CITY | BEACH BREAKS - BEST OF BOTH
Head for the Cathedral then have a stroll around the historic Carmen neighbourhood, where there are plenty of cafés and bars. Gawp at the fabulous fruit, vegetables and fish at the art nouveau Central Market then drop into La Lonja, the 15th-century silk exchange. Have a look around the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences and don’t miss the Oceanogràfic aquarium. Don't forget to have a paella at one of the restaurants by the beach.
One of the top attractions to Barcelona is its weather, and with more than 300 days a year of sunny skies, and summers that are hot and humid, everyone wants to take advantage of the city's 4.5 kilometres of coastline and take a dip in the Mediterranean. In summer you could happily spend the whole day on the beach and stay there into the night, whether you're a sun worshipper or you prefer to find a shady spot and doze, or you're into beach games or water activities. At night many beach spots get going with music and drinks, and locals get together to escape the heat of the concrete and make their own affordable good time. Whichever way you choose to spend your time at the beach, check out our guide for all you need to know about the city's top beaches.
At summer’s end, the Venice Film Festival turns the sleepy Lido into a mini Hollywood.
Venice is a unique, magical place 365 days a year. But much of the time you'll be sharing that magic with thousands of other visitors. Numbers peak in summer, despite the heat, humidity and swarms of mosquitoes. Spring and autumn are much more pleasant months. I especially like late autumn (mid-October to mid-November) when, if you're lucky with the weather, it can still be warm enough to eat outside. But my favourite season of all is winter, a time of misty vistas when tourists are few and far between, rooms are cheap and the city is reclaimed by Venetians.
An exception is Carnevale, in the two weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday (Feb/Mar), which brings in hordes of revellers and sends accommodation prices through the roof. Other regular annual events include the June-November Art Biennale (odd years) and Architecture Biennale (even years), the Film Festival (10 days end of August to early September) and local festivities like the Festa del Redentore on the third weekend in July, when the city and lagoon are lit up by fireworks.
The Greek capital remains lively all through the year. For sightseeing, warm, sunny days make autumn or spring the best times to visit Athens; soaring temperatures from mid-June to late-August can be tiring. Between November and February the weather is unpredictable, ranging from crisp, bright days to rain and even occasional snow – the compensation being a relative scarcity of tourists. In fact, it can make a lovely winter city break.
Athens was built around the Acropolis, today the city’s most visited ancient attraction. On the Acropolis’ northeast slopes, pretty Plaka is Athens’ oldest residential quarter, extending down to grungy Monastiraki. From Monastiraki, Adrianou street leads west to Thissio and Kerameikos, while the pedestrian-only shopping street of Ermou runs east to Syntagma, home to the Greek Parliament. North of Monastiraki, Athinas street delineates the Psirri district and passes the Central Market to arrive at Omonia. South of the centre, ferries to the blissful Greek Islands depart from Piraeus port.
Find out for yourself what all the fuss is about and discern the truth from the clichés. For starters, Dubai is nothing like Las Vegas. There are no colossal neon-lit signs, no impersonator shows, no showgirls, and certainly no casinos. In fact, gambling is illegal, even at the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup.
Dubai is much more like Shanghai, with its audacious architecture, spectacular skylines, obsession with fashion and style, and flourishing contemporary art scene. Contrary to rumours, Dubai does have a rich culture, though most of it is intangible, rooted in Bedouin heritage and traditions of storytelling, poetry, song, dance, and falconry, but there are plenty of opportunities to experience it.
For all Dubai’s futuristic appeal and abundance of western entertainments – a sleek metro that zips through the sky like something out of Blade Runner, sumptuous shopping malls, an indoor ski park, and countless bars – there is just as much fun to be had in the simple pleasures of “the Orient”: haggling for gold and frankincense in the bustling souqs, savouring the sunset from the back of a camel, inhaling from a fragrant sheesha pipe on the fairly-lit deck of an old wooden dhow. Perhaps there is, after all, some truth to be found in the clichés…