Malta’s capital city of Valletta boasts a long and interesting history. Its oldest buildings date back to the 16th Century, during the rule of the Order of St. John. Since then it has passed through many rulers’ hands and was a base during both world wars. It was even recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980 and has been described as a 'one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world'.
To this day Valletta has retained its 16th Century elegance but has moved on in many ways. Malta is now a festival capital and its streets are lined with boutique hotels, restaurants, live shows, street theatres and jamming session. It has even been designated the European Capital of Culture for 2018 (with more plans to grow its arts scene!). With all this going on it was hard to limit the cultural attractions to just 10, but if you are only here for 10 days here is what we recommend tops your list.
1. Casa Rocca Piccola
This historic 16th Century Palace is still occupied to this day (currently by the noble de Piro family) but daily tours are still available. The palace itself is stunningly beautiful and well-maintained, but the most fascinating historical artefacts are the World War two air raid shelters that give a fascinating glimpse into wartime life.
2. National War Museum
As we mentioned earlier, Valletta played an important role in both world wars. If that interests you, you’ll find two rooms dedicated to Valletta’s involvement in the war at the National War Museum. Some of the most important artefacts include The Gloster Sea Gladiator fighter plane, Roosevelt’s Jeep ‘Husky’ and the Malta award for gallantry, the George Cross. However, the museum’s collection spans further than the previous century, and you’ll find military equipment here that dates back to the Bronze Age.
3. Victoria Lines
Unofficially known as the Great Wall of Malta, the Victoria Lines is a defensive wall that separates the North and South of the island. It was built by the British Military in the 19th Century to protect the harbours in the south from northern attacks. Some parts of the wall have fallen but you can still book guided tours along the bits that still exist.
4. St. Francis of Assisi Church
This beautiful church is famous in Malta for both its Baroque architecture and its collection of paintings gifted by Italian Baroque painter Mattia Preti. It was originally built in 1598, opened in 1607, rebuilt in 1681 and then enlarged again in the 1920s – with all the different layers of gradual construction blended into one. These days it is mainly used for the classical music concerts held in its magnificent Baroque oratory.
5. Manoel Theatre
If you’re looking to combine both theatre and history, then you can’t do much better than one of Europe’s oldest working theatres. It was named after Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller, Fra António Manoel de Vilhena, who personally funded and overseen its construction. An intimately-sized theatre, it has only 623 seats available for its shows that are performed in both English and Maltese (including opera, pantomime, and musicals).
6. St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Built between 1573 and 1578 by the Knights of Malta, and designed by military architect Glormu Cassar (who designed many of Valletta’s most prominent buildings), St. John’s Co-Cathedral six considered to be an extremely fine example of high Baroque architecture. The church has eight chapels, the entire marble floor is a series of tombs (housing almost 400 knights) and there is even a crypt beneath the cathedral!
7. Grand Harbour
Perched on a natural harbour, The Grand Harbour served as the base of the Order of Saint John from 1530 until 1798 (which is when most of the harbour walls were built). It was heavily bombed during World War 2, but has remained functional with effort to restore areas of historical significance.
8. Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens
For the best views of the aforementioned Grand Harbour, head up to the collonaded Upper Barrakka Gardens. Originally it was built in the 16th Century as a place for knights to relax, but these days it is a nice shady place for locals and tourists to unwind from the bustling city below. Also, the lower terrace holds the Saluting Battery where the cannon fires every day at noon.
9. Grandmaster’s Palace
The Grandmaster’s Palace is a must for anyone interested in Malta’s war history. Within its opulent walls exists over five thousand suits of armour and equipment used by soldiers and knights since the 16th century. It is also home to the only complete and intact set of the famous 18th century French Gobelins tapestries entitled, “Les Teintures des Indes”, in the world.
10. National Museum of Fine Arts
The collection at the National Museum of Fine Arts dates back to the Order of St. John (16th Century) – and includes the largest collection of paintings by the Baroque artist Mattia Preti (1613–1699) and a collection of rare, antique maps. The building itself is also historical and was originally one of the oldest in Valletta until a knight re-built it as his private home in the 1760s.
Costa Daurada is one of the most popular beach destinations in Europe - and with a name that literally translates into “the Golden Coast” it’s no surprise as to why.
But with a coastline that stretches for 82km, it can be difficult to choose which stretch of beach is right for you. Below we’ve rounded up 10 of the best beaches in Costa Daurada – including family-friendly resorts and hidden enclaves perfect for a romantic stroll.
1. Cunit Beach, Cunit
If you have young children who aren’t experienced swimmers, this is one of the safest beaches. The 2km stretch of sand is broken up into seven half-moon-shaped breakwaters, creating a shallow pool. Each mini-beach also boasts an array of family-friendly facilities including sun-loungers, toilets, water sport rental, football posts and pedalo rental.
2. Calafell Beach, Calafell
Calafell is the perfect resort if you’re looking for a combination of beach and history. The town itself is located 1.5km inland. The beach is 5km of golden sand with warm, calm and clean waters. Another beach perfect for families.
3. Coma-Ruga Beach, el Vendrell
The town of El Vendrell is home to three Blue Flag beaches, but Coma-Ruga Beach is the most centrally located. Clocking in at 2km in length and 120 metres, the beach is home to sun lounger rental, umbrella rental, toilets, showers and water sports. But you need to get there early as this one can get busy.
4. Els Muntanyans Beach, Torredembarra
This is a remarkable place due to the last brackish waters since the "Delta de l'Ebre" that are preserved along its 2km coast, and are of environmental significance. Visitors will find this to be a great destination all year round, where beach-goers can enjoy a variety of activities while taking care to respect the environment, including sunbathing, taking a dip in the sea, relaxing, hiking and observing animals and plants in their natural habitat.
5. Cala de Tamarit Beach, Altafulla
Resting at the foot of Tamarit Castle, to access this small cove you will have to park the car in a nearby urbanisation, take a short trip through the forest and climb over a few meters of rocks but we assure you that the reward is worth it. La Cala de Tamarit is no more than 50 meters long and you will not find showers or snacks. A corner to truly disconnect!
6. L’Arrabassada Beach, Tarragona
This is a very popular urban-beach that is perfect for everyone. You’ll find cafes, bars, restaurants, showers, toilets, lockers, umbrella and sun lounger rental, a large car park, water sports rental, a children’s play park and even a surf practising area. Plus, the beach is cleaned daily, has lifeguards, and disabled access.
7. Cala Penya Tallada Cove, Salou
This isolated cove is home to soft sands, fragrant pine trees and beautiful vegetation. There are no facilities here but it makes up for that in terms of natural beauty.
8. Platja de la Llosa, Cambrils
Passing the Port of Cambrils, this 1km long beach (which has Blue Flag status) is facing a seafront promenade full of restaurants where you can try some delicious rice dishes. The beach is subdivided into 8 different coves for docks and is home to all the services you need. It is also a good area for water sports.
9. Platja Cristall Beach, Mont-roig del Camp – Miami Platja
There are only a few other places in Catalan where you will find a sandy area that is as beautiful and extensive as the Crystal Beach. Stretching for more than a kilometre, Playa Cristall offers everything you need from loungers, parasols, good restaurants, activities, kindergartens, parks and a boardwalk. But, in case this was not enough, when you reach the northern end of the beach you will find 10 beautiful coves, surrounded by vegetation where you will enjoy exceptional crystalline waters
10. Platja de l’Almadrava, l’Hospitalet de l’Infant
Finally, we have Almadrava which clocks in at one and a half kilometres long. It has Blue Flag status and is equipped with a sports area and a play area for the little ones, ideal for enjoying a beach day with friends or family.
If you’re looking for a holiday destination that offers golden beaches, a stunning coastline and warm waters, then look no further than the Algarve.
Located in southern Portugal - where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean – the Algarve is well-suited to beach-bums looking for isolated alcoves with sleeping fishing villages. But the best bit? The Algarve has been awarded 50 Blue Flag awards over the years thanks to their dedication to providing clean and safe beaches for holidaymakers. Here are just 10 of the best beaches in the Algarve.
Arrifes Beach, Albufeira
Sometimes referred to locally as Praia dos Três Penecos (beach of triple rocks in English) because of three large isolated rock formations that dominate the horizon, this beach is as beautiful as it is popular.
To reach it, there are wooden steps from the car park that descend into the sands. The beach is also home to a bar (that is closed in the winter), toilets, showers and – in the summer – it is patrolled by lifeguards.
Praia da Luz
Praia da Luz was originally a traditional fishing village, which has slowly become a popular beach destination with luxury villas. Its beach extends the whole way along the urban town. Along the beach you’ll find windsurfing and diving schools, as well as discos, restaurants and shops.
