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The European winter is looming once again… but you don’t have to resign yourself to dark grey days spent watching the rain pounding on your window.

On the contrary, winter provides the perfect opportunity to experience a different kind of ‘great outdoors’, especially with a trip to one of the top European ski spots, as voted by Forbes. So stop wishing for the rainclouds to disappear, and start planning a trip to one of Europe’s top winter wonderlands!

10. St Christoph, Austria

St Christoph, Austria
St Christoph, Austria

The Ablerg region - which includes St Christoph Lech, Stuben and Zurs - iswhere the sport of skiing was born. This is where ski pioneer Hannes Schneider perfected the Arlberg Method of skiing in the 1930s and later brought it to America, teaching legions of North American ski instructors. And the Arlberg region offers miles of interconnected trails, as well as a shuttle bus system that’s welcome at the day’s end after an adventure-packed day of skiing.

9. Lech, Austria

Lech, Austria
Lech, Austria

St Christoph’s neighbour, Lech, is an exclusive Alpine haunt of the quietly rich and famous. Fur coats are worn with pride and it’s the rare repeat guest who doesn’t own a pair of Strolz ski boots, which are handmade in the village. Lech and its neighbouring resort of Zurs are about privilege, excluding other skiers when 14,000 tickets have been sold, meaning the vast amount of terrain on offer can feel like a series of private slopes, even in high season.

8. Kitzbuhel, Austria

Kitzbuhel, Austria
Kitzbuhel, Austria

 Among ski racing fans, the medieval walled town of Kitzbuhel is famed as the home of the classic Hahnenkamm Downhill course, on which the World Cup Men’s Downhill is held each January. The town’s winding streets are lined with hotels, shops, restaurants, bars and cafes and are especially enchanting at night. A good word of advice to visitors is to hire a guide for a classic Austrian ski safari that starts in Pengelstein and leads to the Jochberg/Pass Thurn area.

7. Megeve, France

Megeve, France
Megeve, France

Parisians are well-known for flocking to boutiques, jazz bars and restaurants… but they also flock to the slopes of Megeve, about an hour from Geneva in the French Haute Savoie. In fact, while the area has good intermediate skiing, the sport often takes a backseat to promenading, dining and cavorting until the early hours of the morning.

6. Courchevel, France

Courchevel, France
Courchevel, France

From a sporting perspective, Courchevel is one of the greatest ski resorts in the world. Courchevel is part of Trois Vallees, the largest ski area in the world, with 373 miles (600 kilometres) of marked pistes and 184 lifts. Make a beeline for Courchevel 1850, the village that’s the focal point for all the best skiing, shopping and nightlife…  a popular haunt for Parisians, but with enough Russian visitors to earn it the title Moscow on the Snow.

5. Meribel, France

Meribel, France
Meribel, France

The Meribel valley is the middle area of the three valleys that make up the massive Trois Vallees ski area. The area’s fast lifts and impeccable grooming meanyou can put a lot of miles on your skis every day. In fact, the piste choices are overwhelming. Meribel was founded by a Scot, Colonel Peter Lindsay, after World War II and modeled on Austrian ski villages. It’s particularly favoured by the Brits, who go there for the terrific lift system, excellent grooming and Anglo-flavoured French culture.

4. Cortina, Italy

Cortina, Italy
Cortina, Italy

With its cobbled streets and backdrop of the jagged Dolomites, Cortina is Italy’s answer to Aspen and StMoritz. In Cortina, no one skis before 11am, lunch is lengthy, and everyone takes part in the evening passeggiata(walk) along Corso Italia with fur-clad Romans, Bolognese and Milanese. Then it’s off for an aperitif at Enoteca and dinner at the Michelin-starred Tivoli, followed by a trip to a disco. That said, Cortina’s slopes are challenging enough, though they require a shuttle bus ride to link them. The best skiing is at Sella Ronda, a series of interconnected mountains that can be skied in one long day.

3. Klosters, Switzerland

Klosters, Switzerland
Klosters, Switzerland

Klosters is still known as the preferred resort of the British Royal Family, but it offers a quiet kind of chic. The skiing, which includes neighboring Davos, can be both scenic and challenging. And the run to the village of Kublis, which good intermediates can accomplish, is more than seven miles (11 kilometres) long.

