Tag Archives: culture

View of the pool and sea from the bar deck at the Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort, Portugal

Portugal is Suddenly Hugely Popular. This Is Why.

If it feels like everyone you know is suddenly interested in traveling to Portugal—or has recently been—you’re not imagining it. Tourism in Europe’s westernmost country has been soaring: Portugal was named the World’s Leading Destination at the 2018 World Travel Awards, the number of tourists visiting has continued to increase every year since 2014, and Madonna recently bought a house there. In fact, the country keeps beating its own tourism records, bringing in more people and generating more revenue all the time.

These days, the food and culture scenes are booming, and cities, beach towns, wine country, and idyllic villages are all benefitting from beautiful new hotels and improved tourist access, thanks to TAP Air Portugal’s increase in flights from the U.S. and its free stopover program, which lets travelers spend up to five nights in either Porto or Lisbon, depending on their route.

But of course, it’s not just numbers and logistics that make a travel destination worth the hype. It’s much more. Here are a few reasons why Portugal is suddenly getting so much buzz—and worth the praise.

stacks of Portuguese egg tarts on display at a bakery in Lisbon Portugal
Pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tarts) are the signature Portuguese dessert, and my favorites come fresh out of the oven every few minutes at Manteigaria's bakery, at the Time Out market in Lisbon. Photo: Billie Cohen
pool at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal
The updated Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort has a pretty pool and a golf course and is just a few minutes from the beach too. Photo: Minor Hotels
The menu at Anantara Vilamoura's Emo restaurant is inspired by the region's wine. Photo: Minor Hotels
wine bottles from several different Portuguese regions
The master class at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort introduced us to wines from several different Portuguese regions. Photo: Billie Cohen
beach with turquoise water in the Algarve Portugal
The water at the beaches in the Algarve is bright blue. Photo: Billie Cohen
Cabrita Wines is one of many vineyards in the Algarve
And the vineyards, including these at Cabrita Wines, are not far away. Photo: Billie Cohen
Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, the Algarve, Portugal
View from the bar deck at Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, the Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Billie Cohen
The Sky Bar at the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade has a great view over Lisbon
The Sky Bar at the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade has a great view over Lisbon. Photo: Minor Hotels
The lobby of the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisbon Portugal
The inside is pretty cool too. Photo: Minor Hotels
blue and white old tile Lisbon Portugal
Everywhere you look in Lisbon, you'll find beautiful tiles, both with a historical feel…
green tile building Lisbon Portugal
…and modern.
Saint Anthony Festival Lisbon Portugal
During June, Lisbon is lit up with festivals for St. Anthony and St. John, and locals grill sardines outside every evening.
The passionfruit dessert at Bairro do Avillez, in Lisbon, is served in a chocolate "coconut."
The passionfruit dessert at Bairro do Avillez, in Lisbon, is served in a chocolate "coconut." Photo: Billie Cohen
brass carver atthe Museum of Decorative Arts in Lisbon, Portugal.
This brass carver was just one of the traditional artisans I got to meet on a tour of the workshops at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Lisbon. Photo: Billie Cohen
tile street art in Lisbon Portugal
Even outside the museums, Lisbon is a city full of beautiful, colorful street art. Photo: Billie Cohen
I was able to paint my own tiles at Lisbon’s Museum of Decorative Arts;
I was able to paint my own tiles at Lisbon’s Museum of Decorative Arts; they were not as pretty as the real ones. Photo: Billie Cohen
horse carriage outside the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais Sintra Portugal hotell
The Tivoli Palacio de Seteais hotel in Sintra used to be a palace, built in 1787 by the former Dutch Consul in Portugal. Photo: Minor Hotels
Tivoli Palacio de Seteais suite, Sintra Portugal
If it looks like a place for royalty, it is: Brad Pitt, David Bowie, Maria Callas, and Agatha Christie have all stayed here. Photo: Minor Hotels
The pool at the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais in Sintra Portugal
The pool at the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais in Sintra looks over the whole valley. Photo: Minor Hotels
seaside cliff village of Azenhas do Mar in Portugal
At seafood restaurant Azenhas do Mar Restaurante Piscinas (it's that rounded bank of windows down on the beach), you can pick your own fish and preferred cooking method Photo: Billie Cohen
The Pena Palace, in Sintra, Portugal,
The bright colors and the myriad tile designs of the Pena Palace, in Sintra, are stunning. Photo: Billie Cohen
view of Porto Portugal and Dom Luís I Bridge
Walk across the top level of Porto's Dom Luís I Bridge to snap this view of the city. I got to visit thanks to a free stopover with TAP Air Portugal on a trip to Rome with my mom. Photo: Billie Cohen
Palácio da Bolsa interior Porto Portugal
My mom and I took a private, after-hours tour of Porto’s most visited attraction, the Palácio da Bolsa. It was empty! Photo: Billie Cohen
business-class seats on TAP Air Portugal
The window business-class seats on TAP Air Portugal are roomy private nooks. Photo: Billie Cohen
The amenities kit is packed in an adorable oversized sardine can designed by a local artist. Photo: Billie Cohen
sardine cookies at Ria restaurant in Anantara Vilamoura Algarve hotel Portugal
Sardines are so popular in Portugal, even the cookies look them (but thankfully, they don't taste like them). Photo: Billie Cohen


