanterns and parade through the town to Brighton Beach before throwing them on a giant bonfire. 99. Stock up on holiday chocolates in Barcelona. Forget Switzerland and Belgium. When it comes to the best chocolate shops in the world, Barcelona claims the title. The Spanish brought chocolate from Central America and introduced it to Europe. And Catalonia has a special place in the story; the first unprocessed cocoa beans actually arrived in the Port of Barcelona in 1520. Today the variety and quality of chocolate in Barcelona is a good excuse for an early December shopping trip. Try Xocolates Fargas, Barcelona’s oldest chocolate shop, for its traditional decor and beautiful sweets. Or Escribà, where they fashion chocolate into ridiculously realistic looking objects – Dorothy’s ruby slippers, dried salamis, Star Wars stormtrooper helmets. 100. Ski Boí Taüll. Never heard of it? You’re not alone, which is why you could almost have the slopes to yourself at this Spanish resort, the highest resort in the Pyrenees. There are dozens of pistes and they all seem to go in the same direction, making this one of the safest family ski destinations as well. Named the best ski resort in Spain in the World Ski Awards, it’s most easily reached via Pau-Pyrenees Airport. 101. Edinburgh Hogmanay There’s no better party to end the year – or begin the next. It goes on for days, starting with a torchlight parade, continuing with concerts and performances in several different Edinburgh parks and culminating with a gigantic fireworks display. This should be on everyone’s bucket list. Happy New Year, everyone.

11 replies
  1. Barry Stephen
    Barry Stephen says:

    Phenomenal list. Lots of great suggestions. Let’s hope Britons are not forced to stay at home because of the misconceived foolishness that is Brexit. Europe is our playground, let’s get out and enjoy it everyonth of the year.

  2. Lisa Gerard-Sharp
    Lisa Gerard-Sharp says:

    Well-chosen ideas to entertain and inspire. I can testify to the fun of the Southern French festivals, such as the wintry Nice Carnival and the summery Jazz a Juan jazz festival but would suggest adding Menton Lemon Festival as a rival to Nice Carnival, along with several Southern French regattas, from Cannes to St Tropez.

    • Ferne Arfin
      Ferne Arfin says:

      True Lisa – The South of France reels from one celebration to another. What about the Mimosa festivals, the chestnut festivals, the list is endless.


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