Short breaks

Travel

10 of the best insider’s tips to Amsterdam

With tickets for Eurostar’s direct service to Amsterdam on sale from 20 February, we pick some of the city’s best restaurants, parks and cultural attractions away from the tourist centre

Amsterdam’s reputation for stag dos, spliff and sex tourism belies the rich pickings beyond Dam Square. Described by locals as a village, Amsterdam has the arts, entertainment and startup scene of many larger cities but retains a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. As a resident, I love that all my favourite places are just a short journey away. The vibe is laid-back and the dress code avoids the stiff chic of more status-conscious cities: the rule is, if you can’t cycle in it, don’t wear it. From picturesque narrow streets of higgledy-piggledy houses to sweaty techno nights in converted factories, this city reveals its many faces to those willing to stray from the tourist hotspots.

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A local’s guide to Istanbul’s new cool neighbourhood

In once sleepy Kadıköy-Moda, new nightlife and culture hotspots happily coexist with the district’s established restaurants and cafes

Until recently, the neighbourhood of Kadıköy-Moda, on the Asian side of Istanbul at the southern end of the Bosphorus, was an unremarkable, mostly residential place that barely registered on the city’s cultural map. Over the past few years, however, it has become an unlikely hotspot for cutting-edge bars, art and culture hubs, cafes and music venues, as well as a haven for plugged-in, liberal-minded people opposed to Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian political climate.

Related: 10 of the best ways to enjoy Istanbul on a budget

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Travel

10 of the best eccentric attractions in Europe: readers’ travel tips

Weird wonders, including a prowl around Amsterdam’s cat museum, a truly deep Transylvanian theme park and ‘Stalin’s World’ in Lithuania, have made readers embrace the quirky

For a surreal experience, look no further than the Salina Turda salt mine. The 120-metre-deep mine was built in the 17th century and briefly used during the second world war as a bomb shelter. Then, later, it was a cheese storage facility. More recently it has been converted into a magical underground theme park, with a ferris wheel, mini-golf, bowling alley and table tennis. It also has an underground lake with rowing boats that you can use to explore the mine.
Adult £5.75, child £2.90; ferris rides £1, row boats £2.90, salinaturda.eu
Lindsay Watters

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Travel

City safari: overnight with wolves and monkeys in Bristol

A stay at a new wildlife centre offers families a mini safari experience – with monkeys, a night-time wolf expedition and breakfast with giraffes

Plus: More UK wildlife sanctuaries

It’s early evening and the gates to the wildlife park have been closed to the public. All is quiet, except for birdsong, the gentle rustling of wind in the trees and an occasional excited shriek from a gelada monkey. We (my six-year-old daughter Nell and husband Huw) are gathered around a fire pit along with four other families who are trying out Camp Baboon, a new night-time wildlife and bushcraft experience at the Wild Place Project, a satellite venture run by Bristol Zoo.

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‘Blissfully unhurried’: hopping around Germany’s ‘forgotten’ islands

The Halligen Islands are so low-lying that high tides flood them each winter, but the laid-back inhabitants are more than equal to the challenge

‘And here are the beds,” said Alina, guide at the Kapitän Tadsen Museum, pointing to some tiny wooden cots built into the wall like cupboards. “They’re so short because the people slept sitting up.”

I raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “Well,” she said, “they thought that if they slept lying down, the devil might think they were dead and steal their souls.”

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Travel

A local’s guide to Düsseldorf, by music writer Rudi Esch

Home of electro pioneers Kraftwerk and groundbreaking artists like Andreas Gursky, the city on the Rhine is still a melting pot for art, design and music

‘Düsseldorf has a certain flair. It is completely different from Berlin or Cologne or Munich. Lots of things come from Düsseldorf. It’s quite impressive what has been exported all around the world from here since the Seventies; especially considering the size of the place.”

That’s how the late Klaus Dinger, an early member of Kraftwerk who went on to form the groups NEU! and La Düsseldorf, summed up his home town.