It’s a good deal.

Portugal is inexpensive compared to a lot of Europe. The currency is the same euro, but your money goes farther—on food, drink, transportation. One simple example: The metro in Lisbon costs €1.45 per ride. In Paris, it’s €1.90. In London, it’s a whopping £4.90 (about € 5.50). In fact, the UK’s 2018 Holiday Money Report put the Algarve at the second-cheapest holiday destination worldwide (after Bulgaria). The annual report compares the cost of eight tourist items in countries around the world, including dinner for two with wine, a range of drinks, sunscreen and insect repellent.

It’s close.

From NYC, Lisbon is 6 hours 45 minutes nonstop. That’s about the same as the flight to London, but you’ll land in a place with much more sunshine and much cheaper everything. It’s also a shorter trip than to Barcelona, Paris, or Italy.

Airfare is low and stopovers are free.

Thanks to the rapid expansion of TAP Air Portugal, there are now many flights from New York, Boston, and Miami—and they are reasonably priced, without the no-frills corner-cutting of a low-cost airline. I’ve flown TAP in both coach and business class, long-haul and short (both on my own dime and on a press trip where TAP covered the flights), and I was pleased with the friendly service and how new and sleek the cabin looked. Even better, TAP offers a free stopover in Lisbon or Porto on its long-haul flights—so if you’re going to Europe, Africa, or even Brazil, you can tack on a one- to five- night stay in either Lisbon or Porto. Of course, Portugal definitely deserves its own trip—there’s enough to see. (One note: Getting through passport and customs control at Lisbon airport can be a slog—on two occasions, it’s taken me more than an hour. Make sure you leave enough time between any connecting flights.)

You can do city, seaside, and riverside village all in one trip.

Like most European countries, Portugal is not big—and that is a good thing. It means you can explore more ground in a short amount of time. And while you could spend weeks in each of Portugal’s different landscapes and not get bored, you can also hit several of them quickly and easily in one vacation. You’ll find turquoise water and soft-sand beaches in the Algarve, a cool green microclimate in Sintra (complete with lush, fanciful botanic gardens Monserrate and Quinta da Regaleira), olive and grape farms in the Alentejo, coastline cliffs in the southwest, and wine everywhere.

New hotels are emerging (and renovating) to meet the increased demand.

Over the past two years, more than 60 hotels have opened or been renovated, many in Lisbon and Porto, including new arrivals from Minor Hotels, a successful Asia-based brand that, tellingly, chose Portugal for its first European location. Its M.O. here has been to take over longstanding, beloved properties and update them to meet today’s culinary, design, and service standards

A few of its standouts include the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa, which recently emerged from a stylish refresh: Its public spaces and guest rooms have a cool Art Deco sheen, its new seafood restaurant is fashionable but unstuffy, and the rooftop Sky Bar is worth a visit even if you don’t stay at the hotel. Its view of the city is gorgeous, the people-watching is fantastic, the walls and the waitresses wear striking designs by local artists, and the drinks are creative (including several mocktails).

Sintra’s Tivoli Palacio de Seteais is at the other end of the design spectrum: an 18th-century palace estate with a regal feel—think wallpapered banquet rooms, beautiful antiques, and a hedge maze. Guests can wander the formal garden, linger over a meal on the terrace, or sip lemonade (made from the hotel’s own lemon trees) while gazing at long, green views of the Sintra mountains. To complete the royal treatment, they’ll even arrange a horse-and-carriage ride to some of the area’s gardens.

