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Travel highlights for 2012

The year ahead is dotted with social and cultural events, celebrations, anniversaries and important sporting events. Have a look at our list and start planning your next getaway; there are plenty of options to choose from.

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London Olympics
With three and a half million tickets sold and a build up that has been headline news for the last year or more, it would be hard to miss the fact that in 2012 Britain – and more specifically, London – is hosting the Olympic Games. On 27th July, the capital's Olympic Stadium will welcome the world to the grand opening ceremony, and from then until 12th August, the best athletes each country has to offer will strive to do their best to beat the opposition, break records and take home those prized medals. Other parts of the country that will be getting involved in this historical sporting event include Kent, Coventry, Eton, Windsor, Essex, Hertfordshire, Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle and Dorset.

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Klimt in Vienna
The gorgeous golden details of Gustav Klimt's works are unmistakable and you could probably justify a trip to Vienna just to see his most famous work, The kiss. But 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Austrian painter and pioneer of modern art and his home city is organising an extensive programme of exhibitions and special events to celebrate, making it an even more attractive destination for art lovers this year.

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Cultural Capitals of Europe
In 2012, once again, two cities share the honour of the title European Capital of of Culture: this year, the spotlight is on Guimaraes, Portugal, and Maribor, Slovenia. Both cities will be offering extensive programmes of music, theatre, dance, film, literature and exhibitions as they present the best they have to offer to the world.

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Helsinki, World Design Capital
The Finnish capital is celebrating its tenure as World Design Capital with hundreds of activities of all types, making 2012 an excellent opportunity to discover the city. Don't miss the Punavuori district, where nearly 200 stores, galleries, studios and bars overflow with creativity, or the thriving City of Art and Design of the Arabianranta neighbourhood.

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Vitoria, European Green Capital
This year, Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Country in Spain, boasts the title of European Green Capital, which won't come as a surprise to those familiar with the city as a model of sustainability and environmental consciousness. A Green Belt encircles the city, linking sites of great ecological value such as the wetlands of Salburua and the Armentia Park, an ideal location for mountain biking, hiking and bird watching. As well as the coming year's specific interest with events and exhibitions focusing on all things green, the city is an attractive destination with its fine historic heritage of narrow streets in the old town, the cathedral's unusual idea of exploiting the current restoration works as a tourist attraction, and a host of annual cultural events led by the world famous Jazz Festival.

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Two hundred years of Spanish democracy
Vitoria isn't the only place in Spain with reason to celebrate this year: 1812 was an important year for Spain as it saw the signing of the country's first constitution, known as 'La Pepa'. One of the most liberal of its time, among the principles it established were universal male suffrage and freedom of the press. No surprise, then, that Cadiz, the southern city where the constitution was drafted, is celebrating this important bicentennial. Exhibitions, classical concerts, theatre, flamenco and many other activities will all be part of the programme that pays tribute to the multicultural and scholarly city of the golden age of the early nineteenth century.

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Discovery of Petra
Although the rose-red city of Petra dates back far into the ancient past, it wasn't rediscovered until 1812.This means that in 2012 Jordan will be celebrating the bicentenary. What's more, the date also corresponds with the 50th anniversary of the epic film Lawrence of Arabia, starring Peter O'Toole, which was filmed in the Jordanian desert.

Titanic anniversary
In the year that marks the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, a vast themed attraction is opening in Belfast  where the luxuy ocean liner was built. Those with deep pockets, may be interested in the commemorative 12-night cruise scheduled for April: the luxury cruiser the Balmoral will follow the route of the Titanic, setting sail from Southampton; after a stop in Cobh (Ireland), the ship will cross the Atlantic to reach the site of the where the great liner sank. There will be a visit to Halifax (Nova Scotia) where passengers will visit the graves of some of the original passengers, before finally arriving in New York.

Dickens bicentenary
Britain has a lot to celebrate in 2012. As well as the Olympics in London – not to mention the Queen's DIamond Jubilee which will touch points all round the globe – the country is gearing up to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, one of the best loved writers in the English language. A year-long programme of tributes and events is planned, including exhibitions at the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum, tours and festivals celebrating the places that inspired him and his works, and retrospectives and new adaptations for big and small screen.

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