If the Royal Wedding created an interest in Europe’s architectural treasures, there are a host of affordable cities that offer incredible sights and history to match that of the 1000-year-old Westminster Abbey. Consider spending a few days in a luxury hotel in London to recreate your own royal London experience before flying on to a second city of culture.
London’s prime sights are of course Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (which are not as old as you might think!), the Tower of London with the crown jewels and the famous Westminster Abbey.
From there, Barcelona is just a short hop away. Luxury hotels in Barcelona can be found right on the famous Las Ramblas where street performers entertain visitors as they browse the flower stalls or sit at an outdoor café. If the street is a little noisy, there are plenty of other luxury hotels to choose from near the Passeig de Gracia shopping mecca, overlooking the port and beach or in the Old Cathedral district. Antoni Gaudi’s unique architecture can be seen all over the city from the UNESCO listed Park Guell, which is filled with his sculptures, to the iconic spires of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.
Other options include the French Riviera, a hotspot with celebrities and the place to spend the summer if you have a private yacht. Those preferring to stay on dry land will find Nice has a delightful old town filled with squares lined with historic architecture.
If you want to combine blue seas and sunny skies with 2000-years of history then choose one of the 6000 Greek Islands. Luxique has an excellent choice of luxury hotels in Crete, which make a great base for discovering the many churches, monasteries, castles and forts that the island is known for.
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
The Leaning Tower of Pisa has been given a facelift, which involved extensive cleaning and a bit of straightening.
Over a period of eight years, restorers used chisels and laser technology to remove grime from the 24,000 blocks of stone that make up the 183-ft tower.
The stones were in poor condition – mainly because of air pollution and pigeon droppings. They’d also been damaged by sea salt – Pisa was once on the coast and was a powerful maritime republic until its harbour silted up and was cut off from the sea.
The columns of the tower are decorated with flowers, ghoulish faces and fantastical animals. “But sea salt carried on the wind, and rain water that collects in certain areas because of the tower’s tilt have damaged many,” said Anton Sutter, the Swiss-born leader of the £20 million ($31 million) restoration effort.
“We’ve taken out the concrete used in past restorations and cleaned up the pigeon dirt, graffiti and handprints left by tourists,” he said.
The tower has been leaning since the construction of the third level in 1178 because of soft sand and clay beneath its inadequate foundation. It was on the verge of collapse in 1990, and closed to the public, but was then secured.
In the latest restoration, the famous list has been partly corrected – engineers managed to straighten it by 18 inches from the vertical, returning it to its 1838 position.
by Andy Moreton
There’s plenty to see apart from the famous bell tower, and Luxique offers best rates at a jewel of a luxury hotel in Pisa: the classic, 19th century Royal Victoria.
Stonehenge, the prehistoric stone circle in south-west England, has been given a £10 million ($16 million) grant towards providing a new visitor centre.
The money has come from proceeds from the National Lottery that are earmarked for heritage purposes.
Lady Andrews, the Chairwoman of English Heritage, which manages the site, said it was very grateful for the generous grant. “Not only does it help to narrow the funding gap for the project considerably, it also sends out a message of confidence about the benefits that the project will bring – to tourism, the local economy and the conservation and public enjoyment of Stonehenge and its landscape.”
The proposed centre would consist of a pair of single-storey areas of glass and timber about a mile-and-a-half (2.4 km) west of the stones. It would include exhibition and education facilities, a cafe, shop and toilets.
Stonehenge, constructed between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC, and thought to have been used for a variety of religious ceremonies, is a World Heritage site. It attracts about 900,000 tourists a year, 70 per cent of whom come from abroad. However, visitors have long expressed disappointment – and sometimes astonishment – at the state of facilities there.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers a variety of luxury hotels in south-west England as well as in many other parts of the UK.
There’s fresh concern about the state of the ancient Italian city of Pompeii after the collapse of two more walls at the site.
Officials blamed the falls on heavy rain. They said neither the collapsed wall along one of the site’s main streets, the Via Stabiana, nor the one in the ‘House of the Small Lupanar’ was of artistic value.
However, there have now been four incidents in a month, and opposition politicians and archaeologists have again accused the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of allowing the 2,000-year-old site to be mismanaged and fall into neglect.
The Superintendent there, Jeannette Papadopoulos, sought to play down the incidents. “These kinds of events are possible over the course of the life of a 2,000-year-old, vast archaeological site,” she said. “They should not give rise to alarmism.”
Pompeii was destroyed in AD79 when a volcanic eruption from nearby Mount Vesuvius buried the city in ash. Uncovered in the 18th Century, it’s now on the UN’s list of protected World Heritage areas. A UNESCO team has been sent to look at the conservation of the site.
Situated near modern Naples, Pompeii has been a popular tourist destination for 250 years. These days, it attracts more than 2.5 million visitors a year.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re travelling to Naples to take in Pompeii, try the Micalo boutique hotel, bookable through Luxique. Recent guests described it as ‘a gem of a hotel’ and ‘a great place in a perfect location.’
A Soviet–era landmark in the centre of Moscow has re-opened as a new luxury hotel in Moscow after a three-year renovation.
The former Hotel Ukraina was one of the ‘Seven Sisters’, an iconic set of skyscrapers built under Stalin between 1947 and 1953 to rival the structures springing up in capitalist cities such as New York.
Built in an elaborate gothic style with a ‘wedding-cake’construction and spires, they were intended to symbolize Soviet power and achievement.
The luxury hotel, part of the Rezidor Group, is now known as the Radisson Royal Hotel Moscow. The extensive renovation has seen 506 rooms in the building refurbished, along with 36 suites and apartments.
