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Cities in All Seasons

Europe boasts an array of stunning sights, from grand capitals to quaint seaside towns, each with their own seasonal charms. From festivals and concerts to museums and galleries, we’ve found the best things to do in our favourite European cities. Start your journey into these destinations now as you indulge in the descriptions to come…

Lille

One of France’s largest cities, Lille is an exciting cultural and artistic hub with strong Flemish roots that are apparent as you wander through the old town. It boasts beautiful architecture and impressive landmarks. There are also fantastic museums, shopping and nightlife to enjoy.

We recommend taking a guided tour of the city in a convertible 2CV during spring. This is a unique and exciting way to see the city, with a personal tour guide showing you all the most interesting sights, and taking you off the beaten tourist track.

From March 31st to April 2nd, Lille hosts Fete de l’anim, an international festival of animation, showcasing the talent of filmmakers from all over the world. You can watch everything from short clips to feature films, with all sorts of exhibits and masterclasses on offer.

For a perfect summer day out in Lille visit Citadel Park and Zoo, this island at the centre of the city is home to a 17th century fortress set in beautiful parkland, along with a small zoo featuring 350 animals across 70 species including zebras, monkeys, and panthers. Alternatively, check out the Le Jardin des Plantes, found in Lille’s Moulins district, this is another stunning park to soak in the summer sun. There are greenhouses, colourful flower gardens, and beautiful open lawns to lie back and relax in the sunshine.

Palais des Beaux-Arts is the place to be on a rainy autumn day. Considered second to the Louvre in reputation throughout France, it is filled with stunning artwork over 22,000 square metres of gallery space. If the weather holds up take to the streets and enjoy a walking tour of the city. Start from the Grand Place and explore the city’s mix of architecture from the archaic to the modernist. For self-guided tours download the GPSmyCity app for a variety of routes.

What could be more perfect than a magical Christmas market during the festive season? In December Lille is decked out with twinkling lights and colourful stalls, offering regional specialties as well as classic Christmas favourites and beautiful handmade trinkets. Warm yourself through, sipping on mulled wine, as you meander between huts lined with garlands, enjoying the lovely sensation of Noel all around. During the Christmas season Lille also hosts an ice skating rink, offering an enchanted experience alongside the local Christmas market. There are outdoor rinks set up near the market, and one inside the Chamber of Commerce.

Amsterdam

One of Europe’s most popular city breaks, Amsterdam has an allure all of its own. Picturesque streets and bustling canals are home to endless cultural and historical treasures, from world famous galleries to quirky boutiques and gorgeous cafés.

Keukenhof Gardens is a must if you’re visiting Amsterdam in the spring. Just outside the city, it’s a breath-taking display of Holland’s famous tulips, as well as many other flower in full bloom. In fact it’s the world’s largest flower garden, with over 7 million bulbs covering 32 hectares. The flower market in the city centre is, too, a stunning demonstration of the beautiful Dutch tulip. Pick up anything from a bouquet to a bulb at this eclectic market.

Amsterdam’s spring beer festival, Meibock Festival, takes place in April, featuring a huge selection of local draught and bottled beers, as well as from further afield. You get your own keepsake glass when you enter, so you can go from stand to stand sampling the beer.

In summer you’ve got to get on the water. Relaxing with a drink as the weather warms is a must, too. Hannekes Boom is hidden away from the typical tourist trails on the banks of the Oosterdok. You can soak up the sun while listening to some good music as well as a succulent BBQ.

Grachtenfestival, an annual festival, takes place on Amsterdam’s famous canals has a wonderfully relaxed approach to classical music, with concerts held near or even on the canals. People listen from boats or pass down the streets by the canal, listening in the open air. In contrast, Amsterdam Gay Pride is a vibrant and colourful celebration of community and free love, it always has an amazing atmosphere.

As autumn approaches nothing slows down in Amsterdam. The Halloween Festival has grown in popularity offering a load of spooky events on and around Halloween, from horror movie marathons to kids’ parties to trick or treating.

On Museum Night, the first Saturday of every November, museums all over the city open their doors after the sun has gone down, staying open well into the night with special exhibitions, workshops, tours, and performances.

You are often reminded of Amsterdam’s northern location as the canals become frozen over during a particularly cold winter, creating a beautiful natural ice rink. Get your skates on and join the locals as they take advantage of this wintry event.

Illuminating, conceptual, celestial, during Amsterdam Light Festival the canals come alive. International artists come together to make stunning light sculptures. There are cruises and walking routes available so you can get up close and really enjoy the spectacle.

