Bordeaux has always been a dynamic, cosmopolitan city and never ceases to reveal exciting, new facets of its character. The city of Bordeaux’s inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 and its bold modernism have made it a key destination for everyone interested in French culture, lifestyle… and wine!
Centre of a legendary winegrowing region, this vibrant and sophisticated city is a top gourmet and culture destination. Synonymous with fine wines, Bordeaux is one of France’s most elegant cities.
Bordeaux’s setting on the River Garonne has made it an important port for centuries. Bordeaux is the ideal base for exploring wine châteaux of Médoc, St Emilion and Bordeaux, fringed by the largest pine forest in Europe, just 45 minutes from Arcachon Bay (famous for its delicious seafood and oysters!) and superb beaches. The Basque Country and Spain are only 2 hours away and in 3 hours you can be on the Pyrenean ski slopes.
Lisbon is an illuminated city. The almost constant presence of sunshine and the River Tagus transforms the Portuguese capital into a mirror of a thousand colours – highlighting the city’s unique architecture and beauty.
Have fun in Lisbon, where nightlife continues till dawn. Experience calmer moments in Lisbon in the city’s parks, gardens, belvederes, cafés and esplanades. Or simply enjoy the pure pleasure of being in Lisbon, through its gastronomy, luxury hotels, spas and shopping centres.
Athens is considered the cradle of western civilization. Over the years, a multitude of conquerors occupied Athens, and erected unique, splendid monuments – a rare historical palimpsest, evident everywhere in the city.
The contemporary urban scenery of the sprawling city reflects its exciting history, its multi-cultural modern personality as well as the infrastructure and facilities. In other words, Athens is a must destination that combines modern urban innovation with history, culture and natural beauty throughout the year.
Return time and again and you still won’t see it all. Stand on a bridge over the Arno river several times in a day and the light, mood and view changes every time. Surprisingly small as it is, this riverside city is like no other. Cradle of the Renaissance and of tourist masses that flock here to feast on world-class art, Florence (Firenze) is magnetic, romantic and busy. Its urban fabric has hardly changed since the Renaissance, its narrow streets evoke a thousand tales, and its food and wine are so wonderful the tag ‘Fiorentina’ has become an international label of quality assurance.
Fashion designers parade on Via de’ Tornabuoni. Gucci was born here, as was Roberto Cavalli who, like many a smart Florentine these days, hangs out in wine-rich hills around Florence. After a while in this absorbing city, you might want to do the same.
After the quaintly contrived elegance of the West Bohemian spa towns, the rugged blue-collar energy of Plzeň comes as a welcome relief. The capital of West Bohemia has authentic industrial credibility as the home of the Skoda Engineering Works and as the original source of Pilsner beer. Workers the world over are especially pleased with that last fact.
If you set out to design a fairy-tale medieval town it would be hard to improve on central Bruges (Brugge in Dutch). Picturesque cobbled lanes and dreamy canals link exceptionally photogenic market squares lined with soaring towers, historic churches and old whitewashed almshouses. And there’s plenty of it. The only downside is that everyone knows. That means that there’s an almost constant crush of tourists, especially through the summer months. So to really enjoy Bruges stay overnight (day trippers miss the fabulous evening floodlighting) and try to visit midweek (avoiding floods of British weekenders). There’s a special charm in spring when daffodils carpet the tranquil begijnhof or in winter (except Christmas) when you can have the magnificent, if icy, town almost to yourself.
Vienna is packed with imperial history; at the same time it has exciting contemporary museums, lively eating and nightlife scenes, and many quiet corners to explore.
London is immersed in history. Not so much that it’s intimidating, but there’s sufficient antiquity and historic splendour (Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court) to blow you away. London’s buildings are eye-catching milestones in the city’s unique and compelling biography. There’s more than enough funky innovation (the Shard, the Aquatics Centre, the Gherkin) to put a crackle in the air, but it never drowns out London’s well-preserved, centuries-old narrative. Architectural grandeur rises up all around you in the West End, ancient remains dot the City and charming pubs punctuate the Thames riverside. Take your pick.
Straddling the Danube River, with the Buda Hills to the west and the Great Plain to the east, Budapest is a gem of a city.
Tyrol’s capital is a sight to behold. The jagged rock spires of the Nordkette range are so close that within minutes it’s possible to travel from the city’s heart to over 2000m above sea level and alpine pastures where cowbells chime. Summer and winter activities abound, and it’s understandable why some visitors only take a peek at Innsbruck proper before heading for the hills. But to do so is a shame, for Innsbruck is in many ways Austria in microcosm: its late-medieval Altstadt is picture-book stuff, presided over by a grand Habsburg palace and baroque cathedral, while its Olympic ski jump with big mountain views make a spectacular leap between the urban and the outdoors.