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DESTINATIONS europe 4 road trip

Bundle your bezzies in a van and set off on the ride of your life with our guide

> CONTENTS

10 the hit list

16 sail away

18 eastern promise Crumbling old towns and hidden nightlife – this is why Eastern Europe rocks

TNT heads to two of France’s top resorts for some serious snow

24 xmas markets

26 bALTICS: BEST OF

28 GREEK ISLANDS

From the sparkling Adriatic to the deep-blue Med: the very best sailing holidays

If there’s one thing Europe does well, it’s festive cheer. Here are our top Xmas spots

Welcome Letter

You’re on the doorstep of everything Europe has to offer. Here’s what to see

Incredible culture on a budget in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

20 on skifari

Which group of Greek islands is for you? Check out our top tips to find out

Welcome to TNT’s Destinations Europe supplement, where we bring you the best of travel that’s just a few hours’ flight (or train ride – green is good) from London. We’ve put together amazing experiences for every type of traveller, whether you want to see all the iconic sights, stray off the beaten track, laze around on an island break or get active on the slopes of the Alps. And you don’t need a bank balance like Brad Pitt’s to enjoy any of these bucket list breaks. We’ve made sure that everything in this supplement is easily affordable, so that you don’t just have to dream about these trips. Using our insider tips, you can get out there and live them. So what are you waiting for? Turn the page and start planning your next set of once-in-alifetime adventures.

Happy travelling!

Photos: Getty; Thinkstock; TNT Images

The Destinations team

Contributing editors Carol Driver, Laura Chubb, Helen Elfer Contributing Writers Andrew Westbrook, Caroline Garnar Head Of Design And Production Lisa Ferron Graphic Design Patricia Montenegro Sales Managers Jaqui Ward, Matt Syder Startrack Media Ltd. Ceo Kevin Ellis Chairman Ken Hurst Distribution Emblem Direct Ltd Printed By Wyndeham Peterborough Limited Pictures Getty Images, Tnt Images, Thinkstock 114 Coppergate House, 16 Brune Street, London E1 7NJ tntmagazine.com General Enquiries Phone 020 3011 1066 Email enquiries@tntmagazine.com Sales Enquiries Phone 020 7989 0567 Email sales@tntmagazine.com

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DESTINATIONS europe

Kick off: meet other Van Tourers at the Running of the Bulls fest in Pamplona

Saucy: swim hat and goggles are optional at La Tomatina

Flower power: VW campers are a cool and popular option for the Van Tour – tight squeeze, though

Lads on tour: a Van Tour trio and their ‘Tank’

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Peaceful: don’t forget to soak up the sights between the carnage


XXXCOUNTRY ROAD >TRIP XXXLOCATION > EUROPE

The ultimate road trip Every year from July to September, Van Tour Europe sees a convoy of campervans zig-zagging their way across the continent from Spain to Germany. With more beer guzzled than diesel, it will be a trip you will never forget... if you can remember it Words caroline garnar

V

an Tour Europe starts in Pamplona and ends in Munich, but you can drive wherever you want in between. Try out our itinerary to ensure you catch all the big festivals. Let the carnage commence...

France Roll off the ferry at Calais and roll on to Paris. A sophisticated start, take in the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe before stocking up on vino. Talking of which, you should head south to the Bordeaux Wine Festival (June 26-29) to visit vineyards and sample various grape – at least you can start your trip by giving a crap how your booze tastes.

wTF is van tour europe?

of Lisbon, Portugal for a dose of sanity. The arty bars, surfing and vintage boutiques will feel like a breath of fresh air. The craziness soon amps up again, however, as most Van Tour crews head to Lagos and meet for a giant piss up at the raucous Joe’s Garage (joesgarage.eu.com). If you prefer your spirit to be free (metaphorically) rather than poured down your throat, head to the Boom Festival at Idanhana-a-Nova Lake on August 4-11, which in 2014 celebrates ‘The Feminine’. It may sound hippy dippy, but strikes us more of a sort of European answer to Burning Man. Making your way back through Spain, time it so you arrive in Valencia for August 27, stopping off at Seville, Andalucia and Madrid along the way. Why? Because in nearby Bunol, the world’s biggest food fight, La Tomatina, is held. Prepare to be turned into a human bruschetta as masses of people throw tomatoes at you and each other. Next, head north up the coast to Barcelona. Whether you choose to admire Gaudi’s architecture here or the sexy señoritas on the beach is up to you.

Van Tour Europe is a loosely organised annual booze trail across Europe for Antipodean expats. Starting at the Running of the Bulls fest on June 29 and ending with Oktoberfest on September 20, your itinerary between those two points is up to you, but most Van Tourers keep tabs on each other via Facebook and meet up frequently. It is a good idea to find out which campsites your fellow travellers are heading for, as it’s best not to disturb innocent family camping holidays with your sordid ways.

Spain & Portugal Remaining on the coastal route by the Bay of Biscay, you’ll soon find yourself in Spain. To warm your liver up in preparation for the first Van Tour meet-up, head for the Haro Wine Festival in La Rioja on June 29. Here, you are not just encouraged to drink copious amounts of wine, but also to throw it at each other. Another warm-up sesh comes in the shape of BBK Live, a huge music fest in Bilbao, which this year had Kings of Leon and Green Day headlining. Now the time has come for you to meet your fellow Van Tourers in Pamplona. And what better way to bond than to help save each other’s arses – literally – from raging bulls stampeding the streets from July 6-14 at San Fermin? After the festival madness, point yourself in the direction

Italy Keep to the coast and dip back into France, taking some time to explore the historic city of Marseilles and the clubbing scene and cool underground passages of Lyon. Driving around Italy doesn’t help you get tntmagazine.com/destinations

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DESTINATIONS europe Bleugh: hold on to your stomach at the 100 Club end-of-tour party

