A city for all seasons
Date Posted: 26/05/2011
Discover the urban destinations that have something to offer groups all year-round.
Why? The south-westerly city has been welcoming visitors ever since the Romans recognised the potential of Bath’s natural hot thermal springs. Now designated a World Heritage Site, Georgian Bath presents some of the finest architectural sights in Europe.
What? The historic baths provide a great introduction to the city, and the museum offers a variety of tours. The Jane Austen Centre, the Fashion Museum, Bath Abbey, the Victoria Art Gallery and No. 1 Royal Crescent are all local group-friendly attractions worth visiting. A short coach ride outside of the city you’ll find the American Museum in Britain and several National Trust properties.
When? Time your group visit to coincide with Bath International Music Festival in May and June, the Jane Austen Festival in September, or Bath Christmas Market throughout November and December.
Why? Situated at the northern tip of the M1, Leeds not only boasts a convenient location, but a score of cultural attractions, diverse shopping opportunities and a comprehensive events calendar.
What? Harewood House is said to be the city’s finest stately home, and Temple Newsam is recommended for its Capability Brown gardens. Bring your group itinerary up-to-date with stop at the Royal Armouries Museum, before indulging in some retail therapy at the Victoria Quarter.
When? Each year, music lovers flock to the Leeds International Concert Season from September to May, featuring over 200 top music events from brass bands to orchestral concerts. Leeds International Film Festival presents almost 200 screenings and events throughout the city in November.
Why? The heritage behind this East Midlands city is rich and varied, featuring the well-loved outlaw Robin Hood, literary great Lord Byron, the influential Pilgrim Fathers, footballing hero Brian Clough and international designer Paul Smith.
What? The 17th century Nottingham Castle hosts regularly-changing exhibitions, as does the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery. The Galleries of Justice Museum delves into the city’s history of crime and punishment, and groups can explore the original Anglo-Saxon tunnels beneath Nottingham centre at the City of Caves.
When? Nottingham’s third Food and Drink Festival this year runs in early summer, whilst the annual Robin Hood Festival takes place every August with activities and entertainment for all ages.
Why? This compact medieval city has eagerly embraced the modern, and offers a blend of heritage, contemporary culture, shopping and vibrant nightlife, as well as secret green spaces for group visitors to explore.
What? Perched high on a peninsula, Durham Cathedral dominates the skyline, and its new visitor centre will help groups make the most of their visit. Durham University Oriental Museum is home to some unusual treasures, and Crook Hall and Gardens provides an oasis of calm in the heart of the city. Groups can also take to the water with a boat ride on the river Wear.
When? Durham welcomes the annual regatta in June, and musical groups may want to plan their visit to fit in with the city’s Streets of Play, Folk and Dance Festivals in August.
Why? With three universities, Canterbury in Kent is not just steeped in history and architecture, but is also a thriving retail hub with luxury hotels, fine restaurants, and welcoming cafes and pubs.
What? After getting dropped off at the dedicated coach park in St John’s, just a short riverside walk into town, groups can experience life behind-the-scenes at Canterbury Cathedral with tailor-made packages, and partake in an audio tour of St Augustine’s Abbey. Experience the sights, sounds and smells of medieval England at The Canterbury Tales, and after dark, take a ghost tour filled with local history, humour and hauntings.
When? Canterbury Festival in October consists of a fortnight filled with classical music, contemporary dance, comedy, theatre, walks, talks and visual arts.
Why? Norwich is said to be the most complete medieval city in Britain with over 1,500 historic buildings, including two cathedrals and an imposing Norman castle that is now home to the county’s principal museum and art gallery.
What? The stained glass at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist makes it a popular stop with visitors, which can be followed with a guided tour and lunch at Norwich Cathedral. Famed in the area is Colman’s Mustard Shop & Museum, and the city also makes an ideal base from which to explore the Norfolk Broads.
When? Held annually over two weeks in May, the Norfolk and Norwich Festival features music, theatre, dance, circus acts and visual arts. A host of writers visit the university from September to December each year for the Autumn Literary Festival, and Norwichristmas embraces the wonders of the festive season.