2. St Moritz, Switzerland

St Moritz, Switzerland
St Moritz, Switzerland

Winter sports were essentially invented in St Moritz by the British in 1865, and St Moritz is still the quintessential Alpine resort. What other resort can boast winter polo in a surrounding of glacial peaks? The 218 miles (351 kilometres) of slopes are an intermediate’s paradise.

1. Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt, Switzerland

The car-free village of Zermatt, dominated by the towering presence of the Matterhorn – one of the highest peaks in the Alps, is the definition of the Alps for many. The atmospheric narrow streets, charming shops, bars and pensions share space with ancient wooden mazot huts. And the skiing in Zermatt too is simply glorious. Zermatt has access to the highest lift-served terrain in Europe, at 12,533 feet (3,820 metres) at the top of the Klein Matterhorn glacier. The three main ski areas are interconnected, with bountiful terrain for all abilities. And skiing over to the neighbouring Italian resort of Cervinia for lunch is a long-time tradition. 

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Entertainment

An archipelago wonderland of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles is one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful gifts.

Seychelles

Extending from between four and 10 degrees south of the equator and lying between 480km and 1,600km from the east coast of Africa, 41 of the Seychelles’ islands constitute the oldest mid-oceanic granite islands on earth while a further 74 form the low-lying coral atolls and reef islands of the Outer Islands.

The granitic islands of the Seychelles archipelago cluster around three main islands: Mahé, home to the international airport and the capital, Victoria; Praslin; and La Digue.  Together, these Inner Islands form the cultural and economic hub of the nation and contain the majority of Seychelles’ tourism facilities, as well as its most stunning beaches.

The Seychelles’ picturesque beaches are clearly its biggest drawcard, with their turquoise waters, white sand and awe-inspiring backdrop of lush green hills and glacis boulders.

With such a dreamlike setting and an unmistakable sense of tranquility, the Seychelles is, unsurprisingly, the destination of choice for many honeymooners.

But there’s more to the Seychelles than just being a perfect holiday destination for scoring brownie points with your loved one. The Seychelles is also a top spot to watch birds and giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Another world of life lies just below the glistening waters, attracting divers of all skill levels. And when you tire of beaches, you can always venture inland and go on jungle trails, indulge in fine dining, or enjoy the sublime laid-back atmosphere.

QUICK FACTS

  • Capital: Victoria
  • Population: 84,000 (2009 estimate)
  • Area: 451 square kilometres
  • Official languages: English, French, Seychellois Creole
  • Currency: Seychellois Rupee
  • Climate: Tropical
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Lifestyle

Ever dreamt of seeing your fave celebrity in the flesh, instead of just on the silver screen or on the cover of a magazine? Perhaps lounging on a sunbed opposite the likes of Brad Pitt, or sharing a dance floor with the likes of infamous party girl Paris Hilton tickles your fancy? Then the next time you’re planning your trip, forget about sightseeing, and get down to some serious celebrity-spotting with Forbes Traveller’s top 10 destinations in the world for celebrity-spotting. 

10. Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Beautiful beaches, football and amazing landscapes – you can find them all in Rio. That is why when the celebrated annual Rio Carnival comes to town, so do the rich and famous.

Every February/March, the Rio Carnival attracts thousands of visitors, including many celebrities. So you never know who you could be rubbing shoulders with while sipping on a caipirinha.

9. Paris

Paris

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out why the effortlessly chic and cosmopolitan city of Paris is one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of the glitterati.

This city has long been a favourite haunt of the rich and famous due to its fabulous shopping (being one of the world’s major fashion capitals), as well as its incredible film, art and restaurant scene.

8. New York

New York

Sitting in the lobby or bar in one of the Big Apple’s top hotels is a good way to start your star-spotting career.

You could try The Waldorf Astoria, Soho Grand Hotel or the Plaza for starters. Or why not combine pampering with star-spotting by paying a visit to the Sava Spa, often frequented by top celebs.

7. Miami

Miami

South Beach is renowned as being be the place to be to meet athletes, singers, actors and wannabes aplenty.