Down it: the finale at Oktoberfest

Surf’s up: stop off to catch some waves

You are not just encouraged to drink copious amounts of wine, but also to throw it at each other Austria & Germany Cross into Austria and we recommend heading for Innsbruck, where the Alps make for stunning views at every turn. It’s then about 100 miles to Munich in Germany for Oktoberfest (Sep 20-Oct 6). As if 16 days of drinking beer by the stein isn’t enough, the Van Tour ‘officials’ have also set up the 100 Club party, which is held the day before Oktoberfest. The end-of-tour party involves consuming enough alcohol to make you sick into your beer bucket... and then to continue drinking – sick and all. Yep, it’s that

need to know The van: This is going to be your home for a while, so it’s worth clubbing together to get something decent. You don’t want to break down constantly and spend half your trip on the side of the road. Renting is a good option (try Spaceships Rentals and Wicked Campers), particularly as it helps sort insurance issues... Insurance: A lot of companies only provide 12-month policies and tend to shy away from insuring old bangers. However, try HIC’s walkabout insurance (hertsinsurance.com/ walkabout) and you could be in luck. Documents: As well as your driver’s licence, passport and visas, medical insurance is a good idea. We don’t think we need to tell you why.

kind of party. Good luck. If your liver hasn’t packed up completely, be sure to stop off at Amsterdam and Bruges en route back to Calais. Nothing cures a Van Tour hangover like Dutch cheese and Belgian chocolate ... and maybe another tinnie or two. n See

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vantoureurope.com for more details

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How could you be anything else on tour?

Photos: Supplied. Getty, Thinkstock

anywhere as such, what with it being a (booted) leg kicking off the mainland, but with fashionable Milan, stunning Florence, historic Rome, pizza-famed Naples, the Amalfi Coast and back up to the unique and magical Venice, it’s worth a detour.


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OKTOBERFEST THE RUNNING OF THE BULLS MOROCCO SURF HOUSE SURF CAMP FRANCE THE SURFARI SPRING BREAK IBIZA

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The coolest d

with the o

Get face to face with Europe this winter. Think all of the usual postcard-perfect icons, cultural wonders and mouthwatering food you’d expect from this almighty continent and mix it up a little with snowy vistas, traditional markets and fairytale festivities. From the oh-so-glittering Paris to the slopes of the Tyrol, Topdeck have got it covered when it comes to travelling Europe in winter. Firm believers in all things hassle-free and culturally-enlightening, we’re proud to be the original trail blazers in travel. So let us share our passion, knowledge and spirit with you this winter. Trust us, we’re Topdeck.

4. MARRAKECH , MOROCCO A tapestry of North African culture and an enchanting rainbow of colours, Marrakech is the remedy for those seeking some sublime winter sunshine. You’ll wander the citys labyrinth of souks, filled with sparkling trinkets, snake charmers, local spices and carpet shops before arriving at the frenetic medina; Djemaa el-Fna. Mint tea anyone? Get under Morocco’s skin on Topdeck’s 10 day Moroccan Explorer, from only £495 (plus £110 local payment).

8. DAHAB, EGYPT Arabic for gold, Dahab is a divine spot to escape those winter blues. This Egyptian goddess boasts golden sands, ocean-side camps, mountain heavy scenery, out-of-this-world trekking and diving, all served with a delicious laid-back hippy vibe. Yes please Dahab! Experience Egypt with a twist on Topdeck’s 9 day Learn to Dive, from only £475 (plus US$190 local payment).


r e t n i w s i h t s n st destinatio

k c e d p o T y l n o d n e one a

Favourite Big Tour Operator Favourite Ski/Winter Operator Favourite Tour Operator in Western Europe

1. BRUGGES, BELGIUM

2. VENICE, ITALY

3. BERLIN, GERMANY

Brugges is a true European gem and is even more of a knockout over the festive season. Fact. Jam-packed with charming canals, a UNESCO World Heritage Site city centre, medieval architecture, a 13th Century Belfry and more culture and art than you could shake a stick at! We haven’t even mentioned the world-famous Christmas markets yet! Soak up the festive fun on Topdeck’s 2 or 4 day Brugges Christmas Markets, from only £149 (2 day) or £249 (4 day).

Glorious, radiant and endearing, we give you Venice! With the world’s most artistic masterpieces per square kilometre it’s really not hard to see why the city is full of trendy types. From the myriad of narrow alleyways, gondolas, winding waterways and impressive Renaissance architecture, this city simply oozes romance and all things fabulously Italian. Get face to face with the utterly enchanting Venice on Topdeck’s 11 day Winter Express, from only £620.

When you think of Berlin you’d usually picture depression, war and segregation. But hold up, that’s all in the past! Berlin is now an art-loving, uber-trendy, hip, hop and happening city that has your name all over it! Still brimming with bucket loads of history and tell-tale signs of its colourful past, this city boasts culture from every funky, snow-coated corner. Experience the totally trendsetting city of Berlin on Topdeck’s 7 day Winter Waltz, from only £455.

5. EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

6. AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

7. PARIS, FRANCE

Cascades of castles, wild Scottish landscapes, age-old buildings, cobbled streets and home to the world’s biggest, most over-the-top festival, the Edinburgh Fringe. Edinburgh is likely to charm your culture-loving pants off. This city is a vision of beauty, showcased exceptionally during the winter months. Wrap up, try a whisky or two and experience a party like no other, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. Party it up with the Scottish folk on Topdeck’s 4 or 5 day Hogmanay Edinburgh, from only £339 (4 day) or £399 (5 day).

The liberal, loose-moralled and frankly rather funky city of Amsterdam is a European heavyweight. A bespoke masterpiece, laced with endless coffee shops, charming canals, electic nightlife, eccentric art and an abudance of bikes and boats. What more could you possibly want from a city? Check out the free-wheeling city of Amsterdam on Topdeck’s 4 day Amsterdam New Year, from only £279.

