Europe: Looking Ahead

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The Wonderful Room at the W Amsterdam.

Europe is never one to rest on its laurels, with new vacation experiences awaiting first-timers as well as those North Americans who just can’t get enough of this continent. Let’s take a look at what’s new for next year.

In Germany, 2016 will be a full year of celebrating. In fact, the 500 Years of the German Beer Purity Law (dating from 1516) will be honored next June in the center of Munich, where at some 100 breweries, visitors will learn about this special brewery process, and taste different kinds of beer. Coming this October to Hamburg is a new 244-room Westin, perched above the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in the HafenCity quarter, and summer sees the opening of the luxury hotel The Fontenay at Alster Lake. Keep your ears to the ground, because Melia has six hotels in the pipeline in Germany, including the 291-room Melia Frankfurt (opening early 2019). This May, Delta Air Lines launches new flight service six times a week from Detroit to Munich, and Lufthansa begins Denver to Munich service five times a week.

In Great Britain, Brit Movie Tours offers Bond aficionados a variety of ways to visit Bond film locations. The James Bond VIP Tour, for instance, covers locations from “Dr. No” to “Spectre.” At London’s Hotel 41, guests can also live the Bond life with the hotel’s Secrets and Spies package, available until April. On the hotel scene, this month sees the opening of the 453-guestroom InterContinental London – The O2 with views of the River Thames and Canary Wharf, while in terms of air service, British Airways will inaugurate daily service from Gatwick to New York next May. And if your clients are looking to combine England with another destination, for 2016, Adventures by Disney is debuting an 8-day England and France itinerary (rates from $5,309) that includes engaging activities such as scone-making, a dragon hunt, and a speed boat journey down the River Thames.

Meanwhile, the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland, was recently named “Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction” at the World Travel Awards, and in 2016, visitors will have more access to this attraction as Aer Lingus will be adding nonstop services from Dublin to Los Angeles, Hartford (Connecticut) and Newark. Additionally, the award-winning, 400-chandeliered Ashford Castle, the newest member of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, has re-opened. A total of $75 million was invested in a 2-year restoration project of the 800-year-old castle, adding brand-new amenities including a luxury spa.

Let’s take a detour to Italy, which won Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award for “Best Selling Destination in Europe,” and for “Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination.” The country has good news for its selling Italy fans: ENIT (Italian Government Tourist Bureau) is partnering with the association of “The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy” (Borghi Piu Belli D’Italia) to market the charms of hidden Italy. The possibilities for enriched travel itineraries—by car, train, bike and on foot—with detours to and stays in and around the 250 member villages are endless.

Over in the Netherlands, October saw the opening of the 238-room W Amsterdam on Dam Square, located behind the Royal Palace and near the canal district. Spanning two iconic buildings, the property features the city’s first rooftop pool, WET DECK.

Hopping over to Stockholm, the Scandic Haymarket hotel is set to debut this spring. They are refashioning the iconic building that once housed the fashionable PUB department store, preserving Art Deco details to combine with custom-designed Scandinavian furnishing. On offer are 405 hotel rooms and 16 suites—all with a 1920s ambiance.

Come June, visitors to Switzerland can see the newly opened Gotthard Base Tunnel, cutting a 35.4-mile-path through the Alps, making it the longest train tunnel in the world. At a depth inside the Gotthard massif of more than 6,560 ft., trains will travel at up to 155 mph. On transport in general, visitors have available the Swiss Travel Pass—via Rail Europe—offering one ticket for access to all of the country’s transportation, as well as more than 470 museums, and a 50 percent discount on most mountaintop excursions. Kids under 16 travel free with pass-holding parents.

Posed for stardom as Europe’s Cultural Capitals for 2016 are San Sabastian (Basque: Donostia), a stunning city in northern Spain; and Wrocław, a Polish city with a unique architectural and cultural makeup. A pair of new tours will give travelers a chance to be on location during the year these Cultural Capitals will be extra fascinating. Collette has introduced the 13-day Northern Spain: Landmarks, Culture & Cuisine, with stops in Madrid, La Rioja, Pamplona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santillana del Mar, Oviedo, Santiago de Compostela and Avila (from $2,849). Insight Vacations, on the other hand, has debuted the 9-night Highlights of Poland 2016, visiting Krakow, Zakopane, Auschwitz, Wrocław, Poznan, Torun, Gdansk and Warsaw (from $2,025).