When it comes to celeb-spotting, Lincoln Avenue is your best bet by day, and when the sun sets, head to any of these spots: Level, Crowbar, Space, Pearl, or Opium, or try the Delano Hotel, branded ‘America’s coolest hotel’ by Vogue magazine.

6. Madrid

Madrid

Visit Spain’s bustling capital and mingle with the pijos – or high-flyers – in the Glass Bar of Hotel Urban as you keep a keen eye out for Hollywood stars, famous footballers and, of course, footballer’s wives.

5. Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Hollywood is celebrity headquarters, making Los Angeles an obvious place for celebrity spotting.

From A-list film stars to rock legends… anyone who is anyone tries their luck in tinseltown. Even the waiter serving you your cappuccino is likely to be looking for his or her big break.

4. Las Vegas

Las Vegas

If you decide to try your luck and visit Las Vegas, don’t be surprised if you spot a celebrity or two.

Many A-listers have been spotted on the Las Vegas Strip. Check out the Hard Rock Hotel or the Palms Casino Resort where the stars have been spotted trying their hand at Blackjack.

3. French Riviera

French Riviera

Every year, the celebrity elite descend on the city of Cannes for the annual film festival, making it the perfect place to go celeb-hunting. 

You could also try getting into the swanky ‘Les Caves du Roi’ in St Tropez wearing cool yet sophisticated attire and, if the bouncer lets you in, head for the VIP area to spot a few celebs.

2. Dubai

Dubai

From footballers to rock stars, politicians to tennis players – the a-list glitterati are all investing in property in Dubai.

Dubai’s year-round sunshine, designer shopping and general bling-blingness are attractive drawcards to celebrities in the know.

1. Barbados

Barbados

Forget watersports – celebrity-spotting is probably the hottest sport on this gorgeous sunsoaked Caribbean island. 

International celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Sting, the Beckhams and the Blairs go to Barbados regularly to work on their tans. Golfer Tiger Woods got married in Barbados’ renowned Sandy Lane hotel.

You could also try spotting the stars on the celebrity strip near Holetown.

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Lifestyle

Picture a private jet delivering you to an airstrip. There’s a helicopter waiting to whisk you off to an oceanfront property where a late-model Ferrari is parked in the driveway. Inside, a team of uniformed staff–maids, masseuses, butlers, bartenders, chefs and even a personal concierge—are on hand to tend to your every need.

Want the beach all to yourself and your friends for the day? Done. A picnic lunch of lobster and champagne delivered to a table set on the sand perhaps? Sorted. It sounds like utopia, but such a decadent experience can actually be yours for the taking – with a mind-boggling price tag attached to it, of course.

It used to be the case that the most expensive resorts in the world were famous hotels in celebrated destinations. These days, however, private villas, exclusive-use islands and luxury African safari lodges make up some of the most expensive resorts in the world—and there’s barely a recognised hotel among them.

VillaHotel Contenta, Miami
Price tag: US$13,300 per night, peak season

VillaHotel Contenta

Valued at US$24 million, the sprawling Spanish Colonial style home of Villazzo founder Christian Jagodzinski in Miami, Palm Island, is part of his chic Villazzo collection of VillaHotels – located in some of the most exclusive addresses around the globe.

Its decadent 11,000-square-foot interior features a lounge with a grand piano, a home theatre, a full-size billiard room, a state-of-the-art gym, and four bedrooms, while the vast palm-tree lined grounds surrounding the villa feature a two-bedroom guesthouse, a 130-foot-long heated walk-in pool with its own waterfall and Jacuzzi, and a private stretch of waterfront to moor your yacht or speed boat.

South Beach, Miami’s prime tourist destination and entertainment hub, is only five minutes drive away.

Musha Cay, Bahamas
Price tag: US$37,500 per day for 12 or fewer persons

Musha Cay

Internationally-renowned magician David Copperfield bought this exotic 150-acre island in the Exumas - a district in the Bahamas - in 2006, and at this price you might think Copperfield’s got you under one of his mind-boggling illusions.

This exclusive-hire resort accommodates 24 people in 12 state-of-the-art beach houses decorated in bright tropical tones and all hooked up with iPods.

