Where to go when: Spring 2016

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While many will flock to the island country this month to catch a glimpse of the cherry blossoms, there are plenty of other enticing events worth noting. The Lake Suwa area of Nagano, located 240 kilometres north-west of Tokyo, will play host to the 1,200-year-old Onbashira festival, from April 1 to June 15. The event, which is held every six years, is a test of bravery and strength as grown men ride logs down hills at breakneck speeds. The Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet train will be up and running, following its March launch. The train links Tokyo with Hakodate and has brought what used to be a nine-and-a-half-hour train journey down to four hours and 10 minutes. Prices are cheaper than flying, starting from ¥22,690 (Dh700) per person, as opposed to ¥67,875 (Dh2,100). The new luxe Amanemu hotel (aman.com) in Shima in Mie Prefecture is now open, with rooms starting from ¥109,836 (Dh3,400) per night, including taxes. Abercrombie & Kent offers a 12-night package that visits Tokyo, Hakone, Takayama, Hiroshima and Kyoto.

The Classic Japan package from Abercrombie & Kent starts from £3,945 (Dh21,112) per person, based on a two-person stay, excluding flights and including accommodation, some meals and taxes


Known best for its link with William Shakespeare (shakespeares-england.co.uk), Stratford-upon-Avon is the place to be this year as the town commemorates 400 years since the death of the Bard. To celebrate, Shakespeare's house, New Place, and the schoolroom he attended at King Edward VI School will be open to the public. If you're planning a visit to London – a two-and-a-half-hour train journey from Stratford-upon-Avon – or are starting your holiday in the capital – flights on Etihad, Emirates and British Airways fly direct to Heathrow – make sure to book tickets for Hamlet at The Globe Theatre (shakespearesglobe.com). Following its two-year world tour, the play will return to the playhouse for four final performances, on April 23 and April 24. The tour company Luxury Vacations UK offers a customisable and private day-long tour, which includes visits to Anne Hathaway's cottage and Holy Trinity Church (where Shakespeare is buried) in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Warwick Castle.

Prices for the Luxury Vacations UK package starts from £408 (Dh2,140) per person, including access to all sites and taxes. Direct return tickets on Emirates, from Dubai to London, are from Dh4,795 per person, including taxes


The Irish capital will pay homage to the Easter Rising – 2016 marks 100 years since the insurrection – with several events being held across the city. Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising exhibition will be on throughout April in Dublin’s National Museum of Ireland (museum.ie) at Collins Barracks. The exhibition will explore the ideas, movements and personalities of early 20th-century Ireland and the dramatic events of Easter week. The two-hour 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour (1916rising.com) will run until the end of October and takes visitors around relevant sites that are linked with the Easter Rising. If you happen to be visiting from March 17 to 20, St Patrick’s Day festivities will be ongoing throughout the city, including a parade, live music and a 5k run (stpatricksfestival.ie). The tour company Irish Luxury Tours offers a walking day tour that takes in the Georgian district, Trinity College and Dublin Castle.

Prices for the Walking Tour of Dublin City from Irish Luxury Tours start from €112.50 (Dh450) per person, based on a two-person tour, including taxes. Direct return tickets on Etihad and Emirates, from the UAE to Dublin, are from Dh5,155 per person, including taxes


It’s now even easier to reach Bologna from Dubai, with Emirates’ recently launched direct flights to the Italian city. May is also a great time to visit as it marks the final few weeks before the weather turns scorching. Visitors will find the Dipinti della Collezione Mattioli exhibition on until June 26 at the Museo Morandi (mambo-bologna.org). The presentation consists of four masterpieces from the Guggenheim collection in Venice, each piece dating between 1913 and 1915. Enjoy the final two performances of the XXIX edition of the Concerti Music Festival (musicainsiemebologna.it/en), with the final concert featuring the Russian Chamber Philharmonic St Petersburg on May 9. Italian tour company Charme & Adventure offers tailor-made packages through Bologna, including a five-day itinerary that features a private tour of the city, a visit to the Ferrari museum and a cooking class.

The Bologna Experience from Charme & Adventure starts from €2,750 (Dh11,000) per person, based on a two-person stay, and includes accommodation, some meals and taxes. Direct return tickets on Emirates (emirates.com) from Dubai to Bologna are from Dh3,125 per person, including taxes

San Francisco

Art enthusiasts can catch a direct flight on Etihad or Emirates to San Francisco this month as the city reopens its Museum of Modern Art (sfmoma.org). SFMoMa, now three times its original size, features new exhibitions and areas of note. The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection has been dubbed one of the world’s finest private collections of contemporary art, while the Pritzker Center for Photography is said to be the largest space in an American art museum dedicated to photography. An outdoor sculpture terrace will feature the largest public living wall of native plants in the city. Book into the new Zeppelin boutique hotel (viceroyhotelsandresorts.com), located two blocks from Union Square. Rooms start from US$464 (Dh1,700) per night, including taxes. Alegro Private Tours offers personalised day tours to the Painted Ladies Victorian and Edwardian houses, the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39 and The Palace of Fine Arts.

The San Francisco day tours from Alegro Private Tours start from $66 (Dh243) per hour, for up to four people, including a guide, hotel pickup and drop-off, gratuity and taxes. Return flights on Etihad from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco start from Dh7,720 per person, including taxes

St Petersburg

A weak rouble means that visiting St Petersburg is cheaper than it was 10 years ago. The month of May also marks two major holidays on the Russian calendar: Victory Day on May 9, which commemorates the surrendering of the Nazis to the Soviet Union in 1945; and Dyen Goroda (City Day) on May 27, which celebrates the founding of the city in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great. Both holidays feature public festivities, with military parades on the 9th and concerts and fireworks displays on the 27th. The Fabergé in the Great War exhibition is on at the Hermitage Museum (hermitagemuseum.org) until June. The exhibits, borrowed from the ZAO Russian National Museum in Moscow, include 43 items created by the jewellery brand during the First World War. Cox & Kings offers a six-day package to St Petersburg. Visitors will explore Nevsky Prospekt, Peter and Paul Fortress, Catherine Palace at Pushkin and the Yusupov Palace.

The Imperial Splendours of St Petersburg package from Cox & Kings starts from £895 (Dh4,710) per person, including accommodation, some meals, internal transport and taxes. Direct return tickets on Emirates and Etihad are from Dh4,204 including taxes