It is not surprising that when you look at the top five of European destinations, released this month by Low Cost Airline Guide, the most popular destinations for budget airlines are hot spots of cultural activity. UK travelers are demanding more than a glorified booze cruise from their weekend break. History, music art, and events ranging from Opera to Athletics… and yes maybe the odd beer festival, are all motivational factors for the British short breaker.
So onto the list, and probably the surprising thing is not what is there, but what is not there: Rome and Paris do not feature! This may be a seasonal glitch, Paris may be the destination for choice for springtime, but surely romance is not dead the rest of the year. And don’t try to tell me that the Eternal City is not popular all year round!
But back to the list and top is Barcelona. The 707 miles between Barcelona and London are no barrier for visitors wishing to get involved with the Festival of St John.
The feast of Sant Joan, is an all night affair on 23 June with bonfires and fireworks all over the city and along its famous urban beach when Cava and Coca (a traditional candied fruit-topped crispy bread) are consumed in large quantities. But it is not just on this night that the streets shudder to the sound of fire crackers, with the whole of June featuring a series of warm-up events as the locals get a little over excited. As you can imagine, 24 June is a bank holiday!
The photo above is provided by the Barcelona Architectural Centre an organization which offers academic stays in Barcelona to foreign architecture schools. The city’s impressive architecture, famously featuring wonderful buildings by Antoni Gaudi, is a year-round draw for cultural and academic tourists alike.
Second on the list is Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic may be one of my favourite European cities but I am surprised that is features above many of its mass-market competitors. However its tantelising mix of traditional tourist appeal and trendy new nightspots make it the perfect destination for a short European break.
Prague’s secret in June is its festivals. Firth there is Prague Spring a huge music festival that, since the Velvet Revolution, now attracts a range of international performers alongside the best of Czech musicians. Typically the festival opens with Smetana’s patriotic cycle of symphonic poems, Má Vlast and concludes with a an absolutely cracking rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth.
The United Islands of Prague also features local and international performers but replace Bach and Smetana with Placebo and Iggy Pop! Head to the Vltava where stages and beer stalls take over the riverfront. For Theatrically minded visitors June also hosts Prague Fringe a theatre festival which every year is gaining greater international recognition.
Third on our list is Munich. An obvious destination for September and October but early summer? Maybe everyone is going to help it celebrate its 854th birthday of its foundation on the 15th and 16th!
Things do however liven up at the end of June and into July with the Munich Film Festival,
Munich’s great annual open-air concert of classical music Classical Music on Odeonsplatz
the Tollwood Summer Festical featuring Multicultural music, theater, culinary specialities. and finally the Munich Opera Festival including free open-air performances in front of the city’s opera house.
The Austrian capital of Vienna is 4th. Mozart was arguably its most famous son, but the Spanish Riding School with is iconic Lipizzaner horses are just as much a tourist attraction. It could be argued that visitors may be flocking to see the likes of Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Bobby McFerrin and Mark Knopfler grace the Viennese music scene in June… Roll over Mozart!
In fifth place, and at 1488 miles the furthest destination on our top table is Athens. Maybe the contributing factor is to go before the place gets too darned hot but, for cultural tourists the country’s flagship cultural event, the Greek Festival, starts on Saturday, June 1, and runs through the end of August. Featuring all forms of performance arts and visual arts shows, although it takes over many venues around the city it is famously based at the ancient site of Epidaurus where the two theatre host classical ancient drama and the odd romantic musical soirees if you want to get caught up in the romance of this miraculous city!
So, where ever you go this summer, don’t forget to check that there is someting beyond the run of the mill bars and museums to entertain you during your short break. With its insights into local culture, a festival can turn a run-of-the-mill European holiday into the trip of a life-time!
This article was sponsored by low-cost-airline-guide.com