Situated close to Red Square in the commercial centre of Moscow, the hotel has six restaurants and bars, ranging from Japanese to Iranian, Italian to Russian, and a floating yacht restaurant that runs a two-hour trip along the river. There are also 1,200 original works of art.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers two fine luxury hotels in Moscow – the Baltschug Kempinski and the Golden Apple Boutique.
Part of Nero’s Golden Palace, a popular tourist site in Rome, has collapsed.
A large piece of the vault ceiling, which topped one of the corridors linking the many halls and chambers of the sprawling complex, crumbled and fell to the ground – possibly because of water seepage. No-one was injured.
The city’s, Mayor, Gianni Alemanno, said he was very worried, and ordered an investigation to determine the exact cause of the collapse. The site, which is situated in central Rome not far from the Colosseum, was cordoned off as sand bags were placed to support the remaining parts of the corridor’s walls.
Nero built his ornate palace, the Domus Aurea, after the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. to use as a party villa rather than a residence. Covered in part by gold leaf, it also had walls decorated with semi-precious stones and frescoes.
The incident has raised fresh concern about the state of one of Rome’s most prized archaeological treasures. It was closed in late 2005 for more than a year after the culture ministry said it couldn’t guarantee the safety of visitors and staff.
The site superintendent, Luciano Marchetti, said the collapse needed to be seen as a warning – more finance for the site’s upkeep was urgently needed.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re thinking of heading for The Eternal City, Luxique can offer you an unrivalled choice of luxury hotels in Rome – both traditional and modern.
One of the most popular attractions in the Prague Castle complex is being closed for a year-long renovation from the beginning of May.
The Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička) is a narrow alley lined with candy-coloured one-room houses from the 16th century.
Frantisek Kadlec, the Director of Prague Castle’s tourism department, said: “The houses are in poor technical condition and need heating and electricity upgrades, so there will be a full reconstruction of the entire lane.”
Named after the goldsmiths who once lived there, the Golden Lane is now home to souvenir and craft shops. But for many visitors the highlight is No. 22: the tiny home where Franz Kafka lived from 1916 to 1917 and wrote some of the short stories for his collection The Country Doctor.
After the lane’s renovation, nine houses will become part of an exhibition on life in the Golden Lane through the centuries.
Some shopkeepers, though, are unhappy. “There will be no compensation for us because every shop worker has a contract that expires in April,” said Pavel Kouba, who works at the lane’s Old Clock Store. Kouba said none of the shops had been consulted about the closure.
“It is a shock for all of us, and we will have to find new premises. We are dependent on tourists, and competition is high, especially in this time of economic crisis. Nobody consulted us.”
by Andy Moreton
If you’re destined for the Czech capital, take a look at Luxique’s city guide and great selection of luxury hotels in Prague.
A major restoration project has been completed on the 2,500-year-old monumental gateway to the Acropolis in Athens.
The seven-year project, costing 6.5 billion euros (£5.85 billion /$9.3 billion) involved lengthening the roof on the ancient marble building known as the Propylaea. The Culture Ministry said 255 blocks of marble had been taken down from the monument so that experts could remove metal clamps used by previous restorers. These had rusted and had also caused extensive cracking.
The Propylaea is the only Acropolis monument to retain large sections of its ancient roofing. The hilltop temples are also undergoing extensive restoration, expected to continue beyond 2020.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers top-class luxury hotels in Athens with views of the Acropolis, including the sumptuous King George II Palace and Grand Bretagne.
Archaeologists in Rome believe they may have uncovered the fabled banqueting hall that Nero built to impress guests at his Golden Palace.
Experts on the four-month dig on top of the Palatine Hill have found remains of the foundations of the hall and the mechanism for its elaborate revolving wooden floor. This platform allowed guests to survey a ceiling painted with stars and equipped with ivory panels from which flower petals and perfume would fall.
The Roman historian Suetonius described the unique revolving room in his Lives of the Caesars, written about 60 years after Nero’s death. “The chief banqueting room was circular and revolved perpetually, night and day, in imitation of the motion of the celestial bodies,” he wrote.
The leader of the dig, Françoise Villedieu, said her team had discovered part of a circular room which was supported by a pillar with a diameter of more than 13 feet. Funds are to be made available to help the archaeologists carry out further investigations.
Nero, who ruled from 54 to 68 AD, was famed for his cruelty and hedonism. He didn’t enjoy his Golden Palace for very long – he committed suicide in the same year it was completed.
by Andy Moreton
The Eternal City beckons you – and Luxique can offer you an unrivalled choice of luxury hotels in Rome – both traditional and modern.
Two US tourists who chipped off a piece of the Colosseum in Rome 25 years ago have returned it – along with an apology.
The fragment of stone, small enough to fit into a pocket, arrived in Italy in a package from California. A note inside read: “We should have done this sooner.”
Rome’s archaeology officials have accepted the couple’s apology and the local tourism officer has invited them to return to the city.
The tourists appear to have been concerned about their questionable memento for some while. “Every time I looked at my souvenir collection and came across that piece it made me feel guilty,” the note read.
“Over the years, I started thinking that if all the visitors to that beautiful monument took a piece of it away with them, nothing would be left standing. It was a selfish and superficial act.”
There is one problem with this, however. The passing of time seems to have led the couple to forget from where exactly they chipped the fragment. Officials in Rome believe it might not be from the Colosseum at all, but from the area of the Roman Forum or the ancient Palatine Hill.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique guides you through the process of finding and booking the finest luxury hotels in Rome.