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Travel

20 of Europe’s best new hotels and hostels for 2018

Fancy staying in a converted convent or an old post office that’s been given a new stamp of style? We pick new places across Europe, from affordable dorms to sea view suites

Doubles from €90 room-only
Opened September 2017
Bedrooms 47
As the name suggests, this new boutique hotel (pictured above) celebrates avant-garde artists and pioneers in the fields of music, literature, design, fashion and architecture. Each room takes its inspiration from a different visionary: the Frida Kahlo room has vibrant hues and tropical prints; Andy Warhol has a splash of pop art colour. It may sound gimmicky, but it’s all done with flair and good taste, and the views from the pool terrace over rooftops and the Douro river are some of the best in the city. The in-house Digby restaurant offers contemporary dishes with the flavours of Portuguese gastronomy.
torelavantgarde.com

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Travel

Inspired by Italy’s Delia: a food tour of Cilento, Campania

Delia Morinelli helped bring the Mediterranean diet to world attention in the 1970s. Now she’s opened her first restaurant in the Cilento, a quiet corner of Italy that’s perfect for a culinary road trip

Delia Morinelli has been cooking all her life and she’s not about to stop now she’s in her 80s. In fact, she is making the most of her ninth decade by taking on a new challenge – her first restaurant. On the terrace of her hillside home in the coastal village of Pioppi, two hours south of Naples, A Casa di Delia, is reached by narrow stone steps through a garden. From vine-shaded tables, diners look out across the Tyrrhenian Sea, where windsurfers leave white trails in the sparkling blue water.

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The Czech Republic’s Bohemian Paradise: as magical as it sounds

A location for Sky Atlantic’s TV series Britannia, this enchanted landscape in the north of the country is somewhere to go into Bohemian rhapsodies over

Sitting in contemplative silence atop an enormous sandstone rock, I hear the first whoops in the distance. My initial reaction is to wonder who dares destroy this peace and tranquillity? Is it leftover warlords from Jez Butterworth’s new blockbuster TV drama Brittania? Scenes from the series (which aired for the first time on Sky Atlantic last week) were filmed in this monstrous natural playground. Then I realise that the noise is coming my way, leaping up the great boulders, climbing flights of stone steps, squeezing through shoulder-width crevices and spiralling around stone towers.

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Travel

A local’s guide to Sydney

Ringed by national parks and blessed with more than 100 beaches, the best bits of Sydney are outdoors, active and (mostly) free. Here’s how to enjoy it like a local

‘The best things about Sydney are free,” resident Russell Crowe has said. It is arguably the top metropolis on the planet for soaking up the scenery, but Sydneysiders don’t take these God-given gifts for granted. When they’re not out in the surf, swimming laps in an ocean pool, or sailing around the harbour, locals are barbecuing, picnicking, or finding other ways to enjoy the subtropical setting.

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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 fantastic mind, body and soul festivals for 2018

Relax, restore and reset yourself at these festivals that feature yoga classes, spa treatments, healthy food, live music – and, yes, occasionally, a little alcohol

Launched last year, Soul Circus offers a programme of yoga and pilates, plus live music, DJs, healthy food supplied by local farmers and thought-provoking talks. There’ll be classes from aerial to blindfold yoga, workshops on topics such as the science of happiness, and the chance to chill in the spa with holistic treatments and lakeside hot tubs. It’s held at picturesque Elmore Court near Gloucester, and the gardens and woodlands are the setting for light shows and parties held long into the night.
17-19 August, tickets £189, soulcircus.yoga

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Travel

10 of the best UK winter escapes

A good way to break up the winter is with a few days in the countryside. We’ve picked stays across Britain, from cosy B&Bs to stylish holiday homes, many with seasonal offers

The Bell Inn is an independent hotel in a Grade II-listed building that has been family-owned since 1782. Its classic country house interiors – fireplaces, flagstone floors and stylish bedrooms – are complemented by a restaurant that prides itself in locally sourced food. A “winter warmer” deal including dinner and breakfast is £64.50pp.
• Doubles from £99 B&B, bellinn-newforest.co.uk

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Travel

The best 2018 holiday deals and January sales

Flight offers, family holiday packages and affordable spa breaks all feature in our roundup of New Year travel deals, to destinations such as Italy, the Azores and Canada

Super Break is offering deals on spa breaks, as well as free extra nights at destinations such as Barcelona, where you could get a three-night city break in January for as little as £90.50pp, including flights from Liverpool.
superbreak.com

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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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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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