Praia da Dona Ana, Lagos
This was once described as the ‘Best beach in the World' by magazine Condé Nast Traveller. In typical Algarve style, it is nestled between golden cliffs where it will catch the sun but also avoid Atlantic winds. But having Blue Flag status also means that it has all the facilities you would expect as well as including a cafe built into the cliff-side.
You’ll find this golden stretch of sand located down a hill from the resort town of Oura. Home to a promenade lined with cafes, bars and some nice restaurants, Oura beach is a little more laid back than the beaches closer to Albufeira town itself. It also stretches for 2km when the tide is out so you’ll always find plenty of space.
If you’re looking for a relaxing Algarve holiday in a quaint tourist town, we recommend Olhos d’Água. The main beach here is lined by old fisherman huts and surrounded by the characteristic red sandstone cliffs. There are also a series of small cove beaches that surround Olhos de Agua. After this the coastline opens up to the beautiful Praia da Falésia beach, which extend for 5km and leads to the stylish town of Vilamoura.
Praia do Amoreira, western Algarve
If you’re looking to get away from it all, we recommend this isolated spot. Perfect for naturalists, with endless rock pools harbouring starfish and sea urchins. Plus, the undertow current creates amazing waves for surfers. There’s also no restaurants or bars nearby, so we recommend taking a picnic.
Praia do Barril, eastern Algarve
If you’ve seen images of numerous metal anchors positioned permanently into the sand – here is where you’ll find them. Known as the Anchor Graveyard, the anchors were left by the tuna-fishing boats that once fixed their large nets there.
But history isn’t the only thing you’ll find here – Praia do Barril beach itself is really popular with windsurfing and sailing.
Praia do Martinhal, western Algarve
This another beach that is perfect for sporty types looking for activities. Surf, body-board and windsurfing are popular in the azure waters, while volleyball and football are regularly played on the sands. But if you’re not feeling too confident yet, there’s a surf school where you can sign up for lessons. There are also restaurants and cafes nearby where you can sample some of the Algarve’s fresh seafood.
Praia do Armado, western Algarve
If you’re a pro-surfer (or like to watch pro surfing) then this is the Blue Flag beach for you. This is Portugal’s premier surfing beach and the venue for many national and international body-boarding and surfing competitions, with its own surf school on site. There is also beach bar on site.
Praia da Marinha, Lagoa
You could argue that we’ve saved the best for last. It is widely considered to be one of the best beaches in Portugal, having won countless awards and being regularly used in tourist board campaigns. However, the beach is a bit out of the way and requires a car plus a walk down some steep steps – though this does mean that there is significantly less people. Praia da Marinha is about half an hour’s drive from Albufeira in the Lagoa area, and is well sign-posted.
There’s a reason why Dubrovnik and Split were the perfect places to bring King’s Landing to life – it’s because they themselves are historical cities with beautiful monuments and fascinating buildings.
We’ve already shared a location guide to all the Game of Thrones filming spots at the end of Season 6 – but there are plenty more historic buildings that are worth scouting out when you land on Croatia’s shores. Here are 10 historical sites to get you started – some of which ended up on the television show and some that are still waiting for their famous debut.
1.Dubrovnik’s City Walls
Dubrovnik’s city walls showed up in many Game of Thrones scenes and were actually one of the primary reasons producers chose this city to bring King’s Landing to life. Surrounding most of the city, they are actually considered to be one the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages, as they were never breached by a hostile army during this time period. In 1979, the City Walls (along with the Old City of Dubrovnik) joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
2. Diocletian’s Palace
The Diocletian’s Palace forms about half the old town of Split, so it’s very hard to not notice. Originally constructed as an ancient palace for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th Century, its size means that it more closely resembles a fortress (in fact, one half of the structure did house the military garrison).
3. Pula Arena
Rome is home to the world’s most famous amphitheatre – but some of its walls have fallen down. The Pula Arena on the northern coast of Croatia, however, still stands in its original glory. It is also the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia and even made its way onto the Croatian 10 kuna banknote.
On the surface of it, the island of Hvar is where young yachters hang out and sunbathe (it’s actually the sunniest spot in Croatia). But when you wander beyond the harbour you’ll find a world of abandoned ancient hamlets, craggy peaks, vineyards and lavender fields. Top sights include the Tvrdalj, St Stephens’ Square and St Stephen’s Cathedral.
Just outside the western wall of Dubrovnik, you’ll find Fort Lovrijenac (or St. Lawrence Fortress in English) - an ancient fortress and theatre famous for its plays and importance in resisting Venetian rule. Originally the Venetians wanted to build a fort in the same spot and would rule the city if they had succeeded. The people of Dubrovnik built the wall within three months so, when the Venetians returned with their building materials, the spot was already taken.
6. Dubrovnik Cathedral
Dubrovnik's Cathedral (full name Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin) dates back to the 7th century and was built on the site of seven other previous cathedrals (nearby archaeological excavations have actually found the foundations and walls of two older churches).
Even though the building is fascinating itself, it’s the Treasury that is most interesting to history buffs. The treasury holds 182 reliquaries, including relics from the 11th to 18th centuries. Its most important possession is the gold-plated arm, leg and skull of Saint Blaise (patron saint of Dubrovnik).
7. Euphrasian Basilica
A beautiful example of Byzantine art and architecture, this 6th-century Euphrasian Basilica is found in the coastal resort of Poreč. Its most striking feature is its golden mosaics, especially the one above the apse depicting Christ and the Apostles. It was also built on the site of a Roman villa whose floor mosaic can still be seen in the Basilica garden.
8. Salona Roman ruins
Salona was once the provincial capital of Dalmatia in the time of Diocletian and the Salona Roman ruins are one of the largest Roman settlements in the region. It is believed that a community of 60,000 people lived here, but fled when the city was sacked by Avar and Slav tribes. What you see in the ruins today is the base of the amphitheatre, trunks of columns and gravestone carvings scattered around an extensive archaeological park.
9. Trogir Cathedral
Trogir Cathedral is considered a work of art and effortlessly blends Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Which isn’t surprising as it dates back to the early 1200s and took more than 400 years to build. The cathedral tower is 47m high and is one of the most noticeable buildings in Trogir’s skyline.
10. Walls of Ston
Did you know that Croatia is home to the second longest stone wall in Europe? If you didn’t, you do now. It clocks in at 5.5km and surrounds the ancient city of Ston, and dates back to the 14th Century. And for more history head inside and explore Ston itself, where you’ll find narrow quiet streets and noble ancient houses.
Prague is the perfect city break for a romantic weekend.
Unnervingly beautiful but also filled with fine-dining restaurants, there’s plenty of little date spots hidden within the city. If you and your beloved are heading off to the Czech capital sometime soon, here’s our top six romantic activities for couples in Prague.
Stroll Through Petrin Park
For an affordable date, take your sweetheart’s hand and walk through Petrin Park. A mere 10 minutes’ walk from the Charles Bridge, the park surrounds its namesake hill and is a popular recreational ground for the locals. Popular spots include the Rose Garden, Petřín’s lookout tower, Štefánik's Observatory and the Mirror Maze.
Vintage Car Ride
If your sweetheart isn’t a fan of walking for hours, hire one of the city’s many vintage cars - but don’t worry, they come with a driver so you can snuggle up in the backseat. The drivers are also trained tour guides so they can verbally illustrate the history and significance of all the sites you pass.
Admire the city from above
Prague is a beautiful city, and the skyline is the perfect backdrop to a romantic evening (or even a proposal). There’s an abundance of beautiful look-out spots to choose from, including attic bars and riverside restaurants to historic look-out towers.
Secure your love with a padlock
Just like many of Europe’s key cities, Prague also has two bridges decorated in padlocks. The first one can be found in the district of Mala Strana and after a wander you’ll find the small padlocked bridge over one of the canals. Or head over to Naplavka, and walk along the metal train bridge that is a stone’s throw away from Prague Castle.
Take a River Cruise around the city’s canals
Take the scenic route through the city on board a river cruise and admire the buildings on the banks of the Vltava River. There are a few liners to choose from, plus you can really treat your other half with a special dinner cruise.
Purchase jewellery made with local ruby gems
If you’re jewellery shopping in Prague, keep an eye out for the labels Czech Garnet, Bohemian Garnet or Turnov Garnet. This is the trade name for a type of Garnet called Pyrope that historically is mined in the north of the Czech Republic and has the deep red colour and from Latin it translates as Fire-Eyed.
If you’ve been on a romantic weekend getaway to Prague, let us know what your favourite activity was?
In the North Atlantic - 900 miles from the coast of Portugal – lies one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Beautifully rugged with giant craters, the nine islands that make up the Azores are an outdoor enthusiast's dream. Are you unfamiliar with this hidden adventure-filled paradise? Here’s everything you need to know.
