Europe holidays

Travel

Top 10 last-minute half-term holiday deals

Looking for a family break but no time to browse? Our pick of late deals in Europe and further afield will ease the way to a February escape

Cyprus is one of the most popular winter sun destinations in Europe. In February it won’t be hot and the sea temperature will be a bracing 16C-17C but it’s a lot warmer than northern Europe and in many ways more pleasant without the summer crowds. Base yourself in Paphos and think of this as a sunny city break, rather than a week on the beach. The harbour city, in the west of the island, has a wealth of Greco-Roman and medieval sites including the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, a fortress, and an old town that was revamped for the city’s stint as joint European Capital of Culture in 2017. Stay at the beachfront Amphora Hotel and Suites, which has views of the harbour and a pool and is within walking distance of the castle and other sights.
£428pp for seven nights’ B&B including return flights departing Gatwick 11 February for 7 nights, book through onthebeach.co.uk

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Travel

Five gorgeous short hikes in Europe

The ‘man who hiked the world’ is an Instagrammer from London who travels the globe in search of great walking routes. Here he picks his favourites in Europe, all under five hours

• Tell us about your favourite easy hikes in Europe in the comments below

Each of these five short hikes is an introduction to a stunning part of Europe away from well-trodden hiking trails. All the walks can be completed in a few hours and the paths are well signposted.

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Travel

Winter sun destinations: 10 top trips

Whether it’s yoga in Morocco, fine food in South Africa or getting off the beaten track in Brazil, here are 10 holidays to escape the winter blues

Lying just off the coast of Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is the kind of place backpackers used to congratulate themselves on finding. But for those of us who don’t have the luxury of taking a gap year, tour operator Tui has just launched the first direct flights from the UK this winter, bringing this remote island within an 11.5 hour flight on the 787 Dreamliner. Expect powdery white palm-fringed sands, clear warm waters and excellent diving. Spend a week at the Vinpearl Phu Quoc Resort, perched on the edge of Bai Dai Beach, with idyllic views of the Gulf of Thailand from almost every angle.
£859pp all-inclusive at Vinpearl Phu Quoc Resort, including return flights, with Tui

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Travel

Top 10 affordable spas, bath houses and hammams in Europe

Plunge into a world of soothing saunas, hot tubs and steam rooms with our pick of hot spots with character but without the whopping spa resort prices

Rejuvenate before you de-juvenate in Europe’s clubbing capital with a trip to Liquidrom, a much-loved spa in the trendy Kreuzberg neighbourhood that offers a chic-luxury experience for a fraction of the price you’d expect. The centrepiece of this urban bath house is a large salt-water pool in a dimly lit room with a domed roof; the salt density is high enough to make floating easy, while piped chillout muzak encourages a total trance-out. Elsewhere, there’s a range of saunas and steam rooms – including a Himalayan salt sauna and an outdoor pool where you can enjoy a drink in the crisp Berlin air.
• From €19.50 for two hours’ sauna and thermal bath, liquidrom-berlin.de

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Travel

Frankfurt city guide: what to see plus the best bars, restaurants and hotels

Goldman Sachs’s CEO tweeted that he’ll be spending more time in the city after Brexit. He won’t be the only one. We asked a local journalist to show us around

As someone who grew up in this city, I’m familiar with what you think you know about it: it’s dull, it’s cold, everybody talks about money, there is no subculture, no real nightlife, and why aren’t you in Berlin already?

Let me stop you there. First, we are a good-humoured, friendly bunch, who are interested in getting things done without being pretentious about it. That’s why there are always new places popping up. The Museum of Romanticism is being built right next to the poet Goethe’s birthplace and is due to open in early 2020. The Altstadt, the old town destroyed in the second world war, is being reconstructed – not as a Disney fantasy but as a modern version of its former self.

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Travel

The best city breaks in Germany: readers’ travel tips

Riesling and Romans, baroque and bratwurst … our tipsters point to alluring cities from Bavaria to the Hanseatic northern ports – but sidestepping Berlin – taking in great food, museums, spas and bars
Submit a readers’ travel tip for next week

One of Bavaria’s oldest cities, Augsburg is a delightful base for a cycling journey on the “Romantic road” or a relaxed city break. Visit the Fuggerei, Europe’s most venerable social housing project, founded by the Fugger banking dynasty in the 16th century. Residents are charged only a nominal rent provided they attend mass daily – just as in the 1500s. The Brechthaus in the old artisan quarter of Lechviertel is the birthplace of Bertolt Brecht and offers insights into the great playwright, poet and director’s Augsburg youth, US exile and uneasy relationship with the GDR after eventually taking up residence in East Berlin. Enjoy hearty portions of knödel (dumplings) and spätzle (soft egg noodles) at Bauerntanz on Bauerntanzgasschen for around €25 a head. The Hotel Riegele, opposite the railway station, is comfortable, moderately priced (doubles €92 B&B) and a short stroll from the city centre.
Brian Weston

