Escape the winter blues in Seville

As winter city breaks go, Seville, the capital of Spain’s Andalusia region, is difficult to beat. It is a stunningly beautiful historic city with plenty of sightseeing to enjoy. Besides its architecture, Seville offers lively streets, tasty food, and friendly people. In all, an ideal escape during the cold winter months.

Wonderful architecture
Seville is rightly considered one of the most beautiful cities, not only in Spain but in the whole of Europe. Full of history, several of its main sightseeing buildings are top notch.

The cathedral is the world’s largest church by volume. The remains of Christopher Columbus rest in its splendorous interior. La Giralda, the tall minaret built adjacent to the main building, dates from the times when most of Spain was under Moorish rule. The city views from its top are stunning.

El Real Alcazar is a palace in the Moorish style. Used by the Spanish kings as a residence after the expulsion of the Moors, the palace is where Columbus planned his journey to America. Its rooms and gardens are extraordinarily beautiful.

Plaza de España, and its surrounding gardens, was the site of the Spanish pavilion for the 1929 World Exhibition. 

The Jewish Quarter, known locally as Barrio Santa Cruz, is the oldest part of the city. Its narrow and winding streets are full of shops and bars.

Torre del Oro, located on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, is a thirteenth-century tower that now houses the local maritime museum. 

Activities for everyone
Seville lives and breathes art. If its architecture is incomparable, the Museo de Bellas Artes is considered one of the best art museums in Spain, beaten only by El Prado in Madrid.

Flamenco is a must-see activity when in Andalusia. El Museo del Baile Flamenco (The Flamenco Dance Museum) is probably one of the best places to experience first hand all the passion that flamenco exudes. There are also many bars that offer flamenco shows to visitors every evening.

If you love tapas, one of the highlights of Seville is the lively bar scene. Order a sherry or a local beer on tap and indulge in Southern Spain’s gastronomy.

On the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, Barrio de Triana is worth a visit. It has traditionally been a neighbourhood of sailors and artisans, and is famous for its flamenco singers and dancers.

Explore Andalusia: Cadiz and Cordoba
Although Seville is the nicest city to visit in Southern Spain, Cadiz and Cordoba are definitely worth a visit.

Cadiz is considered Europe’s oldest city. Founded by Phoenician sailors about 3,000 years ago, it is only 90 minutes away from Seville by train. As a fairly small coastal city, a day is more than enough to explore its old quarter, visit its interesting cathedral, and walk along its beaches. The coast of the Cadiz province is one of the most beautiful in Spain. Its wild beaches are internationally famous.

The villages in the area around Cadiz are also worth considering when exploring the wider region. La ruta de los Pueblos Blancos, the White Villages Route, would take you through a stunning hilly landscape of well-preserved small villages. Grazalema, one of Spain’s most beautiful villages, is the centre of the route.

Cordoba, just 45 minutes away from Seville by fast train, is a fantastic option for a day out. La Mezquita, the mosque, was built in 786 and later converted into a church following the Christian Reconquista of Cordoba in 1236. The main mosque, with its famous coloured arches, still remains intact. It is one of the most stunning buildings you can visit in Europe.

Weather and logistics
The weather in Seville is mild, even in the winter months, with average maximum temperatures during the day of around 18C (65F), and sometimes over 20C (68F).

Seville is very well connected internationally. It has its own airport, served by easyJet, and offers plenty of accommodation options, from hotels to apartments, for all budgets. There are also fast train links from the city to Madrid, Cordoba, and Malaga.

Christmas events in the sunny south of Europe

November, December, and January are some of the biggest months for festivals and events throughout Europe. This is in no small part because it’s the Christmas season, and everyone loves to travel and check out the amazing things that Europe has to offer.

Since it is also approaching winter, some of you may be travelling to southern Europe to escape the cold and the snow. So what are some of the best festivals in southern Europe to check out? The ones that most people don’t know about? Let’s dive in and see what’s happening!