The temperature may have dropped, but trust us, dazzling Paris is still red-hot. This sleek and sophistacted little number is simply spectacular in the wintery months, full of romance, character-filled backstreets, illuminated monuments and cosy cafés full of artists, writers and fashionistas. Oh Paris, we really do love you immensely. Discover the European sweetheart city of Paris on Topdeck’s 12 day Festive Escape, from only £895.

9. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

10. TYROL, AUSTRIA

Prague; a quirky and exquisite maze of captivating history, Europe’s best beer, delicious food, off-the-wall neighbourhoods and courtyards and chapels galore. Soak up the home of classical music and Bohemian culture at its finest and maybe induldge in an apple strudel to celebrate how utterly incredible Prague is. Paint the town red as they say in Bohemian Prague on Topdeck’s 7 day Spires in the Snow, from only £410.

Picture this - world-class slopes, heartpumping skiing and snowboarding, spine-tingling alpine scenery and legendary après-ski. Welcome to the Austrian Tyrol! Also known as every adrenaline-junkies slice of paradise. Make the most of this natural wonder and check it out for youselves on our 8 day Austrian ski adventure. Prepare for fun. Hit those adrenaline-pumping snowy slopes of Austria on Topdeck’s 8 day Ski Austria, from only £359.

Ski trip for 2 anyone? Fancy winning 2 all-singingall-dancing spots on our 8 day Ski Austria trip? As part of the deal we’re even throwing in return flights from London, transfers, ski hire, ski passes and a ski course! For full details check out our website at Topdeck.travel/skicomp Good luck!


DESTINATIONS europe Wall art: the Berlin Wall’s East Gallery displays some amazing – and not-so amazing – designs

Up and under: see the famed Eiffel Tower from all angles

Park life: Gaudi’s creations turn Barcelona’s green space into a funky fairytale land

Cow’s that? This dude may not understand what all the fuss is about, but we think his homeland is stunning

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HIT LIST > EUROPE

One continent, 10 things to do From hill-top hiking to valley canyoning, from the Northern Lights to the Red Light District, from the clubs of Ibiza to the amphitheatres of Rome, Europe is chock-full of bucket list trips for you to tick off. If you do anything in life, do these things ... Words CAroline garnar

We bet you didn’t move to the UK to spend every day going on the London Eye, staring up at The Shard or climbing the O2. As fun as these things are, there’s a whole continent to explore. Here’s what should be on your hit list: 1. Go hiking in The Alps

when to go

3. Picnic in Gaudi’s Park Güell

With the exception of Finland, which is at its snowy best December-March, it is advisable to travel to the rest of Europe during spring or summer. Like in England, the weather is too temperamental the rest of the time. However, avoid July and August, as this is when the schools are out and there will be kids EVERYWHERE, plus accommodation prices shoot up. If you can brave the bad weather, you will be rewarded with lower costs and fewer crowds – just remember to pack an umbrella.

This park in Barcelona has a dream-like quality to it, with serpentine seating areas, ginger bread-esque houses and gothic catacomb-style alcoves, all designed by renowned Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi. Climb up high for great views of the city and simply spend a sunny afternoon chilling on the grass. Also be sure to check out Sagrada Família, Gaudi’s huge, still unfinished, church. From October this year, you have to pay a park entrance fee of €8 (£7). parkguell.es/en

Most adventurers head to The Alps during ski season, but this stunning mountain range is not to be overlooked during the summer months. As the snow gives way to luscious grass, it takes all your willpower not to start yodelling as you stand on high, surrounded by a breathtaking vista of rolling hills, snowcapped mountains, thick forests, turquoise lakes and squat, gable-roofed chalets. Walk The Alps offers guided tours and chalet accommodation in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, and Italy is just a 45-minute drive away. Chalet rental from £750pw. walkthealps.com 2. Go up – and under – the Eiffel Tower Yes it’s busy and yes it’s a bit of a rip-off, but you can’t rock up to Paris and miss the Eiffel Tower. It just isn’t allowed. Plus the view from the top is pretty damn special, giving you a great panorama of the French capital’s top landmarks. It’s also worth wandering under the tower and taking a few snaps – the lattice framework looks even more impressive from down below. €14.50 (£12.50) for lift to the top. tour-eiffel.fr/en

4. Cycle the route of the Berlin Wall It seems strange to travel the world to see a wall that has more-or-less been knocked down and is, well, a wall, but with a guided tour you can learn the true extent of the poignant political history behind it. The East Gallery is a trip highlight, where the largest section of the remaining wall is covered with more than 100 paintings and murals by artists from across the world. A cycle tour with Fat Tire Bike Tours costs €22 (£19pp). fattirebiketours.com 5. Gaze up at the Northern Lights You know those moments when you are awestruck at how amazing this world is and you feel as insignificant as a flea? Times that feeling by 100 and you get an idea of how it feels to see the spectacular aurora borealis. We >> know you can see auroras from New Zealand and tntmagazine.com/destinations

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DESTINATIONS europe xxxx Roar! You may not be Russell Crowe, but you can still be a gladiator for a day

