Snap up a last minute summer holiday or pre-book your winter break
There are many reasons why I love Brighton; the fact that the beach is just a short stroll away (we successfully went for a dip yesterday without turning into lobsters – HOORAY!), the people, the food scene, the architecture, the #memories I have from growing up here and doing ridiculous stuff as a teenager – the list is endless. But one major win is it’s close proximity to Gatwick Airport. Being just 30 minutes up the road either via car or train, means that taking a short hop over the channel for a European city break couldn’t be easier. We can land back from a trip and get back to our front door in just under an hour from hitting the tarmac. It’s. FAB.
We like to our plan our holidays so we have a BIG one every 18 months or so (see: New Zealand and California), and then sprinkle three-day long-weekend city breaks in-between where possible (see: my whole host of city travel guides) allowing us to save up for the big trips and being as efficient as we can with days off. But where did we LOVE? What were the city breaks that we badger all our IRL friends about until they eventually give in? Here are our top three European trips, all within a 2-hour flight of London that we’d book a trip again to tomorrow…
This place is so cool. If you want to experience the coolest food spots and markets, some of the best vintage shopping I’ve ever laid eyes on and be surrounded by a seriously chic crowd, then Copenhagen is your guy. From the hotel we stayed in, to every street we wandered down, this place squeezes out cool juice only. Trendy, but in a way that’s completely effortless and never try-hard, this city break had been recommended to us countless times so I already knew we’d love it, and it really combines aspects of some of the best trips we’ve been on; it’s pretty like Amsterdam and Stockholm, the amazing shopping gives it New York-vibes and the food scene was off the charts like London. The USP though are the brilliant museums and exhibitions the city houses; from ancient architecture to modern design, each one we visited felt world-class and like something that we hadn’t seen before. My only tip? Get into the groove with the local public transport. Things look walkable from a map, but when you’re pounding the pavements from the morning to the evening for a couple of days in a row, it can zap your energy. Download CityMapper and thank me later.
If you do one thing… Have dinner at Høst. A set-menu restaurant founded by one of the ex-Chefs of Noma – apparently the best restaurant in the world – you know you’re in for some good grub here. We had the wine pairing and although I had to leave the restaurant while Mark was paying because I was just so, so full, the actual dinning experience was incredible. The best food we had in the city by a MILE and just a very cool spot. 10/10.
Mark and I visit Amsterdam a few times a year these days as our Uni pals relocated there two years ago, which means that we get the local’s tour whenever we go. I first went there on a trip at University where the whole contents of my bag was stolen and I spent the rest of my time there banging down the door of the Embassy to try and sort myself out with a passport. FUN. So it’s fair to say that I didn’t have the best memories of the city, but my head has been turned by this beaut of a place and I’d now say that it’s my favourite city in Europe to visit. I’m sure that’s somewhat down to the fact that two of my favourite people reside there, but there’s something about the place that just takes your breath away. It’s beautiful. Like, absolutely STUNNING. The bridges and canals are something that you just never get bored of seeing; one time we hired out a little boat, packed a makeshift picnic and had a great time. The fashion shopping is fab and their sweet treats food game is strong. The museum one is too – the Rijksmuseum is absolutely massive – and I could just wander around the little neighbourhoods surrounding the centre all day long and be one happy bunny.
If you do one thing… Hire a bike! I promise that it’s not as terrifying as you think it might be. Have a think of a route beforehand, but on the whole the bike lanes tend to be very wide and accommodating for all speeds and not too busy once you get out of the city centre. If you’re looking for a quiet time, try first thing at the weekend just to get yourself used to the rules of the road. Head out of the city to see a completely different side to Amsterdam; Amsterdam Forest is cute and has a goat farm in the middle of it if you fancy some animal petting and coffee.
Much like Amsterdam, Madrid has an unfair advantage because we visited there with our friends, one of whom had lived there for a couple of years, so we got the insider’s tour without having to put in one Google’s worth of research. THANKS KATIE! We had an incredible time here, and although it’s tough to pick our favourite Spanish spot we’ve visited, I think Madrid just inches to the top spot. It’s pretty massive and so you’re never going to run out of things to do, although the centre is completely walkable and the metro extremely easy to navigate. The side streets house some great spots for a quick bite, or late evening drinks and the food is just something else. Mark and I don’t eat meat all too much these days, but I could not stop eating Iberico ham. I returned home as a massive leg of jambon and I couldn’t have been happier. Going away with fellow foodies meant that a large proportion of our trip focused around where we were going to eat, but there was plenty of culture to indulge in too (an air conditioned museum is just the ticket when the temperature ramps up) and lots of high points to take in the views of the city from. We knew we’ve love Madrid, but we didn’t realise how much; I’d go back again in a heartbeat.
If you do one thing… Go for dinner at Florida Retiro. The Retiro is the best city centre park that I’ve ever wandered round. It’s perfect. A rose garden! An incredibly intricate green house in the middle! A boating lake! Multiple ice cream outlets! It also houses a rooftop restaurant called ‘La Terraza’ slap bang in the centre that serves up sushi and other small plates. So delicious and so stunning, it felt very special. Just make sure to book ahead as it’s a busy, but beautiful spot.
Photos by Mark, taken on a Canon EOS 33
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