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
Luxury hotels and high-end shopping tend to be a winning combination in the world of tourism and the Istanbul ShoppingFest seems set for success. After all, the Grand Bazaar has been in the business of selling for 550 years, so it knows a thing or two about changing trends.
Every year Istanbul attracts millions of visitors to its malls, street markets and bazaars to haggle over everything from T-shirts to handmade carpets over a complimentary glass of Turkish tea. This megacity is uniquely situated on the very line where east meets west and is the only metropolis in the world which spans two continents; Europe to the west of the Bosphorus and Asia to the east.
From March 18 to April 26 this grand city is celebrating the 550th Grand Bazaar birthday by hosting its 1st Istanbul ShoppingFest. This 4-day spectacular offers visitors special discounts and great prizes with live entertainment for shoppers visiting the markets and bazaars after 10pm. Each Saturday, one mall on the European side of the city and one on the Asian side will stay open until 2 a.m. for late night shopping.
One big incentive for visitors making large purchases is the tax back deal for foreigners on purchases bought in the malls.
Last year Turkish tourism boomed with its Capital of Culture status and they hope that the same interest can be generated from worldwide tourism with the introduction of this ShoppingFest. Istanbul aims to be the shopping destination of choice for those with money to spend from Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Greece and other European and Middle Eastern countries. Not surprisingly, Luxique.com showcases 12 of the best luxury hotels in Istanbul for those wanting to visit this cultural city.
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
The people of Madrid like to party into the small hours, so it seems fitting that the city should sponsor an annual all-night celebration of contemporary art and culture.
Planned to coincide with the full moon, Noche en Blanco, or White Night, happens this year on Saturday (September 11th).
Hardly an area of the city will be without something entertaining — and environmentally sound — to see. The lively Gran Via will be turned into a giant playground with recycled objects, building materials and tools; Bijari, an artistic collective from Sao Paulo, plans to construct an enormous ‘sculpture-poem’ made of blocks of plastic waste at the Royal Palace; and DJs and pop singers will entertain in the Plaza de Cibeles.
For those more conservative in their tastes, all the city’s major museums will be open until late into the night, with no entrance fees.
Last year, more than a million people turned out for the exhibitions, concerts and performances.
by Andy Moreton
Spain’s capital city is buzzing by day and night, and Luxique offers a choice of more than 20 luxury hotels in Madrid.
There’s going to be a new film festival on the international calendar to rival Cannes, Venice and Berlin.
The Spanish island of Majorca is hoping A-list celebrities will flock there when it launches its festival in April 2011. It wants the event to provide a new cultural attraction for tourists and put Majorca on the map in the arts world.
The festival organiser is David Carreras, a well-known Spanish film director who’s been living on the island for five years and is anxious to showcase its beauty to the world. “The island is stunning, we have beautiful scenery and it would be perfect to hold an international event like this,” he said.
Side-shows such as concerts and food demonstrations would run alongside the main festival, said Carreras. His ultimate aim is for a film studio to be built on Majorca in 2015.
The island already has an impressive list of celebrity residents and visitors, including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Claudia Schiffer and Jack Nicholson. The film industry has already done wonders for the likes of Cannes and Venice, and Majorca is hoping it will help the island branch out from offering just beach holidays.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can arrange the best possible rates at nearly 30 luxury hotels in Majorca, including the including the famed Residencia in Deià. It was voted by readers of the Condé Nast Traveller magazine in 2008 the most popular leisure hotel in Europe and it was where Andrew Lloyd Webber Andrew Lloyd Webber held his lavish 60th birthday party.
Forgive me, British readers, while I briefly explain the traditions of November 5th to our overseas friends.
Every year, on that date, bonfires are lit and fireworks set off to mark the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his associates planned to displace Protestant rule by blowing up the Houses of Parliament.
It’s known as Guy Fawkes’ Night or Bonfire Night and part of the modern jolly celebrations involve making a Guy Fawkes effigy and burning it on the bonfire.
It would be true to say, then, that if your real name is Guy Fawkes, you come in for a fair bit of ridicule and abuse around this time of the year. So … and you’ll be pleased to hear I’m finally coming to the point of this story …
… the Future Inns hotel chain in the UK has promised a free night’s stay between November 5th and 11th to any Guy Fawkes who can prove that he really does legally bear that name. The offer – for a stay in Cardiff, Plymouth or Bristol – is also open to anyone named Catherine Wheel (a popular and colourful firework that’s fixed to a tree or post and spins wildly when lit).
Future Inns’ Managing Director, Del Brett, said:
“We hope our offer will provide some respite for the namesakes of Guy Fawkes. All our rooms are sound-proofed so anyone who wants to escape fireworks celebrations will be able to enjoy a restful night.”
A quick search of Facebook produced 500 people purporting to be called Guy Fawkes, but how many of them have the birth certificate to prove it …?
by Andy Moreton
We’re burning to tell you all about Luxique’s spectacular selection of luxury hotels in London and many other cities in the UK.
It’s the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall next month, and the occasion will be marked by various events in the city.
When the East German government built the wall in 1961, it didn’t take into account the ingenuity shown by those who were prepared to take any risk to try to escape the oppressive communist system.
While some flew over the barrier in hot air balloons and others were smuggled in secret compartments in cars, several hundred took advantage of the soft, sandy soil under Berlin to tunnel their way to freedom.
Now, that secret tunnel network has become one of the most popular attractions for tourists and locals alike. And their guide is often Hasso Herschel, who, in the 1960s and 1970s, helped dozens escape through the secret tunnels, some of which he dug with his own hands.