Sexy time: Amdam’s Red Light District

Australia, but couple seeing nature’s awesome light display with a winter trip to Finland and you can enjoy dog sledding, snow-mobiling, ice fishing and cross-country skiing. Aurora Zone offers a variety of Northern Lightspotting trips for adults starting from £1145pp for four nights, including flights, food and activities. theaurorazone.com 6. Go clubbing in Ibiza This tiny Spanish island is synonymous with partying until the sun comes up, with its (in)famous clubs including Amnesia, Pacha and Space. A breeding ground for house music (and drunken club-goers), Ibiza’s music scene brings world-renowned DJs, such as Pete Tong, David Guetta and Paul Oakenfold, to its shores every year. Together Ibiza offers a closing party tour of the island’s clubs exclusively for Aussies from September 15-21. Prices from £385pp for six nights’ accommodation and all club entries. togetheribiza.com 7. Go on an off-road jeep safari in Turkey A lot of sightseeing tours can be boring as hell: stopping off at historical sites before being rushed back into the car for a hot, bumpy journey to several souvenir shops where you feel obliged to buy something. From Olu Deniz in Turkey, however, the jeep safaris involve water fights – even the locals get involved with their hose pipes – a dip in the rushing waters of the second-largest canyon in Europe and a roll around in a mud bath, with the drivers

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often challenging you to a wrestle. There are some calmer moments with stop-offs at gorgeous tropical gardens, ancient cities, deserted beaches and mosques. Olu Deniz Excursions’ tours cost £13pp. oludenizexcursions.com

It takes all your willpower not to start yodelling as you stand on high, surrounded by a breathtaking vista 8. Hear the stories of the Colosseum Completed in 80AD, this astounding structure is a striking example of imperial Rome. You can almost hear the bloodthirsty crowds braying for the death of a gladiator as he fights for his life against a tiger, a bull or even a crocodile. The amphitheatre has suffered at the hands of earthquakes and stone robbers, but the scale of the place is still clear. It’s worth getting a tour guide to hear the fascinating and gruesome history behind this iconic emblem of the Roman Empire. Entrance plus a 40-minute tour costs €23.50 (£20pp). tickitaly.com 9. Take a tour of the Red Light District Although you may not think you need a tour guide to explain to you what a ‘live sex show’ involves, it’s worth joining a tour purely for the stories you’ll be told, the filthy


HIT LIST > EUROPE

Loiter within tent: see the Northern Lights in the snowy winter wonderland of Finland

top 3 tourist traps There are some ‘must dos’ that are sadly becoming ‘must don’ts’ due to the fact they are overcrowded, overpriced or just downright disappointing. A gondola ride in Venice. The romance of this cliché experience is muted by the ridiculous price (£35pp for a shared serenaded ride), as well as the fact your trip takes in the grottier parts of the canals, with the smell of stagnant water far from romantic. Instead, stick to the bridges, take pictures of the mugs getting a gondola ride, and hop on a cheap water taxi instead. Bombs away: try out canyoning in Croatia

jokes made, and to hear the truly fascinating history behind this famous and unique area of Amsterdam. You can always go back to your ‘favourite spots’ on your own later... Randy Roy’s offers a tour for €15 (£13pp), including a drink. randyroysredlighttours.com 10. Go canyoning in Croatia Situated at the crossroads between Europe and the Mediterranean, Croatia offers all the historical charm of a European break, but with the climate and stunning beaches of the Med. With some 70 rivers, canyoning is rife, with waterfalls, rocky climbs, high jumps and againstcurrent swims creating a wet and wild playground. There are a number of areas where you can canyon, so you can choose according to what sort of experience you want. Adventure Dalmatia offers four tours, including an extreme canyoning experience, where you use alpine ropes to climb up and down the sheer rock faces. Prices start at €35 (£30pp). croatiacanyoning.com n

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul. The intricately tiled interior of the Blue Mosque is stunning (and the reason for its nickname, due to the rich blue mosaics), but you have to queue for ages to get in, shuffle through with the masses staring at the ceiling, and then you’re out the other side in minutes. Instead, jump on a ferry across the Bosphorus and take pictures of the mosque’s striking exterior, standing tall against the sky. Mona Lisa, Louvre Museum, Paris. One of the most famous paintings in history would be worth a look if it wasn’t practically the size of a postage stamp and blocked by the heads of the hoards of people – and their cameras – in front of you. Plus the €12 (£10.50) entry fee is rather steep. Instead, try the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Pompidou, which displays art from major 20th-century movements, from cubism to surrealism to pop art.

Photos: Thinkstock; Getty

ROLLING CIRCUS There’s another way to get ticking against that Euro hit list – the Rolling Circus. A new venture from the notorious Stoke Travel, it’s described as a ‘hop on, crawl off ’ tour taking in all the continent’s major sights, ending on a giant party in every city. Oo-er. stoketravel.com

Why look at the Mona Lisa when you can snap it on your phone?

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DESTINATIONS europe We are sailing: many companies offer training if you fancy learning the ropes yourself

On the edge: sailing means you can explore Europe’s coastline – and jump off it

Boat beauts: come on in, the water’s fiiiine

French fancy: sail off the French Riviera

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Photos: Hvar Adventrue; Thinkstock

Beach-in: stop off at quiet Croatian bays unreachable by land


TOP FIVE > sailing trips

You nautical little thing You can feel the wind in your hair and the warm glow of the sun on your face. You can hear the billowing sails and water breaking at the bow. You may even be singing a drunken sea shanty. You’re at one of TNT’s top sailing destinations ... Words caroline garnar

Q

uestion: would you rather explore a country while cooped up in a stuffy car, trundling along dusty roads and trying to figure out foreign road signs, or sailing on sparkling, turquoise waters, hopping off at hidden bays and barely-inhabited islands? We thought so...

Cyclades Islands, Greece BEST FOR: Couples looking for a little romance. Greece has an abundance of beautiful islands, but the huddled-up Cyclades are ideal for a hop or 10. The stunning Santorini is a great base, with its gorgeous white-washed villages of Greek postcard fame. Sail your way to Mykonos – known for its windmills and ‘Little Venice’ – and back, stopping off at all the ‘os’s – Ios, Sifnos, Paros, Nixos and Amorgos. With quaint, taverna-lined harbours, archaeological sites, sweeping beaches and sleepy fishing villages, we’re getting dreamy-eyed just thinking about it.