Why? Located in the heart of Devon, Exeter is the regional capital for culture, heritage and shopping. Steeped in more than 2,000 years of history, the city's quayside area was once a major port, but is now focused towards leisure.
What? Exeter is compact and most of its attractions are all within easy walking distance of each other. The cathedral and university campus are well worth a look, and a tour of the city’s underground passages are a must. The shopping districts are divided into quarters, providing something of interest for all groups.
When? Boasting a year-round calendar of events, highlights include Exeter’s Autumn Festival taking place around October and November, and Vibraphonic in February, which is an urban music celebration featuring local and international bands, films and workshops. Plan your group itinerary for the warmer months in order to appreciate the nearby Jurassic coastline.
Why? Standing on the banks of the River Usk, Newport in south Wales in located east of Cardiff, within an hour’s drive of Brecon Beacons National Park. The city offers a wealth of group-friendly activities and attractions.
What? Newport’s historic castle, cathedral and museum all make for a good itinerary starting point, and at the edge of the city is the wildlife haven known as Newport Wetlands Reserve. Further afield, groups can find recent industrial developments at the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre, and take a tour of the 15th century Tredegar House.
When? 2011 events include Tredegar House Folk Festival in June, followed by the Royal Welsh show in July and the Abergavenny Food Festival in mid September.
Why? Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, and boasts many accolades to its name. It was named European City of Culture in 1990, a UNESCO City of Music in 2008, and European City of the Year in 2011.
What? The new Riverside Museum, opening in June, promises to be an excellent addition to Glasgow's cultural offering, including the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art. Glasgow Science Centre has an IMAX cinema and planetarium, and sports fans can arrange a tour at one of the city’s stadiums. Adventurous groups can incorporate a session at SNO!zone, Scotland's only real indoor slope.
When? Every year more than 28,000 people enjoy Glasgow Mela, a multi-cultural festival based on the traditions of the Indian sub-continent, this year scheduled for June. Glasgow Jazz Festival follows later the same month.
Why? Flemish, Burgundian and Spanish before becoming French, Lille boasts architectural wealth. A trading city since medieval times, a citadel under Louis XIV, and a hive of industry during the 19th century, Lille today offers a blend of the past and the future.
What? Lille has culture aplenty, with the Fine Arts Museum, the Piscine Museum in Roubaix, and the LaM art museum in Villeneuve d'Ascq. The Palais Rihour is an important local monument, and further afield, a coach trip can be arranged to nearby Ypres; the Flanders battlefield tour, or to Fromelles; the site of the new Commonwealth military cemetery.
When? The city is particularly popular with UK groups at Christmas time, thanks to the Christmas market at Palais Rihour and the festive decor on the main square, including a ferris wheel and giant Christmas tree.
Why? Frankfurt is a bustling German metropolis known for its contrasts. The financial district with its international trade shows are on one side of the river Main, whilst cultural and historical landscapes grace the other side.
What? The Frankfurt Museum Embankment is home to 26 museums scenically set by the riverside promenade. Palmengarten is the city’s botanical garden, which would suit green-fingered groups, and Frankfurt Zoo is a popular family destination. In terms of nightlife, Germany’s leading opera house Oper Frankfurt holds regular performances.
When? Every August, Frankfurt’s museums take centre stage for the Museum Embankment Festival. Participating venues host a colourful programme, whilst stages, stalls and stands line the promenade, offering entertainment and culinary delights.
Why? The Spanish capital of Madrid is strategically located at the geographical centre of the Iberian peninsula, and its old town blends harmoniously with the modern infrastructure.
What? Although a challenge to see all 73 museums in the city, art lovers should make time to visit the Prado Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The Royal Palace should be included within a group itinerary for its architecture alone, and football fans can tour the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home of Real Madrid. Retiro Park, described as ‘the green lung of Madrid’ is a good option for enjoying some downtime.
When? San Isidro is the patron saint of Madrid, and the annual festival celebrations in May include bullfighting at Las Ventas, which attracts all the top bullfighters and bull breeders. This is accompanied by traditional dancing, open air concerts and other events throughout the city.