From Roman gladiator school to waltzing in Vienna: 5 amazing skills you can learn on holiday

21st Feb 19 | Lifestyle

Trinkets and bric-a-brac are out; activities and experiences are in, according to new research.


These days the best souvenirs aren’t picked up at a gift shop – they’re lived, breathed, and remembered.

New statistics by TripAdvisor show that the number of tourists looking for workshops and classes has spiked by 97% year on year, proving that for the modern holiday the Instagram post might be mightier than the fridge magnet.

There are a few old favourites that have entertained tourists for decades – like skiing and surfing – but the modern marketplace has thrown up all kinds of diversions and activities to suit more adventurous travellers.

Here are a few holiday ideas guaranteed to yield the kind of memento you can’t lose down the side of your sofa.

1. Gladiator School, Rome

Gladiator lessons

Admit it, you fantasised about being a gladiator when you were younger. None of us would like the reality – long hours, near-certain death, and the sand would definitely get in your eyes – but this two hour training session features all the fun with none of the fatalities.

Lessons last two hours and take place a mile and a half from the Coliseum, with traditional armour and fight tips provided by the Historic Group of Rome.

2. Couples Waltzing, Vienna

Gothic spires, Victorian-era street lamps, and the slow-moving waters of the Danube – Vienna is a city bathed in romance. And where could be more fitting to learn that most romantic of dances: The Viennese waltz.

Easier than the tango, without the plodding pace of the slow dance, waltzing strikes the perfect balance of elegance and accessibility. Grab your partner and head to Palais Boutique Ballroom for a 45 minute session with a professional, accompanied by the soaring melodies of Vienna native Johann Strauss II.

3. Mask Making, Venice

Venetian masks

With a workshop teaching you the rudiments of mask-making, and then a mask to take home at the end – this class on Venetian carnival manages the best of both worlds.

Mould your mask from scratch with the day-long production course, or drop in at the halfway stage and decorate one they made earlier. Your artisan instructor is well-versed in history, and will educate curious students on this ancient Venetian art.

4. Samurai School, Kyoto

Samurai School

The spiritual home of the legendary samurai warriors – Kyoto, Japan, remains a cultural hub for samurai practice and traditions.

Another staple of childhood fantasy, this family favourite culminates with a social media-friendly photoshoot in full samurai regalia. Your sensei (teacher) for the day will help you learn the ancient performance art of Kembu, and how to bow, draw, and slash with a real, if blunted metal blade.

5. Cambodian Pottery, Siem Reap

Cambodian pottery making

Pottery isn’t know for lung-busting excitement, but this well-organised workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia, features traditional Khmer carving tools, a ride in a tuk-tuk, and an instructional from one of the main local artists.

Another keep-what-you-make, the resulting pot will work wonders as a DIY ornament, or fill a bowl-sized hole in your crockery cupboard.

© Press Association 2019