Christmas Markets
Europe has some of the best craftspeople in the world, and Christmas is their bread and butter. This is why Christmas markets have exploded in popularity throughout the continent. Not only is it a great opportunity to see the wonderful creations these people make, but it’s an excellent place to find gifts for your loved ones during the Christmas season.

The Natal e na FIL festival market in Lisbon runs from 5th – 9th December 2018 and offers many local delights, crafts, and food. A popular part of the market is the chocolate market, where you can find the best chocolate masters in the country showing off their delicious creations. It’s a large market, but often gets overlooked for markets in other countries such as Germany and France.

Venice also has a range of Christmas markets that open in mid-December. Held in the piazzas, the markets include music, concerts, and entertainment. Look for events in Strada Nuova, Campo Santo Stefano, and the pop-up ice rink in Campo San Polo.

Going outside southern Europe for a moment, if you’re looking for something unusual, try the Christmas market in Tallinn, Estonia, at the Town Hall Square. This market continues well into January because the Eastern Orthodox Church has 7th January as Christmas Day. Late Christmas or not, you can enjoy the Christmas tree that is set up at Tallinn’s Town Hall each year. This has been going on since 1441, and Tallinn was the first place in Europe to have a Christmas tree. You can enjoy black pudding, sour cabbage, gingerbread and many other Christmas delicacies. 

Beyond Christmas Markets: Barcelona
One of the strangest traditions is the Tio de Nadal in Barcelona. When you visit you will find many great things to do, as well as seeing wooden logs with faces painted onto one end. The children call these logs – which give out sweets and presents – Caga Tio, or a ‘Poo Log!’ 

While in Barcelona, you can check out the Gothic basilica Santa Maria del Mar, which hosts an amazing Christmas concert that many people don’t know about. 

Few people choose Malta as a Christmas destination, but they may be missing out. Yes, it can be rainy and windy there at this time of year, but you still can enjoy the lights in Valletta that run throughout the Christmas season. You get a reasonably affordable trip, wonderful people to meet, and some great Christmas festivities including the Malta International Christmas Festival. This music and dance festival running from 27th – 30th December is only a few years old, but it is a wonderful time for everyone. 

So while you could go to Berlin, London, or Paris for Christmas and visit the tourist attractions, you might have a better time by going off the beaten track and checking out some very unique Christmas events in the sunny south. 

Rotterdam: A leading creative capital to explore

We asked Rotterdam local Huub Lakerveld to give us his personal tips for a visit to this wonderful Dutch city.

Visiting Rotterdam in the winter season means you can stroll around cosy Christmas markets, feast on local treats, and marvel at the contemporary architecture. 

Vibrant atmosphere
Rotterdam is a paradise for food lovers and architecture enthusiasts. In particular, the Blaak square hosts some of Rotterdam’s most original buildings. When I take the exit at the Blaak metro station, I see the iconic Cubic Houses on my right-hand side. The architect made the square houses turn 45 degrees, which makes them look like large hanging Rubik’s cubes. You can visit one of the houses for a unique experience. 

Next to the Cubic Houses, you can sip a drink while overlooking the Oude Haven, the old harbour, with its traditional vessels and many bars.

On the left side of Blaak square, you can find my favourite place for culinary refreshment: the Markthal or market hall, where you can revel in delicacies from all over the world. There are fresh meats, cheeses, exotic fruits, nuts, and much more to feast on. Don’t forget to look up, because the ceiling is decorated with vivid paintings of fruits and plants.  

Winter activities 
From the colourful Markthal, I make my way to the Trompenburg Garden Christmas market. The fragrance of hot chocolate fills my nostrils and snowflakes plunge onto my shoulders. Here you can taste the delightful Dutch delicacy called poffertjes: fluffy mini-pancakes covered with a blanket of powdered sugar. This Christmas market is one of many that pop up in wintery Rotterdam. 

