Best European spring breaks
Whether you’re after hip hangouts, nostalgic romance, retail therapy or cutting-edge cuisine, Europe has something up its sleeve. Within just a couple of hours, you can reach anything from abandoned beaches to Gothic cathedrals and hilltop palaces to gritty post-industrial bars. It’s right on our doorstep and begging to be explored, so pack your bags and get out there. Here’s a rundown of our current favourites, all just a short trip from London City Airport.
Best for faraway romance: Granada, Spain
Jet into a fairy-tale world of twisted alleyways, Moroccan teahouses and cobbled bridges leading to hole-in-the-wall tapas dens, with flamenco music seeping out from hidden doorways and buckets of bohemian gypsy spirit. Blending traditional Spanish touches with ancient Moorish culture, Granada moves to a beat all of its own. Compact, eclectic and endlessly romantic, it’s daydreamy beyond compare.
The gorgeous Alhambra Palace teeters over the skyline, offering breathtaking views from its bright mosaic fountains and arches, while the plazas of the city centre below offer perfect people-watching spots to linger over a belt-busting hot chocolate with churros. At sunset, head for the lookout point at the quirky Mirador San Nicolás before topping off the evening on the terrace of restaurant Mirador de Morayma (Calle Pianista García Carillo 2, 958 228 290) to gaze out over the Alhambra whilst sampling the best of Granadian cuisine.
Best for family fun: Billund, Denmark
Get giddy with excitement in Billund, the birthplace of Lego, a gleeful playground for little and big kids alike. Home to over 50 attractions ranging from laser mazes to interactive ninja experiences and water slides to dinosaur exhibits, it’s the perfect spot for a family getaway. Turning thousands of wide-eyed children into budding architects every day, it’s inspiring, educational and downright fun.
And that’s just the beginning. The Jutland Peninsula, just beyond the delighted shrieks of the amusement park, boasts some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches, all tucked far off the tourist track. Not only that, but Viking history echoes through the cobbles of Central Jutland, and the surrounding countryside offers a spellbinding medley of meandering rivers, green valleys and thick forest, all guaranteed to get your little monsters back to the bare necessities.
Best for cutting-edge culture: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
If you’ve got your finger on the Euro hipster pulse, you’ll know that Rotterdam is the coolest new kid on the block. Confident, creative and oh-so-current, it’s an ultramodern city on the rise. After being flattened by bombs during WW2, Rotterdam became a blank canvas for progressive architects, all free to experiment without being held back by heritage. The result is a mind-boggling mix of design and innovation, including the new cloud-like Timmerhuis. the swan-like Erasmus Bridge and the 1980s Cube Houses.
One of our top destinations for 2016, Europe’s largest port is finally starting to turn heads. Follow the fascinating public art trail, try your hand at a spot of inner-city canal surfing, rent a floating hot tub (from The HotTug, Postbus 21220, 010 412 5449) and get a heady dose of post-industrial hipster chic. New galleries, drinking spots and restaurants are popping up all over the place, making now the very best time to explore.
Best for retail blowouts: Milan, Italy
Get ready to flex your credit card. Slick, stylish and packed with local Italian pride, Milan is somewhere to indulge in a serious spending spree. One of Europe’s four fashion capitals, it’s a fast-moving urban sprawl of trendy boutiques, cutting-edge clubs, swanky bars and eye-poppingly beautiful people. If you’re out to splurge, there’s simply nowhere better.
Fashionistas should make a beeline for Via Monte Napoleone in the heart of Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro, or ‘rectangle of fashion’. Known affectionately as ‘Montenapo’, this flashy gauntlet is home to Gucci’s flagship store, along with Prada, Valentino and Versace. Balance out the retail therapy with a bit of culture at the neck-cricking Gothic Duomo, and show off your new threads at La Scala (Piazza della Scala, 02 88791), Italy’s most famous opera house.
Best for beach chic: Mykonos, Greece
Cobbled alleyways lined with white-washed houses and turquoise touches, golden beaches and boutique bars pumping out laid-back beats: Mykonos has long been the last word in island elegance. Just a four-hour flight from London, it’s somewhere to unwind in A-list style over a grilled seafood feast, a swanky cocktail and a jaw-dropping sunset.
Mixing Ibiza-esque cool with traditional Greek flavour, Mykonos is packed with sun-kissed glamour and gorgeous coastal hangouts. Famously popular with Brigitte Bardot and Grace Kelly, it’s the place to dust off your designer shades, thrown on a kaftan, sip something bubbly and unleash the film star within.
Best for gourmet getaways: Madrid, Spain
No longer the poor culinary cousin to Paris and Rome, Madrid has recently blossomed into a world-class foodie destination. Michelin-starred restaurants are popping up like mushrooms, while a new wave of gastrobars has given traditional madrileño home-cooking a modern makeover. Whether you’re after a Michelin-starred feast or a hearty Cocina Madrileño (winter stew), you’ll find something in Madrid to rock your taste buds.
Linger over warming garlic soups, partridge stews and sucking pigs, snap up some tasty morsels of cutting-edge tapas, and wander through the three-story food emporium at Mercado de San Ildefonso (Calle Fuencarral 57), the hippest market in town. Don’t miss out on a meal at David Muñoz’s DiverXO (Calle Padre Damián 23, 915 700 766), the three-Michelin-star restaurant recently awarded the Spanish National Prize for Gastronomy. A fusion of Chinese and Spanish cuisine.