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October 23, 2017

© Shigeru Ban Architects Europe et Jean de Gastines Architectes / Metz Métropole / Centre Pompidou-Metz. Photo Olivier H. Dancy

The Centre Pompidou opens its much-anticipated first satellite museum in the town of Metz, France.

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What's new in Europe

10 reasons to take a twirl across the pond in 2010

Choosing where — and when — to go on a European vacation can present an embarrassment of riches. Spectacular events fill the calendar, from time-honoured traditions to cutting-edge contemporary art. So to help you make the most of Europe, we present this year's line-up of not-to-be-missed attractions and destinations.

Germany: art and passion

The rust belt cities of the Ruhr Valley (www.ruhr2010.de) have transformed themselves into a heady scene of art and culture for this year's designated European Capital of Culture. Coal shafts, gasworks and decommissioned steel plants form the backdrop for galleries, installations and concerts all year long. The cities of Essen and Duisburg plan to keep the vibe alive beyond 2010 in a bid to rival Berlin as a new hub for contemporary art.

The longest-running theatrical show in history has nothing to do with Andrew Lloyd Weber. It began in 1634 as a vow to stage the story of Christ in gratitude for being spared from war and plague. The villagers of Oberammergau in Bavaria honour the tradition to this day and take to the stage every 10 years for an extravagant outdoor performance of the Passion Play (passionplay-oberammergau.com). For the first time ever, the eight-hour-long show (with a meal break) starts in the afternoon instead of morning, and will end at 10:30PM. The season runs from May 15 to October 3.

And the world's biggest beer bash raises a stein for the 200th anniversary of the Munich Oktoberfest (September 18 to October 3). What began as a wedding party for Prince Ludwig of Bavaria is now an autumn ritual that attracts six million people.

Denmark: going green

The summit on the environment held in Copenhagen last December may not have solved climate change, but it was a showcase for one of Europe's 'greenest' nations. Eco-friendly tourism is as much a part of the Danish lifestyle as its savvy design sense. For a CO2-neutral City Break, check into the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers (cpcopenhagen.dk), which opened in November and joins Brøchner Hotels (brochner-hotels.dk) and Hotel Alexandra (hotelalexandra.dk) in meeting EU green building standards certified under the international “Green Key” rating system.

The Copenhagen City Museum (copenhagen.dk/en) celebrates the bicycle, from the world's first to today's designer models (on through June 27). Joggers mark 10 years of the Øresund Bridge between Denmark and Malmø, Sweden in a run across the 21-kilometre-long span on June 12. And don't forget the country's green colony: the ice-capped enticement of Greenland is proving to be a new frontier for eco tourism in the mid-Atlantic.

Turkey: bridging continents

Istanbul is one of three European Cultural Capitals (the third is Pécs, Hungary). A yearlong celebration (en.istanbul2010.org) includes newly commissioned performances and a blend of the traditional (whirling dervishes) with contemporary exhibits that aim to dispel Western misconceptions about Turkish culture.

Inspired by the eponymous novel by Nobel prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, the Museum of Innocence opens this summer and presents a vivid narrative of Istanbul from the 1950s to present day.

Turkey boasts more Greek ruins than Greece and more Roman archaeological sites than Italy, with splendid testaments to Byzantine majesty, Ottoman culture and artistry and a vibrant mix of the religious and the secular, ancient and contemporary. New direct service with Turkish Airlines (turkishairlines.com) from Toronto makes this beguiling country more accessible than ever.

France: artful excursions

The Pompidou Metz Centre (centrepompidou-metz.fr) opens in May, the first satellite museum of a national gallery in France. This showcase for contemporary art housed in a stunning postmodern building is only 90 minutes northeast of Paris on the TGV.

The landscape of Normandy may seem more like a painting than usual this year when the region hosts a new and ambitious festival that celebrates Impressionism (www.normandieimpressionniste.fr) and its roots in the Norman countryside. From June to September, exhibits, concerts, photo displays, readings, picnics and cruises explore the movement made famous by Monet, Pissaro and Gauguin and its interpretation in other media.