What to do
The Azores is currently one of the world’s largest whale sanctuaries and is home to large numbers of blue whales, sperm whales, dolphins and sea turtles. Taking a day trip on a boat is a must while visiting the islands (and if you’re here on a cruise, remember to stand on your balcony as you sail into port).
Outdoor adventure sports
Thanks to the islands’ volcanic origins, the Azores is home to an uneven landscape that is perfect for hiking, cycling and canoeing in the waterways. It is also home to some of the world’s best diving spots.
The Azores is home to the Azores bullfinch, one of the rarest birds in Europe – and as such has become a popular bird watching destination.
Explore the cities
The Azores isn’t all ethereal landscapes and lush forests. Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel is the Azores main urban hub. With a population of 68,809 it’s not the biggest city you’ll ever visit but you’ll still find beautiful Mediterranean architecture as well as restaurants, bars and clubs.
How to get there
Azores is already a popular cruise destination and regularly pops up on Atlantic Islands itineraries. If you prefer land holidays there are a few direct flights available from London. Though typically you’ll need to book two inter-connecting flights that change in Portugal. Direct flights take four hours and the islands are behind the UK by one hour.
When to go
The Azores is a year-round destination but is in its prime during the summer. This is when whale-watching is at its best and the warmer weather lends a hand to the outdoor pursuits the islands are known for. Typically the temperature hovers between 13 and 25 degrees throughout the year.
Other important information
Nationals of EU member countries do not require visas
The official currency is the Euro
Portuguese is the official language, though most locals who work in the tourist industry will speak English.
.Looking for a package beach holiday that is wrapped up in authentic charm and lacks mainstream tourist crowds? Cape Verde could be your calling
Found off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, this former Portuguese-colony has become a popular option for package holidays (and cruises). But the islands aren’t your typical flop and drop beach holiday either. The ten islands are volcanic and at different stages of erosion: ranging from more than 2,800m high to as low as 390m. Visually this has resulted in a landscape that is a mix of flat desert to brooding volcano to abandoned beaches.
Culturally, the islands pack a punch. Aside from their mix of Africa locale and distinctive Portuguese history – the islands were a historic transatlantic port of call picking up cultural traditions from all who passed through.
Sound like your kind of holiday? Here’s what to expect from your first holiday in Cape Verde.
What to do
Sail around the islands
It would be a shame to come to Cape Verde and only see one island. Boat tours are commonplace and will take you round some of the key beauty spots as well as abandoned alcoves.
Try your hand at windsurfing
The trade winds in Cape Verde are a steady Force 4 to Force 5, making it the perfect conditions for windsurfing. In fact, national teams even practice here (Tortuga Beach is the top spot).
Keep an eye out for whales and turtles
If you visit in spring or early summer, turn your binoculars towards the Boa Vista horizon. Humpback whales are not uncommon at this time of year. While in June and September, you can spot loggerhead turtles on Ervatao Beach.
Cast your fishing line
Fishing is still a massive part of local life – and the visitors can join in too. Fishing lessons are available for beginners but deep-sea excursions are also available for the pros.
Where to stay
Most of the tourist hotels are found on Sal or Boa Vista. All-Inclusive is very common in Cape Verde, but half-board and self-catering does exist (though less common).
How to get there
Cape Verde is only six hours from the UK. Amílcar Cabral International Airport is the main international airport in Cape Verde and is around 17km from Santa Maria. It's also a very popular stop off on transatlantic cruises.
There are also regular flights between the islands. Taxis and mini-buses are also common and a great way for people looking to explore outside their resort.
· The language spoken in Cape Verde is Portuguese.
· The currency used in Cape Verde is the Cape Verdean escudo.
· Cape Verde is 1 hour behind GMT/UK time.
· You’ll need a visa to enter Cape Verde from the UK.
Almeria is one of the lesser known cities on Spain’s southern coast.
Located away from mainstream tourist crowds, it’s somewhere for culture and relaxation. Found between mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, the surrounding area provides adventure for nature lovers with quiet soft-sand beaches and stunning wildlife. While the centre of the town itself boasts restaurants and traditional souvenir shops. Ready to discover a quieter side of Andalusia? Here are the top 10 things to do in Almeria .
1.Enjoy watersports at Urban Beach
Found on the doorstep of Roquetas de Mar’s town centre, Urban Beach offers several water-sport options. Enjoy jet and water-skiing or fishing and sailing. Afterwards, you can satisfy your appetite with a selection of restaurants.
2. Take the family to La Bajadilla Beach
This long stretch of sand continues on from Urban Beach, and is popular with families thanks to its Blue Flag status. Loungers and parasols are neatly laid out and there are plenty of watersports to try.
3. Escape the crowds at Cerrillos Beach
Alternatively, travel 15 minutes down the coast to the dune-backed Cerrillos Beach. Even in the height of summer, you won’t be rubbing shoulders with hundreds of other tourists making it a great location for a slow beach day.
4.Explore the Alcazaba
Towering over the city, the Alcazaba is a must-visit for two reasons. One it offers amazing views of the city. Two, it is also the best-preserved alcazaba in Spain. Built by the Hammudid dynasty in the early 11th century, there are also remnants of a Roman theatre dating to the 1st century BC adjacent to the entrance.
5. Wander through the Alhambra
You’ll need to get in the car for this one, but it is worth it. Starting out as a small fortress in AD 889, it was rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada. It is just grand as you would expect with mosaics, intricate wood carvings and an expansive garden. This is one of mainland Spain’s most popular attractions, and purchasing tickets in advance is recommended.
6. Step into Roquetas De Mar's past
There are also plenty of other historical sites found around Roquetas De Mar. Wander along the coast and keep an eye out for the remains of the town’s old fortifications. Then finish off at the Santa Ana Castle down by the harbour - an ancient fort that has been carefully reconstructed and now houses a cultural centre.
7. Shop for authentic souvenirs in Nijar
Nijar is the Andalusian village you see in brochures: whitewashed houses, hidden lanes and craft markets. Spend some time browsing the ceramics and woven jarapas for something special to bring home.
8. Visit during the Lady of Our Sea Festival
In the final two weeks of August, the streets of Almeria turn into a carnival. You’ll find music, dancing, parades and sports competitions – and even a traditional flamenco festival in the Plaza Vieja.
9.Splash around at Mario Park
If you’re in Almeria with your family, treat to them to a day out at this waterpark. There are six pools to splash around in, as well as a selection of waterslides. For family members who love a thrill there is the Black Hole or Kamikaze; while quieter members will enjoy the calming Rio Bravo.
If you’re a golfer, stop by one of the town’s golf courses. The most popular is Playa Serena. It’s a flat course but there are lakes, water features and bunkers to test your skills. Also consider La Envia (8-hole, par 70 course near the village of Vicar) and Alboran Golf (Championship course in El Toyo Retamar, about 45 minutes’ drive from Roquetas de Mar).
If you’ve been to Almeria, let us know in the comments what your must-do activities and must-see places are.
Berlin is one of Europe’s top city break destinations, and it’s not hard to understand why.
There’s cosmopolitan bars, interesting history, beautiful architecture and tasty food. There’s no denying that there’s a lot to do in Berlin and it can be very difficult to fit it all in. If you’re only going for a weekend, here are our recommendations for making the most of it.
Day 1 – Fernsehturm and exploring the city centre
No trip to Berlin is complete without a trip to the top of the Fernsehturm. The queue for this gathers quickly so we recommend arriving early. If a line has already formed, your ticket will tell you what time to come back. Thankfully, the tower is beside many other well-known Berlin monuments that you can visit while you wait, or after you’ve been to the top.
Nearby is the Neptunbrunnen, a 19th Century water foundation depicting the God of Water, Neptune, and four women representing Prussia's main rivers. Look closely at the fountain, as you’ll spot some animals carved into the ornate display as well.
Just over the river, you’ll find The Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island. The Berlin Cathedral is one of the most prominent buildings in the city and there’s a large grassy area outside if you feel like relaxing. If it’s culture you’re looking for, we recommend heading over to the north side of the island where many of the city’s most significant museums are located. The Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Bode Museum, Pergamon Museum, and the Humboldt Forum will keep your mind captivated for a few hours.
After you’ve been to the top of the Fernsehturm, make sure you head along Unter den Linden towards the Brandenburg Gate. Take some snaps (and a selfie). Then move towards the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which is around the corner, and feel the quiet eeriness as you wander between the blocks.
By now, you’ll probably want your bed. But if you’ve still got a bit of energy, stroll around the Großer Tiergarten (Berlin’s oldest and biggest park) which is across the road.
Day 2 - Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Wall and Jewish Museum
When you leave your hotel, head south from the centre towards Checkpoint Charlie and the other WW2 attractions in this area. After you’ve stopped for a picture with the soldier guards, head inside the adjacent Wall Museum. Founded by human rights activists you’ll learn more about the wall, the events that led up to its construction and life after its fall.