For a wide selection of stalls and live music, visit the Christmas market in Delfshaven, the oldest neighbourhood in the city. This year most Christmas markets in the city will take place from 15th – 17th December 2018. Bring your hat and scarf, because the temperature in Rotterdam could go as low as -10C (14F) between November and January!

New Year’s Eve
The Erasmus Bridge over the Maas river is one of the sights you can’t afford to miss when visiting this vibrant port city. Its nickname, The Swan, makes sense when you see the white futuristic arch of the overpass. On New Year’s Eve there’s a bonfire and spectacular fireworks right next to the Erasmus Bridge. This firework show is one of the largest in the Netherlands. Be early to ensure your spot, as it gets very crowded. 

Book fair 
In the winter months, I prefer to spend a lot of time inside a café with an electrifying bestseller or a historical encyclopaedia near at hand. That’s why I love to visit the event hall Ahoy, where over a million books are sold during the annual gathering of bookworms called the ‘Boekenfestijn‘: literally the book feast. The next book fair will be held from 24th – 27th January 2019, and admission is free.

The ultimate food places
In Rotterdam, you can enjoy scenic views from the observation deck of the Euromast tower. Savour a lovely meal in the accompanying restaurant while overlooking the illuminated skyline of Rotterdam. You can opt for a dinner buffet or let the chef surprise you with a three-course dinner for £32. 

Another interesting culinary hotspot is the Fenix Food Factory. Similar to the Markthal, you can sample fresh Dutch staples such as bread, sausages, and cheeses. A good way of washing down the food is by drinking a beer at the Kaapse Brouwers, a local brewery. 

My favourite place for a refreshing ale is Belgisch Biercafé Boudewijn in the heart of the city. With over 200 types of beer, this is the perfect place to blend with the locals and finish your trip to Rotterdam in a friendly and relaxed way. 

Pula, Croatia: A touch of Rome without all the crowds

Are the gloomy days of autumn weighing heavily as all the work, obligations and activities pick up pace after the summer break? Fortunately, there are still sunny places around Europe where you can escape for that last hurrah before winter sets in. 

One of these places is Pula, a charming coastal town in north-western Croatia known for its rich history, attractive Mediterranean cuisine, and a perfectly preserved Roman amphitheatre. 

See some ancient history
A short walk from the city centre will take you to the Pula Arena, which was built between 27 BC and 68 AD and is the most perfectly preserved Roman Amphitheatre in the world. It’s also among the six largest surviving amphitheatres anywhere. Historians consider its survival to be miraculous in the light of the constant warfare that the city has experienced since being founded. 

The city has changed hands almost twenty times throughout its history of over 2,000 years, and has been partially or completely demolished five times! At its low point in 1750, following centuries of war, plague, famine and neglect, Pula’s population had dwindled to just 3,000 inhabitants, and the city existed mostly as an overgrown ancient ruin. However, the city’s deep roots and strategic location would lead to a comeback just several decades later.

The abundance of historical relics doesn’t end there. Along with several more well-preserved Roman arches and temples, the city boasts architectural sights from every era, such as The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, initially built in the 6th century and rebuilt during the Renaissance. There are several Austro-Hungarian public buildings, and the rich Archaeological Museum founded by Napoleon’s administration in 1802.

Unforgettable cuisine
Pula’s Istrian cuisine features not just a balanced blend of Mediterranean and Continental ingredients, but also a commitment to excellence. There are 15 Michelin-listed restaurants in the Istria region, including two located in Pula: Alla Beccaccia and Batelina. 

The variety of seafood, meat, vegetables, oils, and wines found here means that you can experience something extraordinary whichever season you choose to visit. Perhaps the most famous ingredient in Istria is the truffle (tartuf) mushroom, which is creatively blended into a variety of delicious dishes.

