Europe is a hotbed of culture, great food and fantastic attractions, but next year some will stand out above the rest. Whether it’s a fantastic programme of events or anniversaries to celebrate in 2018, here are five destinations ready to hit the ground running in the new year.
Starting with one of the more obvious choices, Valletta – the capital of island nation Malta – makes the list as one of two selections for the European Capital of Culture 2018. Alongside Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, the city will have a full calendar for what will be a marquee year, hosting a range of events in addition to an already glittering array of attractions.
Immerse yourself in the arts with Malta’s Fashion Week in May, Valletta Film Festival in June, the Malta International Music Competition in July or the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival in August. Valletta will also be going very ceremonial for the Valletta 2018 Opening, commemorations for the 220th anniversary of the two-year French Blockade of Malta, and the annual Pageant of the Seas, set against the majestic backdrop of Valletta’s Grand Harbour.
And don’t forget to roam Valletta’s beautiful cobbled streets whilst also taking in the delights of Malta’s tiny capital. St John’s Co-Catherdral is one of the world’s great baroque structures, while the Upper Barrakka Gardens are a great spot for Maltese exploration. Overlooking the Grand Harbour and standing over the saluting battery, this park is a great spot for a picnic and to capture some of the island’s most iconic views.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg’s timeless architecture and distinctly European ambiance is well known, but in 2018 it will be one of the key hosts of one of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and thousands of football fans will descend on Russia’s second city to create a carnival atmosphere.
Several matches, including the first semi-final of the tournament and the third-place game, will be hosted at Krestovsky Stadium alongside the FIFA Fan Festival which has football-related fun and activities as well as public screenings of games in the city centre.
But if sport isn’t your thing then fret not, as Saint Petersburg has something to offer every traveller. Cruise down Venetian-like waterways on gondola boats, revel in Russia’s royal past while touring the city’s various palaces or marvel at Saint Petersburg’s ‘White Nights’ in June, when the sun rarely sets on this part of the world.
Montenegro’s answer to Marbella comes in the shape of Tivat. This small, coastal town is the youngest in the region but is home to the ultramodern and simply stunning Porto Montenegro. The ex-naval base for Austria-Hungary now welcomes super-yachts and tourists to experience the luxury it offers.
Infinity pools, gin palaces, nightclubs and a fleet of helicopters join a wondrous rugged coastline, beautiful pebble beaches and the dramatic sunsets that the Bay of Kotor provides. It has the flair and pizzazz of St Tropez, Monte Carlo and Puerto Banus for a fraction of the price.
It is a short journey to nearby tourism hotspot Kotor, a historic old town with city walls, snaking streets and café-strewn squares which all come together to form a medieval maze of treasures. Following the recent popularity of neighbouring Croatia, Montenegro is one of Europe’s up-and-coming destinations and could soon be a major player on the continent’s coastal plains.
Norway’s capital has reason for pomp and cheer in 2018, with two big anniversaries on the horizon. Next year King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway celebrate 50 years of marriage, so expect fanfare and pageantry aplenty, while Oslo Opera House marks 10 years of operation.
While traditionally trailing other Nordic cities, Oslo has emerged as one of Scandinavia’s most stylish in recent times, with contemporary architecture helping to provide a striking skyline. In addition to eye-catching buildings and structures, Oslo is home to no fewer than 27 Michelin star restaurants, ensuring you won’t go hungry in southern Norway.
Seville is a city full of surprise in the run up to the new year, heading the prestigious Top 10 Cities list compiled by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018 panel. Andalusia’s capital is a prominent business and service centre in the south of Spain and sits on the Guadalquivir river.
The streets and squares in the Santa Cruz Barrio are always abuzz with tourists and locals, and that’s with good reason as it is the most picturesque and delightful area of the city. Narrow and winding cobbled streets with whitewashed buildings provide the perfect setting for eating some tapas and watching the world go by.
Seville is also home to a wealth of attractions, headlined by three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace with striking Mudéjar architecture, while the offering is rounded off by the General Archive of the Indies and the 16th century Seville Cathedral. There’s also the Metropol Parasol, a 2011 art installation that claims to be the world’s largest wooden structure. As well as being an impressive piece of architecture, it is also a great vantage point from which to look out over the surrounding areas.