Waking up to the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore from your bed is what real luxury is all about – and in Spain it is very easy to make it happen. Choose a romantic boutique bolthole on a cove on the Costa Brava or a cool urban hotel on the endless beaches along the Valencian coast. Or maybe a resort-style complex right by the Mediterranean on the Costa del Sol, where you can have lunch with your feet in the sand. Just slip out of your hotel and into the warm, turquoise sea – whether you want to snorkel, surf or just float the day away. Stay at one of our top beachfront hotels on the Spanish coast to get the full moodlifting effect without even trying.
Like the painted faces of Peking opera, Beijing is an enthralling clash of personalities. Traditional but tech-forward, autocratic yet artistic, it’s a micro-managed megacity marching into the future, while striving to prune and polish the narrative of its turbulent past. And what a past. Ruling over China (on and off) since the days of Kublai Khan, Beijing is a treasure trove of Unesco World Heritage: The Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, the Ming Tombs, the Grand Canal. And above it all, draped dreamily across mountains, is the Great Wall of China – more magnificent beside Beijing than anywhere along its course. Modern architecture has been outmuscling Beijing’s antique middle for decades, but, precariously, the city’s charming old hutong lanes endure. Here is where you’ll find locals gossiping around xiangqi (Chinese chess) boards, discreet boutique hotels tucked behind grey brick walls, and hip cocktail bars in hidden courtyards. And then there’s the food. From the city’s signature Peking duck to lesser-known delights from every nook of the Middle Kingdom, Beijing is a literal melting pot of Chinese gastronomy, presenting unbridled adventure for fearless foodies.
Bordeaux and Burgundy: the very words have a rich and well-rounded ring to them. Partly, it’s those initial bulbous ‘B’s. Mainly, though, it’s that, for centuries, they have lent a civilised, even spiritual, texture to fleshly pleasures. Lots of places furnish good wine and food. None other does so in the presence of quite so many châteaux and world-class abbeys. Nowhere else is good living so stamped into the DNA, both a product and a locomotive of the past. Nowhere else do you feel that being plump is a duty imposed by history.
To mark Father's Day, the cover story in Sunday's print edition was about a daughter bonding with her father on a journey through Yunnan province in China. If you have travelled with your father, either as a child or later in life, we'd like to hear your story (in 150 words or so). Where did you go? Did you enjoy the trip equally? What were the highlights and did your relationship change in any way as a result? The reader who sends in the best entry wins a £500 voucher.
If you think Wales is all drizzle and sheep-grazed hills, you need to go further west. In Cardigan Bay’s southwestern crook, Pembrokeshire is an instant heart-stealer. Here, purple-grained cliffs fall abruptly to golden bays, caves, and rock stacks lashed by the Irish Sea. There are mood-lifting views as you ramble through kissing gates, over stiles and across gorse-clad headlands on the 186-mile coastal path; and enthralling wildlife on islands where puffins, dolphins, porpoises and grey seals are often spotted.
It was the oystercatchers that gave the game away, tapping at the sand with their long orange bills. We wandered over and unearthed their seashore feast. Cockles, mussels, winkles, whelks... shellfish as far as the eye could see. Foraging bucket sufficiently full, we returned to make lunch on the boat, where the smell of frying onion and garlic was sending my taste buds into overdrive.
As the Spanish sun descended into a pink skyline fringed with palm trees, I savoured that most satisfying of sips – a cold beer when still hot from competitive sport. It tasted almost as good as the victory I’d just enjoyed in a set of tennis. I toasted the occasion with my defeated opponent – my dad. We were on our first father-daughter bonding trip, and his decision to give me a 30-0 advantage had backfired.
Last summer, adventurer Ash Bhardwaj travelled the length of Russia's European border, from the Arctic Circle to Ukraine for The Telegraph's Edgelands podcast.
The big summer movie has always been an odd idea. At a time when – as your mother said – you should be outside “making the most of the weather”, the studios want you inside, eating popcorn.
That Lyon is a sterling choice for bon vivants becomes evident within seconds of tucking into coq au vin in a jam-packed bistro, admiring fine art in a Renaissance abbey, or getting deliciously lost in a traboule (secret passageway) used by 19th-century silk weavers. It's a enthralling, richly-storied city – and will certainly be a charismatic host of the FIFA Women's World Cup semi-finals and final this July.
Asia comes alive during its countless festivals. Visiting during one of the region’s annual celebrations offers travellers a chance to delve deeper into the local psyche, promising richer insight into the traditions on which the country is built and an opportunity to share experiences with the locals themselves. And with demand for hotels and local transport often exceeding supply throughout the festivities, there’s no better way to go than cruising.
The identical sister ship of MSC Seaside is innovatively designed with generous outdoor spaces, so passengers can make the most of the hot Mediterranean climate in summer and the balmy warmth of South America in winter.
My brother Ali’s message came in response to the barrage of photos I’ve been sending the family WhatsApp group: “That’s a pretty weird week you’ve had. Mascots. Robots. Dressing up like children. Nuclear radiation.” He’s right. It’s been up there with the more memorable weeks I’ve lived to date.
When one’s eyes are closed, other senses prickle to attention. I could smell the young green shoots of spring, hear sulky drips of rainwater as they fell from branches above, and feel damp air on my skin. I could also feel something rest its small cold hand on my knee before launching its catlike body on to one of my crossed legs – and hear a stifled giggle to the right of me. I opened one eye. My sister, Tamsin, was surrounded by ring-tailed lemurs, and several of them were obsessively licking her shoes.