Photos: Hvar Adventrue; Thinkstock

The Adriatic Coast, Croatia BEST FOR: Getting blown away by Mother Nature. Starting off at Dubrovnik, this fortress city is so striking it even features as King’s Landing in Game Of Thrones (fans can take a tour from £47.82, viator.com). Set sail from its shipping port and head to the peaceful Mljet; with a huge national park, few residents, and two stunning inland salt-water lakes, this place feels close to paradise. Next, stop off at the peninsula of Peljesac to feast on fresh oysters and wash them down with local red wine. From here it’s an easy hop to Korcula, home to protected forests and hidden inlets, before returning to Dubrovnik.

The Turkish Riviera, Turkey BEST FOR: Exploration and adventure. The southwest coast of Turkey is ripe for water-based shenanigans. We suggest a short but activity-packed sailing trip, kicking off from the small coastal town of Gocek. Travelling east, from here you can see the Lycian Tombs, stop off at the seven-mile sandy beach of Patara, and get the chance to cliff jump at Coldwater Bay as well as snorkel in the clear waters of Gokkaya Limani.

Isle of Wight, England BEST FOR: Learning to sail. If you’re more interested in learning the mechanics of sailing than working on your tan lines, you need not travel far. The Isle of Wight is off the southeast coast of England and the Sorent, the stretch of water between the two, is a great spot for wannabe sailors to learn the ropes. It will be a challenge, with the choppy British waters not likely to offer smooth sailing, but they say the best way to learn is to throw yourself in at the deep end (just try not to take that literally).

The Côte d’Azur, France BEST FOR: Showing off. Tell your friends that you’re spending your summer sailing a yacht off the Côte d’Azur (aka the French Riviera) and you may as well tell them you’ve shagged Brad Pitt/ Angelina Jolie (whichever floats your boat, so to speak) they’ll be so jealous. With holiday destinations frequented by the rich and famous, such as Monaco, St Tropez and Cannes, make sure you bring a fancy pair of deck shoes. tntmagazine.com/destinations

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DESTINATIONS europe Party time: dive headfirst into the hedonism at Teatro in Belgrade, Serbia

Going underground: Sofia’s secret bars are seriously cool Hungary for more: take in the views of Budapest before soaking in its thermal baths

What lies beneath: check out the subterranean museum underneath the 40,000sqm market square in Krakow

Photos: Supplied and Thinkstock

Pay your respects: Lviv’s cemetery has more than 400,000 graves

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CITY BREAKS > EASTERN EUROPE

Eastern promise: top city breaks With a war-torn past and freezing winters, it’s little wonder Eastern Europeans drink vodka like it’s water. This means there’s a plethora of places to drink and dance the night away, plus great spots to help distract you from your hangover Words caroline garnar

F

rom hidden bars and open-air clubs to underground museums and hilltop views, the cities of Eastern Europe will entertain you 24/7.

Krakow, Poland THE MAIN ATTRACTION: As if Krakow’s 40,000sqm market square wasn’t impressive enough, what lies beneath is even better. The multiple layers of the square’s grounds, built up over 1000 years, covered a trove of historical artefacts. After a six-year dig, the findings are now displayed in subterranean museum, Rynek Underground. WHAT ELSE? There’s more to lure you below surface as Krakow’s bustling cellar bars are the perfect places to hole up in the winter months. Try underground ‘beer garden’ CK Browar (ckbrowar.krakow.pl).

Sofia, Bulgaria THE MAIN ATTRACTION: Rusty tools, a bike, broken flowerpots – that’s what most of us would expect to find behind a shed door. But in Sofia, you will find a two-storey bar lit up with candles. The aptly named Candlebar is just one example of the city’s ‘secret’ bars, with others including The Apartment, a homely bar found behind an unmarked residential door, and the underground Art Bar. WHAT ELSE? Sofia is surrounded by gorgeous countryside and vineyards worth venturing to. Also be sure to stop by the Zhenski Pazar to get a glimpse of local market life.

Budapest, Hungary THE MAIN ATTRACTION: Budapest’s thermal baths have

been an attraction since Roman times and were developed during the Ottoman Rule thanks to their penchant for a good scrub-down. The Széchenyi bath in City Park is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Grab your swimmers and jump into the 35°C waters for a few hours of bliss. WHAT ELSE? Venture down into one of Budapest’s intricate cave networks (caving.hu). The Central Market Hall and view from the top of Castle Hill are also worth a stop.

Belgrade, Serbia THE MAIN ATTRACTION: During the summer, the River Sava comes to life with pumping music and gyrating hips thanks to Belgrade’s huge club scene. Freestyler and Teatro are two of the most popular haunts, probably thanks to the scantily clad podium dancers at both. WHAT ELSE? Check out Victor, the 18ft naked statue who gazes pensively out over the Danube, and Belgrade’s ‘Silicon Valley’ – named after the bouncing boobs of its glamorous frequenters.

Lviv, Ukraine THE MAIN ATTRACTION: It may sound a bit morbid, but no trip to Lviv would be complete without a visit to the Lychakiv Cemetery. More than 400,000 people are buried here, including some of Ukraine and Poland’s most famous poets, artists, noblemen, rulers and soldiers. WHAT ELSE? The cafe culture is huge here: try local cakes and pastries at Veronika (21 Shevchenka Street). Also reserve a few hours to simply roam the streets of the Old Town, which is a Unesco-listed World Heritage Site. n tntmagazine.com/destinations

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DESTINATIONS europe

GETTING THERE Take the train from London St Pancras to Moutiers with Rail Europe (Eurostar and TGV) from £109pp return. Regular buses run from Moutiers to Courchevel from £9.40. raileurope.co.uk Snow problem: carving up the slopes

