Travel: Hidden gems on the beaten track

Amid some of the most world’s popular holiday destinations can be found hidden cultural gems of art, museums, gardens and festival

It is always nice to come back from holidays having discovered something new or done something different. Often we return to the same place for years and fail to realise that just down the road or round the corner lies something unique or unusual. Take a tour of our favourite destinations and discover something new.

Costa del Sol Malaga, the gateway to the sunny Costa del Sol, is a city filled with culture and fun. The hometown of Picasso recognises his significance in a beautiful old building. In the Palacio Buenavista alone are nearly 300 pieces of art donated by the Picasso family (

The province of Malaga has been an important wine-growing region for millennia and there are more than 40 vineyards. The centre of the wine lands is Vélez-Malaga, 5km inland from Torre del Mar. You can also taste many Malaga wines at Antigua Casa de Guardia in Malaga city. (

Mallorca The principal island of the Balearics is popular with all age groups, from Leaving Cert classes to sailing aficionados. Palma City has a wealth of activities.


The contemporary art museum, Es Baluard, houses a permanent collection of 20th-century artworks by artists converged on the Balearics, many of them Catalan ( Contemporary exhibitions are often held in the Gothic style La Lonja building on the Plaza de la Lonja.

Take a walk in the grounds and gardens of the Sanctuary of Lluc, high in the Tramuntana Mountains, before listening to the young blauets from the choir school sing Salve, as they do each morning and evening (

Lanzarote The most favoured island of the Canaries owes its outlook and atmosphere to artist/ architect César Manrique.

He fought hard to keep his native island untainted by mass tourism and was instrumental in the regulations that maintain white houses and the skyline no higher than a palm tree.

Manrique’s own house, which is amazing, was formed by massive bubbles in a lava field and transformed into a 1960s futuristic home (

The wine lands of Lanzarote look alien. Deep black holes in the volcanic sands shelter individual vines, creating their own micro climates. Travel inland to the area of La Geria to find the traditional bodegas. Taste the wines made from the Malvasia grapes and volcanoes.

Côte d'Azur The finest destination for visitors for hundreds of years has more than enough to entertain everyone. Review the history of the "French Riviera" with a visit to the cemetery of Cimiez Franciscan Monastery. High on a hillside above the city, the crammed-in mishmash of ornate mausoleums and graves is a walk through time. Here you will also find Matisse and Raoul Dufy interred.

The park has the best view of the city and the Baie des Anges. The Musée Matisse and the Roman arena that hosts the jazz festival every year are also on Cimiez Hill.

The art of the Côte d'Azur is also explored in a new book by Patrick Murphy, The Art Lovers Guide to the French Riviera (

Italian lakes Lake Maggiore demonstrates how money and a love of art and botany have transformed the Borromean Islands into places of exquisite beauty. For hundreds of years the Borromeo family have lavished great attention on the little islands, and they are a perfect day out on the lake. Isola Bella has terraced gardens and a pleasure palace. Isola Madre's gardens are the pleasure grounds for exotic birds and garden lovers.

Amalfi Coast Make a date for Thursday nights on Ischia, when La Mortella ("The Myrtle") hosts symphonic concerts in the Greek Theatre with the Festival of Youth Orchestra. La Mortella is a garden on the island of Ischia created by Susana Walton, wife of the composer Sir William Walton. The house and gardens were entrusted to the Fondazione William Walton La Mortella to continue Lady Walton's work and promote Sir William's music (

Algarve Discover the best-preserved castle on the Algarve in the ancient inland Moorish capital of Silves (Xelb). The Moorish town is a maze of ancient streets where you can hear traditional Fado music. The Silves Medieval Fair takes place August 12th-21st.

Portuguese pottery is quite distinctive, but there is an Irish angle to one of the Algarve's most famous potteries. Porches Pottery was founded by artists Patrick Swift and Lima de Freitas in the 1960s, and the tradition carries on with Swift's daughters. Pick up a piece of pottery painted in freehand or some traditional decorative tiles (

Florida Florida may be theme-park heaven, but it also has a cultural side, with strong representation in the arts, particularly on the Gulf Coast and in Miami.

The largest collection of artworks outside Europe by surrealist Salvador Dalí is in St Petersburg. The purpose-built museum opened in 2011 and houses seven of Dalí's masterworks, watercolours, graphics, photographs, drawings and an extensive archive (

In Sarasota, what began as the personal collection of circus impresario John Ringling is now the State Museum of Art. The Ringling, formerly the home of John and Mable, who in the 1920s were among the richest people in the US, also houses the Circus Museum, the 18th-century Asolo Theater and 66 acres of bay front gardens. The Museum of Art is free on Mondays (

Also in Florida is the Harry Clarke Geneva Window, commissioned by the Irish government in 1925 for the International Labor Building in Geneva. It was later rejected, but found a welcome home in the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami after some years in the Hugh Lane Gallery (