We are about to launch our brand new Spring 2015 guides to 11 of the best cities around the world. In the meantime there is still plenty of life in the free winter guides (covering until the end of February), including these top five cultural events In Barcelona, Istanbul, Moscow, Paris and Rome. So if you are into art, pancakes, livestock or opera (and frankly who isn’t), get inspired and go.


Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Art falls off the radar of many visitors, which is to miss a trick. The sleek, concrete building hovers at the centre of the Raval like an errant cruise ship. Exhibitions are world-class and current favourites include Carol Rama’s evocatively lurid re-imagination of female sexuality (31 October to 22 February) and Sigalit Landau’s Living Body video art (21 November to 15 February). Until 22 February 2015. www.macba.cat.

ISTANBUL – Ali Kazma@Arter

Istanbul-born, New York-educated Ali Kamza presents his solo show at Arter, the walk-in public gallery on Istanbul’s main shopping boulevard. The video artist exhibits pared down reels that highlight human movement, physical labour and social organisation from across the globe. This visual extravaganza is curated by Emre Baykal, who presided over the Turkey Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Art Biennial. From 1 January to 30 April 2015. www.arter.org.tr.

MOSCOW – Maslenitsa Festival (pictured and really quite eye-catching)

The stage goes up behind St Basil’s the week before Lent for the Pancake Festival and if you want to catch traditional folk songs and dancing, this is the place. But for most Moscovites, it’s all about the blini (pancakes). Served with honey, sour cherry jam or caviar, grab one from any Teremok and munch on the street, or push the boat out at the sumptuous Café Pushkin. From 16 to 22 February.

PARIS – Salon de l’Agriculture  

Every February Parisians rediscover their agricultural roots when the city pays host to what it calls ‘the largest farm in the world’. Taking over the huge Paris Expo site, it is a chance to inspect prize cattle shampooed and polished up for the event, rare breeds of sheep and pigs, dog shows and draught horses. Huge hangars are devoted to tasting wines and regional specialities. From 21 February to 1 March. www.salon-agriculture.com.

ROME – Aida

Riccardo Muti walked out on the eve of the 2014-15 season, prompting the cancellation of the troubled Teatro dell’Opera di Roma’s November production of Aida. It’s been left to Antonio ‘Tony’ Pappano to hold the torch for Verdi’s classic opera with the city’s leading orchestra, Santa Cecilia. Presented in concert form, Pappano’s production aims to bring out the ‘lyrical, intimate’ qualities of an opera too often associated with elephantine bombast. On 27 February 2015. www.santacecilia.it.