May is the ideal month for a last-minute city break. With the mercury rising across Europe and two bank holidays to prop up your precious annual leave, the question isn’t ‘Should I go away?’ but more ‘Where should I go?’
To help you decide, we’ve run down some of Europe’s best destinations for a last-minute city break that you can get to in two hours.
It’s hard to beat a weekend city break in Berlin. There are few Euro capitals where you get more bang for your buck, and many of the city’s fascinating memorials are free. It’s a young and vibrantly arty city, so a stroll along its cobbled streets and lush, tree-lined canals will usually turn up an undiscovered boutique, gallery or indy eatery.
As the temperatures are rising and days getting longer, head to the beer gardens of trendy Kreuzberg for pilsner sundowners into the night.
1hr 55min from London Gatwick
The artsy nhow Berlin in Friedrichshain (doubles from £87 per night)
With its pervasive sense of style and unrivalled gastro scene, Denmark’s design-focused capital is the perfect destination for a cool urban getaway. Cosy up for Scandi style drinking on the waterside terraces at Nyhavn for your perfect Copenhagen Instagram moment, or rub shoulders with the city’s young and beautiful among the chic boutiques and cafes in the Vesterbro district.
With 15 Michelin-starred restaurants you can’t go to Copenhagen and not sample the fruits of its gastronomic heritage. Instead of world-famous Noma, try sustainable Amass, run by former Noma head chef Matt Orlando.
1hr 50 minutes from London Gatwick
Enjoy Kong Frederik’s fusion of Scandi minimalist with elegant antique designs (doubles from £250 per night)
Fancy a city with the beautiful architecture and myriad brasseries of Paris, but none of the attitude? Bordeaux is what you’re looking for. It’s the perfect size for a mini-break; just grab a bike from the city cycle hire scheme and cruise past architectural highlights like the Cathedrale Saint-Andre and Porte Cailhau, but don’t forget to rest your legs in the blooming Jardin Public.
Bordeaux is more than its wines, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook them when you go. Bordovino comes highly recommended for its tastings and tours of vineyards in Saint-Emilion, which run from the city centre.
1hr 35mins from London Gatwick
The All Seasons Bordeaux Meriadeck is well situated with comfy rooms (doubles from £112 per night)
The Dutch capital is a well-loved city break destination – with good reason. It’s excellent value, with stacks of low-cost hotels to choose from and with a 65-minute flight time from London, you can dash out of the office on time and be there in time for supper. Don’t be fooled by its seedy reputation; there’s a lot more to Amsterdam than legal highs and sex shows. Head to the Jordan district to walk among some of the city’s best indy restaurants and boutiques, or cruise the canals by bike.
Paris and Florence usually claim the accolade of Europe’s leading city for art, but Amsterdam has selection of galleries that’s certainly not to be sniffed at. The Van Gogh Museum is the most famous, but for something a bit different head to the Stedelijk Museum and check out works from the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Golden Tulip at Sloterdijk is pure bachelor pad (doubles from £61 per night)
Can’t decide between city break and a couple of days on the beach? No need to choose; San Sebastian has two beaches which sandwich a city that’s a rabbit warren of narrow cobbled streets and bare brick work. The Zurriola beach to the east is a surfer hot spot so sign up for lessons at the surf schools that line the beach, or just hire yourself a board and hit the waves. For the city’s Basque residents, food is in their blood and San Sebastian’s restaurant scene is one of the best in Spain.
Tapas is ubiquitous throughout Spain, but San Sebastian has some of the best. The pintxos (bite-size servings on skewers) on offer at the city’s La Cuchara by the cathedral has some of the best, but you’ll need to get there early before the sharp-elbowed crowds descend.
2hrs to Biarritz, then 40-minute bus
Chic design hotel Zenit San Sebastian (doubles from £132 per night)