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Travel

St Petersburg: city of revolution turns itself around – again

This year all eyes have been on what happened in Russia’s cultural capital 100 years ago, but we ask local artists and musicians for the lowdown on its best 21st-century clubs and arts venues

“You won’t find anything like this in Moscow,” Kolya Dubinko, a St Petersburg native, insists. We’re sitting on a wooden bench next to an old sailing boat outside newly opened bar/club Machty (Masts). The venue – which on this particular evening is hosting a selection of techno DJs and producers on Moscow label Gost Zvuk Records – occupies a former factory known as Priboi that once produced radio-electronics. It’s in a relatively secluded spot at the far end ofVasilievsky Island, one of the oldest parts of the city, on the Shkiperskiy canal. Machty simultaneously reflects the city’s intimate relationship with water (St Petersburg has 93 rivers and canals and 800 bridges), its industrial Soviet past and its 18th-century baroque architecture. Kolya ushers me through a small gate that leads to the canalembankment and I’m hit by biting wind from the Gulf of Finland, laced with smells of fish and engine oil.

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Travel

Ai Weiwei installation set to shine at Amsterdam Light Festival

The Chinese artist’s piece, Thinline, which represents a theoretical border, takes pride of place among 36 installations at the city’s land- and canal-based annual light festival

Original artworks by Ai Weiwei and Cecil Balmond will be unveiled in the Dutch capital this week, as part of the launch for this year’s Amsterdam Light Festival. From Thursday 30 November, Amsterdam’s city centre will be illuminated by 36 light installations, designed exclusively for the festival, which is now in its sixth year.

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Travel

10 of the best restaurants and food stalls in Paris’s covered markets

Food halls, many in historic buildings, are flourishing all over the French capital and feature bistrots and stalls serving the very best traditional and ethnic dishes

Paris has not had a single central food market since Les Halles was demolished in the 1970s. But there are still flourishing historic covered markets serving neighbourhoods all over city. Apart from selling tempting cheeses, charcuterie and wines to take home, these bustling, friendly marchés also have a great choice of casual stalls to eat at, fresher and more reasonably priced than most of the surrounding restaurants. They are also a good introduction to the multi-ethnic face of Paris, with Lebanese or Portuguese specialities, Moroccan tagines or Japanese cuisine, spicy West African dishes or vegetarian burgers.

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Travel

A little piste of Christmas in the Austrian Alps

The high Alpine resort of Katschberg proves perfect for a family of mixed abilities, and December’s lantern-lit advent trail leaves everyone feeling festive

I’m zig-zagging slowly down a beginners’ slope trying to avoid the three-year-olds zipping across my path and under the outstretched arms of a giant Mr Man. My two daughters, age 12 and 10, glide along behind me. As we pull to a stop I breathe a sigh of relief. I didn’t fall over that time.

“High five,” says Nico, our instructor. My daughters slide into position beside me, nonchalantly touching gloves with him as they do so. I try to reach over to his hand without going bottoms up again. I miss.

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Art

Naked attraction: art and tragic tales in Modigliani’s Paris

As Tate Modern prepares a new exhibition of his work, including 12 of his famous nudes, Louise Roddon explores the artist’s haunts in Montmartre and Montparnasse

Poor Amedeo Modigliani, what a tough life he led. I’m thinking this as I climb the steps to his last studio in Montparnasse. It’s a classic artist’s garret with peeling paint and poor lighting, and climbing the countless floors on a narrow stone tread, leaves me winded. It wouldn’t have been easy for a man with advanced tuberculosis. With Tate Modern about to stage its Modigliani exhibition, I’ve come to number 8 Rue de la Grande-Chaumière, his final home before he died tragically young in 1920. At 35, he wasn’t just a victim of TB, but was suffering the toll of a lifetime’s enthusiasm for alcohol and drugs.

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Travel

10 of the best restaurants near Venice’s major attractions

Want to avoid a shock lunch bill in Venice? Follow our guide to great value, traditional trattorie and bars close to the city’s biggest tourist draws

Venice is notoriously difficult for finding reasonably priced restaurants serving good food. The cheap eats challenge only increases when you find yourself at lunchtime at one of its most popular attractions. But hidden down a side street there is always the chance to come upon a traditional bacaro bar serving bite-sized cicchetti and panini, or a classic trattoria whose dish of the day is a steaming plate of pasta topped with a simple but tasty ragù.

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Travel

Elena Ferrante’s Naples – a photo essay

We follow in the (fictional) footsteps of the heroines of My Brilliant Friend and its sequels, into the alleyways, gritty apartment blocks and piazzas of this energetic and fascinating city

Lenù and Lila, the fictional protagonists of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, forge their friendship in a deprived area of Naples, just east of the cacophonous central station. The books follow the girls’ fraught relationship as they navigate the distinct social and economic divides of the city, both railing against and succumbing to the expectations of women as they struggle to be defined by something other than the violence and poverty of their post-war upbringing.