Also in this area, you will find remnants of the wall itself. The most prominent is west of Checkpoint Charlie where a timeline gallery has been set up. Remember to stop for some currywurst at Curry by the Wall.
Head further south now to the Jewish Museum. Aside from acting as a Holocaust Memorial, it also explores German-Jewish history in general. The history is massive and there’s plenty to see, so give yourself a few hours to explore.
The Topography of Terror is also nearby and is well worth a visit to really understand the atrocities of WW2 and the Third Reich.
Day 3 – East Side Gallery and evening drinks
If your weekend in Berlin involves a third day, we recommend taking it easy. While it’s great to have a checklist of attractions, sometimes the best way to explore a city is to let your feet wander.
The only main attraction left to see is the East Side Gallery. Here you’ll find another remaining section of the Wall, now covered in street art. Alongside it is a gift shop where you can get your passport stamped to prove you crossed the historical border between East and West Berlin.
To finish your weekend, we recommend checking out some of Berlin’s excellent bars. Berghain is by far the most famous, but it is notoriously difficult to get in to. If you get knocked back (or if Techno isn’t your scene) we recommend a wander around Hackescher Markt Square. It’s nicely lit up at night and is lined with several bars. It’s a great place to head to if you’re not sure what you fancy, but want pretty scenery for your final night in this German mega-city.
If you’ve been to Berlin how would you split up one weekend?
Milan might be filled with beautiful architecture and fascinating history, but it’s no secret that many people flock here because of the city’s undeniable influence on the fashion industry.
The streets themselves look like something straight out of Italian Vogue. Those wacky catwalk fashions you see at Fashion Week? You might look ridiculous wearing them in the UK but in fashion-centric Milan, it is the norm.
While you might assume you need to re-mortgage your house to shop here, savvy shoppers know how to find a designer bargain. You just need to know where to look.
So grab your shopping bags, we’re going to Milan.
If you really want to buy the latest high-end threads and don’t mind dropping a few grand, then visit the beating heart of the fashion industry. Roughly translating to the highly apt 'rectangle of gold’, you’ll spot all the big brand names such as Prada, Versace, Valentino, Tiffany & Co, Roberto Cavalli, and Fendi. Keep an eye out for the flagship Gucci store and the Armani Megastore.
Even if you aren’t planning on dropping some serious cash, it’s still an impressive place. The window displays are works of art and the atmosphere is energetic.
Corso Buenos Aires
If you’re looking to pick up some familiar high-street names, then head to Corso Buenos Aires in north-east Milan. It boasts the largest concentration of clothing stores in Europe, most of which are mainstream and recognisable. H&M, Zara, Nike, Adidas, and Guess all make an appearance.
After you’re finished shopping, take a breather in the nearby Indro Montanelli Public Gardens where you’ll find the Planetarium and the Civic Museum of Natural History.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II
Similar to Corso Buenos Aires, this is a great place to pick up some high-street favourites. But it is also home to one of the city’s biggest department stores, La Rinascente. Boasting eight floors, you’ll find everything from clothing to perfume.
Serravalle Designer Outlet
There’s a joke amongst locals that only tourists shop in the expensive city centre. Experienced shoppers know that you can find top designer labels for much less in the many outlets found around the city – especially the ones you have to make more effort to get to.
Serravalle is the city’s biggest outlet and lies 50 miles outside of the city centre (a convenient shuttle bus service runs 3 times a day from Milan Foro Bonaparte and once a day from Piazza Duomo). Here you’ll find 300 designer brands all with a price tag of 30-70% off. The shopping centre also had free WiFi, multilingual staff, a children’s playground and restaurants.
Not far from the city centre, you’ll find this unbelievable gem. While outlet stores have a reputation for being sweaty and a fight-for-all, Basement has a more boutique feel. Hidden beneath street level in a basement (hence the name) you’ll find some well-known designer labels for 30-70% off.
Top tips for shopping in Milan:
Sale season is the same as the UK: January and August.
Most shops in Milan operate from 9:00 till 19:30 (13:00 – 15:30 is usually lunch break).
Only shop in the designer stores if you really want this season’s top fashions and have the money to spare
You can still own designer threads for half the price if you know where to look
Don’t get hung up on shopping – Milan is a lot more than just fashion!
Fuerteventura offers everything you have come to expect from a holiday in the Canary Islands. Whether it’s perfect beaches to relax on with family or delicious restaurant to dine in while the day turns into evening, this sun-drenched island off the coast of Africa sure knows how to treat its guests. Not sure if it’s for you? Here’s six reasons why we think everyone should visit Fuerteventura.
1. Enjoy a day at the beach
We’ve said it ourselves before: Fuerteventura is the best Canary Island for beaches. Fuerteventura boasts over 150 km of beaches, all of them delicately crafted with natural soft white sand and serene turquoise waters. All the island’s beaches are beauties in their own right, but we recommend the Parque Natural de Corralejo – a natural park that rolls along the coast for 10km with impressive sand dunes peeking out the volcanic landscape.
Fuerteventura’s picture-perfect coastline makes it a prime location for watersports. Kitesurfing and windsurfing are both big business on the island and in July you’ll even be able to catch the World Championships for windsurfing in Playa de Sotavento.
3. Bustling tourist resorts
Like all great Spanish holiday destinations, Fuerteventura is home to several resorts that have all the amenities you need for a fun-filled break. Corralejo is a favourite with tourists, where you’ll find tapas bars along the beach and karaoke bars to see you into the evening. Caleta de Fuste is also another popular spot, especially for families looking for watersports while the Jandia Peninsula is known for its cocktail bars and its duty-free shopping centre.
4. Quieter towns for a cultural day out
Fuerteventura’s cultural hub is the Betancuria Old Town – the island’s original capital. Founded in the 15th Century, it is now Fuerteventura’s main cultural attraction and even has an archaeological museum that details how its ancient inhabitants lived.
5. Local cheese
While in Fuerteventura, make sure you treat your taste-buds to a slice of the local cheese. Keep an eye out for queso Majorero, a goat milk cheese that regularly uses olive oil, paprika, or a mix of corn meal and wheat meal in its production.
6. Beautiful volcanic landscapes
Fuerteventura earned itself UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve status in 2009 thanks to its volcanic landscape and pristine beaches. In order to make the most of its organic landscape, locals have shied away from building high-rises providing unbeatable views of dormant volcanoes, stunning cliffs, windmills, hidden villages and cactus plantations.
Winter is the perfect time for a city break. A nice budget friendly way to fit in one last holiday before the expensive festive period. But Europe only has so many cities – or so you think.
Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Rome and Paris are undoubtedly Europe’s most popular cities. However, even if you’ve ticked all these urban hubs off your bucket list there are still numerous other cities perfect to explore this winter. Here is just a selection of some of Europe’s hidden metropolises with just as much culture and entertainment as the big players.
Looking for a spooktacular Halloween break? Why not take a trip to the home of Dracula! Bran Castle is a three hour drive from Bucharest, and there’s no shortage of tour operators offering a bargain price. In the city itself, you’ll find an eclectic mix of historical buildings and post-1980 architecture in the six distinct districts.
This well-known German city is hardly the most out-there destination, but it doesn’t have the same celebrity-status as Berlin. However (in the same way that some British people consider London to be heavily commercialised) many Germans consider Berlin to be a metropolitan hub full of hipsters and reckon Hamburg offers a more genuine Germanic experience.
3.Galway or Cork
If you’re looking for a super quick weekend away with your pals, Dublin is usually top of the list. But don’t forget about Cork or Galway. The two coastal cities offer everything you would come to expect from Ireland: music, scenery, nightlife, history and culture.
The capital of Estonia is already popular with stag dos and beer enthusiasts, but it also packs a lot of history into its compact walls. Its Old Town survived the war and is well-preserved, while the modern part of the city is a mix of Baltic, Nordic, Teutonic and Russian cultures. A great time to visit is during the annual Tallinn Music Week (27 March – 2 April) when the city highlights its growing rock and electronic music scene.
Paris isn’t the only chic city you can reach via Eurostar: the quieter city of Marseille in the south of France is only 6.5 hours from London. As you wander around the various areas of the city, you’ll be met with independent boutiques, contemporary art galleries, beautiful churches, and trendy rooftop bars.
While Malta might be widely considered a great escape for a beach break, its capital city is home to the biggest density of historic sites in the world. Malta is also home to some Europe's best festivals.
If you’re looking for a city full of cultured arty types – then we recommend the Swedish city of Gothenburg. You’ll find colourful architecture, charming canals and street art. There’s even an amusement park with a lime green rabbit as its mascot!
Craving a taste of real Italy? Bologna is a foodie hub of Italy that has remained sheltered from mainstream tourist crowds. The city is also home to Europe’s oldest university and, as such, the nightlife is second to none.