Winter wonder: a Courchevel retreat

Ice man: TNT’s Alasdair gets kitted up

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FRANCE

Van D’isere COURCHEVEL


SKIING > FRANCE

Sloping off Keen to hit Europe’s ski slopes this season? TNT finds the Trois Vallées and Espace Killy great places to brush up on technique and, when not tumbling headfirst into a snow drift, sample some of the legendary aprés-ski scene Words Alasdair morton

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fast facts kiing – it’s like riding a bike, right? snowplough-ers – Courchevel is well WHEN TO GO Wrong, as I quickly learn when equipped for both entry level skiers and The ski season runs from late venturing out on to the slopes of the Trois the more experienced – before November through to April, with Vallées and Espace Killy. impatience (a trait both essential and the snow staying good until very late in the season throughout most detrimental to improving your skiing) sees This ‘Skifari’, run by Powder White, takes of the region. us on a journey through two of the French me jump straight for a tasty blue where the ACCOMMODATION Alps’ most prized destinations in what is not predictable happens. Le Peupliers is a three-minute walk away from the heart of Courchevel so much a ‘best of both’ but more a ‘best I’m cruising, feeling good, before a 1850, with fairly spacious rooms of it all’ adventure. moment’s concentration lapse through an and friendly service. At £80 a night, Our first port of call is the 600km of increasingly steeper, narrowing, icy section the rates are tres reasonsable for one of Europe’s premier ski locales. sees me careering like Mr Bean into a powdery terrain in Courchevel, which lespeupliers.com offers some of the best on- and off-piste snowbank, where I’m left embarrassed SEE les3vallees.com action the region‘s finest resorts can throw and clutching my knee. at us. Time for lunch. I navigate my way to Our instructor Tom points out Mont Blanc miles away on Le Chabichou to join the rest of my group for a bite and the edge of the skyline: “The clouds round its summit mean swap stories of our morning escapades, and I’m relieved snow is on the way,” he informs us as we peer, impressed, to find I’m not alone in my premature exhaustion – one of into the distance. our group threatens to fall asleep in her dessert. Initial hesitancy as my heart jumps several inches I manage a couple more post-grub runs before retiring towards my throat quickly subsides as I begin to find a to the Savoyard-style Chalet Nid d’Aigle, to try and salvage rhythm, and I’m quite pleased with how well I’m doing. muscles that haven’t been used in a long time, and for But there are several things that are unavoidable when dinner, courtesy of our chalet hand Nathan. skiing – you will spend more time on your ass than you Waking the following morning, a peek out the windows thought, and ski school pricks will whiz past you with such reveals four inches of fresh powder has arrived overnight ease they can turn around and ski backwards while and with this good news, we head to the Espace Killy. throwing you a look that says, ‘Look what a bumbling, This area is home to 300km of pistes, and the resort of unbalanced buffoon you are!’ Or maybe it’s just me. Val D’Isere, which hosted the prestigious FIS Alpine World Warming up with a smattering of easy green runs, Ski Championships in 2009. starting with the long Bellecote, it’s not long before I’m Taking in the breathtaking downhills that the world’s best picking up speed with hordes of other nascent would have descended at 80mph, I opt for some ‘warm tntmagazine.com/destinations

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DESTINATIONS EUROPE Aprés-ski: there are worse places to go for a drink ...

Fade to black: sunset slopes

It’s easy to feel on top of the world as the sun comes out and the peaks reach into the sky more) are sunk before we head outside to the accompanying La Folie Douce (lafoliedouce.com), best described as a daytime nightclub at 2700ft. On our final morning, some in our group venture off piste, others stick to pushing it out towards reds (or rather rouge-y blues), while I set out to settle a score with that earlier nemesis piste. Second time round, teeth gritted, I manage to conquer it without making a fool of myself. We’ve enjoyed some of the finest skiing the Alps have to offer – next season, it’s all about the black runs. Maybe. n » Powder White Skifari from £549pp, incl catered chalet. powderwhite.com

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best for beginners Bansko, Bulgaria This Bulgarian resort is surrounded by spectacular mountains and has plenty of nursery slopes to practice on. Less visited than other European ski spots, prices are reasonable. Lech, Austria In the Austrian Alps, Lech has a good range of runs for beginners to intermediate skiers, so this is a good option for mixed-ability groups. Wengen, Switzerland It’s the top English-speaking ski schools in this Swiss resort that make it a favourite option for newbies to the slopes. There’s also tobogganing on offer and a decent aprés-ski scene.

At the top: the only way is down

Photos: Thinkstock, Getty

up’ slopes – Val D’Isere is certainly for the more skilled. As the morning progresses, the clouds shift and the sun comes out and it is stunning – as the peaks reach into the sky it’s easy to feel on top of the world. But as any skier will know, holidays on the slopes are just as much about the après-ski as the sport, and we kick it off early today. So it’s lunch at La Fruitière, where a few glasses of vino (or


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DESTINATIONS Europe

Prague Prague’s market takes place in the Old Town Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt copenhagen DENMARK

BERLIN

Germany

BRUSSELS

BELGIUM

C.REPUBLIC

prague AUSTRIA Pick up some pressies in Berlin

VIENNA

Stoleen: Germany has top-notch festive goodies

Fairy-lit: Brussels Winter Wonders market

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Stock up on Chrismas treats


Christmas markets > europe

Christmas cheer It’s one of Europe’s favourite festive traditions: snapping up stocking fillers, stuffing yourself with sugary treats and glugging all the glühwein you can manage at one of these traditional Crimbo markets. Just remember to pack your thermals Words Helen Elfer

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re you the type that gets all misty-eyed as Christmas approaches? Still leave sherry and mince pies out for Santa each year? Have all your pressies wrapped and under the tree by December 1? You’re going to love Europe’s Christmas markets, then, a shameless festival of bells and baubles, glitter and tinsel and food and drink. Here are some of our favourites.