The sybaritic lifestyles of the rich and powerful helped bring ancient Rome to its knees. Nowadays, luxury is a little less dangerously unbridled in the Eternal City, but there are many hotels offering sufficiently splendid décor and enough luxe pampering to make visitors feel that a little of the spirit of the Ancients lives on. Some of Rome’s top hotels rub up against magnificent Roman ruins, others occupy the former dwellings of great aristocratic families, still others are the domain of more recent fashion royalty. All offer exceptional levels of comfort.
Founded almost a thousand years ago, Marrakech is one of the great cities of the Maghreb. Somehow this bursting-at-the-seams city exists on the edge of the Sahara Desert, its pink pise (rammed earth) palaces framed by the snow-capped High Atlas. In its seething souks, Europe, Africa and the Middle East mingle and merge, and the past and present are hard to tell apart. But make no mistake, Marrakech isn’t some petrified piece of history. Instead, this centuries-old trading hub is a creative sweet spot where ideas thrive and a buzz of entrepreneurialism charges the air with an intoxicating, and sometimes, intimidating energy. This isn’t a place you can gracefully glide through. Instead, you’ll find yourself telling jokes with snake charmers, hankering after the latest henna tattoo or getting a scrub down in the local hammam. Pause for unexpected beauty and banter, after all, what are the chances you’ll come this way again?
Whenever I travel to the French south-west, I feel I'm going home. For someone born in Lancashire, this is unexpected. It perhaps dates back to the Hundred Years War and an unsavoury encounter between a warrior from Preston and a wench from Bergerac. Or maybe the region is simply any European's idealised homeland. Who wouldn't want to have roots in this mellow landscape of old-fashioned farming, long meaty meals and arcaded village squares where, if you leave your car unlocked, it will likely be untouched come morning?
With dazzling light and bright blue skies for much of the year, Madrid would be an energising city even without the world-class museums and the buzzing nightlife. The centre is smartening itself up, too, with new boutiques, delis, cafés and gastrobars opening every week, but it is the traditional tapas bars and tiny shops that are the real soul of the city. Wherever you stay, you can usually walk to the major museums, such as the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia, which all have astounding collections, but what will make you smile long after you’ve left is the little things you discover along the way as you stroll through the different neighbourhoods.
Dubai is often described as Las Vegas without the casinos. It certainly likes to do things on a grand scale. Supersized hotels, buffets, malls, amusement parks, aquariums, designer cars and luxury yachts are all commonplace. Expect to crane your neck looking up at the world’s tallest building — the Burj Khalifa — and then score a dizzying number of Instagram likes with a photo taken in front of the world’s largest flower arrangement (five million blooms set in the shape of an Airbus A380 plane, thanks to the Dubai Miracle Garden).
Firenze, the cradle of the Renaissance, is one of Europe’s great art cities. With frescoes by Giotto and Ghirlandaio, canvases by Botticelli and Bronzino, and sculptures by Michelangelo and Giambologna, there is so much exquisite art and architecture within its ancient walls that it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
Whether you're on a budget or just want to save your pennies to splurge on a fantastic hotel, there are plenty of free sights and activities in Madrid to fill your days. Be sure to check out the secret metro station Platform Zero, watch the sunset from the city's real Egyptian temple, and contemplate contemporary art at Matadero. Telegraph Travel expert Annie Bennett gives her tips on the best free things to do in Madrid.
Tourists to the Renaissance capital might well believe that visiting art galleries and museums is the only way to achieve the ultimate cultural experience. But from markets stuffed full with delectable local produce to boutique jewellery outfits creating striking wares of Murano glass, shopping delivers a different kind of insight into local life and the city's arts and design heritage. Telegraph Travel expert Nicky Swallow shares her guide to the best shopping in Florence.
Lisbon is having a moment. It is the place on everyone’s lips and its breezy sea views, glossy tiled facades and red roofs feature on many an Instagram feed. The food surprises, with a depth far beyond the famous pastéis de nata (custard tarts) that are so known and loved. There is history; from the 12th-century Moorish castle that dominates the skyline to the magnificent 16th-century Manueline monastery of Jerónimos, and the bombastic 18th-century heart of Lisbon, built after so much of the city was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake.
In 1981, the pictures of Belfast on the world’s television screens were of hunger strikes, bombs and bullets, and the worst job in the world was the Head of Northern Ireland Tourism. Thirty years later the images on television screens were of Lady Gaga, Queen, Coldplay, and what looked like every music star on the planet arriving in town for the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards. This is proof that the city, plagued for three decades by what locals called The Troubles, is now as cosmopolitan a city as any in Europe.
Visitors to Belgium inevitably make a beeline for Bruges. The fairy-tale city, with its canals and cobbles, is certainly pretty – but is increasingly falling victim to its own popularity. More than eight million tourists went there last year, raising concerns about the sort of overcrowding seen in cities like Venice and Barcelona. But Bruges is fighting back. City authorities this week announced plans to stop marketing and introducing curbs on cruise ships and holiday homes in a bid to keep the “Venice of the North” tolerable for local residents and preserve the Flemish city’s charm. Fortunately, Belgium has many more options besides the obvious choices of Bruges and Brussels.