Athens is not exactly unknown, but Greece is more famous for its beaches and holiday resorts that its ancient capital city. The Acropolis is by far the city’s most popular attraction, but make sure you also stop by the Temple of Poseidon, Museum of Delphi and The Panathinaiko Stadium (where the very first Olympics was held).
Looking for a winter wonderland? Norway’s original capital boasts northern Europe’s second largest cathedral (Nidaros Cathedral) and the scenic Nidelven River winds its way through its streets. Viking heritage is also in full-swing here, with the Stiklestad Cultural Center built on the site of country’s goriest battle. If you’re lucky, the northern lights might also make an appearance.
Hygge: A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture). – Oxford Dictionary.
This Danish catchphrase has definitely made its way into the conscious mind of the UK with many Hygge how-to-guides popping up in magazines and bookshops. But it’s always better to experience something first-hand rather than read about it. So we recommend that a trip to Copenhagen is definitely required if you want to truly bring some proper hygge into your life. Here are some top activities that should definitely inspire to inject some Danish wellbeing into your everyday life.
Stop for some hot brunch
Brunch is a big thing in Copenhagen and will help set your mind in a positive direction for the rest of your day. Some of the most popular and trendy brunch cafes in the city include Café Bang & Jensen, Mad & Kaffe, and Café Europa. For a really quick bite you can stop by one of the several Meyers Bageri bakeries that you find around the city.
Canal Boat Tour
While a canal boat tour isn’t the warmest thing you can do in the city, it definitely is one of the most relaxing ways to see as much of the city as possible. A canal tour will take you by some of the most recognisable sights of Copenhagen including The Little Mermaid statue, colourful Nyhavn and The Royal Danish Opera House.
Nansensgade is the trendy neighbourhood of Copenhagen that is home to second-hand boutiques, cosy cafes and an annual street festival. It’s also conveniently located next to the famous Copenhagen lakes – perfect for a scenic afternoon walk.
Like any major city, Copenhagen can get busy. When you want to retreat head to King’s Garden, an expansive green space in the city. The gardens were originally laid out during King Christian IV reign in the early 1600s, and are the country’s oldest royal gardens. Inside the grassy escape, you’ll find an herbaceous border, a rose-garden and a multitude of different-sized sculptures.
Tivoli Gardens during Christmas
From November through to the end of December, European cities sparkle from the lights of their Christmas markets. Tivoli is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, and from mid-November its grounds are decorated with Christmas stalls selling everything from Danish tree decorations to heart-warming Danish street food.
How do you inject some Hygge into your own life?
In the UK we are no stranger to Greek cuisine, thanks to the availability of Mediterranean style restaurants. However, nothing beats the real thing. And no trip to Greece is complete without filling your plate up with as much delicious local cuisine as possible. While it’s tempting to stick to what you know and order a Greek Salad, Moussaka, or Baklava – we instead recommend giving one of these traditional recipes a try that are not as readily available in the UK.
This almond based cookie is extremely popular and isn’t hard to find. Typically you’ll find them in casual settings and many Greek locals like to pair it with a glass of warm Greek coffee.
Ellinikos (Greek Coffee)
On the topic of coffee, we recommend trying Greece’s most popular type of hot drink: Eillinikos. Available in three variations, choose between Vari Glyko (strong & almost honey sweet), Metrios (medium sweetness) and Sketos (without sugar).
Courgette Balls (kolokithokeftedes)
This popular starter brings together a creamy filling and a crunchy coating, with a burst of flavour made up of courgette, feta cheese and fresh mint.
Greek Fava Dip (Yellow Split Pea Puree)
If Santorini is your Greek island of choice, you’ll see this appetizer popping up on menus across the island. Sometimes extra olive oil is added, so it can be used as a side dip as well.
Saganaki – Fried Cheese
Calling all cheese lovers. This only takes 10 minutes to prepare (it’s literally cheese coated in flour and fried) and makes for the perfect comfort-food appetizer.
Also known as a Greek spinach pie, this tasty and hearty dish is prepared with (or, sometimes, without) feta cheese, butter, olive oil and baked until golden and crispy. It can also be served as a starter, side or main meal.
Bursting with juicy flavour, Yemista is the Greek word for stuffed tomatoes (but sometimes you’ll find variations made with green peppers, courgettes, eggplants or aubergines) that are usually filled with rice and various herbs (sometimes mincemeat).
The perfect main when you need something tasty and filling. Pastitsio is a baked pasta dish with added ground beef and béchamel sauce.
Moving onto desserts now, you have to let this beautiful sweet dish melt in your mouth at one point of your holiday. A traditional sweet dish that goes back hundreds of years, it is made up of crispy pastry sprinkled with melted butter and usually served with custard and syrup.
If you like your desserts a little more savoury than sweet, then try these golden puffs of fried dough. Usually sprinkled with sweet syrup, walnuts and cinnamon.
Iceland is a destination that is bucket list worthy and easily achievable. Not only because it is just two and a half hours from the UK, but also because it's perfectly located for a stopover on your way to the USA or Canada.
Iceland’s national flag airline, Icelandair, offers daily flights from Glasgow to some of North America’s most popular tourist destinations such as New York City, Boston, Washington DC and Orlando. All flights are via Iceland and offer the opportunity for a stopover of up to seven nights at no additional cost. This makes Iceland ideal for a two-stop holiday – here is how to make the most of your stopover.
Get cultured in Reykjavik
Iceland’s capital offers culture by the bucket load and – even better – its compact size means you’ll easily fit a lot in without too much effort. The city is full of museums, ranging from The National Film Archive of Iceland to The Settlement Exhibition, featuring the oldest relics of human habitation in Reykjavík. There’s also no shortage of performance art either – with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Icelandic Dance Company, the National Theatre, and the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, all of impeccable quality.
Relax in the Blue Lagoon
If you’re craving a bit of downtime before your North American adventure, then stop by the Blue Lagoon in the southwest of the island. The water has a unique composition, featuring the three active ingredients Silica, Algae & Minerals (all of which combine it to give the lagoon its vivid blue colour). The temperature varies between 37°C and 40°C, and is created by the merging of freshwater and seawater at 2,000 metres below the surface. The lagoon and the surrounding spa are very popular with tourists and locals alike, and advance booking is recommended.
Game of Thrones
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, then you probably already know that Iceland is used for most filming that takes place Beyond the Wall. The filmmakers shot scenes across the country, but some of the most memorable locations were Dimmuborgir (Wildling Camp), Vatnajökull (general backdrop for most of the glacial scenes), Höfðabrekka (Frostfang Mountains) and Grjótagjá (a spring cave you’ll recognise from Season 3). Thingvellir National Park was also used as a backdrop for mid-Westeros when Arya and Sandor Clegane's were moving from village to village.
Witness the Northern Lights
This natural phenomenon is one of the biggest reasons many holidaymakers make the trip across to Iceland. At their most visible from September to mid-April and away from the city lights, an appearance from the aurora borealis isn’t guaranteed but anyone who has been lucky enough to witness them will tell you that it is worth the journey.
Rome is a remarkably stunning city and is home to some of the world’s most notable and historically important buildings. From ancient ruins to Baroque churches, Rome has made its stamp on the world of architecture thanks to the visionary talents of architects like Michelangelo, Bramante, Borromini and Bernini.
Even holidaymakers who aren’t usually keen architecture buffs spend days wandering the city looking upwards at the beautiful domes and neoclassical towers. For anyone who doesn’t usually know the difference between their Renaissance and their Romanesque, we’ve compiled a quick guide to the history and architectural style behind some of Rome’s key buildings.
St. Peter's Basilica
With a dome roof that dominates the skyline of Rome, the St Peter’s Basilica grabs your attention as soon as you enter the city. The very first foundation stone was laid in 1506, and the plan was to build the grandest building in Christendom – and to this day it remains the largest church in the world and is considered one of the holiest Catholic shrines.
Construction of the church took until 1626, but the original design print was by Donato Bramante and featured a floorplan that was the shape of a large Greek cross, with the first stone being laid in 1506. When Pope Julius died in 1513, the design changed hands to Giuliano da Sangallo, Fra Giocondo and Raphael who changed the Greek cross to a consortium of bays. After all three architects passed away, the project was passed to Baldassare Peruzzi who reverted back to the Greek Cross but kept elements of Raphael’s proposal (such as the internal arrangement of the three main apses). This plan did not go ahead because of difficulties between church and state, with Peruzzi passing in 1536. Antonio da Sangallo the Younger became the next architect, and his vision was a combination of all the former images with only a few eternal elaborations.
It was only on the 1st January 1547 that Michelangelo – who is considered the primary architect of the building – took over. He kept the original Greek cross layout but borrowed features of later plans such as the curved walls of Raphael's drawings.
