Join us on a journey through the most exciting cities every cultural tourist should visit.
In partnership with Hayllar Music Tours, Limelight invites you to join us on a journey through the 10 best European cultural destinations.
These cities, both big and small, should be on the must-see list of any cultural traveller. You can take in the wealth of architectural and historical treasures, enjoy the welcoming cafes, restaurants and beautiful public spaces before discovering the rich array of world-class music on offer, what more could you want?
Also find out how Limelight Readers can enjoy a special 10% discount when booking cultural tours to Europe with Hayllar Music Tours.
As one of the principal cultural hubs in the world, navigating the extensive range of arts, music and heritage events taking place in this sprawling city can be daunting. There are however some essential locations, not to be missed on any trip to Britain’s Capital. There are brilliant musical offerings at such venues as the Royal Opera House, London Coliseum, Barbican Centre, South Bank Centre and Royal Albert Hall, and some of the best theatre in the world at the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre as well as the many West End playhouses.
The visual arts are also in abundance. Some of the most iconic and celebrated masterpieces of western art can be found at the National Gallery, Tate Britain and the Wallace Collection. The bleeding edge of modern art can be found at the world famous Tate Modern which sits proudly opposite one of London’s most iconic buildings, St Paul’s Cathedral. As Samuel Johnson said: “Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” Thomas Jefferson wrote this, and the wide tree lined boulevards, the green expanses of parks and gardens, the ornate bridges and scenic stretches of the Seine do offer beauty and history. Take for example the stunning Opera Garnier building, one of Europe’s most beautiful opera houses. The Neo-Baroque building is dripping with sumptuous architectural delights including a marble staircase, bronze statues, stunning mosaic floors and in the auditorium, luxurious red velvet seats, alabaster cherubs, a balcony embellished with gold leaf and of course, the iconic (and enormous) chandelier that sparkles overhead. Not only did its history and its mysterious underground lake inspire Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, but it offers an exciting and varied program of opera to be enjoyed in this opulent surroundings.
And that’s just one of Paris’ treasure troves of famous cultural locations. Let’s not forget the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, La Centre Pompidou and the most famous Cathedral in all of France, Notre-Dame. The list goes on and on.
Austria’s capital offers a wonderful combination of history and contemporary culture. This beautiful city has produced some of history’s greatest musical talents including Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn, Mahler and Strauss. To this day, world-class classical music is still at the heart of this city: the Vienna Philharmonic is one of the leading orchestra’s in the world, the Staatsoper one of the greatest opera houses and the Vienna Boys Choir, one of the best known choirs in the world.
For those who want to experience this city’s famous coffee culture the beautiful surroundings of Vienna offers an array of Viennese coffee houses which have been part of the city’s culture for centuries, frequented by everyone from painter Gustav Klimt to Sigmund Freud to Leon Trotsky to Mozart, and more recently, Sir Paul McCartney and Hilary Clinton. The Viennese coffee house is so central to the city’s cultural history that they have been added to UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage list where the Viennese cafe is described as, a place “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.”
Vienna is also just a short journey to many architectural and historical landmarks, such as Esterházy Palace at Eistenstadt where Haydn worked as conductor, Melk Abbey, one of the world’s most famous monastic sites, and a summer highlight just 45 minutes from Vienna’s centre, the Grafenegg Festival, in which concerts are performed on an open-air stage in the beautiful grounds of fairytale Grafenegg castle.
In one small area of Amsterdam are clustered the Concertgebouw, the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum and the Van Gogh Museum: enough cultural distractions to keep one absorbed and enthralled for years!
With its exceptional acoustics, high-quality programming and its resident orchestra the Royal Concertgebouw, widely acknowledged as one of the best orchestras in the world, a visit to a performance at the Concertgebouw is a privilege and a joy for any music lover. A short walk away is the recently renovated Rijksmuseum, the great Dutch art gallery that has on display 8,000 beautiful artefacts selected from their total collection of a million objects chronicling the history of the Netherlands from 1200–2000. There are masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer in this collection as well as an exquisite collection of mediaeval art and historical objects from the so called “Dutch golden age” of naval exploration.
