Remember when flying was fun? Before the days of long queues, endless checks and airports that are more like shopping malls? Book with Flybe and it’s a whole different experience; they fly from small, regional airports that connect to dozens of European destinations, ideal for a stress-free start to your citybreak or week in the sun.
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.
Planning a trip to Paris should be easy – book the train, find a hotel and hey presto, you’re en vacances. Only it’s rarely that simple – trawling though endless websites to find the lowest prices can feel like hard work. That’s where trivago comes in. It scans over 200 websites to find the best deals – from five-star luxe to a budget Left Bank B&B, with prices from £40 per night.
Away from the peak months of summer, Athens is perfect for a weekend break, particularly since the opening in 2009 of the New Acropolis Museum, £100m worth of dazzling modern architecture crammed with Classical treasures. When it comes to hotels, Athens excels at the contemporary as well as some more traditional grandes dames.
If you are interested in the idea of a personal development holiday, Skyros’ weekend breaks are the ideal first step. From a four-star country house on the Isle of Wight to Paris, Venice and Marrakech, combine sightseeing with expert guidance on life coaching and mindfulness to writing, yoga and art with a house party atmosphere.
Reykjavik is a youthful, compact, friendly city set in dramatic countryside and less than three hours’ flying time from the UK. Wander around art galleries and museums, linger in stylish restaurants and cosy coffee bars then take a healing dip in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. If you have the energy, party the night away at the city’s legendary bars.
It may be just a hop across the Channel but in pockets of the Pas de Calais you’ll feel as immersed in the “real” France as if you’d driven half way across the country. Authentic, simple and great value, auberges such as de l’Abbeye and Auberge d’Inxent tick every box, not least for their excellent cooking and low-key charm.
English wine is alive, well and very much in the ascendancy according to discerning quaffers, both at home and abroad. In Gloucestershire you can not only visit one of the largest vineyards in the country, the 100 acre Three Choirs, but you can also sleep and dine on site – so there’s no need to limit your testing of their fine pinot noirs and other produce.
Downton Abbey may be over for another season, but that’s no reason to let standards slip! Book a break with Oliver’s Travels to stay at some of Britain’s most elegant properties – from Georgian townhouses that sleep six, to grand country estates that sleep sixty. All can be rented for exclusive use, with properties in Scotland, England and Wales.
One of the best things about a Saddle Skedaddle cycling break is that you don’t have to be Chris Hoy to enjoy it. All levels of cyclists are catered for, from gentle weekends in the Cotswolds to full-on mountain-bike marathons through the Welsh mountains. Accommodation is all pre-booked, with the accent on cosy B&Bs with splendiferous breakfasts to get you ready for the off.
East Anglia houses a trilogy of pleasures: seaside, countryside and Broads-side. Its long coastline offers fine sandy beaches and birdwatching. The interior has market towns and flinty rural churches built on the proceeds of the medieval wool trade. And the huge patchwork of the Broads is a boater’s paradise. Explore from a cosy cottage or stately manor house, yours for the weekend.
These days a sense of escape is the ultimate luxury, and DDG offers this in spades. There’s a luxury casita for two, tucked away in the Andalucian hills with its own private terrace and alfresco plunge pool, and a stunning villa with a pool. Spend lazy days in the pretty spa, and watch the spectacular sunsets from your own poolside cabana. Heaven.
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.
A real Christmas market – the air thick with the scents of mulled wine, spiced gingerbread and hot sausages – is a classic festive experience. Forget the sad clutch of tinsel-clad huts that we have in the UK, and head to atmospheric cities such as Cologne, Prague and Munich – proof that Christmas shopping really can be about pleasure rather than pain.
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.
What do you want from your city break? A shopping spree? The chance to see world-class art? Or maybe nothing more than long, lazy lunches in pavement cafes watching the world go by. The great thing about Madrid is that you can do them all, and whatever your budget there’s a hotel to suit – whether boutique chic or five-star luxury.
Deeply etched into the history of English summer holidays, the Isle of Wight still delivers traditional seaside pleasures along with a host of other activities. Enjoy a walk on the rolling chalk downs, take to the Solent in a sailboat, sample the mouthwatering local produce or set up camp at the isle’s famed music festival.
With direct Eurostar services from London’s St Pancras, you can zip down to the Provencal sun in less then six hours. As well as intrinsic interest – including its 14th century ramparts, medieval Palais des Papes and Le Pont of all ponts – Avignon is also home to some outstanding hotels and superb cuisine.
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.
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.
Ireland has reinvented itself in recent years; the iconic new Titanic Experience is just one of the big draws in Belfast, while beyond the city there are wonderfully diverse landscapes to discover, from the spectacular Mountains of Morne to the Cork and Kerry coastlines. Take a road trip in style in a classic Mercedes or MGB Roadster.
Elusive, unpredictable and utterly unique – the Aurora Borealis illuminates the northern skies in winter with impromptu displays of vivid colours rolling across the sky. For the best chance of catching the show, head to Tromso in the north of Norway – surprisingly easy to reach from the UK, and a fascinating place to visit.
Jet lag, it seems, holds little fear for the new breed of short breakers, especially those willing to splash out on a flat bed in business class. Hong Kong, set on a dramatic neon-lit harbour, is Asia’s most thrilling city, a culture shock of night markets and dim sum, songbirds and sampans, backstreet temples and bargain shopping.
With a vibe that sits comfortably between a gastro-pub with rooms and a country town hotel, The Castle at Bishop’s Castle is the perfect bolthole, not least for real ale enthusiasts and dog owners. Explore the pretty town or yomp through the glorious surrounding countryside that straddles South Shropshire’s English and Welsh borders.