The church went on to have a great influence on the architectural style of churches in the western world. The domes of Karlskirche (Vienna), St. Nicholas Church (Prague), and the Pantheon (Paris) all pay homage to St Peter's Basilica.
We can’t discuss important buildings in Rome without mentioning the iconic Colosseum. It is the most prominent example of ancient Roman architecture and is the largest amphitheatre ever built. The construction actually started way back in AD 72 under the eye of Emperor Vespasian – and completed in AD 80 under his heir and modifications were made during the reign of Domitian. This dynasty was known as the Flavian dynasty and is how the Colluseum earned it alternative name, the Flavian Amphitheatre.
The structure is built from concrete and sand, and could hold 50,000 and 80,000 spectators back in its day. It’s widely known that it was used for gladiator battles, but it was also used for mock sea battles, executions, and enactments of Classical Mythology.
Rome is regarded as the second Renaissance capital of Italy – after Florence – with the Quirinal Palace as one of the prime examples. It’s currently one of the three official residences of the President of the Italian Republic, and has housed thirty Popes, four Kings of Italy and twelve presidents of the Italian Republic.
Originally built in 1583 by Pope Gregory XIII as a papal summer residence, and commissioned the architect Ottaviano Mascherino. The palace is built around an internal courtyard, and boasts 1,200 rooms that include Hall of the Cabinets, The Grand Ballroom, the Hall of Mirrors, and The Chapel of the Annunciation. Outside there is also the Quirinal Gardens that clocks in at 40,000 m² and is famous for its water organ (a new addition, built in the late 90s) that has a single keyboard of 41 notes.
Altare della Patria
In 1870 neoclassical architecture came to Italy and Rome became the new capital city. During this time period, many new palaces were built to host ministries, embassies, and other governing agencies.
One of the most well-known symbols of Neoclassical architecture on Rome is Altare della Patria (also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II). It was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885, inaugurated in 1911 and completed in 1925. Inside the building, visitors will find stairways, Corinthian columns, fountains, an equestrian sculpture of Victor Emmanuel and two statues of the goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas.
It isn’t a pleasant part of Rome’s history, but the EUR business district is home to many examples of fascist architecture and illustrates how different Rome could look if fascism hadn’t fallen. The buildings were originally constructed for the 1942 world's fair that Benito Mussolini planned to celebrate twenty years of Fascism. But after World War 2, the exhibition plans were scrapped despite buildings having been erected.
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is the most recognisable structure and was designed by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Lapadula and Mario Romano. While much of the other buildings are a simplified Neoclassical style of architecture, this building also has elements of Metaphysical art.
Other notable buildings in this district are Palazzo dei Congressi, Archivio Centrale dello Stato and Basilica parrocchiale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo.
If you’ve been to Rome – what building caught your eye?
If you’ve got children – especially children under 12 – then selecting a hotel with plenty of activities is a must when going on holiday. And what better way to keep your children occupied than a waterpark? Thankfully there is an array of European hotel options that have a waterpark right on their doorstep (or even in the resort itself) guaranteed to ensure you’re little ones never moan about being bored!
3* Club Mac Alcudia Resort & Waterpark
Tucked into the northern corner of Alcudia lies this family-friendly hotel that offers unlimited entry to its adjacent waterpark. Here you’ll find 8 outdoor pools including 3 children's pools, ranging from an infinity pool to a children’s pool with slides and water dome. The waterpark also includes slides, kamikaze, multi lane racer and aqua loop slides.
The hotel itself has a further range of entertainment facilities including a cinema, daily evening entertainment, children’s playground, and restaurant with high chairs and kids’ buffet.
4* Paradise Island
Set within the beautiful surroundings of Lanzarote’s Playa Blanca region, this four star hotel offer both rest and adrenaline. All guests here are given a free of charge daily ticket to the Dino Water Park, while the hotel itself has a choice of four swimming pools to kick back and relax by. There is also an onsite sauna and games room.
3* Oasis Village with Waterpark
Stay here and gain free access to Fuerteventura’s only waterpark, Acua Waterpark. There’s 15 different slides and pools to keep your family occupied including wave pool, lazy river, children’s areas and 6 lane racing slides.
Back at the hotel, active families can sign up for volleyball, basket, or waterpolo. Younger members of the family can also join the onsite Lollo & Bernie Kids' Club, or work off some energy in the playground.
4* Anastasia Beach Complex
Set in the Pernera area of stunning Cyprus, the Anastasia Beach Complex comes complete with its own exclusive waterpark. All guests are granted unlimited access to the park and its 9 waterslides, lazy river and a splash pool (the beach is also only 100m away). Other family activities in the hotel include a children’s club, playground and kid’s buffet. Adults will also enjoy the onsite gym, sauna, steam room, fitness classes and two bars.
Aska Lara Resort & Spa
Heading over to Turkey now, this is the perfect hotel of choice for families after fun and sophisticated surroundings. The near-by Wet 'n' Wild water theme park features 9 slides (6 of them for adults and 3 smaller slides for children under the age of 12) as well as an adventure park and hobby garden. There are 9 restaurants and 8 bars also on the resort as well as a fitness centre, massage room, beauty salon, sauna and Turkish baths.
Each of the Greek Islands has its own personality – but Corfu is definitely the one that is a great all-rounder. Whether you’re after a lively party holiday with your friends, a family-friendly resort that looks out onto the beach, or culture and food Corfu has bucket loads of options. Here's just a taster of what you can get up to.
Explore ancient fortresses
Back in medieval times, Corfu was protected from invasion by two fortresses. While it is no longer needed for practical purposes, The Old Fortress is a great example of Byzantine and the Venetian architecture and can be found on the east side of Corfu. In contract, The New Fortress was built by the Venetians in the 16th Century and was built when the original fortress could no longer adequately defend the city.
Go for a night out in Kavos
If you’re looking to let your hair down at a party, Kavos is the best place to visit. Not only is it famous for its unbeatable nightlife it is also home to sun-soaked beaches that are just as lively during the day.
Slip on your hiking boots
If you’re a keen hiker, you can set your sights on the Corfu Trail that will take you right across the island taking roughly 10 days to complete. It’s a very rugged path and is recommended for experienced hikers only but it will take you past rich lagoons and impressive peaks.
Grab your snorkels
Corfu has one of the best snorkelling and scuba diving reputations in Greece. The northeast coast is amongst the hotspots and (on a clear day) visibility can reach 25-30 metres while water temperatures can reach 24°. The sea cave Hole of Ha near Paleokastrítsa beach is considered a must-visit area for divers because of the brightly coloured sea stars that are commonly found in other waters.
Splash at Aqualand Water Park
Located in the centre of the island is Corfu’s resident water park – that also just happens to be home to Europe’s largest wave pool. The park is split into three areas: the children’s area, Family area and adrenaline area ensuring that everyone is set to have a good time.
What's your favourite place to visit in Corfu?
Costa Daurada means Golden Coast in Spanish and it’s not hard to imagine why this lovely stretch of land in southern Spain managed to obtain such an attractive name. Stretching for 81km along the Mediterranean coast, this area is adorned with butterscotch-sands and Blue Flag beaches. But another reason why it has become so popular with British families, couples and friends seeking some sun is its plethora of resorts. We’ve rounded up six of the towns most popular with holidaymakers to help you make up your mind up about which one is right for you!
Salou has been a popular holiday hotspot for years, and for good reason. Aside from the beautiful stretch of coast line that families flock to in the summer, it’s also home to Spain’s largest theme park, PortAventura along with the newly opened FerrariLand and the Caribe Aquatic Park.
Tarragona is the cultural capital Catalonia and everywhere you look you’ll spot reminders of its fascinating past. The most poignant and eye-catching of all is definitely the Roman amphitheatre where gladiators battled it out in the 2nd century.
If you’re looking for sun, but consider yourself more of city-break person rather than a beach bum – then consider the city of Reus. It’s a perfect blend of incredible architecture, history, culture, shopping and cosmopolitan living. Plus, the beach is still only a 15-20 minute drive away and there’as regular buses to Salou, Tarragona, Barcelona, Valls and Cambrils.
Calafell is another Costa Daurada gem that combines beach with history. Set around a medieval castle dating back 2,500 years and the Romanesque church of Santa Creu from the 11th century, the town is a great mix of sandy beaches, great food, and culture with plenty of activities to keep holidaymakers happy. Remember to pop by the old fishing neighbourhood of La Platja, which is now a bustling collection of restaurants and bars and the perfect place to spend an evening.
Kick off your shoes, and slip on your sandals in this traditional Spanish fishing village turned holiday resort. It’s a polished place with upmarket hotels that still retains its own-town feel and is the perfect blend of Blue Flag beaches, Michelin-starred restaurants and relaxed nightlife. It’s also only an hour’s drive away from Barcelona.
