Europe is dotted with some of the world’s most creative cities and towns. What may surprise you is that sometimes, the most exciting places aren’t the ones you might expect. European hubs are without a doubt enchanting, but it’s the less frequented locales that truly pack a punch and deliver experiences that will stay with you for years to come. In this article, we’re happy to present you with 5 such places. But make no mistake, these aren’t just destinations. Far from it. They are living canvases where you as a visitor transform him or herself into a creator. Keep reading to discover these vibrant landscapes, where events and workshops serve as portals to imagination and ingenuity.
Watchmaking in the kingdom of horology
Mechanical watches are engineering marvels. Did you know that they run without electricity? The movement of their winding rotors provides the power to swing the second hand forward. Initium offers you the chance to craft your own Swiss watch, to truly participate in the marvel that is Swiss watchmaking. Here’s how the day will look: you begin with coffee and croissants while the Master Watchmaker helps you to define the aesthetics you desire in your timepiece. After a succulent lunch at Geneva’s famous Brasserie LIPP, you’ll spend the rest of the day assembling the watch, under the constant guidance of the Master Watchmaker. By the end of the afternoon, your unique creation will be complete. How will you celebrate? A class of cold white wine. You’ll leave with a gorgeous souvenir, made completely with your own two hands and to your particular specifications.
Distilling craft gin in Basel
Just a short train distance from Geneva is the Gin Lab experience in Basel. It goes without saying that demand for well-made gin has surged in recent years, driven by newfound appreciation for artisanal distillation and unique botanical blends that give this spirit true depth. If you are on the gin boat, as it were, Gin Lab is for you. They are deeply passionate about this clear tonic and are keen to share their expertise with you. Here’s how it works: after a short explanation of the distilling process, your guide will help you choose the botanical ingredients for your unique blend. Those might include juniper berries, coriander, angelica root, citrus peel, orris root, cardamom, or cassia bark, among others. At that point you’ll go through the step-by-step process of turning these fragrant ingredients and a base spirit into a delicious batch of gin. Imagine the cocktails you’ll make back home, and the wonderful stories you’ll be able to share.
Learning from Turin’s best sommeliers
Piedmont is known the world over for its world-class wines, especially the dark, rich Barolo and the elegant, floral Barbaresco. But how do you interact with these great wines in a hands-on way? Cultura Liquida Wine School has the answer. In the heart of Turin, this school pairs you up with master sommeliers and winemakers who take you on a journey through the region’s vineyards. You’ll learn about the terroir and long history of winemaking. You’ll walk along the grapevines, smell the earth in which they grow, and if you’re there in the right season, see the plump fruit that becomes this liquid of the gods. During the day-long experience, you’ll taste four delicious local wines, eat snacks that are typical for the area, and learn all the ins and outs from those who know the subject best. The sommeliers will also give you practical skills like how to buy wine, how to decode labels, whether sniffing the cork is really necessary, and how pairings with food have evolved in recent years. Hint: yes, sometimes red wine does go with fish!
Discover the glory of the white truffle in Alba
If wine from Piedmont is the drink of the gods, then Alba’s white truffle is their food. The best place to taste and learn about this glorious ingredient? The Alba White Truffle Fair, a renowned annual event held in Alba, just a short distance from Turin. This year, the fair will take place between October 7th and December 3rd during which chefs, foragers, and enthusiasts celebrate the highly sought-after Alba white truffle, one of the world’s most prized culinary treasures. Over the nearly four weeks of celebrations, visitors can browse the marketplace to sample these aromatic delicacies. There are also concerts and art exhibitions. Perhaps more interesting are the interactive experiences that are on offer. Participate in a guided truffle hunt with an expert forager who, alongside the keen nose of his trained dogs, will lead you through the forests in search of the ultimate prize. Attend seminars and workshops in which famous chefs teach you how to make fresh pasta. Do the “Taste of the Hills” wine tasting, which unravels the secrets of local bottles and how to pair them with truffles. No matter what, you’ll go away with a full belly, new skills, and a true appreciation for the grandeur that is Italian cuisine.
Create your perfect Eau de Cologne in Èze
We all know how a gorgeous scent lingers, even after the person wearing it has departed. Perfume has the power to bring forth great memories, to put one back in a moment of childhood, or remind one of the early days of a great love. In Eze, you have the opportunity to create your own signature Eau de Cologne with a selection of 9 different essences. Èze is a stunning medieval town, perched high on a hilltop overlooking the French Riviera. For centuries, it has been known for its botanical gardens and the ancient ruins of the Èze Castle. It is in this charming environment that you’ll make your own cologne. The legendary Fragonard Parfumeur offers this unique olfactive experience, which includes a workshop with a master perfume maker. Over the course of a day, you will learn of the history of perfumery, the origins of the raw materials, and the essential role of the “nose,” the highly skilled individual who possesses the ability to discern and blend various fragrances into perfect harmony. The highlight of the day is the creation of your own custom scent, using any combination of 9 essences. These essences change depending on what is available, but they may include essential oils, absolutes like jasmine, tuberose or narcissus, or natural extracts like cedarwood or sandalwood. By the end, you’ll go home with a 100ml bottle and a diploma signed by the instructor. Each time you inhale the scent in the years to come, you’ll be thrust back to the sunny fall days in a medieval town on the French Riviera.