In the south, the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort is a newly revived base for seaside escapes: sunbathe by the palm-tree-lined pool, head to the area’s nearby beaches, go out for the night by the bustling Vilamoura marina, explore the region’s nature reserves and farmers’ markets, dine on fresh seafood at notable onsite restaurants Emo and Ria, and of course drink plenty of wine.

The food and restaurants are top-notch.

It is easy to eat well in Portugal: seafood, cheese, vegetables, fruit—you can sample local, fresh varieties everywhere. The warm bread and local olive oil served with most meals are worth the trip alone, as are the famous Portuguese egg tarts, pastéis de nata.

For a quick and informal sampling of some of Lisbon’s hottest eateries, go hungry to the Time Out Market; the outpost of Manteigaria bakery here churns out some of the best egg tarts in the country (I think they’re better than the more well-known ones made by monks out in Belem, for which tourists line up for hours). Of course before you have dessert, you should eat all your supper, and there are delicious options no matter where you travel. Select your own fresh-from-the-ocean fish at Azenhas do Mar Restaurante Piscinas, which is right on a dramatic beach near Sintra. In Lisbon, don’t miss the lively, indoor-piazza setting of Bairro do Avillez, one of Michelin-starred chef José Avillez’s restaurants (save room for the “passion fruit” dessert with coconut sorbet—it has a fun, creative presentation). No matter where you go, you will be able to try some form of the national dish, sardines; but for the classic preparation, visit Lisbon in June during the Feast of St. Anthony, when locals gather on the streets every night to grill sardines and enjoy festivals and concerts across the city.

As for drinks, the Portuguese are the world’s biggest consumers of wine, so you can trust that they know what they’re doing when it comes to indigenous wines and ports. Learn all about the country’s varied terroir at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort’s master class, taught by onsite guru António Lopes, who was named Portugal’s best sommelier in 2014. Then follow your tasting with a meal at the hotel’s wine-centric restaurant, Emo, where Lopes and the chef collaborated on the food and wine menus to ensure an ideal match.

Beyond the walls of restaurants and bars, there are plenty of other ways for food lovers to immerse themselves in the country’s culinary culture: For example, Virginia Irurita can hook you up with a fisherman in the Algarve. The region is famous for oysters and clams, and you’ll spend the day learning how to gather mollusks—and tasting them, of course.

History and creativity are on display everywhere you look.

Buildings and train stations (especially in Lisbon and Porto) are famously clad in colorful tile called azulejo, which recall the city’s time under Moorish rule in the Middle Ages. You can learn all about the tiles at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, or even paint your own at Lisbon’s Museum of Decorative Arts.  More modern artistic endeavors adorn city streets too, in the form of gorgeous murals (painted and mosaic) and stunning architecture (both modern like Santiago Calatrava’s Oriente train station in Lisbon, and historic like Sintra’s Pena Palace). There are plenty of official cultural institutions as well, offering something to match every interest, whether it’s history, arts, music, performance, sports or culinary. The right trip designer can get you behind-the-scenes or after-hours access to some of these places, so be sure to ask. For instance, you can get a private guided tour of the workshops at the Foundation Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva; I met several of the bookbinding, furniture-making, and brass-carving artisans who are keeping Portugal’s craft traditions alive (it was one of the highlights of my 2017 travels). And Gonçalo Correia arranged an after-hours private visit to Porto’s most visited attraction, the Palácio da Bolsa.

Disclosure: Minor Hotels and TAP Air Portugal provided me with a complimentary five-day trip. In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on either sponsor’s part, nor was anything promised on mine. You can read the signed agreement here. If you go: Ask Wendy to put you in touch with just the right travel planner for the trip you have in mind.



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San Sebastian Spain beach

5 Reasons to Go to San Sebastián This Year

Although it’s often overshadowed by other Spanish cities—like Madrid, Barcelona and Seville—San Sebastián shouldn’t be overlooked. Spain’s northwest city, also called Donostia, not only boasts centuries of Basque heritage, natural beauty, and cutting-edge culinary and architecture scenes, but it was also chosen as European Capital of Culture for 2016. Visitors to the city this year will be treated to more than 400 cultural activities, including exhibitions, concerts, plays, dance performances and special gastronomic events. And the best part is that most of them are free. Here’s why you should get in on the action asap.

The city’s best architecture is on display.

The opening of the Guggenheim in nearby Bilbao back in 1997 stoked the Basque country’s architecture and art scenes, inspiring the creation and renovation of several impressive institutions over the years. Since many of the Donastia/San Sebastian 2016 events are taking place at these sites, you’ll be able to appreciate the architecture boom as you’re taking in all the cultural activities.