The Stedelijk Museum, with its modern and contemporary art, and the Van Gogh Museum with its collection of works from the beginning to the end of Van Gogh’s life, add to the wealth of assets in the area. And all this does not touch on Amsterdam’s other great treasure, the Old Town with its alleys, markets, picturesque canals, and vigorous canal side life. Here one can sit at a restaurant eating great food, enjoying rippling reflections of Amsterdam’s distinctive terraces, trees and sky in the water, while anticipating the cultural joys about to be encountered, or reflecting on those already experienced.
From the historic fortress of Edinburgh Castle towering on Castle Rock overlooking the city at one end of the Royal Mile, to the 16th and 17th century elegance of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, with its green lawns and gardens at the other end, Edinburgh is a city of impressive architecture and wonderful ambiance. This charismatic city is renowned for the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and for the internationally renowned Fringe Festival, which is the largest annual international arts festival in the world.
Edinburgh became the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature In 2004, in recognition of its heritage represented by such writers as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, and also to acknowledge its present literary activities of book and storytelling competitions. Besides the city’s historical and cultural attractions, Edinburgh is also a gateway to the Scottish highlands with their history, their practice of whisky distilling and tasting (an important part of Scots culture) set against the dramatic scenery of mountains, lochs and castles, all an integral part of Scotland’s life and history.
As the birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg is deserving of a place on our list for this fact alone! However this picturesque city also hosts a fabulous festival of opera, drama, and classical concerts every year for five weeks starting in late July. The Salzburg Festival, which features the greatest artists in Europe, draws audiences from all over the world to enjoy performances in beautiful, historic venues such as theatres, churches, public buildings and also in its charming outdoor spaces, including the cathedral square. This is the festival which, as depicted in one of the world’s most popular films, The Sound of Music, showcased the real Trapp Family Singers in 1936.
The city also hosts two other wonderful music festivals: the Whitsun Festival in May and the Easter Festival. With its spectacular scenery and architecture, majestic mountains with the Salzburg Fortress overlooking the town and its palaces, gardens and historical importance, Salzburg is a stunningly beautiful city which is there to be enjoyed all year round.
Belgium’s capital is often overlooked as a destination for the cultural tourist and yet with its offerings of music and art, and its nearby mediaeval cities, it is an extraordinary and exciting place to visit. For music it has the Palais des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR) home to the National Orchestra of Belgium, as well as the La Monnaie, presenting great opera in a 300 year old building which is a splendid example of European theatre architecture.
Devotees of the visual arts have much to explore such as the Museum of Ancient Art with its collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings from the 15th until 18th century, including works by van der Weyden, Memling, Bosch, Bruegel, Rubens, and van Dyck. To challenge and stimulate the viewer there is also the Magritte Museum displaying the world’s largest collection of René Magritte’s witty surrealist images. Brussels also has its Grand Place, with the ornate baroque and gothic guild houses which have earned a UNESCO World Heritage site listing.
Brussels is also an excellent staging post for any multi-city tour. It is just a few hours by train to a number of exceptional cities such as London or Paris, as well as local towns that were in mediaeval times some of the wealthiest and most powerful trading centres in the world. Bruges, miraculously preserved, presents a unique walled town enclosing ancient stone buildings, cobbled lanes, market squares and canals. Ghent is now a flourishing modern city but much of the stunningly beautiful canal side architecture reflects its mediaeval past. If all this is not enough, or even if it is, there is always the sampling of the truly delicious beer and the fine chocolate to help one feel immersed in Flemish culture.
This historic city, located in the north of Italy, has a cultural feast on its menu, with plentiful history, architecture, music, art and of course, food. The Romans conquered the area in 300BC, and the legacy of their influence is still there in the layout of Verona’s city centre which utilises the Roman military settlement plan of two main roads intersecting at right angles.
