European summers bring with them an array of outdoorsy cultural events. Not to mention, that crisp sunlight which makes every vacation picture extra special. This year, skip the conventional backpacking routes for some of the trendiest design destinations on the continent.
A former haven for coal miners and steelworkers, Liège seems to have traded its blue-collar status for a more culturally upscale one. A new entrant to Europe’s art and food destinations, the historical city on the Meuse River is just an hour’s train ride away from Brussels. Speaking of which, the Liège -Guillemins railway station is one of Europe’s biggest train hubs, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The newly unveiled Boverie art museum, showcasing the best of Belgian art, is the latest attraction. The museum collaborates with the Louvre to showcase international names like Renoir, Manet and Van Gogh. Other Liege must-sees include Prince-Bishop Palace, the collegiate churches and the Coteaux de la Citadelle.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the medieval fortress city of Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s most up-market destinations. Stroll through its Instagram-worthy pedestrian-only old town where you’ll spot aristocratic palazzi and Baroque churches around every corner. Highlights include: the 7th-century Cathedral of Assumption, War Photo Limited gallery and a birds-eye view of the city via cable car. If in the unlikely event that you grow weary of all this gorgeous design, you can always hit the beaches for some adventure, nosh on some quality seafood at a casual eatery/five-star hotel or sign up for a ‘Game Of Thrones’ tour.
A two-hour drive from Madrid, lies yet another walled medieval gem – the village of Pedraza. Part of the autonomous community of Castile and León, the place was declared a historic-artistic site in the early Fifties. From the Puerta de la Villa (town gate) to the Pedraza castle at the far end, and all the emblazoned houses in between, every nook is a visual treat. The castle tower, currently a museum, once served as the studio of Basque painter Ignacio Zuloaga. Also of interest are the medieval prison and the church of San Juan. Summer is the time for the village’s famous roast lamb lunches, while the nights are romantic with the 1500’s cobbled streets aglow in candlelight.
One of 2016’s European Capitals of Culture, Wroclaw keeps gets hotter with each passing year. Among this year’s highlights is an across-borders artist-in-residence programme and world music days with influences from 50 countries. Once described as “the holy blossom of Europe, a beautiful gem among cities,” its rich culture can be attributed to its varied political rulers – the Poles, Czechs, Austrians, Hungarians and Germans. Set at the centre of the Silesian Lowland, where the Oder River branches out to form 12 islands, the city is spanned by over 100 bridges.
Don’t miss Old Town Hall, a turreted biscuit-tinted gothic structure, one of Poland’s most stunning buildings. And ‘Panorama Raclawicka’, a 114-metre-long painting.
With its Victorian cityscape and industrial heritage, Glasgow might come across as a bit somber. The last decade, however, is testament to the city’s evolution into a trendy metropolis with hedonistic entertainment options aplenty. Italian fashion, cutting-edge museums and galleries, the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and one of Britain’s most vibrant music scenes is what the city has to offer. 2016 is Scotland’s self-proclaimed Year of Innovation, Architecture, and Design. Watch out for related cultural events.