Where to go and what to know

Winter palace

On Friday, the Hotel Ai Reali opens close to the Rialto Bridge and St Mark's Square in Venice. The palatial property is resplendent with crystal chandeliers, frescoed ceilings, canopied beds, marble staircases and richly patterned wallpapers (hotelaireali.com).

Eastern promise

The Macalister Mansion is now open on the Malaysian island of Penang with airy, whitewashed rooms, cool tiled floors, hanging flower baskets, a whisky and cigar den, and an outdoor pool (macalistermansion.com).

Up in the air

British Airways returns to Sri Lanka from 14 April next year, with a one-stop service from Gatwick via the Maldives. A month earlier, the island is also set to get a new domestic carrier, Cinnamon Air. Small aircraft and seaplanes will connect Colombo airport with Kandy and Nuwara Eliya and coastal destinations (cinnamonair.com).

Let's do lunch

The Magdalen Chapter Hotel in Exeter has launched a Cooks Club. The cookery classes will offer recipes and tips, a demonstration, followed by a two-course lunch; £15 (themagdalenchapter.com).

Blooming marvellous

The RHS has launched a range of horticultural holidays. Highlights include a week touring the "Gardens of the Loire" – £1,869 per person, with travel, hotels and expert guides included (rhsgardenholidays.com).

Paris to Princes Street

For a spot of post-Christmas indulgence, head to Edinburgh after 1 January, when the Guerlain Spa opens at The Caledonian Hotel. Hour-long massages start at £90 (thecaledonianedinburgh.com).


The number of reproductions of Rembrandt's works in a new permanent exhibition in the Magna Plaza shopping centre, Amsterdam, from Boxing Day (rembrandtallhispaintings.com).

Appy Skiers

The new "How to Ski" app has been devised by two Val d'Isère instructors. It has four sections that take novices through parallels, carving, ascents and descents, and improving bumps, with 12 "video lessons". Once downloaded from iTunes (£2.99; bitly.com/howtoski), there are no roaming fees.