The 'dont-miss' dates and destinations for 2011

It's the start of the year, and the world's your oyster. In the up-coming weeks and months, we'll be suggesting plenty of ideas for places to visit in 2011. To kick things off, here are a few of the most important cultural, social and sporting events and locations of the year ahead.

Capitals of Culture

Until 1812, the city of Turku, was capital of Finland. Now, in 2011, almost 200 years later, it's European Capital of Culture, an honour it shares with Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Tallinn greeted the New Year as the launch of the biggest cultural event in the history of Estonia, and in Turku the celebrations are set to begin on January 15th with a grand spectacle ushering in a programme of over 150 events during the course of the year. Gastronomy, sports, science, culture and the arts, exhibitions, concerts, theatre, acrobatics and exhibitions... both cities will bustle with activity in the year ahead. On the other side of the world, Quito, the capital of Ecuador has been selected American Cultural Capital 2011.

Norwegian Polar Adventures
Norway is all set to celebrate in style as 2011 sees both the 150th anniversary of the birth of the polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen and the centennial of Roald Amundsen's journey to the South Pole. A visit to the beautiful Scandinavian country will also offer the perfect opportunity to discover the spectacular new Holmenkollen ski jump in Oslo, an imposing monument of steel and concrete, housed inside the Ski Museum, where some of the events of the World Ski Championships will be hosted between February 23rd and March 6th this year.
Further information:

Norwegian Tourist Board

Snowy celebrations in Germany

In February, skiing fans have a treat lined up for them in the German city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Bavaria near the border with Austria. From February 7th to the 20th, the city – the German number one for winter sports – is hosting the World Alpine Ski Championships. Before that, though, also in Germany, the village of Todtmoos in the Black Forest, will celebrate its annual Dog Sled Races on January 29th and 30th, where hundreds of huskies and their 'mushers' will compete for the championship cup.
Further information: 

Tourism in Germany

Valencia, Capital of Sports

The city of Valencia takes the baton from Dublin to shine this year as European Capital of Sport. In 2011, the city will host over seventy high-level sporting events. The sports calendar gets under way on January 9th with the City of Valencia 10 Kilometre race, followed ten days later by the Spanish Athletics Championship. Later on there's the Formula 1 Grand Prix – 24th to 26th July, the Tennis Open 500 – October 29th to November 6th, and the Motorcycle Grand Prix at the start of November.
Further information: 

Valencia Tourism

Royal Weddings

There are two top-level royal wedding dates to add to the diary this year, of course, with Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton on April 29th and Prince Albert of Monaco to marry Charlene Wittstock in July. Even if your name isn't likely to be on either guest list, there's nothing to stop you taking a trip up to London to look around Westminster Abbey where the second-in-line to the British throne will tie the knot. Or what about a visit to the tiny Principality of Monaco, tucked into the south-eastern corner of France? It's the second smallest country in the world, but there's no shortage of glamour in the diminutive resort and tax haven on the Mediterranean coast.

Leonardo da Vinci in London

And looking ahead to later in the year, London's National Gallery is to host the most complete exhibition ever of Leonardo da Vinci's surviving paintings. From November, through till February 2012, under the title Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, the paintings on display will include works brought from the Louvre in Paris, from the Vatican, and from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg as well as featuring a full-scale copy of the famous Last Supper, on loan from the Royal Academy. The unprecedented exhibition will focus on da Vinci as artist, rather than inventor, scientist or draughtsman.