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

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


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


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


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


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

More in this Section

Review: Liam Gallagher, Musgrave Park

Online Lives: Makeup artist and blogger Aisling Regan

The natural beekeeping movement is creating the right buzz for our bees

Why us Irish are away with the fairies

Latest Showbiz

BBC’s Ann Sarnoff appointed chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros

Naomi Campbell to be honoured with Fashion Icon Award

Amanda Holden claims Phillip Schofield ignored ‘olive branch’ coffee invitation

Mindy Kaling ‘listening to music and weeping’ as she turns 40

More From The Irish Examiner