There’s something magical about historic European cities in winter. A dusting of snow, twinkly lights, crisp chilly nights and the smell of glühwein and Christmas biscuits make everything seem extra special. So when Jet2Holidays asked me to try out one of their city break packages, I couldn’t resist a wintery weekend in Salzburg.
I’ve spent more time in France than anywhere else in the world – from childhood holidays in Normandy to house-sitting in Paris and a winter skiing in the Alps. And one of the things I love most about the country is its diversity. Whatever kind of trip you fancy you can find it in France – museum hop around a city, laze on a sandy beach, taste wine from the vineyard, live it up in a luxurious château – the possibilities are endless.
From red-brick historic buildings to pastel waterfront houses, from art galleries to gourmet restaurants – Charlottetown might be Prince Edward Island’s capital, but with a population of 35,000 it still has the friendly feel of a small town. It’s the birthplace of Canadian Confederation but is still a modern city that’s always developing.
A string of coastal villages, with pastel buildings tumbling down the hillside around picture-perfect harbours and clear blue seas – over the last few years the Cinque Terre has become one of Europe’s top wishlist destinations. With the sun shining, a plate of pasta and a glass of prosecco in front of you, it’s not hard to see why.
Years ago (a few too many now!) I did a degree in geography. It was one of the things which started off my love of travel – the field trip to Thailand definitely helped – and it was also the first time I’d heard about sustainable tourism. This is the idea that visitors should have as low an impact on a destination as possible, so that in the long term it benefits local people as much as the visitors who get to experience these amazing places around the world.
After living in Oxford for a few years, I always thought I knew exactly where my loyalties lay – you’d never find me cheering Cambridge in the boat race. But my first trip to Cambridge started to sway me. Like Oxford it’s got a fascinating history, beautiful architecture, punts on the river, cobbled streets full of bikes and enough museums and libraries to feel like you’re getting cleverer by osmosis.
From five sleepy Italian fishing villages to one of the most famous coastal landscapes in the world – the Cinque Terre’s been through a few changes over the years, but it still looks every bit as gorgeous as you’d imagine. It’s now a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site which draws in a crazy 2.4 million visitors a year (I blame Instagram!) to walk, boat and train their way through dramatic cliffs and pretty coastal villages.
Set on the banks of the Rhône and surrounded by medieval stone ramparts, Avignon is one of Provence’s biggest cities. So I was expecting it to be, well, a bit more like a big city. But instead I found a place with a relaxed, small town feel. It comes with a fascinating history, and its time as home of the Popes means there’s some impressive art and architecture. But it’s not just looking towards to the past – there’s a big student population and new bars, restaurants and shops springing up all the time.
Although I love a good European rail trip, I’ve never been Interrailing. The post-university right of passage for 20-something Europeans passed me by, but the passes aren’t just for gap-yearers. Their main selling point is that they makes rail travel around Europe easier and cheaper – but it is true? It definitely would be if you’re under 28, doing a month-long trip, on the move almost every day and making up your itinerary as you go. But what if you’ve only got a couple of weeks, have your itinerary already planned, and 28 has been and (long) gone? I tried out an Interrail pass on my France and Italy rail trip this summer to find out.
Overflowing with fantastic history, views, music and culture, Edinburgh is quite rightly one of Europe’s most popular city breaks. But what if you’ve visited the Castle, listened to the bagpipers on the Royal Mile, been whisky tasting and rubbed Greyfriars Bobby’s nose – what can you do on your second visit, or third or fourth?