The Tabakalera is a new contemporary art center housed in a former tobacco factory; Spanish architecture firm Vaumm unveiled the stunning Basque Culinary Center in 2011 to much critical acclaim; and the century-old San Telmo Museum has been reimagined as the Museum of Basque Society and Citizenship, with a very modern nature-inspired wing connected to the original 16th-century convent building.

San Telmo Museum, San Sebastian, Spain

The San Telmo Museum is now also home to the Museum of Basque Society and Citizenship. Photo: San Sebastián 2016

The Diocesan Museum of ecclesiastical art recently got a facelift from Spanish architect and Pritzker laureate Rafael Moneo (who also won the Mies van der Rohe award in 2001 for the Kursaal arts center, where the San Sebastian International Film Festival is held), and the Balenciaga Museum arrived in neighboring Getaria in 2011 to honor the home-grown, acclaimed international designer.

Art is everywhere.

You don’t have to stay inside to see some of San Sebastian’s best artwork (though you certainly could; the Tabakalera is hosting artists from around Europe in a series of temporary exhibits, workshops, and lectures). Stroll outside to see the public artwork for which the city is known: Jorge Oteiza’s Construcción Vacía (Empty Construction) is a landmark on the Paseo Nuevo waterfront promenade, for example, and Eduardo Chillida’s Wind Combs sculptures can be found at the foot of Monte Igeldo.

It’s a festival town.

San Sebastian is home to several annual festivals. From July 20 to 26, the international jazz fest Jazzaldia will be celebrating its 51st edition with the help of global stars such as Diana Krall and Gloria Gaynor. Classical music fans will descend on the city in August for the Musical Fortnight (Quincena Musical); and film buffs should plan to arrive in mid-September for the International Film Festival.

The DSS 2016 lineup is adding a few more events to the festival schedule. For instance, to celebrate Shakespeare400, visitors can participate in an interactive version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where they will be guests at Hermia and Demetrius’ wedding while enjoying a feast prepared by the Basque Culinary Center (June 21–­July 24).

san sebastian spain hiking trail

Explore nearly 600 kilometers of hiking trails. Photo: San Sebastián 2016

You can surf, hike, or just lie in the sun.

San Sebastian rivals its Spanish sister cities when it comes to location, boasting both a beautiful shoreline (it’s right on La Concha Bay) and a picturesque mountain backdrop (it’s in the foothills of the Pyrénées). As a result, the area has long been a mecca for surfers in search of some of Europe’s tallest waves. Bring your board to Zurriola beach to join in, or just watch from the shore. The beach right in town along La Concha Bay can get packed in summer with sunbathers, so for a little more room roll out your towel on Playa de Ondarreta, found on the other side of the Palacio de Miramar, or take a boat out to Isola Santa Clara to admire the city from its small beach.

For landlubbers, the center of the city is the starting point of a new hiking route, the 2016 Bidea, a 32-stage hiking trail extending nearly 600 kilometres through the mountains. It was completed for this year’s Culture Capital event.

culinary event in San Sebastian Spain

Culinary events are part of the DSS 2016 festivities. Photo: San Sebastián 2016

You can eat your heart out.

San Sebastian’s innovative chefs have converted the city into a gastronomic mecca which now boasts 16 Michelin stars—the most per capita in Europe and second only in the world to Kyoto. Experience this gastronomic revolution at three-starred Arzak, famed for modernizing Basque cuisine, or the mountaintop Akelarre, where the tasting menus are as stunning as the views.

For a more adventurous experience, try the Basque Culinary Center. This gastronomic university has a cafeteria run by the next generation of super chefs; visitor can also choose to don an apron themselves in cooking classes (some are in English).

Alternatively, you can easily subsist on the region’s own style of tapa: the pintxo. These generally consist of a small piece of bread topped with anchovies, tuna, or egg-and-potato tortilla, and are held together by an olive and toothpick. They go down particularly well with a glass of txotx, Basque cider, or txakoli, slightly sparkling local white wines. Make your way to the old quarter’s maze of bar-lined streets, where you can carry out your own pinxtos tasting tour, sampling traditional bites at Gandarias or modernized options at Fuego Negro or Zeruko.

Of course, the DSS 2016 program doesn’t leave out gastronomy, which you can explore in activities like On Appétit!. Each month local chefs are passing their aprons to European counterparts, who will be preparing dishes from their respective regions. Plan to stop by participating restaurants or attend a series of cooking show events. Bon appetit, indeed—or, as they say in Basque, dezagun jan!

