This year’s other European capital of culture is this little-known city in eastern Slovakia. There are events to celebrate its new status throughout the year, with the opening ceremony on 19-20 January. Meanwhile, wider Slovakia is celebrating 20 years as an independent nation. Several budget airlines (including Ryanair) fly to the capital, Bratislava, however Budapest in Hungary is closer to Košice.
EasyJet’s Gatwick-Kalamata route launches in July and offers good access to Sparta, just an hour’s drive away. There may not be much that resembles Zack Snyder’s wild visions in the movie “300″, but a series of excellent museums detail Sparta’s fascinating history.
With the opening of a new stretch of high-speed line next week, between Figueres and Barcelona, it will soon be possible to take the train from London in the morning, connect in Paris then get to the Catalan capital in plenty of time for dinner. That should make it possible to get to Madrid in a single day.
A new route from Turkish airline Pegasus now offers return flights to Dubai, via Istanbul. Meanwhile, in the Emirate itself, the metro system, which is slowly approaching completion, has made getting around cheaper than ever before, while hotels continue to offer discounts in the hopes of tourist numbers rebounding. The newly opened five-star Meliã hotel has rooms from less than $1500 a night.
This is living in a box, but not a cardboard box: the Sleeping Around pop-up concept hotel is currently causing a stir in Antwerp. A night in one of the luxurious bedrooms created in each of its four 20ft sea containers starts from $160. The locations change throughout the year, so keep an eye on the website.
EasyJet launches the first low-cost flights to Moscow from Manchester this spring. With fares from £125 return, this will bring the notoriously expensive city within reach of budget travellers. If you can put your visit off until September you will be able to watch an enormous re-enactment of the Battle of Borodino (which ultimately led to the end of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia) held just outside the city. As many as 100,000 people watched last year’s free show.
With several budget carriers now offering services to the Icelandic capital, visiting the Reykjavik Arts Festival (listahatid.is) has rarely been more affordable. Held from 17 May-2 June , the event takes over virtually all the city’s museums, galleries and performances spaces to present an eclectic mix of art forms. Iceland Express (icelandexpress.com) has return flights from £176.
The Istanbul Biennial (bienal.iksv.org/en), the region’s largest contemporary art event, returns for its 13th instalment from 14 September until 10 November. Having previously looked after the Turkish pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Fulya Erdemci has been charged with curating this entire event – full programme details will be announced next week. Pegasus Airlines flies from Stansted to Istanbul from £101 return.