Sights and Skills: Six Creative Breaks Across Europe

Sights and Skills: Six Creative Breaks Across Europe

Learn to liaise with the loom, master the subtleties of scent and take a punt at palm-braiding. A new wave of creative courses pair adventures abroad with learning a new skill. Here’s our pick of where to workshop it.

Read more in Volume 37: Craft.

waving goodbye to deckchair-dominated holidays and
welcoming with open arms (and readied tools) a host of new
craft-focused trips that serve up adventures to new destinations
with a side of self-improvement. Happily, artists and makers across
the continent have taken note of our appetite for scholarly stays,
and are offering workshops and learning-leaning trips into
traditional crafts. Here are six ideas for travellers seeking new
sights and skills.

All the skills: Our favourite creative retreats across

A blue door set into a blue tiled wall in Lisbon, Portugal

Out on the Tiles in Lisbon


Lisbon loves a tile, with distinctive ceramics dressing stately
streets in the upscale Príncipe Real neighbourhood and warren-like
crannies of the ancient Alfama quarter alike. Thank goodness, as
they grant our holiday snaps aesthetic pleasure. At the city’s Loja
dos Descobrimentos studio near Casa Dos Bicos, you can test your
brush skills by designing a tile in a weekly craft workshop. Paired
up with a professional tile maker, you’ll create a geometric
pattern, transfer it onto a Lisbon-made tile and fire the finished
piece in the kiln, before taking it home just 48 hours later.
Struggling for inspiration? We recommend seeking out your own
Eureka moment in the bath at Verride Palacio Santa Catarina. The splash-out
stay’s royal suite houses a vast marble bathtub in which to admire
its ‘wow’ of a blue-and-white mural dating from 1901.

What it costs: Workshops from

A visitor to Galimard's perfume laboratory tests an essence

Making Perfume in Grasse


The honeyed scent of roses, the earthy smokiness of vetiver, a
hint of citrus – slightly startling… Perfume’s subtle complexities
and layers are all yours to master during a private two-hour lesson
with a maître-parfumeur at Galimard in Grasse. Welcomed into a
laboratory in the heart of France’s perfume industry, you will be
inducted into the art of the nose. It’s a voyage of discovery as
there are 127 notes to decipher and select to format the formula
for your own eau de parfum. Bottled up, the original recipe is then
secreted away in Galimard’s database, so your bespoke scent can be
reordered at a later date. Our tip? Include the dusty sweetness of
the town’s famed rose blooms for a signature scent souvenir of your travels.

What it costs: £214

A woman uses a traditional Cypriot loom to weave

Textile Weaving in Nicosia


Ignore the alarming clattering noise: you’re in safe hands when
working the juddering mechanics of a traditional Cypriot loom with
Julia Astreou-Christoforou. The textiles designer is a renowned
weaver and has extensively researched Cyprus’s fabric history,
learning her skills by visiting silver-haired guardians of the
craft in villages across the island. Join three days of lessons in
her Nicosia workshop to get to grips with the (somewhat) laborious
loom. You’ll practise fashioning a warp (the basis of a woven
fabric) before overlaying it with the island’s characteristic
geometric “phyti” patterns and intricate open lace “asproploumia”
designs. If your intended masterpiece doesn’t quite deliver, visit
Julia’s shop for tufted cushion covers and woven totes to squeeze
in your SUITCASE.

What it costs: £180pp

The hands of a Mallorcan llata weaver - the traditional palm frond weaving craft
Photo credit: Courtesy of VAWAA

Palm Braiding in Mallorca


Visit any Mallorcan market and you’ll spot panicles of woven
bags hanging above stalls crowded with baskets, hats and other
latticed goods. Few will be traditional “llata” – braided and sewn
bags made from palm leaves. Here’s where the creative duo, Araceli
and Antonella, step in. The inheritors of unique crafting skills
handed down from their mothers and grandmothers, they have put
together an itinerary on the Spanish island introducing keen
crafters to the ancient skill of basket weaving. Based in the
cradle of this craft, Capdepera, they introduce guests to the
island’s artistic community over a four-day trip, combining a
chance to learn skills passed down by generations of Spanish
artisans with an indulgent slice of Mallorcan hospitality. You’ll
collect and prepare palm leaves and, with their guidance, braid the
natural material into a bag or basket, and also visit their friends
and artistic collaborators, exploring the creative enclaves of the
Spanish isle.

What it costs: £840pp

Orange yarn on a traditional Skye loom

Spinning Yarn in Scotland

United Kingdom

On Skye, yarn spinning looms large in the community, from tall
tales to textiles. When wool yarns are swirled through dyes made
from local plants, the textiles take on the varied hues of the
island’s mossy landscapes. On a nine-day trip to the largest
Herbredian island, guests are invited to explore the history of
Skye textile making and the folklore woven into the landscape.
Guided by chats with local craftspeople, you’ll meet hardy sheep
living an isolated existence at Island on the Edge croft, and learn
how to spin wool, dye yarn the hue of the auburn hills, and weave
wools and silks into the traditional tweed of Skye. When the hard
craft gets too much, there are local castle tours and dram drinking
on the Isle of Raasay, before bedding down under the 200-year-old
roof of The Old Mill, a cosy self-catered rental teetering on
the island’s dramatic coastline.

What it costs: From £2,790

Villa Lena, a creative retreat in the Tuscan hills
Photo credit: Adrian Vindelev

Pottery in the Tuscan Hills


Picture this: A coral-coloured villa backdropped by a
cobalt-blue sky, ringed by Cypress trees, olive groves and the
shade of 500 hectares of Tuscan woods. Villa Lena is a hybrid of a
hotel, farm and artists’ retreat; an avant-garde take on
agriturismo tucked between the folds of Italy’s brunette hills.
Founded by a French trio – art collector Lena Evtafieva, DJ Jérôme
Hadey and entrepreneur Lionel Bensemoun – the 19th-century estate
has been stylishly renovated into 18 suites and a living space
where guests share studios with artists-in-residence, and listen in
on talks and workshops to inspire their creative self. After
morning yoga in the white-wine dappled light of the woods, you’ll
try your hand at plenty of crafts, including photographing the
surrounding landscapes or having a moment with embroidery by the
pool. Come evening, dinners are communal, with guests swapping
stories over farm-to-table platters and discussing the changing
gallery of artwork on the walls. This summer, there’s a focus on

What it costs: Rooms from £108 per

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