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Meet our writer

Lily Heise’s work in tourism and travel writing have seen her blossom hunting in Kyoto, tracking down hidden Angkor temples and getting lost in the Argentinian outback. Her writing has been featured in CondeNast Traveler.com, The Huffington Post, Business Insider and Frommer’s Guides, and she also share tips on France, other travel destinations and romance on her blog Je T’Aime, Me Neither. You can catch up with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C.

Spring Vacation Idea: Flower Festivals Worth Traveling For

Massive displays of spring blooms have an irresistible appeal, drawing millions of people to parks and gardens around the world. In Tokyo, several hundred thousand people pass through Ueno Park every day during cherry blossom time, which lasts barely two weeks. And in Holland, Keukenhof Park attracts more than a million visitors during its two-month tulip season.

If you’re also finding yourself drawn to colorful bouquets and floral aromas now that spring is approaching, check out this short list of top flower festivals around the world. The cherry blossoms, tulips, and other spring blooms are all worth traveling for.


Keukenhof Tulip Festival, Holland (March 23–May 21)

Claim to fame: Billed as “the most famous and largest flower park in the world” Keukenhof, near Amsterdam, plants seven million tulip bulbs each year, as well as hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and other flowers.

Good to know: The park is accessible by public transportation from Amsterdam. You can order your tickets online and receive them by email. On Saturday, April 22, Holland’s annual parade of flower-bedecked floats and automobiles travels a 42-kilometer route from Noordwijk to Haarlem, passing Keukenhof at around 3:30 p.m. The floats remain on view in Haarlem through Sunday.

More info: Holland.com


Flevoland Tulip Route, Holland (April 14–May 8)

Claim to fame: Central Holland’s 100-kilometer-long “Tulip Route” passes through nearly 2,500 acres of flowering fields in East and South Flevoland, the country’s biggest flower-growing region.

Good to know: You can explore a 19-kilometer portion known as the “Garden Route” by bicycle, stopping at gardens along the way.

More info: Holland.com


Istanbul Tulip Festival (mid-April to late May)

Claim to fame: Begun in 2006, Istanbul’s annual festival boasts more than 14.4 million tulips of 270 different varieties planted along the city’s avenues and throughout parks, squares, and roundabouts.

Good to know: Emirgan Groves, Göztepe Park, and Sultanahmet Square host activities such as live music, glass-blowing demonstrations, and art exhibitions. From the top of Büyük Çamlıca Korusu, you have a great view of the city, surrounded by 500,000 tulips.

More info: HowToInstanbul.com

cherry blossoms in Ueno Park Tokyo Japan

Ueno Park, in Tokyo, is Japan’s most popular cherry-blossom-viewing spot.

Ueno Sakura Matsuri, Tokyo (late March to late April)

Claim to fame: Japan’s most popular cherry-blossom-viewing spot has more than 1,000 cherry trees lining the street that leads toward the National Museum and around Shinobazu Pond, as well as 1,000 lanterns that light up the park at night during cherry-blossom time.

Good to know: Ueno Park is a five-minute walk from JR Ueno Station (Yamanote Line). The Japanese Tourism Office’s countrywide bloom-forecast chart predicts the first blossoms will appear in Tokyo on March 22.

More info: Japan National Tourism Office


Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, Tokyo (late March to late April)

Claim to fame: Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, once the samurai residence of the Naito family, has been famous for its cherry trees since the Meiji Era (1868–1912).

Good to know: The garden is a ten-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station (Yamanote Line), or exit at Shinjuku-gyoen-mae Station (Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line).

More info: Japan National Tourism Office


National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C. (March 15–April 16)

Claim to fame: The annual festival, which commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo, welcomes more than 1.5 million people per year. First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.

Good to know: Photographer David Coleman, a D.C. resident, keeps a Facebook page called Cherry Blossom Watch, where you can follow the progress of this season’s buds. The National Park Services defines the “Peak Bloom Date” as the day on which 70 percent of the blossoms of the Yoshino cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin are open. And a tip from the official festival website: “Hop aboard a water taxi to the Tidal Basin from Georgetown (or from the Tidal basin to Georgetown–DC’s shopping and dining hot-spot), and enjoy viewing the blossoms from the water along the way. Tickets are $15 round trip or $10 one way, and must be purchased online in advance from www.DC-Watertaxi.com.”