Cultural events

Concert: Mixed vocal group Nešpula – 23rd Nov 2018
Nešpula is a vocal group that performs both Croatian folk music and vocal adaptations of various modern works. The concert will take place at the Sacred Hearts Museum and Gallery Centre. 

24th Book Fair(y) in Istria, 29th Nov – 9th Dec 2018
This literature fair includes attendance and speeches by Javier Cercas, a Spanish writer and senior columnist at El Pais, and Wole Soyinka, a famous Nigerian writer whose works were honoured with the Nobel Prize in 1986.

Concert: Jazz by Madeleine Peyroux, 9th Dec 2018
Madeleine Peyroux is an American jazz singer and songwriter. She is the winner of the 2007 Best International Jazz Artist award by BBC. Her concert will take place at the Istrian National Theatre in Pula.

Why should you visit Pula at this time of year?
Autumn provides the perfect balmy atmosphere to stroll along Pula’s long seaside walkways, and enjoy all the incredible sights that Pula has to offer, without having to deal with the crowds found during summer. 

You will also be able to enjoy plenty of travel discounts for the low season and get more out of your visit with the same budget. 

Pula is easily accessible by very affordable international flights and is even connected to Venice in Italy by a three-hour ferry ride. You can also take day trips to nearby places famous for their architecture, such as Rovinj, and places noted for their cuisine, like Pazin and the Istrian wine region.

Finding bizarre but brilliant places with Atlas Obscura

How about making your next trip to Europe fresh and exciting? Instead of hitting the standard spots on your getaway, why not get well and truly off the beaten track with Atlas Obscura?

What is Atlas Obscura?
Atlas Obscura is a website created to pique your curiosity and inspire you to seek out the weird and wonderful places, food, and festivities around the world. Curated by explorers, writers and the community of readers themselves, the lists have become renowned for their bizarre themes. They include everything from shipwrecks and spy houses to quirky museums, monuments and more.

Not only does the site list places to visit but it also showcases interesting stories of obscure traditions, cultures and events.

How is Atlas Obscura different to other sites?
Rather than focusing on the tourist hotspots of any given destination, Atlas Obscura lets you discover some more unusual attractions that boast a wealth of history or even hilarity.

While you won’t get pages of personal reviews, as you would with sites like TripAdvisor, each attraction has been described by someone who has experienced the site for themselves and has chosen it for a good reason.

How to use Atlas Obscura
You can choose to browse the attractions using the destination lists or the map, or download one of the Weekend Guides for a full plan of action.

There is even a random place generator which comes up with a unique destination with every click!

If you decide you love using Atlas Obscura, you can create an account where you can add wish lists, sign up for the newsletter, and check off the places you have visited. The team at Atlas Obscura even organises trips and excursions for those who want the research and planning done for them, so that might be something to take a look at.

Top European Picks
It seems there are endless sights, sounds, and smells to discover on any trip to Europe, but we’ve chosen a few of our favourites from Atlas Obscura as a bit of inspiration for you:

Kastania Cave: This stunning cave on the southern tip of Greece’s mainland is filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and unique rock formations that have taken three million years to form! Walk through the cave’s staircase walkway to witness this incredible site. (Editor’s note: I visited a cavern in Derbyshire many years ago, and the guide told me that the way to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites is that “Tights fall down!”.)

Playa de las Catedrales: A natural wonder on Spain’s north-western coast, only visible during low tide when the sea retreats to reveal arches along the shore. The huge arches and pillars resemble a natural cathedral which completely disappears when the tide returns.

Pena National Palace: This 19th-century castle, about an hour’s drive west of Lisbon in Portugal, is a hotchpotch of colours and creations built by King Ferdinand II as a royal summer palace. Designed to cater to the king’s every whim, the architecture is a blend of styles, and features opulent interiors and spectacular views thanks to its hilltop location.

