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.
Planning a hen weekend but don’t fancy a spa? Got a family party but can’t face charades? This one-stop directory lists activities around the UK – and the companies that provide them – so that you can zing up a get-together with a difference. Weekend thrills, school holidays and party planning just got considerably easier.
Yet to be convinced about glamping? Book into Trevella Park, near to the glorious beach at Crantock, and the comfy beds, fluffy duvets and fridges that come with the safari tents should help to convince you. The site itself is pleasingly free of ‘entertainment’ and instead offers nature trails, fishing lakes and a heated outdoor pool.
Trying to plan the annual golfing break with the boys, but budget proving a problem? Stay at one of these holiday villages for great golf on your doorstep, with comfortable accommodation that won’t break the bank. Some villages – such as Port Bourgenay in the Vendee and Moliets on the Cote d’Argent – have on-site courses.
You don’t have to be a military history buff to be interested in visiting historic battlefield sites. Over 100 years since the start of the First World War, you can join a small-group tour of memorials and cemeteries, as well as battle sites, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. It’s a truly moving experience for all ages.
A cottage in Cornwall, what could be more relaxing? Until you have to shop and cook, or find a good place for dinner. Book a luxury bolthole with Boutique Retreats and they do the hard work, from booking restaurants to arranging a private chef or deliveries of local Cornish produce. All of which leaves little to do but put your feet up and enjoy the peace. Perfect.
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.
Guaranteed sunshine, sandy beaches and some of Europe’s best spas – there are few places better than Cyprus for a restorative break. Luxury hotels dot the coastline. Be pampered at the Columbia Beach or bliss out on the beach at the Anassa, and combine lazy days by the sea with time exploring the beautiful landscapes and unspoilt villages of the Troodos mountains.
It wasn’t built in a day, nor can Rome be seen in a weekend – unless you want to charge around like a headless gladiator. Limit your choices by focussing on an area of the city such as the Centro Storico around Piazza Navona with its Renaissance palaces and Baroque fountains. For a retail fix, the stylish Via Condotti is nearby. Stay in Trastevere for a taste of the real Rome.
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.
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.
Lundy, or ‘Puffin Island’, sits in the middle of the Bristol Channel. It’s an escape from the rest of the world with just one pub, a farm, two lighthouses and a year-round population of around 20. You can stay in a cottage, campsite or castle, exclusively available through the Landmark Trust, whose work in restoring and sustaining historic buildings is fantastic.
The Stour and Dedham Valleys in Essex-Suffolk border country are where you’ll find the landscapes immortalised by John Constable. Inspect scenes little changed since they were first canvassed, including Flatford Mill and the parish church at Dedham. Our choice of hotel is the stylish but informal family-run Maison Talbooth.
Portugal’s River Douro winds through one of Europe’s most spectacular landscapes before emptying into the Atlantic at the charming World Heritage city of Porto. Stay in atmospheric quintas and visit centuries-old terraced vineyards to sample the Port that made this region famous, and some delicious local cuisine.
History, architecture and long, sandy beaches combine to make Sicily the perfect choice for an Italian short break. Choose from a city weekend among the faded grandeur of Palermo, or a chilled-out foodie few days among the trattorias and locandas of Syracuse. Drive up Mount Etna, eat gelati on the promenade in Cefalu and sip cocktails at sunset in pretty Taormina. Bellissima.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re looking for the ultimate short break, it’s got to be New York. Sip cocktails in the shadow of the Empire State Building, take a stroll through Central Park, soak up the art at MoMA and shop till your credit card drops on the streets of Soho. Trailfinders has a great choice of the best hotels, so all you have to do is pack those cocktail frocks and prepare to party.
Boating on the Norfolk Broads has to be one of the most relaxing ways to spend a long weekend, or more. Pottering along at just 5mph is the perfect speed to wind down, relax and take in the National Park scenery, with long stretches of reed marsh and woodland, the banks dotted with picturesque thatched cottages plus the occasional pub for vital victuals.
Take the slow route through some of Europe’s prettiest regions on two wheels for a truly relaxing break. These four-night cycling breaks are all geared to be enjoyed at your own pace, each day finished off in style with a well-earned dinner in a characterful small hotel. Guilt-free indulgence!
A city break with kids? If it sounds like a recipe for a high-stress weekend, try Family Twist, which aims to make cities such as Paris as accessible and enjoyable for families as loved-up couples. Every aspect, from child-friendly accommodation to activities such as treasure trails and cookery classes, can be pre-organised, helping to create a family jaunt to remember.
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.
Britain’s coastline is dotted with lighthouses. Whilst technology may have rendered many of them obsolete, you can stay in the former lighthouse keepers’ cottages for a coastal break with a real sense of history plus a guarantee of great sea views and bracing walks. From North Yorkshire to Alderney, there’s a superb choice of locations.