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Travel

Not so sheepish now: Google Street View adds the Faroe Islands

One woman’s idea of strapping cameras to sheep prodded the internet giant into helping put the north Atlantic islands on Street View – with a resulting upswing in tourism

The Faroe Islands has become the latest remote part of the world to be featured on Google Street View – thanks to one woman and five sheep. Last July, tired of waiting for Google to map the autonomous Danish archipelago between Norway and Iceland, resident Durita Andreassen started her own Sheep View. She strapped 360-degree cameras to a handful of sheep and uploaded the resulting images, with their GPS coordinates, to Street View, while petitioning Google to finish the job. (There are nearly twice as many sheep as people on the 18 islands, hence the attention-catching method.)

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Travel

Amsterdam’s enclave of peace and tranquillity

A historic courtyard in the city centre was once home to a pious order of women. It is still a wonderfully peaceful spot, though these days anyone is free to enjoy its serenity

In Amsterdam’s busy centre, on the northern side of the square called the Spui, an unassuming timber door is a portal into one of the city’s most magical spots: a 14th-century enclosed courtyard where tiny gabled houses – all different – wrap around green lawns. Traffic noise vanishes and the serenity is almost startling – particularly these days, with parts of the city now suffering the detrimental effects of mass tourism.

This former convent (of sorts) was home to the Beguines, a Catholic order of unmarried or widowed women who lived like nuns although they didn’t take monastic vows. The last died in 1971.

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Travel

In Grandpa’s footsteps on the shores of Carlingford Lough, Ireland

Hannah Louise Summers uses a new ferry service – a lake crossing on which her grandfather once worked – to explore both sides of Carlingford Lough, which straddles the Irish border

Every school holiday was the same. For hours we’d trundle south from Belfast in my grandpa’s battered blue minibus – a journey dotted with punctures, Werther’s Originals and mugs of tea. We’d cross the border, stop for a loaf of bread and a scratchcard, and finally pull into Omeath, the small village on Carlingford Lough where my grandpa grew up.

Here, on a hill overlooking the water, granny and grandpa had a pea-green static caravan. Trapped in the claustrophobic web of its net curtains, I’d make the most of my holiday, playing shop with anyone who’d pop in. Sometimes I’d wander down to the shore, lose my hard-hustled coppers to a tiny room of slot machines, or throw some pebbles in the lough – the lough where Grandpa first wooed Granny when she was here on her holidays; the lough where Grandpa worked as a ferryman.

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Travel

A cycling tour of the Balkans: two wheels, three countries, four days

Our writer and his friends recapture their youth and the joy of cycling, with a challenging trip taking in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro

Rocking my bike from side to side, I crested the final rise and the landscape opened out before me. A high-altitude meadow freckled with cows rolled down into a shallow bowl surrounded by savagely contorted, parallel slabs of limestone sticking straight up from the earth. Beyond was 2,523-metre Bobotov Kuk, the highest point in Montenegro’s wondrous Unesco-listed Durmitor national park. Behind me were yet more staggering views, across glacial lakes to rows of mountain peaks, deep river gorges and pine forests populated by wild cats, bears and wolves.

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Travel

Bologna city guide: what to see plus the best bars, restaurants and hotels

The opening of a foodie theme park will further elevate Bologna’s reputation as Italy’s culinary capital but the city has plenty more to offer, including superb art, music and medieval architecture

Europe’s oldest university town (it was founded in 1088) has been a haven for intellectuals and creative types since luminaries such as Dante and Petrarch passed through in the 14th century. Cultural capitals can ossify with time, but the constant influx of young blood into Bologna has kept the city alive. In the evenings, cafes flood with Bolognesi, from high-society ladies to stylishly scruffy undergraduates arguing politics and sipping Aperol spritzes.

Piazza Verdi attracts musicians and dreadlocked punks, while bars under the arches of Piazza Santo Stefano are a lovely spot for a sundowner. At weekends the central Via Ugo Bassi and Via Rizzoli, along with perpendicular Via dell’Indipendenza, are pedestrianised and fill with shoppers and street performers. At nightfall, crowds from the student bars along Via Zamboni and the more upscale options on Via del Pratello spill into the streets.

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Travel

10 of the best attractions in Emilia-Romagna: readers’ travel tips

Fast cars, slow food, hilltop castles and open-air art galleries … Our readers pick their highlights of Emilia-Romagna – classic Italy without the crowds

On a hilltop between Bologna and Imola is Dozza, a handsome village of classic medieval appearance, with an unexpected twist. The entire village is an open-air gallery with around 100 artworks displayed wherever space allows. Murals adorn walls, doors and archways, showcasing a variety of styles by many different artists. Guided tours must be pre-booked but it is always open and accessible to all. Every two years, notable artists are invited to contribute to the collection, keeping it at the cutting edge of modern art. And in the enoteca regionale, more than 800 wines from Emilia-Romagna are available in the beautiful vaulted cellar of the fort. A fine day out.
marthah

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