Where can you find Europe's leading lights?

The night time is the right time for… starry skies, buzzing neon, candlelit temples, illuminating festivals and epic fireworks. Andy Hill has eight ways to fire up your October.

Featured October 17 Words by Andy Hill
Where can you find Europe's leading lights?

 

 

 

1. Have a blast at PYRO GAMES

Dresden, Germany, 21 October

What's the bright idea?

Think of the Pyro Games as like a rap battle, but for professional firework makers instead of angry blokes in oversized T-shirts. Four teams compete to put on the most jaw-dropping display as part of a programme that also includes rock bands, pretzels and beer. Naturally.

 

Light the way…

The events take place all over Germany, but the eastern city of Dresden in particular will be exploding into life. As well as competitive displays, set to original scores, renowned ‘laser artist' (it's a thing in 2017) Jürgen Matkowitz has created a brilliant bespoke show.

 

Dazzle me!

Several notches above your lacklustre local-authority display, this is a world-class production, with live entertainment from fiery German rockers JennaRot and Rose Bogey's, plus circus acts, dancers and stilt walkers doing dangerous things with fire.

 

Perfect for…

Anyone seeking inspiration for their own competitive fireworks display. The neighbours won't know what hit 'em… Tickets from €18.85. pyrogames.de

 

 

2. Meet a mermaid at The Neon Muzeum

Warsaw, Poland, Open now

What's the bright idea?

Some 150 vintage neon signs, made between the 1950s and 1970s, pack out this alternative museum on the outskirts of the Polish capital - some surreal, some sleazy, some sleazy and surreal (bare-chested warrior mermaid, anyone?).

 

Light the way…

Head for the Soho Factory, a complex of abandoned warehouses that now house studios, galleries and this glowing attraction.

 

Dazzle me!

More than just a feast for the peepers, it's a monument to the spirit of old Warsaw and one of its more laudable Communist ideas. The signs are remnants of ‘neonisation' - “A grand centralised plan to illuminate the entire former Eastern Bloc with shimmering neon light,” says museum co-founder David Hill. “Walking among them leaves people feeling quite emotional - and it's one of the most photogenic places in town.”

 

Perfect for…

Selfies, of course. But, also, imagining a bright future that never quite came to pass. Building 55, Soho Factory. neonmuzeum.org

 

 

3. Banish darkness for Diwali

London, England, 19 October

What's the bright idea?

Experience Diwali, the ancient Hindu festival that celebrates light and energy conquering darkness, in, er… Neasden.

 

Light the way…

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple is an unexpectedly gorgeous gem tucked away in north-west London. It's constructed from 2,828 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone, that was first sent to India to be hand carved by over 1,500 artisans.

 

Dazzle me!

The classic Hindu triumph of good over evil is celebrated here with traditional decorated oil lamps (deepa) arranged in rows (avali), the glow of which plays beautifully off the ornately carved surroundings. Anybody from any faith or background is welcome to show up, tuck in to delicious food, dance and learn about the rich and colourful traditions of this faith. You'll forget you're in the London Borough of Brent for sure.

 

Perfect for…

Heading halfway out of London, while feeling like you're halfway around the world. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasdon, NW10. londonmandir.baps.org

 

 

4. Embrace the infinite on an astro tour

La palma, Spain, ongoing

What's the bright idea?

The ravishing vantage point of this mountainous, mercifully undeveloped Canary Island makes it the perfect place to marvel at the starry cosmos.

 

Light the way…

This volcanic island rises to nearly 2,500m above sea level in places, meaning there are plenty of spots where you can stand above the clouds and be guaranteed a stellar view. 

  

Dazzle me!

Astro La Palma's astronomy tours educate about life, the universe and everything in between. With telescopes. “Sometimes, on top of a mountain, it's so quiet and clear, with just the stars, that our guests feel we've left the planet far behind,” says owner Ana Gracía. Check out the Observatory of El Roque de Los Muchachos, too, which has the world's largest single-aperture telescope (we knew you'd be impressed). 