For those seeking an unusual foodie adventure, Gastro Obscura serves up stories, savouries, and sweets of all kinds to tempt any food lover to head to a new destination. Discover one-of-a-kind restaurants, traditional dishes, and cultural delicacies that will be sure to tickle your taste buds.

So whether you choose to visit one of these weird and wonderful locations, or simply want to daydream about bizarre far-flung destinations, Atlas Obscura is a great website for discovering new places away from the crowds.

Superb spa destinations in Europe

It’s hard to resist the temptation of a relaxing spa break to help you unwind from the stresses of daily life. Luckily, there are plenty of stylish spa destinations all across Europe which are just a short flight away.

Here we pick three completely different spa experiences to help you plan your next heavenly holiday.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
The Blue Lagoon has become a picture postcard destination that is a must-do on any trip to Iceland. Although Iceland doesn’t offer the warming autumnal sun that some other European locations do, it does boast the options of visiting ice caves, enjoying husky rides and, of course, spotting the spectacular aurora borealis (Northern Lights).

Despite now being quite a popular tourist spot, the Blue Lagoon still warrants a visit. Witnessing the icy blue waters contrasting with the billowing steam from the hot springs is a sight to behold. Plus, you can opt for a luxury package which includes plush robes and slippers, a glass of bubbly (or the drink of your choice) and mud face masks, so you can have a truly tranquil experience. Why not book yourself into the Retreat Spa with one of their signature in-water massages for an extra special treat?

Lake Como, Italy
It’s hard not to feel as though you’re living the life of luxury when you’re staying in one of Lake Como’s stunning spa hotels. Whether you spend your day relaxing on a sunbed while appreciating the breathtaking lakeside views, soaking up the sun in the solarium, or enjoying one of the many relaxing massage treatments on offer, you’re sure to feel like you’re floating on air when you return home!

For those who need to burn off a little more energy, you can take part in yoga and Pilates classes, work out in the gym, enjoy a spot of tennis, or make the most of your location with a walk around the lake.

By night, there’s no better place to dine on traditional Italian cuisine. Thanks to your lakeside location you can be assured the fish will be as fresh as they come, and they certainly know how to serve it! With tasty handmade pasta (the carbonara at the Belvedere is to die for) and delectable desserts, you may well experience one of the best meals of your life!

Evia, Greece
Although not one of the better-known spa destinations in Europe, Edipsos (also known as Aidipsos) is locally renowned for its hot springs. The thermal baths here have become synonymous with healing, relaxation and serenity thanks to their mineral qualities which claim to offer relief from aches, pains and ailments.

You can choose from wellness, detox, and medical programmes at Thermae Sylla Spa, each of which has been designed to target specific areas for improvement.

Alongside your relaxing treatments in the ‘City of Spas’, there are plenty of other sights to explore. Wander along the promenade, discover historic folklore in the town’s museum, visit local churches and monasteries, or stroll through picturesque olive groves before sampling some local produce.

A break in Evia can easily be combined with a few days in Greece’s capital, so you can enjoy the spa relaxation as well as the eclectic culture, history and architecture of Athens.

Thanks to budget airline flights heading to all over Europe from the UK, you can save the pennies on the journey and splash out on luxurious massage treatments, fine dining cuisine and perhaps a glass or two of fizz!

An October getaway to Tenerife

This month we spoke to a young traveller, Lauren Cinderey, who packed her bags and left the UK for a year of work on the island of Tenerife. She’s shared with us the highlights of her time in the Canaries, along with some top tips for exploring this wonderful destination. 

Things to do
If you can peel yourself away from the pool you’ll find plenty of entertaining things to do in Tenerife.

One of the most highly rated excursions on the island, and definitely one I’d recommend, is a visit to Loro Parque. The zoo and aquarium have a wide range of animals. Loro Parque’s behind-the-scenes tours are well worth the extra cost, as you will get access to the gorilla beds and water windows, along with a guide who will share with you everything there is to know about the zoo.