More info: NationalCherryBlossomFestival.org

RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London

Chelsea pensioners look at ‘Peter Beales Roses’ in the Great Pavilion at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. Photo: RHS/Hannah McKay

RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London (May 23–27)

Claim to fame: Organized by the Royal Horticultural Society, Britain’s most prestigious flower show has been held on the grounds of London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea since 1913. The RHS website advertises the show as “the place to see cutting-edge garden design, new plants and find ideas to take home.” The number of visitors has been capped at 157,000 since 1988.

Good to know: The show sells out quickly and you must purchase tickets in advance; do so via the RHS website. This year’s highlights include the Greening Great Britain Garden, a garden exhibit designed to celebrate plants in urban areas, as well as exhibits from more than 100 of the world’s best florists and nurseries.

More info: rhs.org.uk


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Shakespeare400: One More Reason You Should Be in the U.K. This Spring

When William Shakespeare shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 52, his body was lowered into the grave without a lot of fanfare. By then he had retired to his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, and his London public, wowed by Richard Burbage’s portrayal of Hamlet, paid little attention to the playwright’s passing—an oversight that puzzles Shakespeare scholars to this day. This year marks the quatercentenary of the great man’s death, and his countrymen are honoring him with a fitting yearlong celebration. The Shakespeare400 festival involves a consortium of leading arts and cultural organizations coordinated by King’s College London, and it will take place all over England, with events concentrated in London and Stratford-upon-Avon. To suss out what’s happening, you need to do some research (always the case with Shakespeare).

Our handy Shakespeare 2016 toolkit, below, will guide you to the treasure (be prepared to make some hard choices!) and help you plan your trip.

What to Do and Where to Find It


This events calendar lists dozens upon dozens of Shakespeare-related performances in London and other parts of England. They range from Forced Entertainment’s “Table Top Shakespeare” (the complete works performed by six actors and a cast of household objects—Pericles is a light bulb, Hamlet a bottle of ink; March 1–6) to the London Philharmonic’s “Shakespeare400 Anniversary Gala Concert” with readings by Simon Callow (April 15).


Shakespeare’s Globe, a major participant in Shakespeare400, has mounted an ambitious yearlong program of special events called 1616: A Momentous Year. The theater is marking the playwright’s birthday weekend with the return of its around-the-world Hamlet, now entering the final weeks of a two-year, 180,000-mile, 196-country tour, and The Complete Walk, a 2.5-mile outdoor pop-up cinema along the Thames. The 37 screens, one for each play, will show scenes from Hamlet filmed in Denmark, Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt, Romeo and Juliet in Verona, and so on (April 23–24).

Royal Shakespeare Company

The website of the Royal Shakespeare Company describes a dazzling yearlong program of performances, lectures, and behind-the-scenes tours of its Stratford-upon-Avon complex. Start by viewing the season trailer.

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

This nonprofit org cares for the five homes and gardens directly linked to Shakespeare and his family. Its website lists upcoming events, gives online access to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare-related material accessible to the public, and hosts a video tour of the five homes. Birthday events in Stratford-upon-Avon include a jazz procession staged by the New Orleans Shakespeare festival and a hip-hop performance of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets by New York rap artist Devon Glover (April 24).

Shakespeare’s England

What to see and do in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Kenilworth, Royal Leamington Spa, and the surrounding areas.


Where to Stay

For hotels in Stratford-upon-Avon, Jonathan Epstein, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for England, recommends The Arden, which is right across the street from the RSC; for a more countryside experience, he recommends staying in the Northern Cotswolds at a property such as Buckland Manor, Dormy House, or Cotswold House. In London, where Jonathan has special relationships with an array of four- and five-star hotels, he particularly recommends the historic Carriage Rooms at The Stafford for Shakespeare fans. Breakfast at many hotels is included when you book through Jonathan, as well as complimentary cream tea at The Arden, a guaranteed upgrade at Dormy House, and other perks.

If you’d prefer to spread out in an apartment, consider family-friendly South Kensington, especially if you’re traveling with children. The neighborhood is close to Kensington Gardens, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum. Kensington is also well connected on the Tube and buses so that you can easily reach all the Shakespeare400 spots quickly and easily. (Go to Ask Wendy for a recommendation for a London apartment specialist.)


For Special Access

Jane McCrum, another of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for England, can arrange a complete itinerary that includes unadvertised V.I.P. activities such as visits to private libraries to view original folios of Shakespeare’s works.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.