All food, alcohol and boat trips on the private fleet of yachts, catamarans and jet skis that service Musha and its adjacent islands (also owned by Copperfield and collectively known as “The Islands of Copperfield Bay”) are included in the price.

Its highlights include open-air movies on the beach.

VillaHotel Katarina, St Tropez
Price tag: US$26,700 per day, peak rate

VillaHotel Katarina

This sprawling contemporary six-room villa with a vast terrace and garden swimming pool overlooking the famous beaches of Pampelonne and Cap Camarat is one of the most prized properties in Europe.

But it’s the never-ending pampering provided by Villazzo staff that makes VillaHotel Katarina’s astronomical price worth it. Avoid traffic by exploring the Cote d’Azur in the villa’s private helicopter before returning for an in-room massage from a fully-trained Villazzo beautician, a candle-lit dinner in the grounds prepared by your resident gourmet chef, and exclusive entrance to St Tropez’s famous Club 55 night spot which is just across the road.

The Rania Experience, Maldives
Price tag: US$13,000 to US$15,000 per day for two people

The Rania Experience

The Maldives is already renowned for being the world’s island paradise, and this private-use resort is nothing short of being just that.

A maximum of 12 guests in six beach cottages are flown in by a sea plane which lands in front of a seven-acre island ringed by ivory white sandy beaches and dotted with lush palms.

The island is small enough to swim around, although guests have up to three hours per day free use of Rania’s 86-foot state-of-the-art yacht.

With a two-to-one staff-to-guest ratio, you can be sure of individual attention to meet your every need, and all meals, drinks, spa treatments and water sports are included in the price.

Altamer, Anguilla
Price tag: US$80,000 to US$90,000 per week high season

Altamer

This state-of-the-art three-villa resort, accommodating a maximum of 40 guests, is famous for its privacy, and hence a popular haunt for celebrities.

The villas—Russian Amethyst, Brazilian Emerald and African Sapphire—each have their own pool, hot tub, fitness centre, home theatre, elevator, personal butler and eight-member private staff.

The eight-bedroom African Sapphire is the priciest at US$90,000 per week high season (US$12,857 per night), plus 20 percent tax and service.

But for that little bit extra, your ocean-view villa comes with a private snorkeling pond and architectural waterfall, plus a floating hot tub off the second floor.

The five-bedroom Russian Amethyst with roof top terrace is a relative bargain at US$80,000 per week.

The Villa at Sandy Lane, Barbados
Price tag: US$25,000 per night high season

The Villa at Sandy Lane

The luxurious Sandy Lane resort, built in the 1960s, features standard and penthouse suites that range from US$1,000 to US$10,000 per night depending on the season. Add an an extra zero and then some to that figure, and you can go for the six-room Villa at Sandy Lane.

Next to the main hotel, the Villa at Sandy Lane is a marble-floored mini palace with five en-suite rooms, a Romanesque private pool and Jacuzzi, and a private staff of butler, housekeeper and chef.

Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
Price tag: US$51,000 per night for up to 28 guests

Necker Island

Virgin boss, billionaire Richard Branson, bought this 74-acre tropical paradise in 1982 as his own exclusive hideaway before opening it up as a private-hire resort.

Its 14 rooms accommodate 28 guests in either waterfront Bali Houses or the main hill-top Great House with its sublime views of gorgeous turquoise ocean. Everything from scuba diving to champagne is included in the price.

While it’s known as an exclusive-hire resort, individual couples can get a room on Necker Island for US$25,400 for the week during “Celebration Week”, which falls on September 26, October 3 and October 10 in 2009.

Nygard Cay, Bahamas
Price tag: US$42,000 per day

Nygard Cay

This bizarre 10-bedroom resort on a six-acre cay in the Bahamas is designed according to an ancient Mayan theme, with ornately carved pillars and giant wood sculptures overlooking the various swimming pools, Jacuzzis, beaches and pillowed sun beds that are dotted across the grounds.

Owned by Canadian fashion tycoon Peter Nygard, sports lovers will be drawn to its tennis court, basketball court, volleyball courts and all manner of watersports, while the 82-foot resident yacht and the 24-seat on-site movie theatre will suit those seeking more leisurely pursuits.

