Movember Travel Guide
Surely you haven’t forgotten that November is that hair-raising month when men across the world show their support for cancer charities by trying to grow a sponsored moustache or beard. Movember, also known as ‘No-Shave November’ in some countries, transforms the approach of winter into a wonderfully light-hearted and fuzzy-faced time of year. This popular international movement has become one of the biggest charity projects in the world, raising around £500 million over the last 11 years.
The ‘growing’ phenomenon (pardon the pun) is an excellent excuse to tailor your next city break, in order to maximise your chances of spotting spectacular facial hair… or take the opportunity to show off your own blossoming third eyebrow.
So where are the best destinations in the world for a bit of beard-spotting?
When Simon Heptinstall captained the British travelwriters team on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show he humiliatingly scored no points at all. It was yet another memorable milestone in an award-winning writing career that has included being described by Private Eye as “a miserable little squirt”, repeatedly spelling ‘kangaroo’ wrong in a book for Australians and enthusiastically driving a high-speed dog-sled into a tree. In between Simon has become the only person to have worked for both BBC Countryfile… and BBC Top Gear.
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You may be surprised to hear that the biggest Movember enthusiasts are in the normally restrained and conservative country of Canada. But don’t forget, it’s also the land of rugged bearded lumberjacks and Mounties too, and is consistently the country that raises the most for Movember charities.
For visitors, this means that popular hangout spots across Canada, such as Vancouver’s Granville Island, Ossington in Toronto, Place D’Armes in Montreal and Quebec’s Place Royale could make great moustache and beard-spotting locations.
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Our pick would be Vancouver, as it’s one of the world’s great cities to visit. It offers that hip west-coast vibe mixed with stupendous outdoor adventures on the doorstep, including skiing, boarding and hiking in the mountains, watersports and cruises in the waterways and inlets, and the chance to explore the islands and wildernesses of British Columbia.
The city itself has a lively foodie, culture and club scene. You’ll find the colourful and bohemian Granville Island area is the best place to mix with the trendiest locals. Vancouver even has its own Movember organisation and promises a busy calendar of moustache-related events throughout the month.
Down to the south, USA has also become a serious centre of fashionable moustache and beard nurturing. The hairy hotspot for this trend is Portland in Maine. Not only do the locals here love Movember, but the men of Portland hold an annual Facial Hair Festival in Spring, which includes the world’s only moustache film festival.
Other moustache mega-centres in the States include Nashville, Tennessee, which hosted this September’s national ‘Just for Men’ Beard and Moustache Championships in the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, the famous country and western theatre venue.
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Meanwhile, if you’re visiting Orlando in Florida, the theme-park capital of the world, look out for Scott Metts. It’s hard to miss the American Champion beard-wearer, he has an enormous ginger beard and a red moustache that curls up to his forehead.
Things are equally hairy in Europe at this time of year. The Germans’ hairy-faced traditions have placed the country at the forefront of competitive whiskering. The first World Beard and Moustache Championships were held in Hofen in the Black Forest in 1990. German entrants have often dominated the World Championships ever since.
Hofen is a pretty spot to visit, but a tiny place with little people-watching potential. Instead we’d recommend the lively and historic Bavarian capital of Munich. A pavement café at the grand historic central square, Marienplatz, could be the best place to display your efforts or spot a passing facial creation.
Further north, Norway has a proud tradition of beards. The northern city of Trondheim is the only place to have held the World Beard and Moustache Championships twice. This former Viking stronghold is now headquarters of the Norwegian Moustache Club.
Trondheim is a scenic and historic waterfront city that makes a great city break destination at any time of year. However, expect Movember events in November around the student areas in the city centre and eastern hills. The best whisker-watching vantage points will be at the bars and clubs along the pretty Nidelva waterfront.
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Of course, you could go to any major European open space and enjoy people-watching. In November your chances of spotting facial creations skyrockets. How about classic locations like the majestic Rynek Glowny in Krakow, Poland (the largest square in Europe), bustling Covent Garden in London or even elegant Hotel de Ville in Paris?
And you could spend many a happy hour camped at a table in Plaza Mayor in Madrid or along the Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Meanwhile in Italy, Rome is full of popular people-watching piazzas, like the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo.
Budapest would get our vote as the European capital of hairiness. Traditional Hungarian moustaches are big, bushy and sweep out to the sides. They are considered so iconic they have their own category in the World Championships.
Hungarians have long considered their favourite spice, paprika, to have mysterious moustache enhancing properties and many of the country’s politicians and cultural icons throughout history have sported massive moustaches.
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Your chance to join them – or watch them from a safe distance – comes in the capital, Budapest. It’s an elegant old city standing astride the Danube and full of monuments, museums and things to do.
Expect a range of Movember events to celebrate the national facial hair proficiency. Apart from that, your city break in the Maygar metropolis could include a dip in the wonderfully elegant open-air hot spring water spas or a romantic cruise on a riverboat after dark. But whatever you do, if you’re in Budapest in November, make time to people-watch.
Hosek Tere – The Heroes Square – is the grandest spot with visitors always admiring the landmark statues but Andrassy Avenue has the smartest pavement cafes, with heaters to keep you warm. Erzsebet Square is a livelier, younger, hang-out spot but Vorosmarty Square and Fashion Street are the busiest, with tourists, shoppers and street-performers.
The trendy restaurant quarter of Gozsdu Udvar is the best of the lot though. That’s where people go to see and be seen, day and night. It’s definitely the place to sit back, relax… and wait for the whiskers.