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    Take A Short Break To Europe This Winter

    Short Winter Breaks

    All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey…sounds familiar? Well, the onset of winter doesn’t have to be all about battening down the hatches and hibernating. Some of Europe’s most fascinating cities are simply spectacular at this time of year. Gather round, and let us tickle those travel taste buds.

    MADRID

    Spain’s capital has the lot – culture, history, cuisine and clubs, and it’s compact enough to travel around without much effort. It’s heaven-sent for anyone looking for a short break with enough to do from dawn till dusk, yet it’s unlike many large cities in that it’s got a lovely laidback vibe.

    Must-sees here include the Plaza Mayor, which dates back to 1619 and is the most famous of the city’s enchanting squares. Three sides of the plaza are bordered by three-storey buildings decorated with frescoes, making this a fabulous hang-out for a coffee and a spot of people – watching.

    Don’t miss the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), home to around 2500 rooms and dating from 1764. If the mood takes you, join the tour of 50 of its rooms, or alternatively just marvel at its beauty and take a few pictures like most tourists seem to do.

    Madrid’s chock-a-block with marvellous museums – try the Prado and the Thyssen- Bornemisza for starters – which is ideal if the weather’s cold. But if food and drink is more your bag, check out the Mercado de San Miguel for local delicacies. It’s open till late – 2am at weekends – and is close to a whole range of pubs and restaurants too.

    But the best thing to do in Madrid is stroll the streets, checking out places like the Puerta del Sol in its centre and the Gran Via with its majestic architecture and multitude of shops. Guaranteed, you’ll be chilled – out in Madrid, rather than just chilled in Britain!

    MUNICH

    Escape to this beguiling Bavarian city in the weeks before Christmas to get that fuzzy festive feeling. Christmas markets abound across Munich, but the daddy of them all is in Marienplatz, the central square. Surrounded by log cabins selling Christmas decorations, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, sausages and Gluhwein, and in the shadow of historic buildings including the Old and New Town Halls, it’s a definite that even the biggest humbug’s heart will melt.

    Even outwith Christmas, Munich offers up much for the short-break traveller. Visit the English Garden, Munich’s largest park which is even bigger than Central Park in New York. Take a trip to the Olympic Stadium, the site of the 1972 Games, or browse the city’s oldest farmers’ market, the Viktualienmarkt, which is a feast for all the senses.

    We couldn’t mention Munich without talking about its ***** halls, of course. This is the way ***** was meant to be served, as you listen to oompah music and taste some local specialities as well as downing huge mugs of excellent Bavarian Bier served by wenches in dirndl skirts. It really is atmosphere overload.

    PARIS

    There’s a lot to be said for skipping a visit to Paris in the Spring or Summer. The crowds of tourists thin out, and the city seems to be able to breathe again. Autumn and Winter can be equally as beautiful in their own way, and the city’s still humming with life as Parisians go about their day to day business – impeccably-dressed, of course.

    Fortunately, you don’t have to have great dress sense to enjoy Paris, because there’s so much to experience. Wander along its boulevards, saunter around its parks, and run across its roads to avoid the impatient drivers. A walk down the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe is unforgettable, and for a wonderful, stark contrast to the impressive old buildings on this iconic street, be sure to visit the Centre Pompidou as part of your itinerary – showing how the ancient and the new are both essential elements of Paris.

    A journey down the Seine on a bateau mouche passing Notre Dame, a trek up from Montmartre to Sacre Coeur, exploring the Pere Lachaise cemetery – all of these will make your visit one to remember.

    Shopping, of course, is a must here, but also take a trip to the Louvre, even just to wander outside and capture the famous pyramid on camera.

    After dark, Paris has everything on offer from olde-world and expensive restaurants to funky clubs and sophisticated bars. Why not say Bonjour to Paris sometime soon?

    COPENHAGEN

    Eminently walkable, and pretty with it, Copenhagen has something for all ages and tastes.

    If taking the kids away for a short break is a priority, then Denmark’s capital is the destination for you. From the zoo to the Little Mermaid, from the aquarium to Tivoli Gardens, little ones will be captivated from start to finish, and you’ll never hear the word “bored” coming from their lips.

    It’s not just for kids, though – Copenhagen has more than enough to keep adults occupied too. Nyhavn, originally the commercial port, is characterised by exquisite old houses framing the harbour. You’ll find classy restaurants and bars in this area, filled with people enjoying the ambiance.

    Copenhagen’s main shopping street, Stroget, is one of the longest in Europe and caters to all budgets, from designer brands to wallet-friendly stores. It’s popular with street performers too, and you’ll find bars, cafes and restaurants around the area too.

    If rum is your tipple of choice, then make a beeline for the Carlsberg Brewery. This is, not surprisingly, one of the city’s most popular attractions – while you can see the rum-making process, it’s tasting the fruits of the labours at the end at the brewery bar that really makes a visit here worthwhile.

    PALMA

    Think that Majorca’s all about sun and sea? Think again. The gorgeous city of Palma’s got loads to offer the savvy short-breaker.

    For starters, there’s the cathedral, which dominates the harbour skyline. Started in 1230 and not finished till 1601, it features some restoration by Gaudi, and has one of the largest naves in the world.

    If people-watching’s a favourite pastime of yours, then pull up a chair at one of the cafes in Placa Major. Not only will you be able to check out locals and tourists alike, but the street artists will keep you amused too.

    A little retail therapy is a must in Palma. From designer boutiques to shopping malls, you’ll find shopping heaven here. But the best part of a visit to Palma is perhaps to just enjoy a leisurely walk around the streets, down tiny lanes and main streets, discovering quiet corners, lively tapas bars and exquisite architecture.

    For a change of scenery, try a day trip to Soller, on wooden trains which have been running on this track since 1912. Only an hour’s journey through the mountains and you’ll find yourself in this picturesque town, set in lush orange groves. A quick trip on a tram and you can visit Port de Soller, which sits on a horseshoe harbour and has both seaside charm and magnificent mountain views.


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