Mr Herschel, who escaped to West Germany with a forged passport in 1961, dug several illegal tunnels under the wall, the first in September 1962. It’s reckoned that about a fifth of the estimated 71 projects were successful. Often they were discovered by troops or secret police before they could be used. Others collapsed, were flooded or buried by loose soil.
Details of the underground tours can be found at http://berliner-unterwelten.de/
and for information on the city’s anniversary celebrations, go to http://www.mauerfall09.de/
by Andy Moreton
Whether visiting for the anniversary celebrations or at any other time of the year, Luxique can guide you through the best of the luxury hotels in Berlin.
A hundred years ago, the Venice Lido was one of Europe’s most glamorous playgrounds for movie stars and royalty, and there’s now going to be a bold attempt to recapture its glory days.
The Lido is an 11-mile strip of land dividing the Venice lagoon from the Adriatic. It comes alive once a year in September for the Film Festival, when it’s besieged by actors, journalists and paparazzi, but for the rest of the year it all goes quiet.
“The Lido has slowly turned residential and gone to sleep, covered in dust,” said Giovanni Gusso, President of the Lido’s municipal council.
Now, hundreds of millions of euros of private funding are being lined up to restore the area’s Art Deco and Art Nouveau gems. In addition, government money is being spent on a new terminal for the city’s vaporetti (water buses).
But (there always seems to be a ‘but’ in these planning developments) one aspect is meeting disapproval – and it concerns the plans to demolish a group of beach huts. These are not just any old huts – they were famously depicted in the iconic closing scene of Visconti’s 1971 film Death In Venice, starring Dirk Bogarde.
More than 2,000 people have signed a petition protesting at the plans to demolish those and the turn-of-the-century Bagni Alberoni pavilion at the south end of the Lido.
Stefano Bartoli, the owner of the Bagni Alberoni bathing establishment, said:
“If these plans go ahead, we will have to close, it’s that simple. It won’t be possible to stay open. And if we close, lots of jobs will be lost and the local community will die – so, too, will a little piece of history.”
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can offer the best available rates at the pick of the luxury hotels in Venice – including the elegant and tranquil Albergo Quattro Fontane on the Lido.
Michael Jackson has turned up in the beautiful area of west-central England known as the Cotswolds – although he apparently didn’t see much apart from the view from the window of his luxurious country house hotel.
Jackson has spent several weeks in the UK in preparation for his series of concerts at the O2 Arena in London next month, and enjoyed a secret break with his children (and small entourage) at Buckland Manor.
He took seven rooms at the Manor, which dates back to the thirteenth century and is set in glorious grounds with immaculate gardens, running stream, small waterfalls, croquet lawns and tennis courts.
The few staff who knew the identity of the celebrity behind the closed curtains were sworn to secrecy, but some details of the visit leaked out. If you believe the press reports, here are some highlights:
• The party arrived disguised in Arab veils and clothing
• Jackson used a dodgy Irish accent to order jelly and ice cream from room service
• Bodyguards were dispatched to go on shopping missions
That all seems to tie in with the singer’s reputation for erratic behaviour, but a hotel source insisted the singer had been ultra-friendly. “We had a nice chat,” he said. “Jackson was quite normal really. You read these things, but he was nice and very polite. His children were perfectly polite too.”
by Andy Moreton
Buckland Manor bills itself as ‘the best leisure hotel in the British Isles’, and Luxique has negotiated the best rates for your stay.
It’s not been confirmed which luxury London hotel Jackson will take over in the summer, but in the past he’s favoured The Lanesborough. Pop divas Beyoncé and Britney Spears recently took suites at the Mandarin Oriental overlooking Hyde Park.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris has just celebrated its 120th anniversary with the release of thousands of balloons.
The most instantly recognisable symbol of the French capital was inaugurated in May 1889. Since then it has become one of Europe’s most popular tourist sites, welcoming nearly seven million visitors a year.
To mark the anniversary, there’s an exhibition, Tales of The Eiffel Tower, which runs through to the end of the year. It features photos, posters, films and interactive presentations. It’s on the first floor and stairs of the Tower.
Many 19th century Parisians didn’t care for the Tower. One, the writer, Guy de Maupassant, often ate lunch in the restaurant at its base because he said it was the only place he couldn’t see it.
Another wacky fact: since its opening, the Eiffel Tower has been re-painted every seven years. The nineteenth re-painting job began in March and is expected to take eighteen months.
by Andy Moreton
The French capital is so much more than the Eiffel Tower. Take a look at our Paris city guide and let Luxique help you choose from several award winning luxury hotels in Paris hotel.
Visitors to Berlin this year will find the artwork on the largest remaining section of the Wall brighter and more colourful than usual.
The reason is that the artists who created the murals have been asked to re-do them in time for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall in November.
The 4,265 ft stretch of wall, the world’s longest open-air art gallery, was decorated by 118 artists from 21 countries in 1990 and was declared a historic monument by the Berlin city government in 1992.
The East Side Gallery, as it’s known, has become one of the city’s top attractions, but it’s been damaged by the weather, exhaust fumes, vandals and souvenir-seeking tourists.
The head of the artists’ association at the East Side Gallery, Kani Alavi, said four of the original artists had set to work and another 82 had promised to participate.
But some artists have refused to join in the effort and are demanding 15,000 euros (£13,000 / $20,000) in compensation instead of the 3,000 euros (£2,600 / $3,800) on offer, arguing that they have not received a fair share of the Gallery’s earnings over the years.
by Andy Moreton
Events are going on in Berlin throughout 2009, culminating in a grand public party at the Brandenburg Gate on the actual anniversary of the fall of the Wall (November 9). If you’re planning a visit, browse Luxique’s selection of luxury Berlin hotels, including the celebrated Adlon Kempinksi.