Poland: musical muse

Make a list for all the events surrounding Chopin's bicentenary (chopin2010.pl/en/calendar/events) of the beloved Polish composer's birth. Walking tours, audio guides, concerts and seminars on the Romantic-era musician explore his life and lasting influence. Highlights include the 62nd International Chopin Festival in Duszniki Zdrój (August 6 to 14) and the International Chopin Piano Competition (konkurs.chopin.pl) held every five years.

Warsaw flaunts its pride after years of government suppression of the LGBT community by hosting EuroPride 2010 (europride.com), from July 9 to 18. It's the first time this major festival will be hosted by an Eastern European country.

Great Britain: a bargain

Lonely Planet lists London as third best-value destination this year while The Daily Telegraph now rates the capital as the least expensive of 20 top city destinations in the world. Pound for pound, a low currency means traditionally pricey UK is a bargain. Getting around London will be cheaper this summer when 6000 bicycles become available for rent in key tourist areas.

Stratford-upon-Avon unveils a $150-million renovation to its main Shakespeare venue (www.rsc.org.uk) that makes the 1000-seat thrust stage theatre the world's largest.

Wales gets the spotlight when it hosts the Ryder Cup (rydercup.com), September 28 to October 3 at the Celtic Manor Resort (see Killer Wales for more). The Twenty Ten Course has been specially designed for the event and can be played until August, before the pros arrive. The British Open Championship (opengolf.com) takes place at St. Andrews Old Course in Scotland July 15 to 18 and marks the 150th anniversary of this tournament.

Holland: tall ships

The 65th anniversary of the liberation of Holland brings a special Thank You Canada and Allied Forces (tycaf.com) celebration where just being Canadian will likely win you instant Dutch friends (April 29 to May 10).

Rotterdam hosts the Grand Départ of the Tour de France (letour.fr) July 3rd with a celebration of everything on two wheels. It marks the fifth time Holland has launched the famed bike race that ends in Paris on July 25.

Every five years, Amsterdam hosts one of the world's largest maritime festivals. Sail Amsterdam (sail2010.nl) welcomes the Tall Ships with a festive program of nautical attractions from August 19 to 23.

Norway: get outside

Oil-rich and suddenly über-trendy, Norway is getting noticed as an outdoor adventure destination. Named “Europe's next adrenaline capital for all things action” by Adventure magazine, Norway hosts the daredevil Extreme Sport Competition (ekstremsportveko.com), June 27 to July 4. The Holmenkollen Ski Jump (skiforeningen.no) and museum re-open this spring with the heart-stopping thrill of a ski jump simulator.

But you don't have to bungee-jump from a fjord to enjoy the Nordic scenery. Cruise the 2000-kilometre coastline to well above the Arctic Circle to the land of enchanting Northern Lights, reindeer races and Sami culture. The capital entertains with culture and cuisine where adventure can be had walking the steep incline of the new Oslo opera house (oslooperahouse.com) roof that descends into the water.

Belgium: Brussels sprouts

Every two years, the Grand Place in Brussels is transformed into a giant flower carpet (flowercarpet.be) made from 700,000 begonias. The elaborate flower display is best admired from the balcony of the City Hall, which is open to the public for the occasion (August 13 to 15). On June 29 and July 1 in the same central square, Ommegang (ommegang.be) re-enacts the 1549 procession of Charles V with 1400 costumed performers, catapults and combating knights.

Military buffs gather in Waterloo June 18 to 20 for the 195th anniversary of the battle where Bonaparte fell apart. Demonstrations and drills take place in the same orchard where the battle was waged.

Major art exhibits in Brussels this year include Frida Kalho, works by El Greco and the Symbolist movement of the late 19th century, for which Brussels was an important centre.

Portugal: on the edge

Portugal has been riding high for a few years as a trend-setting European destination a little off the beaten path. A cultural rebirth and a spate of new hotels and restaurants add to its appeal, as well as having the reputation as an affordable alternative to other western European nations.

Lisbon's new Design and Fashion Museum (mude.pt), the MUDE opens this year in the Baixa district with permanent and rotating exhibits from a vast collection of 20th-century design.

Nearly every Portuguese town has a festival during June's Feast Days. Porto's Festa de São João is one of Europe's biggest popular festivals, and the festival for Santo António is Lisbon's most animated. On June 13, the Portuguese capital goes sardine crazy and the winding streets of Alfama, the city's oldest quarter, fill with the smell of sardines being grilled outside and the party continues long into the night.

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