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The Sunday Times Travel writers Mark Hodson and David Wickers.


Recommended by The Times, Which and Daily Mail

Short breaks in January

By Annabelle Thorpe, Editor of 101 Short Breaks

January, let’s face it, is the month we could all do without. A combination of post-Christmas slump, long dark days and a fear that it make take the rest of the year to work off the amount of Quality Street consumed makes it a pretty gloomy time. The good news is that, price-wise at least, it’s a great time for a break; flight prices are low, hotels often have offers and cities run Restaurant and Theatre weeks to make sure seats remain filled. And if the budget won’t stretch to getting on a plane, there are plenty of wintry pleasures to be found at home.

Park Guell, BarcelonaBarcelona beachStay in a riad

Party on

If you don’t see why the party should stop once the New Year turns, there are plenty of cities that blaze with life through the darkest days of January. Barcelona saves its serious celebrations until January 5, when the Cavalcada dels Reis – a huge parade led by the three kings, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar – winds its way around the city to celebrate Epiphany. Or hop to Berlin, which staves off the severe winter cold (pack plenty of jumpers) with the Days of Dance festival – showcasing the city’s contemporary dance scene – and Berlin Fashion Week making sure the new year kicks off in style.

Marrakech seethes with life every night, regardless of what month it is; the city’s central square, the Jemaa el Fna, comes alive with storytellers, musicians and drummers every night of the week. Evenings are cool, but many riads (traditional townhouse hotels) have cosy salons, with roaring fires – perfect for romantic dinners for two.

If you love food, take one of these New Year gourmet breaks in Spain or Italy, visiting interesting cities such as Bologna, Lucca, Turin and Salamanca.

The RialtoTime Squareflamenco

See the sights

January is a great time to visit Europe’s best-known capitals and cities – even the streets of Venice are quiet at this time of year. The city’s galleries are free of crowds – visit the Galleri dell’ Accademia to see paintings by Titian, Bellini and Tintoretto, or hop across to Dorsoduro to see the wonderful array of works at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Paris, too, feels a little sleepy and subdued in January, but the cafes on the Left Bank still welcome shoppers and lovers to come in out of the cold, and the spectacular sales in all the shops make it impossible not to do your credit card some further damage. Check out these short breaks.

Or head to Seville, where the temperature often reaches 15ºC, even in deepest January. Game of Thrones fans should visit the Royal Alcazar Palace, which doubles as the Dorne Palace and Gardens, while foodies should make the most of the city’s vibrant tapas culture. After all, who says January has to be about diets and detox? Head to New York during the city’s Restaurant Week and you can take advantage of great deals and special menus at eateries throughout the city. Airfares and hotel rates are also at their lowest.

How about going north to see the Northern Lights. Stay in one of these Glass Igloos in Finnish Lapland for the ultimate comfortable viewing experience.

Villa retreatSuperb treatmentsMan jumping on the beach
Work it off

But if Christmas has left you feeling like an over-indulged sloth (and frankly if it hasn’t, you’re doing something wrong,) then a health-focused break can be a great choice. Even just a few nights away can make a difference; try in:spa retreats which offers personal trainers, masseurs, cooks and yoga teachers – or focus on your fitness with fitscape. See more options from the Healthy Holiday Company.

If it’s a mental re-boot you need, rather than physical, try a life-coaching weekend on the Isle of Wight (Skyros). Ideal for single travellers, these breaks offer the chance to plot a strategy for the things you want to change, and how to make that strategy happen. In some ways, though, there’s nothing better to lift spirits and re-charge batteries than hearty walks through glorious, unspoilt countryside.

Last updated: 7 August 2018

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