Feel like somewhere different for a city break? Germany has some of the most fascinating cities in Europe – there are the flamboyant streets of Berlin, the architectural beauty of Dresden and the art collections of Cologne for starters. From grand palaces to medieval streets, each city its own distinctive character, cuisine and appeal.
Sorrento has been putting out the welcome mat for British travellers since the 18th century. As well as the stunning clifftop location, it’s ideal for hopping across the Bay of Naples to Capri by boat, taking a spectacular drive along the hairpins of the Amalfi coast, jumping on the train to Pompeii or strolling to the crater summit of Vesuvius.
Viewing whales and dolphins in the wild is an unmissable experience. Not all the locations are exotic – some of the world’s best cetacean-watching sites are here in Europe. These short trips are a great way to meet others who share your passion and see some of nature’s most amazing creatures.
The crucible of the Renaissance, Florence is packed with art and architectural treasures. You can avoid the inevitable crowds by travelling out of season, but if you are tied to busy times at least lower your stress levels by pre-booking timed entry to the Uffizi. The best time to see David is when the doors of the Galleria dell’Accademia open.
It’s easy to overlook the sheer beauty on our own doorstep. Britain’s rich artistic, architectural and musical heritage lends itself perfectly to the style of holiday offered by Martin Randall Travel: small groups of likeminded people led by expert guides. You could tour the seascapes that inspired Turner, visit grand country houses or walk Hadrian’s Wall.
Anywhere that has a joint love affair with beer and chocolate has to be a great bet for a short break, and the quirky towns and cities in Belgian Flanders serve up both in abundance. Choose picturesque Bruges – all tranquil canals and cafe-lined squares – or quirky Ghent, with its atmospheric, medieval centre. Or try historic Ypres or little-known Leuven or Mechelen.
If Dorset is a county you merely drive through to reach Devon or Cornwall, you’re missing a trick. Its Jurassic Coast offers long sweeping beaches, quaint Lyme Regis, arty Bridport, sleepy rural villages and great foodie pubs. Stay in a cosy cottage, converted barn or cool apartment and join a local expert for a fossil hunt on the beaches of Charmouth and Lyme Regis.
The big decision in magical Marrakech is whether to stay in town in a traditional riad, or outside the city walls. I lean towards the tranquility and incandescent night skies of the latter, but it’s tempting to be within a short walk of the souks, snake charmers, acrobats and fortune-tellers of Djemaa el Fna.
Think winter breaks are just for skiers? Inntravel has a fabulous array of weekend ideas, from snowshoeing through breathtaking Alpine scenery, to discovering Norway’s sparkling landscapes on a reindeer safari. Discover the beauty of the Northern Lights or book a gastro-break in one of Italy’s lesser known-cities to bring in the new year – all wonderful ways to break up those winter days.
Barcelona might just be the perfect city break – fabulous shopping, tapas bars on every corner, Antoni Gaudi’s unique architecture and a buzzy beachfront for sunny days. Travel with Kirker and their Concierge Service can organise everything from tables at the city’s hippest restaurants, to a private guide who will introduce you to some of the city’s best-kept secrets.
Never quite got over your Sex and the City addiction? Still glued to box sets of Boston Legal? Then book an On Location tour and get the insider skinny on bars, cafes, parks and diners in New York or Boston that have featured in both series, along with movies such as When Harry Met Sally, Spiderman and The Town.
If New York is the Big Apple, Washington DC is the Big Cheese; a city that oozes power. Dotted with uber-luxurious hotels that welcome the world’s great and good, Washington mixes world-class museums and galleries with a hip drinking scene and restaurants to rival NYC. Easy to explore on foot, it’s a presidentially-perfect city break.
Keen to lose a few pounds, or shift into a more healthy way of eating but don’t have the time for a week of bootcamp? Essential Escapes has a great range of short-break wellbeing trips, including a three-night yoga and fitness break in a sumptuous villa at the gorgeous Vilalara Thalassa Resort on the Algarve.
There are few trickier customers than sulky teenagers, but hand them a surfboard and a wetsuit and they invariably brighten up. Surfing is just one of the activities offered to families at Penha Longa in Portugal, along with tennis, golf, cycling and horse-riding. Younger children can join others for a host of activities while weary Mums retreat to the luxurious spa.
Chic, sleek and inexpressibly stylish, the Swedish capital is the perfect short-break; stroll the picturesque streets of medieval Gamla Stan, picnic in the spectacular gardens of the Royal Palace, or hop on a boat and explore one of the dozens of islands that make up the Stockholm Archipelago. Just make sure to take plenty of krona – it’s also shopping heaven.
If you’re single, by choice or circumstance, there’s no need to holiday on your own. Travel in company with a singles specialist such as Solos which has a wide choice of fun-packed breaks at home and abroad, all hosted by a tour leader who will ensure everyone mixes and gets the most from their trip.
To discover the real Spain, head to the beautiful northern regions where the beaches are unspoilt, cities such as Bilbao and Santander have the best tapas in the country and there are dozens of wineries to visit. On a short-break driving trip, you can discover all northern Spain has to offer, while staying in charming, small hotels.
Looking for something more meaningful from your next break? The National Trust runs hundreds of working holidays where you can chip in with tasks such as herding goats and repairing drystone walls. Starting at just £60, these breaks allow you to meet like-minded people while helping to conserve the countryside.
Can’t tell a Sancerre from a Sauvignon? Book a wine-themed break with A&C and you’ll be sipping, comparing and learning, while staying in luxurious, authentic hotels and discovering some of the world’s most beautiful wine regions. Foodies are catered for, with fabulous gourmet breaks in France and Italy, and river-cruises and city breaks are also on offer.
St Petersburg is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Its art collections, palaces and grand architectural set pieces are matched only by its magnificent hotels. Whether you go in winter when the snow is thick under foot, or in summer when the “white nights” offer dazzling evening skies, you’ll be beguiled.
Why endure the festive season alone when you could enjoy a luxury Christmas or New Year break in the UK with other singles? Exclusively for solo travellers, Friendship Travel’s festive breaks are based in superb hotels with a sociable programme and your own double room with no supplement.
Head for the golden beaches of northern France where Pierre & Vacances has a selection of holiday villages in Normandy, Picardy and Brittany. They offer comfortable self-catering accommodation in villas, cottages and apartments, while the on-site restaurant, shop and swimming pools make life easy for everyone.
Hitting the sweet spot between old-fashioned style and a contemporary feel can be a tall order, but Pen y Dyffryn, on the Shropshire-Wales border, gets it bang on. Cosy without being chintzy, it is set amidst lush rolling hills and wooded glades. A walk across the hills is the best way to work up an appetite for the spectacular dinners.
Few counties offer such a wide choice of holidays as Devon; traditional beach breaks, walking weekends on Dartmoor, surfing on the north coast or just a peaceful week in a farmhouse, surrounded by gorgeous countryside. Stay in Devon has a wonderful choice of accommodation options, and plenty of suggestions for how to get the most from your visit.