Cherry blossom season in Japan

In springtime in Japan, a phenomenon sweeps the length of the archipelago and causes a nationwide flurry of picnics, outdoor parties and general celebration: it is the season of the cherry blossom. The season is brief, lasting up to a week before time and/or weather causes the fall of the blossoms. But to the Japanese, it is a metaphor for life itself: beautiful, fragile, unpredictable and essentially fleeting. The act of appreciating and celebrating the cherry blossoms is known as hanami: here is our beginner’s guide to the aptly-named business of “looking at flowers”.

Cherry trees, and the art of appreciating them when in bloom, is not restricted to any one part of the country, but there are a few locations that we would highly recommend for an authentic hanami experience. Tokyo may be a bustling metropolis but it also has plenty of open park spaces where cherry trees number in the hundreds or even thousands. Ueno Park is a great favourite, but you can expect to share your picnicking space with large crowds. The ancient former capital of Kyoto is another scenic location, but again, you

Top Family-Friendly Cities in Europe

Taking your children to Europe will introduce them to new cultures, cuisines, languages and histories, and make them much more aware of the world beyond their normal day-to-day existence. With so many wonderful destinations on offer, it can be tricky to narrow it down to an itinerary that works for everyone. To get you started, we’ve put together a selection of some of our favourite family-friendly cities.

  • London

London is an easy city to visit with kids because the culture is familiar, there are no language barriers to navigate, and the city is blessed with numerous green spaces that are easily accessible so the kids can go squirrel spotting when they’ve had enough of sightseeing. You could easily fill an entire day visiting the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, which sit side by side in South Kensington and just a stone’s throw from Hyde Park. Bigger kids will enjoy the gallows humour on offer at the London Dungeon, or you can really thrill them with an after-dark Jack the Ripper walking tour. Kids of all sizes (and their parents) will love Hamleys in Regent Street, which is the biggest and oldest toy store in