We all need some sun right? Winter sun trips have become a “thing” haven’t they? My Instagram feed is full of people in Bali, Tulum and the like and I cannot help be but scandalously jealous. But my purse strings are not allowing me do these kinds of hols right now. Plus, last year I felt like I hadn’t experienced enough of the cities on my doorstep. And by that I mean a short haul flight away. I’ve had several lovely city breaks between 2017 and 2018 and if you are planning a long weekend I have a few suggestions. Before I get into some recommended European city break destinations, there are a couple of assumptions to note based on the trips I have taken. I usually go for 3-4 nights and this decision is based around flight times really. In my experience you need three full days to see somewhere new. Next, all the below were paid for by me or my Dad. He loves a good family trip each year and he gives us this as our birthday presents. It’s a lovely thing for us to do and we always have a lot of fun. So, here goes my top five.
A two hour flight from Dublin is the home of Port making in the world. Ryanair fly direct right to Porto airport which is a 20 minute taxi journey from the city centre. Porto is old and modern all at the same time. The Port making side called Gaia, across the river from the old Town should be your first stop. Book them in advance to help with your itinerary. We went to Grahams (you may need a taxi to this) which has the most amazing views down onto the city and river. Speaking of river, take a boat trip down the Duoro River which is so relaxing and costs about €15 per person. There are a couple of must visits – the train station for the most exquisite tiling, the Majestic Cafe and the Livraria Lello book shop which is rumored to have inspired JK Rowling when writing Harry Potter (she used to live there). There are oodles of bars and restaurants, we avoided anything along the river which were very touristy and overpriced. And guess what, we are going back in April.
If you follow me on Instagram you will know that I spend a lot of time in Milan. I first went in 2009 on two week holiday to Italy but only stayed a day. Then I went for fashion week, and then my husband started to spend time there for work and suddenly we were becoming unofficial residents of this very chic city. Aer Lingus fly to Linate and Malpensa (Linate has better flight times) and a €5 bus from outside the terminal will drop you to Milan Centrale from where you can hop on the metro that connects the city. The Duomo, Galleria Vitorio Emanuele, Nivigli (by the canals), Brera and Chinatown are must sees. Head down the most chic street in Europe, Montenapoleono for coffee at Cova, then to Luini for a panzarotti sitting on the pavement outside with every other Milan resident. Have lunch at Signorvino behind the Duomo and enjoy a spritz (they have them before lunch about 12). I guarantee you will fall in love with this city as much as I have.
This is a great stop for a long weekend with a bit of sun if you go from May. I’ve been twice and did a Wednesday to Sunday trip, first with a friend, and then last year I went back with my family. It’s like a big town by the sea; there is not a lot to do but stroll the promenade, stop for an iced vermouth at one of the many vermouth bars and eat tapas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m OK with that are you? The people are very friendly and it hasn’t got a very touristy feel, but you do see plenty of walkers finishing the Camino di Santiago there. You are also a bus journey from Bilbao that I loved. It has a Guggenheim museum that takes nearly a day to get around and well worth it. Ryanair fly from Dublin direct, or you can fly to Bilbao with Aer Lingus. I am heading back to Bilbao in April to also go to San Sebastian. If you keep an eye on flights you can get a return for about €60 (without a checked in bag).
We love a break in Spain don’t we? Guaranteed sunshine and all that. But usually what I see is when people disembark the plane, they queue for a taxi to take them down to Marbella. But, we spend a lot of time in Malaga city which is so worth a visit. It has a buzzing night life with plenty of amazing bars and restaurants as well as plenty to see during the day. If you are going in the summer, it’s good to find things to do out of the heat during the day. The food market is always a stop for us. You can explore the fresh food offering and perch in one of the small bars have a beer and a plate of shellfish. The port is situated at the very long promenade which is also home to the George Pompidou modern art museum (yes like the one in Paris). It takes a good two hours to get around but it’s amazing. There are plenty of flight options to Malaga from Dublin. I usually fly with Aer Lingus on an afternoon flight that takes about two and half hours and gets you in just in time for dinner.
I hope the above inspires you to go somewhere you’ve always wanted to see!