Prague, Christmas Market The Old Town Square’s festive market is best visited by night when covered in golden fairy lights and the huge Christmas tree. Look out for Miklaus, the Czech Santa, who is likely to pay a visit and for the best view of the whole market, take a ride on the Ferris wheel. Just don’t eat too many Christmas treats first – it could get messy. MORE: Nov 30 – Jan 12 (pragueexperience.com).

Vienna, Christkindlmarkt The biggest and best market in Vienna is Christkindlmarkt, outside the City Hall in Rathausplatz. Three million visitors pass through each year to see the square transformed into a winter idyll: the windows of the Rathaus (town hall) become a gigantic advent calendar, painted by local artists, and are revealed one by one throughout December. When you’re not stuffing your shopping bags with Christmas trinkets, you can take a ride on horse-drawn carriages, watch puppet shows or listen to carol singers. MORE: Nov 16 – Dec 24 (christkindlmarkt.at).

Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt Berlin has dozens of Christmas markets, no surprise since Germany is home to some of the best Christmas edibles in the world. Snap up lebkuchen (soft, cinnamonflavoured biscuits) and stollen (festive fruit cake) at eihnachtsZauber at Gendarmenmarkt, which is one of the biggest markets in the city. As well as the shopping, there’s plenty of Christmassy perfomances, including firebreathers, jugglers, jazz musicians and dancers performing in the square. MORE: Nov 25 – Dec 31 (gendarmenmarktberlin.de).

Brussels, Winter Wonders Winter Wonders stretches a full 2km across the Belgian capital’s landmarks including Place Sainte Catherine, the Grand Place, the Bourse and Marché aux Poissons. The huge Christmas tree in the Grand Place overlooks 250 quaint wooden chalets that look like full-sized gingerbread houses, with snow-topped roofs, draped with fairy lights. Buy up roasted chestnuts, Russian dolls, cuddly bears and handmade Christmas decorations here. MORE: Nov 29 – Jan 5 (plaisirsdhiver.be).

Copenhagen, Tivoli Gardens This is easily the most wacky of the European batch, including surreal themes, annual ‘Crazy Christmas Cabaret’ and swarms of girls dressed as ‘nisse’ (Danish Christmas pixies). Wander around eating festive apple pancakes washed down with mulled wine, and buy hand-knitted gloves and sweaters (à la The Killing) for an authentic Danish experience. MORE: Nov 15 – Dec 31 (visitcopenhagen.com). n tntmagazine.com/destinations

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DESTINATIONS europe

Riga, Latvia

Tallinn’s Old Town

Heavenly creature, Vilnius

GETTING THERE Return flights from London Stansted to Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius start at around £140 with Ryanair during the summer. ryanair.com

TALLINN estonia

RIGA

latvia

Lithuania

VILNIUS

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Bringing the noise, Estonia style

Photos: TNT Images, Celia Topping, Tallinn Tourism

Ooh, ahh, Latvia! Central Riga


budget breaks > baltics

The Baltics on a budget Leave your penis-shaped straws at home. Here’s why you don’t need to be on a hen do or stag party to enjoy a break in the Baltics’ Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia – and there’s no need to break the bank if you use our handy hints, either Words ANDREW WESTBROOK

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ack when Ryanair kickstarted a tourism boom to the Baltic states with insanely cheap airfares, the locals were no doubt delighted. Cue dreams of swimming in foreign cash. They were probably less keen to discover a multitude of bodily fluids was also in the pool, as Britain’s pissed up hen and stag parties descended en masse. A decade on, however, and the former Soviet states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have firmly found their feet. The team T-shirt brigade are still in attendance, but they’re easy to avoid and, with prices remaining low, it’s for good reason that this cultured and charismatic trio should be high on your budget bucket list.

Lithuania THE LOWDOWN The tiny capital city of Vilnius is certainly worth a stop for its creepy old alleyways, courtyards and ever-growing art scene. Further afield you’ll find rolling green hills, lakes aplenty and cute, fairytale-like cottages. CHEAP HIGHLIGHTS Beyond aimless old town wandering, make sure to step into the shocking Museum of Genocide Victims (£1.50), situated in the old KGB HQ. If not too depressed by that, get out of Vilnius and make for the fairytale-like Trakai Island Castle (£3.50), the stunning (and free) Hill of Crosses (guess what’s there) by Šiauliai, plus the epic sand dunes of the Curonian Spit. MORE travel.lt

Estonia

Photos: TNT Images, Celia Topping, Tallinn Tourism

THE LOWDOWN The smallest of the Baltic nations is all about kitsch seaside towns, grand castles and skiing. Meanwhile its capital, Tallinn, is fast becoming a hipster hangout, with suburb Kalamaja described as the ‘Dalston of the Baltics’. Estonia is a great option for everyone, from outdoor enthusiasts and street art fans to lads on the lash. CHEAP HIGHLIGHTS After taking a free city tour (traveller.ee) through Tallinn’s cobbled Old Town, drop by one of the city’s many free or cheap attractions, like the Soviet-era Patarei Prison (€2, about £1.70). Next, catch some rays at summer beach paradise Pärnu before venturing to Soomaa to sample the bizarre pasttime of bog walking (soomaa.com). For eating, avoid the tourist traps and you can grab a bite for €5-10 (around £4-8.50). Expect to chow down on elk steaks, herring kebabs and blood sausage. MORE visitestonia.com

Latvia THE LOWDOWN Latvia, sandwiched between its Baltic brothers, has moved on from its Soviet past and is developing as a top spot for tourists. While one million people reside in the busy architectural hodge podge that is the capital, Riga, the countryside offers an entirely different flavour. Here you’ll find stately homes and pretty market towns to stroll around at suitably local speed. CHEAP HIGHLIGHTS Once again, the cobbled capital is well worth some of your time, but don’t miss out on Latvia’s many other beautiful, and often cheaper, towns, with Bauska, Sabile and Kuldīga among the prettiest. Try to make it to Sigulda, home to a fantastic cable car trip across the valley, complete with castle views (60p). Head west for spooky dives of old Soviet wrecks (diveclub.lv). MORE latvia.travel; liveriga.com tntmagazine.com/destinations

