November getaways: Winter wonders on the way
November might mean darker days and colder nights, but it's a perfect time to grab some great art, late sun and early snow. You don't have to be a culture buff to appreciate the cast of exhibitions coming to Europe's top galleries this season.
The first snows are falling in the Alps, but, if heat is more your thing, the Canary Islands are still basking away in the balmy mid-20s and they're just a short hop away.
Here's our pick of must-dos for early winter:
Paris for Monet: The Grand Palais show, which opened in September, is one of the biggest art blockbusters for a long time, with nearly 200 of Monet's paintings on display. Almost 6,000 visitors a day are expected, so be sure to book your tickets (at monet2010.com) before you travel. It's open daily, 10am-10pm (until 2pm Tuesdays; 8pm Thursdays); admission €12.
Across the city, the Musée Marmottan Monet (marmottan.com) has just opened a special exhibition of all 136 of its paintings by Monet. It runs until February 20. Open daily 11am-6pm (until 9pm Tuesdays), closed Mondays; €9.
Milan for the new museum: Italy's style capital is home to an enormous gothic cathedral, Leonardo's 'The Last Supper' in Santa Maria delle Grazie, and the best risotto in the world. This month sees the opening of a new attraction: the Museum of the 20th Century in the Palazzo dell'Arengario. It will contain key works by Picasso, Braque, Klee, Kandinsky, Modigliani and De Chirico among others. See museodelnovecento.org.
Zermatt for early snow: In Switzerland, the Matterhorn glacier lifts are already open, and because all three of the main skiing areas have lifts above 3,000m, it is nearly always one of the first major resorts to open for the season.
Start to monitor the situation now, and by late November you should find good conditions and plenty of open lifts. Book last-minute to be sure of decent snow. Fly to Geneva or Zurich and take a rail connection (about three hours) from there. See zermatt.ch.
Madrid for Renoir: Paris has bagged Monet, but the Prado (museodelprado.es) is banking on Renoir this autumn. 'Passion for Renoir' has just opened and continues until February 6. It includes 35 key works from the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts.
Across the road at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, you'll also want to catch the 'Impressionist Gardens' exhibition, from November 16. See museothyssen.org.
The Canaries for sun: There are few places within easy reach of Ireland that can offer guaranteed warm weather at this time of year. The Canary Islands are your best bet. Tenerife has the big resorts and, increasingly, a good choice of smart hotels; Lanzarote has excellent beaches and some of the more attractive developments; Fuerteventura has wilder beaches and huge sand dunes, and La Gomera works for escapists and walkers.
London for everything: Out of all the European capitals, London has the most exciting cultural line-up this month with Gauguin at the Tate Modern, Canaletto at the National Gallery and a newly opened exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Some of the greatest paintings by Leonardo, Raphael, Goya, Manet and Picasso from museums in Budapest will be on show at the Academy until December 12.