Its charming historic centre may have fallen victim to the bleak urban planning of the Communist era, but Romania’s capital has reinvigorated itself in recent years to become one of the most exciting travel destinations in Eastern Europe. Discover a city that never sleeps on a city break to Bucharest from Glasgow Airport.
Central Bucharest is a fascinating mishmash of ancient architecture and Communist creations. North of the Dâmbovița River is the historic quarter, which is packed with cultural treats such as the Eastern Orthodox Stavropoleos Monastery (Strada Stavropoleos), 15th-century palace Curtea Veche (Strada Franceză) and University Square. Other buildings are an unforgettable testament to the city’s more recent past. Don’t miss the chance to see the colossal Parliament Palace (Strada Izvor 2-4), commissioned by Communist Party leader Nicolae Ceaușescu in the 1980s, and the rest of the hauntingly bleak Civic Centre.
When the sun goes down…
There are plenty of sights to explore during the day, but it’s at night that Bucharest really blazes into life. A rapidly expanding culture of cool has led to an explosion of pubs, cocktail bars and clubs, with most scattered around the historic quarter. While the venues might be increasingly funky, prices are still breathtakingly low – so you can party the night away at hotspots such as ancient beerhouse Caru’ cu Bere (Strada Stavropoleos 5), indie club Control (Strada Constantin Mille 4) or funky student hangout Piranha Club (Splaiul Independentei 313A), without doing much damage to your wallet.
Escaping the city
If you can tear yourself away from the urban action then Bucharest is the perfect starting point for exploring some of the most legendary landscapes in Europe. Transylvania is within day-trip distance, and a visit to Bran Castle (Strada General Traian Moșoiu 24, Bran) – often associated with the Dracula myth – or to the Disney-esque Peleș Castle (Aleea Peleșului 2, Sinaia) in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains can be accomplished in a few hours.
Hungary’s spellbinding capital is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Its unique blend of Baroque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture – not to mention a stellar constellation of boutiques, bars, galleries and theatres – exercises a timeless appeal for visitors. Take a short break to Budapest from Glasgow Airport to uncover the city’s secrets.
Soak up the atmosphere
Prime yourself for some serious sightseeing with a relaxing soak in one of Budapest’s natural thermal baths. The Széchenyi Baths (Állatkerti korut 9-11), an impressive collection of 15 indoor and three outdoor pools set against the palatial backdrop of a neo-Baroque palace, is the most spectacular place to take the waters, but the Turkish-style Veli Bej (Árpád fejedelem útja 7) offers a similarly relaxing experience without the crowds.
Walk this way…
With most of the famous landmarks packed into a petite city centre, it makes sense to explore Budapest on foot. Don’t miss iconic sights such as the Buda Castle, National Gallery (Szent György tér 2) and Parliament (Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3), but exploring the lesser-visited squares and backstreets on either side of the river is equally rewarding. Obuda Fo Square in Old Buda and out-of-the-way Mikszáth Square should both be on your itinerary.
It might not be the first city that springs to mind when it comes to shopping opportunities, but Budapest is gradually winning renown for its flea markets and backstreet boutiques. The PeCsa Flea Market (Zichy Mihály út 14), shoehorned into an outmoded concert hall in the City Park, is a must for vintage lovers and collectors, while Ecseri Piac (XIX Nagykőrösi út 156) is one of the largest bric-a-brac markets in Europe. Looking for something a little more contemporary? Pick up exquisite locally designed clothes at Matyó Design (XIII Radnóti Miklós utca 25) or find a traditional souvenir at Almárium (I Attila utca 67).
Offering endless sunshine, sublime sandy beaches and relaxed resorts without the crowds, it’s no surprise that Costa de Almería has been dubbed Spain’s best-kept secret. Here’s how to make the most of your stay.
Life’s a beach
If you fancy topping up your tan, feeling the sand between your toes and splashing around in a clear blue ocean, then a holiday to Costa de Almería from Glasgow Airport is the perfect choice. The pretty resort towns of Mojácar and Roquetas De Mar are both framed by stunning strips of sand, while the area that stretches from the city of Almería to the natural park of Cabo de Gata has no less than seven Blue Flag beaches to choose from. Costa de Almería also has a famous naturist beach, the Playa de los Muertos, which is frequently voted among the best in the country.
Seafood and sangria
You’ll be spoilt for dining options in this region of gourmets, with everything from cosy little tapas cafés to Michelin-starred restaurants on offer. Celebrate a special occasion at the one-starred Alejandro (Avenida Antonio Machado 32) in Roquetas De Mar, which wows with its inventive seafood dishes, or drive west along the beautiful coast from Almería to discover fine dining at the hotels Cala Grande (Calle Navegante) and Rodalquilar (Paraje de los Albacetes). The nightlife on Costa de Almería is liveliest in Roquetas de Mar – La Goleta (Avenida Playa Serena 28) has a reputation for serving the best cocktails in town.
Back to nature
For the perfect antidote to a big night on the town, make a beeline for the Cabo de Gata natural park. This 500-sq-km nature reserve is the only place in Europe with a true desert climate and plays host to fascinating wildlife species including flamingos, wild boar and ospreys. Adrenaline junkies can enjoy horse riding, cycling and windsurfing here – and there’s a spectacular coral reef for scuba divers to explore as well.
