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 Palace of Versailles outside Paris is to transform one of its satellite buildings into a luxury hotel.
L’hôtel du Grand Contrôle, the traditional home of the chateau’s treasurers, is to be converted into a luxury hotel with 23 bedrooms. Some will look out over The Orangerie, the palace’s elaborate greenhouse, and others will have a view of the Swiss ornamental lake. The hotel could be ready as early as the end of next year.
A concession has been granted to the Belgian company Ivy International SA to renovate and develop the building, which dates back to the 17th century but is currently in a dilapidated state. The work is expected to cost 5.5 million euros (£4.6 million/$7.3 million).
Versailles, a UNESCO World Heritage site deemed one of the crowning achievements of 18th-century French art, is one of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions.
The development paves the way for a series of French projects aimed at exploiting the economic potential of listed buildings while securing their renovation.
Another royal palace, the Chateau of Fontainbleau, south of Paris, is preparing to appeal for bids to develop its listed Heronniere barracks next year. “We have to find a purpose for these buildings to avoid them falling into ruin,” said Jean-Francois Hebert, President of Fontainbleau. “One of the ways will be to set up an upmarket hotel complex.”
by Andy Moreton/AFP
Luxique offers you a choice of accommodation at some 70 luxury hotels in Paris,including the Trianon Palace in Versailles.
As we travel around the world, we’re used to seeing and marvelling at places declared by the United Nations as World Heritage Sites: The Great Barrier Reef, the Pyramids and the Grand Canyon, for example.
What’s less known is that, since 2006, the cultural agency, UNESCO, has drawn up an annual list of cultural expressions and practices such as songs, festivals, religious rites and languages, which it says must be protected.
Added to the latest list were Spanish Flamenco dancing, Chinese acupuncture and French cuisine (with all its social rituals). The more obscure contenders included gingerbread making in Croatia, Azeri carpet weaving and a 650-year-old festival in Turkey where men daubed in cooking oil grapple in a field to win a golden belt.
“We are not aiming to keep things stuck in the past,” said Cecile Duvelle, the head of Unesco’s Intangible Heritage Committee, “instead the intention is to safeguard things that have a value in contemporary life.”
A UNESCO listing obliges governments to set out what they intend to do to ensure the long-term survival of the traditions.
by Andy Moreton
The Spanish city of Seville could be in danger of losing its Unesco World Heritage status if it goes ahead with the building of a 600ft tower.
The city has approved plans for the controversial tower designed by Cesar Pelli, the Argentine architect, despite objections from UN culture chiefs who fear the new construction will have a detrimental effect on the city’s historic centre.
The centre includes the Gothic cathedral containing the tomb of Christopher Columbus, and the Alcázar, the Moorish palace built in the 14th century.
That skyline is now threatened by the construction of the new headquarters for a savings bank, Cajasol, less than a mile away on the opposite bank of the Guadalquivir river.
Work began at the site early this year and is scheduled for completion by end of 2011 after planning chiefs ignored a request by Unesco to delay construction until a thorough impact report could be completed.
The city is likely to be put on the World Heritage site endangered list when the organisation’s committee meets in Brasilia next month and could be removed all together if the proposal for the tower is not modified.
As I reported last year, the German city of Dresden became the first to be taken off the list after constructing a bridge over the river Elbe that ruined its beautifully conserved landscape.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re thinking of visiting Spain’s centre of bullfighting, Flamenco music and oranges, Luxique can secure the best rates at any one of nine luxury hotels in Seville.
Cash-conscious tourists in the UK have flocked to visitor attractions with free entry, according to figures just released.
Britons staying at home for their vacations, and overseas tourists attracted by the weak pound helped Britain’s leading attractions welcome 10.9 per cent more visitors in 2009 than the previous year.
The British Museum topped the list with 5.57 million visits, followed by the National Gallery (4.78 million) and Tate Modern (4.74 million). All these have free entrance except for major exhibitions.
Of the attractions charging, Blenheim Palace enjoyed a surge in visitors, welcoming more than half a million – 43.6 per cent more than in 2008. Blenheim, where Winston Churchill was born, is a unique example of English baroque architecture, set in 2,000 acres of Oxfordshire parkland landscaped by Capability Brown.
The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions has said there’s a feeling of optimism in the tourism industry about the immediate future, but it’s called for more government funding to promote Britain to potential tourists abroad.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re coming to the UK this year, Luxique can guide you to the perfect accommodation, with a wide selection of luxury hotels in London. We can also help you book luxury hotels in many other parts of the UK, including the university city of Oxford, close to Blenheim Palace.
Spain, which pioneered the cheap holiday-in-the-sun package deal, is trying to upgrade its image.
A campaign is attempting to convince the ‘affluent and discerning traveller’ that the country has far more to offer than just the opportunity to stretch out on a sun lounger for a fortnight with a good book. The tourist authorities want to put Spain’s lesser-known attractions on the map, such as its gastronomic and artistic traditions.
Among the destinations being highlighted are the vineyards of the Rioja region, the futuristic Guggenheim Museum in the Basque city of Bilbao and the vast Donana national park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to rare wildlife.
“It’s time to look for customers with high purchasing power because there is plenty to offer them,” said Jose Maria Rubio, the head of Spain’s Hotel and Catering Federation.
General Franco first opened up Spain to foreign tourists in the late 1950s. But his idea has seen Mediterranean fishing villages transformed into a mass of skyscraper hotels, fast-food outlets, bars and nightclubs that are now synonymous with the worst of mass tourism. “Spain is suffering from a perceived loss of authenticity in its coastal destinations,” was how the tourism ministry put it in its Horizon 2020 plan last year.
Like many other holiday destinations, Spain has suffered in the recession. In the first seven months of this year, the number of visitors dropped by 10.3 per cent compared with 2008.
Mr Rubio emphasised that the coastal regions would remain a key factor. “It’s more a question of completing the image of Spain with its culture, natural and historical attractions and gastronomy,” he said.
by Andy Moreton
Whether soaking up the sun on the beach or the culture in the city, Luxique has an unrivalled selection of luxury hotels in Spain.
The city of Dresden in eastern Germany has lost its position as a World Heritage Site because of the construction of a four-lane bridge across the river Elbe.
The Dresden Elbe valley won heritage status from UNESCO five years ago for its 12-mile stretch of landscape, which incorporates the city centre and features Baroque palaces, churches, opera houses and museums.
Conservationists say the four-lane bridge will be a blot on the unique Elbe valley and is sited in a particularly sensitive spot, near the old city, from where it will be seen.
Construction of the bridge began in 2007. Supporters of the project say it’s essential to reduce traffic congestion. An alternative plan for a tunnel was rejected for cost reasons.
UNESCO took the decision at its meeting in the Spanish city of Seville. Areas added to the list of World Heritage Sites include the Dolomite mountains in Italy and the Wadden Sea along the coasts of Germany and the Netherlands.
The Wadden Sea coastline is a wetlands area rich in wildlife. The Dolomites, in Italy’s northern Alps, was praised as ‘one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere’.
Each World Heritage Site is the property of the state on whose territory it’s located, but it’s considered in the interests of the international community to preserve each one.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers the best rates at Dresden’s premier luxury hotel, the Taschenbergpalais Kempinksi, as well as three fine hotels in the Italian Dolomites.