La Pineda is the quieter sister of near-by Salou, and is the perfect choice for families who want a laid-back atmosphere with easy-access to livelier activities. As mentioned, Salou is within a short drive but also within an accessible radius is PortAventura theme park and an hour is away is the metropolitan hub of Barcelona. Within La Pineda itself however you’ll also find a collection of powdery beaches and water sports, as well as tapas bars, pubs and restaurants.
Berlin is definitely one of Europe’s most popular city breaks. Full of rich history, beautiful architecture, delicious food and plenty of nightlife – it’s not a surprise that British holidaymakers of various stripes choose Berlin as their city break destination of choice.
Whether you’re preparing for your first visit, or you’re heading back for your second (which wouldn’t be surprising, as many people do go back again!) make sure you keep this handy list nearby and tick off as many as you can.
1. Get a selfie in front of the Brandenburg Gate
2. Appreciate art on Museum Island
3. Enjoy the view from the top of the Fernsehturm
4. Drive around the city in a Trabi
5. Wander between the pillars of The Holocaust Memorial
6. Take a photo at Checkpoint Charlie
7. Treat yourself to a currywurst
8. Explore the city by bike
9. Have a picnic in Tiergarten, the city’s largest green space
10. Admire the striking beauty of the 300-year-old Charlottenburg Palace
11. Learn more about Germany’s Jewish history at the abstract Jewish Museum
12. Relax on a river cruise along the Spree and Havel
13. Gaze into the AquaDom – the largest fish tank in the world
14. Admire the graffiti art at the East Side Gallery
15. Spot the Ampelmann on the East German pedestrian lights
16. Stroll through the Berlin Botanischer Garten, the second largest botanical garden in the world.
17. Drink German beer in a Biergarten
18. Shop at the Mauer Park Flea Market
19. Walk (or drive) across the famous Oberbaum Bridge
20. Pay your respects at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park
21. Delve deeper into the history of WW2 at the Topography of Terror
22. Have a somber moment exploring the Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, keeping an eye out for the grave of the Brothers Grimm.
23. Set outside the city and pay your respects at the Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg concentration camp
24. Learn about the history of Berlin at The Story of Berlin Museum.
25. Visit in the winter and inhale the buzz of the famous Christmas Markets
26. Chill out on the abandoned runways of the non-operational Tempelhof Airport.
27. Look up and admire the golden Neue Synagogue.
28. Make a luxurious purchase at KaDeWe, a high-end shopping mall
29. Blag your way into Berghain, the city’s most exclusive nightclub
30. Walk along the Berlin Wall and swot up on history at its educational touchpoints
What is your must-see bucket list activities in Berlin? Let us know in the comments.
If you love food, then you’ll love Lanzarote. This stunning Canary Island takes pride in its locally grown produce and borrows gastronomic influence from Spain, Africa and Latin America thanks to its historical position as a former trans-Atlantic port. Whether it’s freshly caught seafood, vegetables grown in volcanic sand or unique vineyards, Lanzarote boasts plenty of distinctive but delicious flavours for the discerning traveller.
Freshly Caught Seafood
Being an island, it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that Lanzarote restaurants offer several delicious seafood dishes. Two local delicacies that you’ll see popping up regularly on menus are the local fish Cherne, (wreckfish in English) mero (in English dusky grouper) and vieja (parrotfish). Make sure at one point you also try some Sancocho Canario, a stew made with salty fish, sweet potato, mojo and gofio bread. Fresh Tuna Steak, Calamari and Octopus are also common.
If you want to taste the best seafood Lanzarote has to offer we recommend heading to the towns of El Golfo and Arrieta where much of the fish came out of the water earlier that day.
While locally caught fish tops the menu, meat is also very popular. Goat and rabbit are two meats that are very common and are primarily used in stews. Young goat especially is very popular – and is normally served fried or cooked in the oven.
If you read any food and drink guide concerning Lanzarote, this local potato dish will make an appearance. In order to get the skins ‘wrinkly’ texture, the potatoes are boiled in sea water and then to add flavour they are served with Mojo, a traditional Canarian sauce made with garlic and herbs or paprika.
Cheese fiends are definitely not left out on a holiday to Lanzarote. The cheese found in Lanzarote is award-winning and can be made from goats, cows or sheep milk. You can find fresh, semi-fresh, smoked or cured cheese in many shops and restaurants, however cured cheeses are also sold with a mixture of olive oil and paprika or gofio creating a unique flavour.
You might not be immediately familiar with this dessert, but it has been called “the most famous dessert in the Canaries”. Traditionally it is made using honey, egg yolk and ground almonds – but additional ingredients can include sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and sweet wine or sherry.
The vineyards that grow out of the dark volcanic sands have been attracting wine connoisseurs to Lanzarote for years, and have also been awarded Protected Designation of Origin status. All the wines are grown in the fascinating La Geria region, with single vines protected from the trade winds by a semi-circular wall. Malvasia is the wine mostly associated with Lanzarote, and is defined by its characteristic light fruity flavour and are very crisp and dry making it a great accompaniment to the fish dishes that are popular on the island.
Other wine varieties found across the island include Muscatel, white and black lists, Diego, and Burra White Negramoll.
Dining in a volcano
Lanzarote locals sure put their volcanoes to good use. In the hills of Timanfaya National Park, lies the El Diablo restaurant that cooks its food by placing a grill rack across a volcanic vent. Then there’s also Jameos del Agua in the north of the island, a restaurant found in the volcanic tunnels created by the eruption of the La Corona Volcano. Every Tuesday and Saturday you can enjoy the Jameos Night and be treated to a la carta dinner with live music.
Hiring a mobile home is a perfect alternative to a hotel if you’re looking for family-friendly accommodation in some of Europe’s most popular destinations. Enjoy a bit more privacy, your own garden space to relax in the sun, plus you’ll have the comforts of home with your own kitchen and living facilities. All European holiday parks come with on-site facilities that can range from understated restaurants in peaceful settings, or energetic waterparks for adventurous kids.
At Barrhead Travel we have numerous holiday park options for families, and one of our top suppliers is Al Fresco Holidays. They boast 72 parks in Europe and offer four collections perfectly tailored to what your party is looking for: Large & Lively, Midsized & Sociable, Small & Friendly and Authentic & Value. Here are just some of the popular destinations where you can find their parks.
Al Fresco Holidays have a presence across the whole of France with 41 holiday parks near popular destinations such as Paris, Normandy and North & South Brittany. Popular sites includes Les Prairies de la Mer that is located on the beaches of St. Tropez and is home to eight different mobile home types that all come with their own gas barbeque. Onsite facilities also include a minimarket, restaurant, laundrette, PC lounge and souvenir shop.
However, if it’s Disneyland Paris you’re eyeing up for a nice family holiday, another popular park is La Croix du Vieux Pont. This lively park boasts plenty of facilities for children with pools, waterslides, outdoor play area, 10 pin bowling alley, laser quest, and evening entertainment including magic shows and kid’s discos.
Choose between the pristine Dalmatian Coast or the secluded spots on the Istrian peninsula, with a range of four parks. Each of them fall into the Large & Lively category making them an amazing choice for families wanting to explore a destination with some history and culture. Every park includes a main restaurant (as well as a Pizzeria and bar), a mini-market, and a large heated outdoor pool.
Holland is home to only one park, Duinrell Holiday Park near the town of Wassenaar – but in the case of this fun-filled park, one is definitely enough. The main feature is the on-site Tiki Tropical Water Park, with an indoor and outdoor pool featuring oversized water slides, a lazy river, wave pool, and paddling pool. The other outstanding feature of this park is its theme park with roller coasters and fun for all the family PLUS entrance to the theme park is free for the duration of the holiday. Sports fans can also sign up for mini-golf, volleyball, ten pin bowling and archery. For food, aside from the main restaurant, there is a snack bar, bakery, take-away, mini-market and a charcoal BBQ included with all mobile homes.
Al Fresco Holidays have expertly chosen five of Italy’s best holiday destinations for their holiday parks: Lake Garda, Lazio, Tuscany, Adriatic Coast and the Venetian Riviera. Most are part of the Large & Lively collection but six parks are included in the Midsize & Sociable collection or the Small & Friendly collection.
One of their more intimate parks is Eden, located on the banks of the scenic Lake Garda with the resort towns of Portese and Salo only a short drive away. The lower and upper campsite are both home to unassuming swimming pools, and the wider park caters to sports fans with volleyball, table tennis, basketball, badminton, bike hire, and football. There is also an on-site spa.
Costa Brava and Costa Dorada are two of Europe’s most popular destinations with families looking for some sun. Aside from the peaceful Cala Gogo campsite near the resort town of Platja d’Aro, all the parks in Spain are aimed towards families and have plenty of activities for younger members.