Great Mercury Island, New Zealand
Price tag: US$20,000 per day for six people or fewer

Great Mercury Island

This 5,000-acre pine-covered private island, a 25-minute helicopter ride from Auckland, is not so much an exotic tropical paradise. Rather, it is more an exclusive and secluded rural hideaway.

Only available for private hire, it accommodates a maximum of 16 people in two villas—one the three-bedroom Up House on a hill overlooking the ocean; the other the five-bedroom Down House overlooking a bay.

The surrounding waters are a fisherman’s paradise, and guests can either dine on the beach, in a state-of-the-art Boat House kitchen, or in the dining room of the main house—on the very fish they caught that day immaculately prepared by some of the finest chefs in New Zealand.

Isla de sa Ferradura, Ibiza, Spain
Price tag: US$202,800 per week (minimum stay) for up to 14 guests

Isla de sa Ferradura

This lush, private Mediterranean island, located just off the scenic rocky cliffs of Ibiza, hosts a maximum of 14 people for minimum one-week stays that average US$28,000 a day.

Tended by a team of staff that includes professional French chefs, the main seven-room hacienda has its own dance floor, theatre, cinema and aquarium, and there’s even a lagoon-shaped swimming pool on the west of the island for those that don’t fancy a dip in the ocean.

Its “cave spa” has a sauna, whirlpool and massage facilities. Much like a hotel resort, staff are on-hand to serve drinks and meals virtually anywhere on the island, and will even book flamenco dancers and cabaret acts for evening floor-shows on request. Everything except specialty wine and food (such as caviar) is included in the price.

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Lifestyle

Ever wondered whether you’ve got it good or bad in the city you currently call home? Are you thinking the grass might be greener elsewhere? Think no more – the results are out. Consulting firm Mercer has released its 2009 Worldwide Cost of Living survey results, with significant changes from last year’s results. These changes are mainly due to massive swings in exchange rates, with many currencies at one of their weakest levels in years against the US dollar.

10. Singapore, Singapore

Singapore

Singapore moves up three places in this year’s Cost of Living survey from last year’s ranking to become the 10th most expensive city in the world.

9. Beijing, China

Beijing

Beijing is another new entry into the top 10 list, now in ninth place, up from 20th in 2008.

Chinese cities experienced the reverse effect from that of its European counterparts in this year’s survey results, as the Chinese renminbi performed relatively strongly compared to most other currencies.

After Beijing in ninth place, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou follow in 12th, 22nd and 23rd place respectively.

8. New York City, USA

NYC

New York City is a new entry in the top 10, jumping from 22nd to eighth place, largely due to the US dollar strengthening over the past year.

7. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen

Copenhagen, the last European city in the top 10, holds onto its seventh spot from 2008.

European cities have experienced some of this year’s steepest falls in the ranking thanks to the fact most European currencies weakened against the US dollar, with Warsaw plummeting from 35th to 113th and Glasgow (129th place) and Birmingham (125th place) in the UK falling 60 and 59 places respectively. German and Spanish cities all fell between eight and 11 places, whereas cities in Sweden, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary all fell between 36 and 48 places.

6. Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich

Up three places from last year’s ninth position, Zurich now sits at sixth spot.

5. Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong moves up one place from last year’s survey results to reach fifth place this year.

4. Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva

The fourth most expensive city in the world (up from eighth place in 2008), Geneva is also the second most expensive city in Europe.

3. Moscow, Russia

Moscow

In this year’s third place – and last year’s first place – Moscow remains the most expensive city in Europe for expatriates. However, a dramatic depreciation of the Russian rouble against the US dollar has led to a sharp fall in the city’s index score compared to 2008.

Accommodation costs also started to decrease at the end of last year, after a sharp increase in the first part of 2008.

2. Osaka, Japan

Osaka

Another Japanese city, Osaka, features at the number two spot (previously 11th in 2008) – again largely due to the surge in value of the Japanese yen against the US dollar over the past year.

1. Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo

Tokyo has knocked Moscow off the top spot to become the world’s most expensive city for expatriates, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from consulting firm, Mercer.

The Japanese yen has strengthened considerably against the US dollar over the past year, and as a result Tokyo’s number two spot in 2008 was bumped up to top spot in the 2009 survey.

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