Nine culture-filled weekends in Europe
A weekend homage to Catalonia
George Orwell wasn’t always especially polite about Barcelona – describing the city’s most famous landmark, the Sagrada Familia, as ‘one of the most hideous buildings in the world’. Nonetheless, his masterly 1938 account of the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia, means his name has long been enshrined in city folklore. Iberianature offers regular Spanish Civil War day tours of Barcelona, covering various locations associated with Orwell’s time here. Casting the city’s most familiar streets in a new light, tours revisit the scenes of gunfights and bomb blasts around La Rambla and the Barri Gòtic, as well as offices where Orwell and his Marxist comrades were headquartered (tours £16). For some R&R, head to the seaside town of Tarragona, a 90-minute train journey south (from £12 return, up to £55 for fast train taking 30 minutes) – Orwell spent time in the city recovering from injuries during the civil war.
Hotel Banys Orientals is a popular boutique hotel in El Born, just north of the Barri Gòtic (from £110).
Visiting “the family” in Sicily
Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster dynasty may have plied their bloodthirsty trade in New York – but their homeland lay among the sun-bleached stone villages and dusty byways of rural Sicily. Godfather fans still make pilgrimages to the medieval village of Savoca near Taormina – home to the church where Al Pacino’s character Michael is married in the original movie, and to Bar Vitelli – the vinedraped 18th-century stone building where the reception was held. Sicily Life offers day tours to these locations and others nearby (from £68). Finish your weekend by exploring the ancient Greek remains and shady squares of Taormina – a hillside town facing up to the snows of Mount Etna and out to blue Medditerranean waters.
The Hotel Villa Belvedere in Taormina has simple rooms with majestic views of the Bay of Naxos (from £105).
Monster Munch in Oslo
Home to various ducks, holiday cabins painted scarlet and bobbing pleasure boats, the banks of the Oslofjord might not be the first place you’d associate with bloodcurling shrieking. However, it was by these waters close to the Norwegian capital that Edvard Munch set his bestknown work, The Scream. This year sees Oslo celebrate the 150th birthday of its famous son with a dedicated exhibition at the Munch Museum (admission £11). The next day, pay a visit Munch’s summer home at Åsgårdstrand, a 90-minute drive south of Oslo. Preserved just as he left it, this simple house is where the artist painted some of his most famous works (admission £6).
The 19th-century Grand Hotel in Oslo offers beautifully appointed rooms with high ceilings (from £160).
A viking raid on the Faroes
A dubious legend tells that the first Vikings who settled the Faroe Islands planned to sail to Iceland, but got seasick en route, chickened out and got off early instead. Reminders of the these ferocious seafarers can still be found on these islands, which are a self-governing part of Denmark. Nordic Visitor’s Long Weekend Break in the Faroe Islands tour takes in the small seaside village of Funningur, the site where these (possibly queasy) Vikings first stepped ashore. After exploring the islands’ vertiginous cliffs and squawking seabird colonies, visitors stay in Tórshavn – the world’s tiniest capital city, which nonetheless borrows its name from Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning (three nights from £670 per person, including accommodation in hotels and guesthouses).