Bruges

Bruges is one of Belgium’s most captivating cities, with picturesque cobbled streets and market squares, and fairy tale towers rising over peaceful canals. You’ll find the city illuminated at night, with the warm yellow lights allowing the beautiful cottages to become reflected in the tranquil canal. In the spring head to a quiet courtyard with a book and repose on a bench, taking in the beauty of the blooming daffodils all around you, the yellow hue almost as bright as the lights that shine at night.

Belgium is a chocoholic’s paradise, so where better to spend your Easter if you’re serious chocolate about you’re chocolate? One of the best chocolatiers in Bruges is Dumon, just off the Markt. Made daily under the watchful eye of Madame Dumon, a visit to this shop will introduce you to a world of delicious flavours and smooth, creamy, chocolate.

Each spring participants gather for the Holy Blood Procession, known as ‘the most beautiful day in Bruges’. This religious procession dates back to medieval times, 1291 to be precise, and features a relic, said to be the blood of Jesus, which is carried through the city with great ceremony and colour, watched by over 3000 people. This relic is kept throughout the year at the small but stunning Gothic church, Basilica of the Holy Blood. Though towered over by the city hall, the basilica’s blackened walls but contrasting gold statues cannot help but tempt the eye’s gaze.

Venice and Amsterdam canals may be more famous, but Bruges is also home to some beautiful canals. Taking a canal tour along these stunning waterways during the summer is a fantastic way to see the city, giving you a different perspective on its medieval beauty. Surprisingly, perhaps, Bruges is very near some fantastic beaches that can be reached by bike. The two beaches to visit are Knokke and Zeebrugge, and you’ll find all the usual delights of a seaside town along the sandy shore.

For a terrific Halloween adventure, Bruges’ Torture Museum is where you need to go. Located in one of Europe’s oldest prisons, the museum houses a number of gruesome instruments and devices designed to inflict the worst possible pain. How fun!

On a breezy autumn day head to one of Bruges’ historic windmills to see an important part of the city’s heritage. Both Koeleweimolen and Sint-Janshuismolen mills are still working and grinding up grain.

Bruges Christmas Markets are one of the most popular and famous markets in Belgium. They offer a picture-perfect festive scene of piled high with gifts, food, and hot mulled wine, the medieval buildings creating the perfect backdrop. For a wonderfully romantic tour experience, visit Minnewater, aptly named the Lake of Love. Snuggle up to keep warm as you wander round this beautiful, peaceful water. Take a stroll across the bridge above it and, at certain times of the year, watch the adorable goslings try to keep with up their mother.

Dusseldorf

Dusseldorf is one of Germany’s most modern and lively cities. Amazing modern architecture sits alongside historic buildings, with an energetic art scene and culture that gives the city a fantastic edge.

Japanese custom is celebrated in Dusseldorf, and the Japanese Garden in Nordpark is a serene space designed with harmony and symbolism in every tree, stone, and flower. Visit in spring for the famous cherry blossom.

Dusseldorf is home to an amazing number of museums and galleries for its size, including the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, showcasing local artists, and the Filmuseum shining a spotlight on the technology and history of movie-making.

Held every August at the famous Konigs Alle, The Gourmet Food Festival showcases all the best quality food that Dusseldorf has to offer. Local restaurants set up food stalls, offering an international variety of flavours. For something a little more quirky the Cartwheeling Tournament has been held ever summer in Dusseldorf since 1937. The art and fun of the cartwheel (Radschlag) has become something of a symbol for the city. It’s held on the city’s promenade on the Rhine on the 9th July in 2017.

Kaiserswerth, situated next to the famous River Rhine, is one of the oldest parts of the city and a great place to explore on a cool autumn day. Here you’ll find the impressive ruin of Kaiserpfalz, once a fortress of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. At opposite end of the architectural spectrum you can admire interesting modern buildings such as Neue Zollhof, Frank Gehry’s organic-looking office buildings, and the soaring Rheinturm, a 240 metre telecommunications tower, best visited at sunset for fantastic views across the city.

The magnificent Rhine runs straight through Düsseldorf. This mighty river looks stunning at any time of the year, but winter tends to mean its embankments are free of tourist hoards, giving you the perfect opportunity to stroll along the bank and admire the waterfront scenes. In November and February, the banks play host to Carnival Dusseldorf. Possibly Dusseldorf’s most exuberant event, the whole city comes to life with costumes, celebrations, and public parades. It may be a tad colder than Rio, but the party is just as atmospheric.

 

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