Paris and Venice This Autumn: What’s on, Where to Stay and How to Travel and Dine in Style

[This article was originally published in Zarwil Magazine (now defunct) in 2014. Although the specific exhibitions are no longer running,  other information remains relevant.]

It would seem that the UK has now been irrevocably plunged into instant autumn.  Whilst the change in season can be beautiful to behold, the period bridging the gap between now and the festive season often seems like one long, bleak three month slog stretching out before us, with the weather getting steadily colder and the days getting shorter.

It therefore goes without saying that autumn is the perfect time for a city break.  What better way to escape the daily grind than to get a bit of culture, see some beautiful architecture and eat (and drink) like a king. Here are a few suggestions for things to see and do in two European cities this autumn, handily collated for your reading pleasure.

Paris

Paris hosts some of the largest museums in Europe, housing major exhibitions which people travel the globe to see. It is also incredibly easy to get to from the UK and offers the bon viveurs among us the chance to indulge in fine wines, luxury hotels and divine patisserie.

Getting there:

With a super fast journey from London, a fantastic premier lounge and none of the luggage hassle involved in flying, Eurostar really is the way to travel.  If you book far enough in advance you might be able to nab one of their £69 returns.  To start as you mean to go on, kick off your trip at Searcys Champagne bar in St. Pancras.  Keep pushing the ‘press for champagne’ button until it’s time to check in.

What to see:

The must see exhibition is ‘L’Art en Fusion’, showing works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.  These tempestuous lovers were arguably responsible for inventing an entirely new genre of Mexican art.  To see their works side by side, many of them on loan from the Dolores Olmedo museum in Mexico, is a rare and unique opportunity.  Catch it at the Musée de l’Orangerie from October 9th-January 13th 2014.

Where to stay:

The list of off the charts luxurious hotels in Paris is very, very long but for somewhere truly special, opt for the Crillon.  Situated in prime position on Place de la Concorde, the interiors here are sumptuous and there’s a rather lovely little bar for an aperitif before dinner.

Hotel Crillon on Place de la Concorde [image credit: Moonik]

Where to eat:

For an uber trendy dinner spot which is packed every night with locals, give French style tapas a go at Dans Les Landes, found at 119 bis rue Monge in the 5th.  Bear in mind that the menu is fairly carnivorous.

Venice

October is the perfect time to visit Venice. The hordes of tourists have left, the unpleasant swamp smell that pervades the air in high summer has disappeared and the weather is usually crisp but still bright and sunny.

Getting there:

If you’re going all out on a romantic trip, why not look into taking the Venice Simplon Orient Express for the most opulent train journey of your life?  You’ll be on board taking in the scenery for two days and one unforgettable night spent enjoying a four course dinner in black tie.  But of course.

What to see:

Once every two years Venice becomes host to the Biennale, an extravaganza of exhibitions of contemporary art in all its forms and the most prestigious event on the cultural calendar.  If you go this autumn you’ll be able to catch the second half, as it’s on until 24th November.  For more information about specific exhibitions, check out the Biennale website.

Where to stay:

The Hotel Flora is a little known but beautiful hotel tucked away behind the Piazza San Marco.  This beautiful 17th century building, which boasts a charming garden, is a word of mouth kind of thing.  A-listers hoping to go incognito, including the likes of Natalie Portman, are often booked in here but guests are far too chilled out to notice.  Check it out here http://www.hotelflora.it/en/

Gran Caffe Quadri at night. St Mark’s Square, Venice [Image credit: Klaus Gilg]

Where to eat:

It may be somewhat of a cliché but there’s no better place to go for a Bellini than Harry’s Bar, the birthplace of this classic 1930’s cocktail.  After drinks, head to the Piazza San Marco for a truly gourmet experience at the renowned Gran Caffè Quadri.  For an unforgettable meal try one of the two tasting menus on offer by Max Alajmo, a Michelin starred chef.

[Feature Image credit: gnuckx]

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