Jet Off For Summer
We’re sure you don’t need an excuse to book your next getaway but if you are looking for some justification, surely escaping the April showers and heading to the sunnier climates of a European city break are enough to tempt you?
Whether you’re looking for mouth-tingling cuisine, charming architecture or buzzing nightlife, Europe’s exciting cities offer these in abundance. With regular flights from your local airport to these destinations, all that’s left for you to do is choose the city, and book your spring break!
Madrid has unbridled energy and charisma. Chocolate and churros, paintings and plazas, tapas to share, jugs of sangria…it all adds up to create a dreamy destination. The wide boulevards and grand public squares express a deeper part of the city’s personality.
Soak up the spirit of Madrid by skipping the touristy spots in the centre and venturing out to the neighbourhoods of Malasaña, La Latina or Chueca to dine like a local. Madrileños are famously open and welcoming but typically eat at 10pm after the afternoon siesta, so if you can wait until then, you’ll experience the city’s true spirit. Cosy up in Bodega de los Secretos, a maze of underground 17th century wine cellars, and catch an intimate flamenco show – the atmosphere is truly magical. Have a sherry or a glass of cava for a nightcap, and if you’ve caught the Madrid spirit, go out dancing until dawn.
If you want to make the most of the warm spring climate, explore the city’s beauty on a stroll through one of its parks. Parque El Capricho’s exquisite 18th-century gardens on the city’s outskirts are a local favourite. A bit more central is El Cerro del Tío Pío, made up of seven hills that offer panoramic views of the city.
See masterful art by Goya at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum or view 19th century paintings and furniture in the Museo del Romanticismo. Once you’re cultured out, warm up in one of the city’s cosy, character-filled cafés. Order a café con leche with churros and melted chocolate.
On top of being home to some of the world’s best seafood, Lisbon boasts a warm Mediterranean climate and a mix of traditional architecture and contemporary culture, an ideal spring city break location.
For a real taste of Lisbon, get lost in the Alfama district, a network of charming cobbled streets. Take a leisurely stroll to the promenade and relax in one of the many intimate cafés, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, hop on the cable car for magnificent views of the city and its coast.
If you find the city centre a bit congested, explore it on foot. Go old-world romantic and marvel at some of the ancient architecture such as the 16th century Gothic Tower of Belém or the Jerónimos Monastery, with its elaborate portals and serene cloisters.
By night, Lisbon’s wine bars are a hazy, alluring delight where you can nestle up with some of the country’s best wines and sample specialty dishes. You mustn’t leave without trying a pastéis de belém – heavenly crispy pasty filled with custard cream and sprinkled with cinnamon. Enjoy the city like a local and you will soon fall for its warm character and beguiling charm.
Two distinct cities, Buda and Pest, separated by a river, joined together in 1873. Both sides of Budapest exude old-school elegance: the hills and cobbled streets of Buda as well as the nightlife and world-class shopping of Pest.
Heat things up with a dip in a thermal bath. Budapest’s abundant thermal springs have earned it the moniker ‘City of Spas’. Széchenyi Baths are the oldest in the city, with palatial architecture and outdoor pools so you can swim under the stars. For a bit of bacchanalia, you can visit Lukacs Baths for a weekend bath party with laser lights, cocktails and electro music.
Sailing down the Danube river is a great way to see both sides of the city. During the day, stop off at the pedestrian-only Margaret Island, or enjoy dinner and dancing under the night stars. If you’d like to sample some more of the local treats like lángos (fried dough topped with sour cream and cheese), visit the beautiful Central Market Hall. Whilst you’re there, check out the roof – it’s covered in colourful Zsolnay tiles dating back to the mid-19th century.
Some of the best times can be had in ruin pubs – Budapest’s truly unique creation – derelict buildings reinvented with second-hand furniture, local art and cheap drinks. Social hubs and music venues including Ellátó Kert, Szimpla Kert, Kuplung, and Udvar Rom are all popular with locals and tourists alike.
Budapest was also one of the first European cities to catch the escape room game fever. There are dozens of versions, but all follow a similar format of finding clues and solving puzzles to escape a locked room. Visit Parapark, Claustrophilia, or Mind Quest to test your skills.
Amsterdam is a city like no other: small enough to walk or bike everywhere, but big enough to consistently excite and entertain. Equal parts charming and chill, it’s the unofficial capital of bohemian living. Cosy up at one of Amsterdam’s traditional ‘brown cafés’, pubs named for their dark wood interiors and low lighting. Try a Dutch beer or a local jenever (Dutch gin) and enjoy the comfort and warmth of one of these venues.
Take in some culture with the world-renowned Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in an evening programme or a free lunchtime concert. If you’re away with your partner, snuggle screen-side at the waterfront Eye Film Institute or the eccentric Pathé Tuschinski Cinema – both have love seats perfect for cuddling.
Don’t underestimate time spent simply strolling along the canals, taking in all of the sights of the city. The historic mansions restored to their gilded glory, the bridges glowing with lights, the calm canal water – a picturesque scene that should be enjoyed.
Prague’s architecture is a visual timeline of the city’s history. The city is known for its many Gothic towers but a recent addition, the Žižkov Tower, is proving particularly popular thanks to its commanding views of the city. With its space-age architecture and unusual art installations, it might be an acquired taste for some, but its 8th floor viewing platform is a must-see. However, not all of Prague’s well-preserved architecture is visible above ground. The underground tour of the medieval city lets you explore the catacombs and former streets hidden from everyday view.
Relax on the waterfront with myriad cafes and bars to choose from along the Vltava river. Sit and drink in the atmosphere (and maybe some excellent Czech beer) while you look out over the famous Charles Bridge. If you’re a beer drinker, there’s more to Prague than the two brewing giants Budweiser and Pilsner Urquell. The country has nearly three hundred craft breweries, each producing distinctive beers. Zlý časy is one of the best places in Prague to sample these, with over 45 Czech beers on draft.
Fly to each of these perfect city break destinations from Birmingham Airport – as they’re all in Europe, you’ll be in holiday mode before you know it.