The diversity of cultures across the cities of Europe is staggering, and with often just a few days in a city, it’s vital to know exactly where to go.
Four Seasons has tapped into their local connections offering behind the scenes, rare, insider opportunities to explore and engage with a local cultural scene.
Hungary has a rich wine making tradition, with the small country boasting 23 wine regions. At Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest, take an exclusive tour of the Etyek-Buda wine region, just west of the city. With a guided tour of the Haraszthy Vallejo Winery, guests get an overview of the complete wine making process, from labeling a bottle and tasting the winery’s best selections from the barrel, paired with antipasti, to educating the nose with a session of fragrance matching.
Literature lovers may already know that Dublin is home to Trinity College, whose alumni include Samuel Beckett, Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde. Four Seasons Hotel Dublin has access to a resident college professor, who delights in sharing unique insights during a private tour of the Old Library, home to 200,000 of the collection’s oldest books. The highlight is a personal introduction to the Book of Kells – an illuminated manuscript of the Bible’s four gospels created by Celtic monks in the 9th century. Guests learn about monastic life and how these skilled calligraphers and artists dedicated their lives to creating such a work of art, and then return to the Lobby Lounge for a premium Irish whiskey tasting.
Car aficionados can gain exclusive access to the Ferrari factory in Maranello with Four Seasons Hotel Firenze on a private tour of the usually off-limits manufacturing area. See how a Ferrari is constructed and fine-tuned, and learn from the experts about the latest trends in vehicle design and operation. Those looking to indulge in the higher culture of Opera can have a preview at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Guests are collected by an Opera Connoisseur for a detailed explanation of the upcoming performance before being escorted to the theatre to take prime seats. The experience is rounded off by a pre- or post-performance dinner.
Switzerland is famed for chocolates, and the signature chocolate of Geneva is Favarger. Guests of Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva can take a workshop at the factory and learn the artistry of making one’s own chocolate, creating whatever flavour combinations are desired. Upon return to Four Seasons, the chef will prepare a Favarger-inspired meal – complete with a chocolate fondue dessert. Children will also love the rare opportunity to turn on the iconic Jet d’Eau. One of the world’s largest fountains, this majestic column of water in the centre of Lake Geneva is visible from the Hotel. Kitted out in a waterproof jacket, children can push the button to start the fountain at 7:00 am, and perhaps round off the experience with a balloon ride over the lake.
The Portuguese bullfight is a defining part of the local culture, but few locals have the chance to spend the afternoon with one of Portugal’s most respected cavaleiros (horseback bullfighters), António Ribeiro Telles. As a private guest at his magnificent Torrinha Estate in southern Ribatejo, not far from Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, guests will meet the extraordinary Ribeiro Telles horses and go horseback riding. Following a traditional Portuguese lunch with the family, the climax of the day is a private bullfight performed by António and his team. From the elegant art of the cavaleiros to the courageous insanity of the forcados, the aim is to demonstrate classic traditions, not hurt the animals.
With the Olympics coming up, London’s resurgent End Side is the focus. Take a black cab from Four Seasons Hotel London at Canary Wharf to Fish Island, where Forman’s, a fourth-generation salmon-smoking business, is home to the Smokehouse Gallery, founded to provide artists with a high-profile platform to introduce their work to new audiences. Each month, invited curators choose artists from the local and international art community. Guests enjoy a private introduction by the gallery curator and meet with the artist on request, before lunch or dinner in Forman’s Restaurant.
Elsewhere in London, the flagship Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane takes guests behind the velvet ropes with exclusive access to the Tower of London when it is closed to the public. Guests can request a Rolls Royce for a royal arrival greeted by a Yeoman Warder. The Jewel House Exhibitor will then supervise the private tour of the Crown Jewels, getting guests up close to the royal scepters, orbs, rings, bracelets and the First Star of Africa, the largest flawless cut diamond in the world. After light refreshments in the New Armouries, guests can explore the Tower of London crowd-free. Those with an interest in arts and antiques can get exclusive, behind the scenes access at the legendary London auction house Sotheby’s. Here, guests can arrange to have a private tour of the galleries, offices and storage areas, having a sneak preview of future sale items and an inside track on the subtleties of the auction process from a former employee.
Since Milan is the undisputed capital of fashion and design, there’s no better place to gain insight on the latest trends from leaders in the design world. The experience begins at the Domus Academy to learn the fundamentals of the guest’s chosen subject from a professor, from architecture and interior design to furniture or fashion. Guests of Four Seasons Hotel Milano then explore Milan’s design showrooms, shops or buildings with noteworthy architecture with the professor offering both a professional and local viewpoint, before ending the day at the Triennale Design Museum, a dynamic showplace of avant garde design.
Prague’s exquisite theatres are world renowned for being dramatic and beautiful, just like the city itself. Take in The Estates Theatre, The National Theatre and The Municipal House, Prague’s most spectacular art nouveau building, in a four-hour walking tour. Designed by Four Seasons Hotel Prague for lovers of theatre, music and history, an expert guide will get behind the scenes at each theatre, offering an insight into the architecture, design and history of each superlative venue, before a limousine whisks guests to an evening performance of opera, ballet, drama or the symphony.