There is also the restored Theatre of Verona, in the Ponte di Pietra (Stone Wall Bridge) and most dramatically in the Roman amphitheatre. Completed around 30 AD, the Arena’s interior is virtually intact and is used even today for theatre, classical concerts and opera in the city’s famous summer Arena di Verona Festival. To be in Verona is to be surrounded by European history and UNESCO awarded the city World Heritage Site status in recognition of its outstanding examples of ancient architecture. There is music performed in churches and buildings throughout the town, and there is a rich collection of paintings, sculptures and frescos in the Castelvecchio Museum. It would be criminal not to also mention one of the key features of Verona’s culture: the delicious Italian food.
This is a relatively quiet city, located near London in the UK, but as the historic home of William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the English language, it is without a doubt one of the most fascinating cultural destinations in Europe. Visitors can explore the Bard’s history in the classic Tudor house where he was born or in his wife’s home in Shottery with its thatched roof and pretty garden. No visit would be complete without a trip to see one of the excellent performances of his plays in the Swan and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
What may not be so well known is that wonderful destinations are within a day’s journey of Stratford. Oxford, with its colleges and museums, and the Garsington Opera, a summer opera festival held in a country house nestled in a green valley, are not much more than an hour away. Grange Park Opera, another of England’s leading summer opera festivals is set in a peaceful country venue only two hours away, and of course there are also the nearby castles and Cotswold villages to explore.
The famous univeristy city and the surrounding area have an unrivalled reputation as a centre of excellence in learning and in beauty. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and its age and eminence can be observed in the architecture of its stunning collegial buildings with their ancient stonework, ornate gateways and peaceful quadrangles. Perhaps the most famous is King’s College whose choir was founded by King Henry VI to sing daily services in the magnificent King’s College Chapel. Henry VI specified that the choristers were to be “poor boys, of strong constitution and of honest conversation.” They had to be under twelve years of age when admitted, and able to read and sing.
Besides concerts in such venues as West Road Concert Hall, one can also attend Evensong sung by the college choirs in the college chapels on most days of the week. Cambridge is rich in museums and ancient churches. The Fitzwilliam Museum has an outstanding collection of antiquities, applied arts, illuminated manuscripts, and paintings by Constable, Hogarth, and Gainsborough and the Round Church is one of only four round churches in Britain. An important aspect of culture in Cambridge is offered by its many pubs, some on the River Cam, where one can sample the beer, exchange ideas, relax and take in the beautiful views of this historic city.
Discover all these wonderful destinations on a Hayllar Music Tour, uniquely curated by experienced cultural tour operator Elizabeth Hayllar.
Drawing on an international career working with the world’s greatest orchestras and opera houses, Elizabeth crafts expertly-planned small group tours to Europe which provide guests with experiences of the best classical music, theatre and art combined with exclusive private events.
“Elizabeth brings a wonderful sense of joy and enthusiasm to the experience”
Joyce DiDonato, acclaimed mezzo soprano
Attend outstanding music and theatre performances at the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Barbican Centre, Wigmore Hall and Shakespeare’s Glob Theatre. Hear mezzo soprano Justina Gringyte, who is performing the lead role in Carmen for ENO, perform a private recital exclusively for guests on this wonderful tour.
Hear Bryn Terfel Grange Park Opera’s production of Fiddler on the Roof and attend performances by Garsington Opera, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Hear a private recital by mezzo soprano Kathryn Rudge, who we will also hear perform at Gasington Opera, and visit the beautiful King’s College, Cambridge for an exclusive tour with the Director of Music, Stephen Cleobury.
Limelight Exclusive Special Offer
Hayllar Music Tours is delighted to offer readers of Limelight Magazine the chance to receive a 10% discount on two small group tours: Opera, Music & Theatre in London in May 2015 and Opera, Music & Theatre in the English Countryside, in June 2015.
Offer ends 30 November 2014.
To book simply call (02) 8095 8563 or visit www.hayllarmusictours.com and quote “Limelight”.