 

Perfect for…

Boldly going where no autumn mini-break has gone before. Tours €20.66. astrolapalma.com.

The Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos must be booked in advance. €9 per person. iac.es

 

 

 

 

5. Marvel at the Magic fountain

 

Barcelona, Spain, October-April

What's the bright idea?

This giant, snazzy illuminated fountain plays classical music, dance tunes and the odd cheeky pop number in front of ‘oohing' and ‘aahing' crowds.

 

Light the way…

Font Màgica de Montjuïc (the magic fountain) is near Barcelona's Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, in the shadow of four iconic columns representing the stripes of the Catalan flag. It's a euphoric burst of colour, light and water acrobatics.

 

Dazzle me!

In 1929, local architect and engineer Carles Buïgas set out to create an eye-catching new landmark for the Barcelona International Exposition. Many said it couldn't be done, but within a year all 3,620 jets were pumping multicoloured liquid skyward and delighting spectators from around the world. Since the 80s the fountain has danced to its own powerful sound system - expect to be serenaded by famous numbers from Beethoven, Disney songs and that Barcelona tune by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé. Show up nice and early to guarantee a good vantage point on the steps.

 

Perfect for…

Kicking aperitivo hour off with a spectacular bang. barcelonaturisme.com

 

 

6. Swoon at signal festival

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC, 12-15 oct

What's the bright idea?

Over a long weekend in October, the Czech capital is illuminated by artists firing projections onto buildings, playing music and making around half-a-million people's jaws drop.

 

How do i find it?

Just look up. Last year, Signal expanded to cover a larger share of the city centre, meaning there are illuminations splashed across transport zones 1-3.

 

Dazzle me!

Signal's at the leading edge of European light festivals and is endlessly innovative - almost all the installations are designed exclusively for this event, including an anaglyph (stereoscopic 3D) video by Barcelona genius Filip Roca, for which you'll need 3D glasses. French collective EZ3kiel's fantastical music and lightshow on the fascia of St Ludmila's church alone is worth travelling to Prague for. You'll wonder what was in that last drink…

 

Perfect for…

A memorable Eastern European trip, in more ways than one. signalfestival.com

 

 

7. Lose yourself at nuit Blanche

Paris, France, 7 October

 

What's the bright idea?

This astonishing all-night arts festival wows with dazzling light installations, projections onto iconic buildings and dozens of institutions and galleries open 24 hours. 

 

Light the way…

Most of the action is clustered around two main hubs: in the centre by the Seine and in the northerly La Chapelle district.

 

Dazzle me!

This is a chance for Paris to really dial up the glitz, complete with fun sideshows, such as a brass band by the river playing video-game soundtracks into the early hours. “I chose this year's theme - 'do collective work'- because it's so relevant to a global city like Paris in these times of great division,” says Nuit Blanche artistic director Charlotte Laubard. This will be the 16th edition of a cultural event now imitated by cities as far flung as Sydney and Toronto. And free public transport will run all night.

  

Perfect for…

Exploring the City of Light at its brightest.

facebook.com/NBParis

 

 

 

8. Round things off in a hotel

Reykjavík, Iceland, Ongoing

What's the bright idea?

This cluster of transparent, inflatable and, crucially, heated hotel bubbles in the Icelandic forest is perfect for gawping at the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed. 

 

Light the way…

The location of the 5 Million Star Hotel (geddit?) is top secret, which is all part of the fun, but we can tell you it's inside Iceland's Golden Circle, just over an hour's drive from Reykjavík and not far from the historic village of Reykholt.

 

Dazzle me!

Seeing the Northern Lights usually involves trekking out to a remote destination in the chilly Icelandic winter. Here you can enjoy them from your own transparent forest lair - with a noiseless ventilation system that also cleverly eradicates condensation. Even if you're unlucky enough to miss the Aurora Borealis, these are still the coolest hotel orbs on Earth, and some of the most special places you can sleep in.

 

Perfect for…

Night-time thrills without the chills. Room from 28,900ISK (€230) per night. buubble.com


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