One of their most popular resorts, Sanguli that is found near the friendly destination of Salou, has a brand new area for 2017: an African themed resort with Africa themed pool, restaurant, bar and Africa themed mobile homes. This means the park will now be home to three swimming pools, three paddling pools and six waterslides. Other activities in the wider park include board games, trampolining, a video games room, badminton and a weights room.
Imagine the scene: relaxing outside on a sun-drenched patio, overlooking a tranquil lake, while nibbling on beautiful Italian flavours and sipping on some of Europe’s finest wines. This imaginary scene is the reality on a holiday to Lake Garda. The handsome landscape that surrounds Italy’s largest lake is as fertile as it is charming and produces its own delicious take on some of Italy’s most famous produce. Here’s just a delicious sample to get your mouth-watering.
Citrus fruits were first brought to Lake Garda in the 13th century, and have enjoyed a fruitful and important part in Lake Garda’s culinary scene. Two local recipes where citrus fruits are a key ingredient include Limoncino liqueur and lemon cream of the Riviera dei Limoni, a citron-flavoured beverage.
Wines from Trentino
The Trentino Garda area has enjoyed a fair bit of fame in the world of wine thanks to the micro-climate that allows for a unique breed of grapes to flourish. One of the most noteworthy is the Nosiola grape, a delicate flavour that is the perfect accompaniment to some hors d’ oeuvres. The long-lived dessert wine Trentino Vino Santo is actually hand-crafted by allowing the Nosiola grapes to dry on wooden trellises!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The micro-climate of Lake Garda’s northern shoreline also lends a hand to producing a unique brand of olive oil that is recognised by the European Community as worthy of the DOP qualification. Its DOP is verified by its intense golden green hue as well as its sweet almond and fruity taste. Whether it’s a salad, fresh meat or a fried seafood – you’ll find this locally-grown variety of olive oil drizzled on many dishes.
Locally caught fish
In many of the villages that decorate the banks of Lake Garda, fish is caught and cooked using traditional methods. Trout has longed been crowned the nickname of Queen of the Garda, because of the high quantities found in the water. Sardine, whitefish, eels and tenches are all common seafood delicacies that can be caught from its shores.
Cattle from the Morenici hills
The cheeses and cold meats that are served abundantly in the Lake Garda towns come from cattle that were bred on the luscious pastures of the Morenici hills. Most notable is the Morenico De.C.O (doc) salami and the salami of Pozzolengom, both of which are produced from beef of romagnola cattle.
This bow-shaped pasta boasts a long history in Northern Italy, and legend has it that it was made to honour the star-crossed lovers Silvia and Malco who were not allowed to be together. There’s even a 'Knot of Love' festival held in their honour!
To this day the pasta is made strictly by hand, and is rolled until it’s as thinned out as possible while still remaining intact. Traditionally, the filling is a mix of beef, pork and chicken with carrot, celery and rosemary for further flavour – then it is left to dry until being cooked in a meat broth and served with butter, sage and a sprinkle of cheese.
Local Lake Garda families have been passing down traditional sweets from parents to child for generations. Keep and an eye out for spelt flour biscuit and the saffron biscuit and the fried Saltarelle of Padenghe if you’re craving a taste of these traditional farmers’ sweets.
When it comes to the Balearic Islands, Menorca often gets overshadowed by its energetic neighbours. While Ibiza and Majorca boast lively clubs and action-packed resorts (as well as a few quieter beaches in between) Menorca strips the Spanish beach holiday back to basics. If you’re looking for a destination with great weather, that isn’t far away and doesn’t cost the earth - but isn’t overrun with people - then Menorca is one of your best options. Here are some of the reasons why Menorca should be on your summer list.
1. Pristine Beaches
The Balearics are home to some of the Mediterranean’s best beaches. However, Menorca has more beaches than the other two combined and almost all of the island’s beaches have Blue Flag status.
While Menorca is definitely the quietest of the islands, beach-lovers with a sporty streak will not be disappointed. The water that surrounds Menorca is pretty calm making it a great option for beginners whether it’s sailing, jet skiing or paddle boarding.
3. Authentic local food
If you’re looking for authentic local flavours to dig into, Menorca delivers. First on your list should be the locally-made Mahón cheese with its creamy and mild taste. As a drink we recommend trying some local wine or the local Menorcan gin! Remember to also dollop some mayonnaise on your food – Menorca was its birthplace after all.
4. It’s a natural biosphere reserve
Menorca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 thanks to its ecosystem that is rich with caves, lagoons, dune systems, islets, 220 species of birds, and 1000 species of plants (60 of which are endemic). One of the best ways to explore is by walking along the Cami de Cavalls – a path that winds around the island clocking in at 185 miles (but it’s broken down into 20 manageable sections if you’re only looking for a brief stroll). As a result you won’t find your view blocked by any high-rise hotels.
5. Traditional Spanish celebrations
I know we’ve already stated that Menorca is the peaceful sibling of the three islands, but Menorcans still know how to party. If you visit between June to September you’ll be treated to the sights and sounds of the traditional Menorcan fiesta. Ciutadella holds the most extravagant one, and marks the start of festival season across the island.
6. Ancient history
Menorca is home to many historic sites, some dating as far back to the Bronze Age. Castell San Felipe is one of Europe's largest fortresses, Son Catlar is the largest Talayotic settlement in the Balearic Islands and the Pirates of Menorca boat will take you on a tour of Menorca’s pirate past (including a venture into the coves smugglers used to hide in). The archaeology sites here are so impressive, Boston University even runs a summer school for Archaeological Heritage Management on the island.
Menorca’s most popular resorts are Arenal D'en Castell, Cala Blanca and Cala'n Forcat.
Gran Canaria is an island synonymous with wonder. Its volcanic history has created an intriguing unearthly landscape and its location has birthed sunny beaches that never drop below 10C - even in the winter. A historic port city, the culture is a melting ***** of stories from travellers that have passed through while exploring foreign lands. This eclectic culture and exquisite rock formations survive to this day creating a unique itinerary for holiday makers.
Must see landscapes
Scenery wise, Gran Canaria is an island of contrasts. Home to both golden beaches and flowing mountains, it’s not surprising that it has been granted a World Biosphere Reserve label by UNESCO. Gran Canaria is very proud of its stunning island and has created the Gran Canaria Mirador Lookout Network, which marks out the best spots for a scenic view.
Must eat cuisine
Gran Canaria’s status as a traditional port of call for travellers passing over the Atlantic has created a diverse culinary mix, making it very difficult to pin-point exactly what Gran Canarian cuisine is due to the melting ***** of cultures that now exist on the island. Even to this day it receives an exotic hotpot of imports from across the globe.
However, it’s not just the many visitors who have contributed to the culinary scene. Gran Canaria’s naturally warm and sunny climate makes it very fertile for an array of vegetables, fruits and spices. Of course, its island status means seafood also plays a large part in the local culinary culture. Popular seafood dishes include Canary Casserole, Tollos (salted and dried dogfish), and chopped seafood with onion, tomato and peppers.
Must try sports
The mixture of sea and mountains has created an immersive land perfectly formed for both land and water sports. On its mountainous peaks, active holidaymakers will find both climbing and hiking. There’s also eight sun-filled golf courses on the island, while sporty types who prefer water-based activities will find surfing, paddle surfing, and deep sea diving.
There’s also a handful of indigenous sports active on the island. Most prominently is Lateen sailing or “Vela Latina Canaria”, which is no everyday sailing. The mast is out of proportion with the hulk of the boat, so riders have to intricately manage the balance of the boat with weights and counterweights. Competitions and events are held at the weekend in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which attracts large crowds. There is also “el juego del palo” (a kind of jousting bout with sticks) and a Canarian variation of wrestling, “la lucha canaria”.
Must visit health and relaxation
Whether it’s relaxing after a sporty day at the beach, or choosing to spend your entire holiday relaxing in a spa, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to unwind in Gran Canaria. The island is a very popular wellness destination with numerous spas and health centres.
Gran Canaria also has the correct climate to grow its own unique variety of Aloe Vera. What is special about this Canarian Aloe Vera is that it does not need treated before being used as a beauty product, making any wellness treatment that extra bit special.
Must experience culture
Gran Canaria’s historic reputation as a transatlantic stop-over has resulted in a distinctive blend of cultures. And this local culture is not subtle or hard for visitors to find. Across the island you will find a plethora of museums, festivals and archaeological sites celebrating what makes this island so unique.
Visit the Cenobio de Valerón, an authentic aboriginal grain collection store built by ancient Canarians 800 years ago. Or visit the Ethnographic Museum and learn how gofio (a Gran Canarian flour) is made – and visit the Valleseco Ecological Market afterwards. Aboriginal artwork is also easily found and is instantly recognisable by its geometric motifs, squares, triangles and circles painted in reddish, ochre tones and white.