A trip to one of the many harbours will give you a variety of boat excursions, from dolphin watching to day-trips to neighbouring islands. On the south coast of Tenerife is the golf resort of Gulf del Sur. The 27-hole golf course draws in tourists from all over the world to test their skills and watch the renowned competitions.

Incredible geological sights
With Tenerife being a volcanic island, it makes sense to explore the rocky regions while holidaying there. Opting for a guided mountain tour will give you the chance to discover Tenerife’s true beauty from on high. Winding through vineyards and quaint, charming villages, these tours take you right up to the infamous dormant volcano, Mount Teide. This is Spain’s highest mountain at 3,718m. Most of the tours pass the unusual rock formations of Las Cañadas del Teide and Los Roques de Garcia.

Mount Teide is also home to the Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can witness the sun sinking behind the silhouetted mountains as it sets.

One of Tenerife’s geological wonders is the Pirámides de Güímar. The site contains six stepped pyramids built from lava stone, along with a museum and tropical gardens. While the pyramids aren’t as iconic as the Egyptian ones, it still makes for an interesting day out.

Resorts and accommodation
Being an all-year-round tourist destination, there are plenty of places to stay throughout the island, suitable for every budget. Los Cristianos is a pleasant town in the south of the island, which features a gorgeous beachfront promenade full of restaurants, bars, and shops. This charming and mature area includes a variety of rental villas and grand hotels, along with smaller guesthouses and apartments.

Also in the south is the more upmarket resort of Costa Adeje. Here, you can find some of Tenerife’s most luxurious hotels and apartments that offer a truly relaxing experience. The area is made up of independent boutique shops, fine dining restaurants, and well-maintained beaches. In the southeast and southwest of the island are the resorts of El Médano and Los Gigantes which have some of Tenerife’s best beaches, and are the more desired options for those seeking some peace and quiet.

The north of the island is where you’ll find the capital, Santa Cruz, and the popular resort of Puerto de la Cruz. A selection of modern apartments and urban hotels are scattered throughout the area, which combines beach days with city-living vibes.

Why visit Tenerife in October?
With many of Europe’s children back at school, and with plenty of travel discounts popping up, October is a perfect time of year to visit Tenerife.

Tenerife is just off the coast of Morocco, making it one of the most southerly points in Europe. The weather in October for southern Tenerife reaches daily averages of 26C (79F). Northern parts of the island are usually slightly cooler than the south, with average daily temperatures of 22C (72F).

The real beauty of visiting Tenerife is the diversity of the island. There are plenty of beaches to relax on, mountains to hike around or admire from afar, and adventures to be had. Whether you’re looking for an event-filled trip or a quiet break, Tenerife has something for everyone.

How to explore a city like a local

Going on a holiday should be fun and hassle-free! Our tips will help you navigate your next destination like a local, explore it’s most unique places, and find the spots that are not included in the travel guides.

Every holiday destination has its obvious “must-see” spots and famous places. However, there is always more to a city than its most famous landmarks.

Do you know a local?
The best way to see a place like a local is to actually go on holiday with a local! If you have friends from overseas, this can be a great experience. Our editor has been to Munich and Frankfurt with a German friend (a real-life Frankfurter!) and to Gibraltar several times with a Gibraltarian friend.

These holidays have been utterly unique; not only do you get the chance to spend some high-quality time with a friend, but you see the place through completely different eyes.

Explore on social media before you go
Nowadays it has become very popular for social media users to create pages where they show off the best of their city. Facebook, Instagram, and travel blogs have dedicated pages for the best food in town, the nicest coffee shops, and the most unique places.

It is nice to see the town through the eyes of the locals because they will give an exclusive insight. Write a list of your favourite spots, then organise it by location, to make sure you can fit it all in.

Many places also have a British expat community that will have their own social media groups, and you can learn a lot from these too.

