Embark on a European Excursion

With Paris hosting the Olympic Games this summer, the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, and a landmark exhibition to mark the birth of Impressionism 150 years ago, there will be plenty to see in France this year.
But it's not the only European destination to consider in 2024. There is a raft of luxury hotels opening, exciting new cruises and rail journeys to be taken and hot new destinations calling out to be visited all over the continent. Here is our guide to the best of Europe.

Vive La France!
Incredibly, this year is the 30th anniversary of the Channel Tunnel opening in 1994, which made it easier than ever to visit France and Europe. You can mark this milestone with a quick trip across the Channel, and also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the luxury Hôtel Barrière Le Westminster, in Le Touquet, at the same time (hotelsbarriere.com).

This charming resort in Pas-de-Calais has enjoyed a long love affair with British travellers. Its famous Art Deco hotel, which has a Michelin-starred restaurant and a luxurious spa, has welcomed everyone from Winston Churchill and Marlene Dietrich to Ian Fleming, and recently underwent extensive renovation.

On a more solemn note, this year marks the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. On 6 June 1944 a huge Allied force started the largest seabourne invasion ever seen, which led to the defeat of Nazi Germany.
On 1 June firework displays will be set off simultaneously on the five landing beaches and a remembrance ceremony will take place on 6 June on Omaha Beach. There will also be a Standing with Giants installation of 1,475 silhouettes, by the British artist Dan Barton, at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-Sur-Mer, representing the number of British soldiers who were killed (britishnormandymemorial.org).

The big news of the French summer is the Olympics (olympics.com) in Paris.

The Games are bound to look super-stylish, as the luxury goods group LVMH is one of the sponsors. Taking place in the capital from 26 July-11 August, there will be show-stopping events around its famous landmarks, including beach volleyball under the Eiffel Tower.

Another notable event that is being marked is the 150th anniversary of the first Impressionist exhibition, which the Musée d'Orsay (musee-orsay.fr) is commemorating with a major show, Paris 1874: Inventing Impressionism.

Bad Ischl in Austria
Cultural capitals
Other European cities are taking their turn in the spotlight, too, this year. The European Capitals of Culture 2024 are Tartu in Estonia, Bodo in Norway and Bad Ischl, Austria, and all of them kick off their festivities from February.

Tartu (visittartu.com) is Estonia's second-largest city and has a delightful historic centre, while Bodo (visitbodo.com) is north of the Arctic Circle so is a great place to see the Northern Lights. Bad Ischl, meanwhile (badischl.salzkammergut.at), is a spa town east of Salzburg and a centre for winter sports, or hiking in the summer.

Keen cyclists wil have their eyes on Italy this year, as the region hosts the first three stages of the Tour de France (letour.fr). Stage one is from Florence to Rimini, then they will ride from Cesenatico to Bologne and finally from Plaisance to Turin.

The Tour de France will vist Rimini and Florence
In Spain, Valencia has been named European Green Capital for 2024, and the pretty city, which is becoming a popular weekend-away destination, has a year of special events planned (visitvalencia.com).

The nearby Balearic Islands are continuing to transform themselves into upmarket destinations, welcoming a flurry of high-end hotels and villas, such as Richard Branson's vast Son Bunyola estate (virginlimitededitions.com) and Ikos Porto Petro (ikosresorts.com), both of which opened in Mallorca last summer.

Also coming soon to Mallorca is Mandarin Oriental's resort in Punta Negra and the Four Seasons takeover of Hotel Formentor, due to open later this year.

For those looking for villas, Vintage Travel (vintagetravel.co.uk) has several new properties on the island, including Ca na Baussana in Alcudia. It also has the charming La Casa en el Pinar, in Sant Lluis on neighbouring Menorca.

The spectacular coastline of Sardinia
Take a tour
While it's easy to travel in Europe on your own, a tour can show you a side of things you would otherwise never discover. It's also a great way of meeting like-minded people and leaving the hassle of travel itineraries to someone else.
Gourmet Rome
Chef Valentina Harris leads a five-night tour through the city's top food spots, from markets to Michelin-starred restaurants. Roman Cuisine with Valentina Harris departs 22 April, from £3,178pp (kirkerholidays.com).
Perfect Paris
Scott Dunn's A Parisian Holiday is a five-night private tour based at La Réserve Paris. It includes a cooking class and private-dining experience at the famous Escoffier School at The Ritz Hotel, plus a private visit to the Louvre and a tour through Montmartre in a vintage car. From £4,400pp (scottdunn.com).
Rioja ramble
This new five-night tour is one for energetic wine-lovers. Staying in an ancient convent in Spain's Haro, Rioja, you can wander through vineyards and try wine-making, walk part of the Camino de Santiago route, explore the 13thcentury fortified town of Laguardia and eat tapas in Logroño. From £1,625pp, (rambleworldwide.co.uk).
See Sardinia
For those who want a tailor-made trip to take on their own, Audley Travel has a nine-day self-driving tour that includes a private boat trip around La Maddalena archipelago, a cheesemaking class with local shepherds and an archaeology tour of Bronze Age structures. From £4,995pp (audleytravel.com).
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