2 years, 6 months ago
Expecting a lull after Christmas? If that’s what you’re after, then you should probably stay inside and close all the doors and windows, because Europe’s packed with events this month. 2016’s doing Carnival Season early, so you can start with Venice in January this year. Scotland’s looking particularly eventful from start to finish. Vienna’s annual ball season owns romance as always. And, if you want an early hint of spring colour to cut January’s monochrome, Amsterdam is the place to find it. Here’s what we think you should be getting up to over the next 30 days or so.
If New Year isn’t New Year without a crowd of 1000s belting out Auld Lang Syne at midnight, get your tickets now for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. It’s the UK’s biggest New Year Party and does everything from Torchlight Processions to spectacular fireworks, huge ceilidhs, live music, food, drink and, of course, the now legendary Street Party. Tickets are sold out for a lot of events, but still available for plenty others including the Street Party and the Calton Hill Torchlight Procession – how often can you walk through a major city carrying a flaming torch?
The city where the waltz was first danced launches its annual Ball Season on December 31st with the most extravagant party of the lot, Vienna City Hall New Year’s Eve Gala. You may want to brush up on your footwork if you’re going to join the glamorous throng (free waltz lessons are traditionally given in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral from 2pm on December 31st). But, even if dancing isn’t what you do, you can still feast like a 19th century gourmand and celebrate midnight on the famous City Hall Balcony watching fireworks over one of the world’s most romantic cities.
Tanztage (Days of Dance) is a perfect antidote to jigs, reels and quadrilles this January. One of the most exciting contemporary festivals in Europe it’s ten days of powerful and challenging dance involving some of the world’s leading companies and artists. Many events are free or as good as (ticket prices range from 9 – 14 euros). And if that’s not reason enough to go, the venue for all productions is Sophiensaele, Germany’s leading alternative performance space and another of Berlin’s remarkable, repurposed 20th century industrial buildings.
Come January, Amsterdam takes advantage of being a little less busy than usual to cover Dam Square from end to end with tulips for one brilliant day. This vast ‘garden’ is made up of over 200,000 flowers planted by hundreds of Dutch tulip growers and everyone is invited to pick a bloom for free to celebrate the official start of Tulip Season. We can think of a million reasons to visit Amsterdam in January, but this has to be the prettiest.
If 2016 is the year to tick another few eccentric Spanish festivals off your to-do list, San Sebastian is where to start. On the stroke of midnight every January 20th the Mayor of San Sebastian raises the city flag on Plaza Constitucion and for the next 24-hours everyone parties to the big, bad beat of thousands of drums. La Tamborrada is the biggest event of the year in San Sebastian so expect fantastic food and drink, singing, dancing and huge crowds of very wild and passionate Donostiarras – as those lucky enough to live in this beautiful Basque city are known.
Venice is the carnival of carnivals and the one all the others want to be when they finally grow up and get over beads and bikinis. It redefines excess and takes dark drama to astonishing extremes. Strolling around in cloaks, masks, gowns and velvet breeches is pretty much the norm. The entire city is a theatre staging everything from parades and parties to bloodthirsty medieval ballgames. And even the normally cheesy Gondolas become romantic barges of yore for the duration. Yes, we used the word ‘yore’ and we’re unapologetic. This year’s Carnevale di Venezia is all about tradition, but with a deeply glamorous and flamboyant edge under the creative directorship of runway show legend, Marco Maccapani. So if you’re looking for shameless decadence and an excuse to wear satin and plumes without a second glance, you’ve just found it.
Okay, there’s no denying Burns’ association with Haggis and Auld Lang Syne, but put your preconceptions aside for one night and consider an alternative side to Scotland’s bard. He was a bit of a lad in his short life and reputedly broke as many hearts as he penned poems, leaving Scotland’s capital fair strewn with lovelorn lasses and raging husbands. So even if you aren’t up for a Ceilidh at the Counting House, the low down on ‘The Secret Sex Life of Robert Burns’ or a traditional Burns’ Supper anywhere that can peel a turnip, you could always just follow the man’s lead and be a little romantic yourself round Edinburgh on January 25th.
And should you still be of a mind to hibernate can we just remind you, unless you’re skiing, January’s off-season almost everywhere and that’s as good an excuse as any to go traveling this month.