Befriend locals
We are now in a new era of accommodation, where people rent out their apartment, house, or villa via various online sites such as Airbnb. These places are way more unique than a hotel or a resort, and you will find yourself chatting with the owner, who will often recommend the most amazing sites near your location.

Be open with the locals: most of them will speak English, especially the ones who work in restaurants or work as taxi drivers. They can show you magical, hidden spots that you can’t find in tour guides.

Ask them about the city, chat with them about culture and history. You will be surprised how many tricks and tips you can learn. Also, they will let you know where to go, where to eat, or which attractions are closed on certain days. Sometimes travel guides are not fully updated, and local knowledge can help you out.

How to find things to do
You might go on your holiday because you are interested in one particular event or place. If you are mainly interested in cultural events and activities, you can always search on Facebook for appearances, openings, and public nights.

For something a bit different, have a night where you attend a salsa dance, a gallery opening, a public talk, or a figure drawing class. It will be an amazing experience! Of course, if you are more interested in flavours, there are many cooking classes or wine-tasting events as well. These kinds of things will give some spice to your holiday, making it unforgettable. It will also give you an exciting and unique story to tell when you come home!

So before your holiday, take some time to explore your options. The modern online world has a lot to offer you when planning your next trip!

Top tips for going to the beach

There’s still some time this year to visit European beaches, and now that the children are going back to school, the beaches will be a bit quieter and the flights will be a bit cheaper! Here’s how to get the best out of your beach holiday.

Find the best beach
It’s well worth asking the locals where the best beach is. Often you’ll find that locals know the best spots and will be able to tell you which beach has the best sand, the warmest water, or the least amount of tourists. Ask the people who work in your hotel or in local restaurants.

Sit close to an obvious landmark
You’ve arrived at the beach, and you’re figuring out where to sit. Sitting close to a tall or obvious landmark will make it much easier to find your spot again when you’ve gone swimming or walking, particularly when the beach is busy.

Find the shade
Even on a cloudy day, the sun will hit your skin, and you occasionally need to take a break from direct sunlight. Cloudy days can be deceptive: you don’t think it’s too sunny, and you end up with sunburn! The same goes for a cooling breeze, which makes it harder to realise how quickly you are burning. So even though you’re wearing sun cream, stick an umbrella in the sand and sit in the shadow from time to time.

Apply enough sun cream
Most people don’t apply enough sun cream on their skin to be adequately protected. Although the sun has many benefits, such as helping our body to generate Vitamin D, taking in too many UV rays can cause skin cancer. So make sure you apply enough sun cream with a high SPF, and top it up regularly, especially after swimming. If you’re going in the water, use a waterproof sun cream.

Remember that sun cream often needs around 30 minutes after you apply it before it becomes effective, so put it on before you leave the hotel.

Drink water
Your body dehydrates faster when you’re baking in the sun. So drink water every 30 minutes, especially when you’ve been walking or swimming. Remeber that sea salt will dehydrate you, so drink often. A headache can be an early warning sign of dehydration, so drink more water before you take the headache tablets!

Interestingly, as we get older, our kidneys work less effectively and need more water to do their job. We also don’t begin to sweat until our body gets to a higher core temperature than in younger people.

Look at the warning flag for swimming
Before you go for a swim, look at the warning flag. Don’t go swimming when the red or yellow flag is out. Even when the flag is green, be cautious when going for a swim. And when the flag is a different colour, ask the lifeguard what it means. If in doubt, look for a sign that explains the flags, or ask for help. Stick to the designated swimming areas only; beyond these, there could be strong currents.

Swim where the lifeguard can see you
Finally, it’s always advisable to stay and swim where the lifeguard can see you. Don’t swim too far from their line of sight. If something happens, they’ll be there to help you.

Put your phone and camera in a Ziploc bag
Sand doesn’t go well with technology: it can end up in one of your phone’s ports, or it can scratch your phone’s screen. But a small plastic Ziploc bag can quickly make your phone, camera, or Kindle mostly sand-proof and waterproof. (Even so, you’ve still got to take care!) Depending on the make of phone you have, you might not be able to use the touchscreen through the bag, but it will at least help to keep the phone from getting damaged.