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DESTINATIONS europe XXXX

Feeling blue: spot the traditional domed rooves of many Greek islands

GREECE

IONIAN

N. Aegean CYCLADES

Dodecanese

Jump to it in Corfu

Doing the donkey work on Santorini

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Yep, life’s a beach


ISLAND HOPPING > GREECE

Get me to the Greek islands Want to combine all-night parties, stunning beaches and some of the world’s most important archaelogical ruins? Look no further than Greece’s awesome Aegean and Ionian seas, where there’s an island cluster suited to every sort of traveller Words ANDREW WESTBROOK

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omance, relaxation and maybe an Abba lyric or two. When dreaming of an idyllic beach-based getaway in Europe, it’s hard to look beyond the Greek islands. The only problem is deciding which ones to see first, which is why we’ve come up with this handy guide.

Ionian Islands BEST FOR Quick getaways TELL ME MORE Sweeping down Greece’s west coast, the Ionian Islands include Paxos and Kefalonia, but it is Corfu, which captured the hearts of Homer and Shakespeare, that grabs the headlines. The island culture is a mix of ancient Greece and modern Europe, with influences ranging from the Venetians to the French, Italians to the Brits (locals enjoy a good game of cricket). The island boasts the highest rainfall in all of Greece, which means there is an abundance of fresh, local produce, but frigid, goose bump-raising waters year-round. If you want to get your party on, Zante is for you, with the big clubbing action on the south side of the island. For an activity beyond boozing and beaches, take a daytrip to the Blue Caves, where the striking colour of the sea reflects brilliantly onto the jagged formations. With a bit of blurring the boundaries, this is also where you’ll stumble across Greece’s biggest island, Crete, just south of the Ionian. Crete plays hosts to about a quarter of all the country’s visitors, who are drawn to the island’s long sandy beaches and dramatic mountain range. GETTING THERE easyJet (easyjet.com) flies to Corfu. See Petrakis Lines (ionian-cruises.com) for ferries to Paxos.

Cyclades Islands BEST FOR Partying, the scenery and ancient sites TELL ME MORE Yes, this group of 220 or so sun-blessed isles basically has it all. It’s the closest group to Athens, making it easy to reach, plus boasts many of the Aegean’s biggest draws. Santorini is the most striking of the Cyclades, if not all the Greek islands. It regularly pulls out the best sunsets and is home to one of the world’s biggest volcanic calderas, activity from which has created the dramatic landscape on which the island’s towns are built. When it comes to all-night partying, this group has two of Greece’s best – Ios and Mykonos. Believed to be the home of legendary poet Homer, Ios will have no problem helping you boogie through the night, before spending your dazed days snoozing on the quiet beaches and lazily wandering around the hundreds of blue-domed chapels. Mykonos (or the Island Of Sails), meanwhile, is Greece’s answer to St Tropez, attracting a frantic mix of good-timers, cruise ship crowds, and posturing fashionistas. They come for the magnificent beaches and pumping nightlife, but also because it’s the closest spot to World Heritage-listed Delos, said to be the birthplace of twins Apollo and Artemis. If you’re worried about being overrun by crowds, head to Amorgos, where rocky escarpments, dramatic coastal vistas and a tourist-free capital are just a few of the island’s unexpected draws. Amorgos is dotted with hilltop forts, ancient churches and custard-yellow beaches, although you need to hire a car or a quad bike to experience them. GETTING THERE Fly direct to Mykonos with easyJet (easyjet.com) or fly to Athens and take a ferry to Paros. >> tntmagazine.com/destinations

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DESTINATIONS europe

Live a dog’s life: clear skies and sunbathing

Lie low: a typically busy day in Greece

Dodecanese Islands BEST FOR Culture TELL ME MORE Hugging the Turkish coast just south of the North Aegean, these 23 islands, which only came under Greek control after WW2, are the furthest from the Greek mainland. Tourism dominates the two biggest islands, with Rhodes being the holiday hotspot, but quieter Kos, with its Asklepion ruins, is preferred by many. Beyond those two it’s easy to find the simple life, for example on super serene Halki. Wherever you end up, the group’s strategic location has meant multiple different rulers, resulting in some of the region’s most interesting architecture and culture. GETTING THERE easyJet (easyjet.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) fly direct to Rhodes.

North Aegean Islands

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getting around The islands are no strangers to tourism, so island hopping need not be a headache. Whether flying into Athens or direct to one of the islands, an intricate web of ferries between the mainland and island groups make it possible to jump between just about every rock in the Aegean. There are, however, a few potential pitfalls. Ask around about ferry times, as each agent will only give you times for their company. Even then, departure times aren’t set in stone, so avoid tight deadlines. Remember that many places go by multiple names, so Santorini could be Thira, Thera or even its main town Fira. And finally, book your homebound hop in advance, as boats do get booked up in the high season.

Photos: TNT Images, Getty Images

BEST FOR Finding god TELL ME MORE Not technically an island group, except for when dealing with tourists struggling to remember their Kos from their Ios, the North Aegeans are a loose collection of islands, including Lesbos, just off the Turkish coast. The highlight is Samos, full of mountain villages, ancient sites, tropical beaches and sweet local wines. It’s no surprise one of Greece’s best islands is fit for the gods. The rumoured birthplace of Zeus’ wife Hera has a curving coastline for long beach walks and cliff-top churches with incredible views of the island’s hills. GETTING THERE Thomas Cook (flythomascook.com) flies to Lesbos. n

Fun in the sun: a Santorini wine seller


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Destinations Europe