Pack spare battery power for your gadgets
If you’re going to be using your phone or iPad a lot on the beach, perhaps for reading, you don’t want it to run out of batteries. Modern phones don’t usually allow the battery to be easily swapped, but you can take a small portable battery pack with you, and use your normal charger cable to connect the battery pack to your device.

Rechargeable battery packs are very cheap now. We’ve had success with the Anker Astro E1 5200mAh (£11.99) and the higher-powered Anker Astro E1 6700mAh (£17.99), both of which will charge an iPhone around twice. (The higher the mAh, the more electricity the battery can hold.) When you get back to your hotel, you just charge up the battery pack again.

So why not see if you can fit in a trip to the beaches of Europe in the next month or two?

Five unmissable European events this autumn

As summer fades and autumn turns the leaves to brown, you would be forgiven for thinking that the rest of Europe would be heading for hibernation. But you’d be mistaken! We’ve rounded up some of the continent’s top events and festivals to look forward to this September and October. As you have a look through the events you’ll agree that one thing is certain – there’s plenty more to look forward to in 2018!

Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
The world famous Munich Oktoberfest beer festival is happening this year from the 22nd of September. It’s time to put on your lederhosen as you join festival-goers from all around the world in Munich to celebrate Bavarian culture and beer from the original six Munich breweries. It’s been going since 1810 and has grown into the world’s largest Volksfest (a combination of beer festival and travelling funfair) with over 7 million litres of beer – over 12 million pints – being served over the 16 days.

Ticket Price: Beer tents are free to enter, beers cost around £10 a litre and a full meal will set you back 12 pounds.
Dates: 22 September – 7 October 2018

Regata Storica, Venice, Italy
One of Venice’s most important events happens on the first Sunday of September every year: the Regata Storica. It is an event of two parts: first, the historical boat parade made up of colourful 16th century-style boats manned by a crew of traditionally dressed oarsmen, followed by a series of rowing races. The celebrations aren’t limited to the water, with festivities spread throughout the city starting in the day and continuing well into the night.

Ticket Price: Free (there are options to pay for reserved seating).
Dates: 2 September 2018

Cafe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival, Budapest, Hungary
With over 150 events offering design, literature, music and dance; the Cafe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival is one of the highlights of the European contemporary arts calendar. It’s a must-visit for the music concerts (ranging from jazz to classical and crossover), the theatre productions, and the fine-art and design exhibitions.

Ticket Price: Various
Dates: 5 – 21 October 2018

Festival of Lights, Berlin, Germany
One of the largest and most famous light festivals in the world, the Festival of Lights in Berlin is not to be missed. Hosted in the centre of Berlin, the city’s world-famous sights and monuments are transformed. Featuring international artists, you can experience the wonder of light projections, 3D video light displays, and light installations that attract over 650,000 visitors every year.

Ticket Price: Free
Dates: 5 – 14 October 2018

Eurochocolate Festival, Perugia, Italy
Perugia is one of the top cities in Tuscany, Italy, and comes alive from mid-October as the city plays host to the Eurochocolate Festival. The festival celebrates its 25th birthday this year and promises to be better than ever. For ten days the city is nearly unrecognisable as it hosts almost 1 million visitors, the streets smell of chocolate, and every imaginable variety is on display and available for sampling.

Ticket Price: Free
Dates: 19 – 28 October 2018

So whether you’re looking for a new cultural experience, to sample food and drink from a different country, or to immerse yourself in bygone times, there’s a festival for you this autumn.

We’ve showcased our top 5 for September and October, but there is so much more on offer! Many of the festivals that we’ve shown you here are free to enter, but note that most have additional side events that are paid for separately and should be booked in advance. We’re sure you’ll have a great time!