A maze of medieval cobbled streets, arcaded houses and ancient churches, Girona is a feast for the senses. It’s also the gateway to the sizzling sands and pine-dotted hills of the Costa Brava, making the city a perfect year-round getaway.
Sun, sea and Sangria
Wilder and less populated than the Costa del Sol or Costa Blanca, the Costa Brava is famous for its horseshoe bays, secluded sandy beaches and idyllic little hilltop villages. Why not take advantage of a holiday to Girona from Glasgow Airport to explore the enticing coastal resorts that lie within easy transfer distance of the city? The historic fishing village of Tossa de Mar has all the ingredients for a perfect beach break, including a paradisiacal stretch of sand and countless stylish beachside bars. Alternatively, head to Lloret de Mar to experience a vibrant Old Town and soak up the stunning surrounding scenery.
Walk back in time
Fancy a break from the sunlounger? Girona is a hotbed of cultural interest, with an intricate baroque cathedral (Plaça de la Catedral), a 12th-century bathhouse (Banys Àrabs, Carrer Ferran el Catòlic) and the best-preserved medieval Jewish quarter in Catalonia. To experience this historic city without spending a dime, take a walk along Girona’s medieval walls. Steps just across the street from the Banys Àrabs lead up to the walls through stunning gardens and then on to the Plaça de Catalunya.
Food for thought
Catalonia has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred chefs in Spain. The crowning jewel in Girona’s gastronomic crown is El Celler De Can Roca (Carrer Can Sunyer 48), a three-starred, family-run restaurant with one of the most unique wine cellars in the world. If your budget won’t quite stretch, dine with the locals at traditional Catalan bistro Can Marques (Plaça Calvet i Rubalcaba 3) or feast on Mediterranean cuisine while cool jazz plays in the background at bohemian eatery La Penyora (Carrer Nou del Teatre 3). And if all that’s left you wanting more, Barcelona’s groundbreaking architecture, irrepressible nightlife and sensational food scene are only 90 minutes away.
Bursting with energy and joie de vivre, Marseille has built on its 2013 European City of Culture title to become the creative hub of southern France. It’s also the gateway to the glories of Provence and the Côte d'Azur, with stunning beaches, scenic treats and sleepy villages just waiting to be discovered…
Described by 20th-century travel writer Basil Woon as “the world’s wickedest port”, Marseille’s image has undergone an abrupt turnaround in recent years. It’s now one of the most culturally progressive cities in France – witnessed by the opening of exciting new institutions such as the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (7 promenade Robert Laffont) and art project cum social experiment the Friche (41 rue Jobin). Alongside such edgy modern additions you’ll find plenty of old favourites, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Palais de Longchamp) and the recently renovated Musée Cantini (19 rue Grignan).
Marseille’s cultural renaissance has spread to the city’s restaurants, with Michelin-starred establishments vying for custom and plenty of experimental start-ups. If you can afford to splash out then book an advance table at Le Petit Nice (17 rue des Braves), which earns its three Michelin stars with a mouthwatering selection of Provencal fare. Schilling (37 rue Caisserie) serves the best fresh fish dishes in town, while those with a sweet tooth can indulge their taste buds at artisan ice cream shop Vanille Noire (13 rue Caisserie).
The beautiful south
If cultural appeal and fabulous food can’t convince you to plan a holiday to Marseille from Glasgow Airport, then perhaps the city’s surroundings will. Marseille is the perfect stepping-off point for Provence, with its famously beautiful lavender fields and legendary vineyards. Explore the idyllic villages of Châteaudouble, Bargemon and Tourtour, the 2,000-feet-deep Verdon Gorge and the lavender-carpeted Valensole Plateau. Then ramp up the glam factor with a tour of the Côte d'Azur’s golden beaches and luxe resorts, including St Tropez and Nice.
Italy’s most stylish city is more than just a hotbed of fashion innovation. Discover lakes, mountains and Old Masters on a holiday to Milan from Glasgow Airport.Italy’s most stylish city is more than just a hotbed of fashion innovation. Discover lakes, mountains and Old Masters on a holiday to Milan from Glasgow Airport.
Milan stands with London and Paris as one of Europe’s major fashion capitals. Alongside a world-famous bi-annual fashion week and a glittering string of high-end stores, the city is packed with independent designer boutiques, flea markets and vintage outlets. Pick up a bargain on Tuesdays and Sundays at the Viale Papiniano market, discover luxury labels at low prices at the Serravalle Designer Outlet (Via della Moda 1), or admire the glorious architecture and the haute couture window displays at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Piazza Duomo), one of the world’s oldest malls. Of course, even bargain-minded fashionistas shouldn’t leave this stylish city without window shopping in the Quadrilatero d’Oro (‘Golden Rectangle’), which hosts most of the world’s biggest designer brands.
If you can squeeze in some sightseeing between shopping trips then indulge your inner culture junkie with a trip to one of the city’s stunning art galleries. Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, secreted away in the refectory adjoining Santa Maria delle Grazie (Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie), is Milan’s most famous artwork; but the Pinacoteca di Brera (Via Brera 28) and the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Piazza Pio 11) also house some incredible Old Masters. The new collections in the Gallerie d’Italia (Piazza della Scala 6) are well worth a visit as well.
Sun and snow
Milan is the gateway to the scenic shores of Lake Como and the recreational opportunities of the Italian Alps. Lake Como is just a one-and-a-half-hour journey north from the city centre and is famous for its celebrity following, with A-list visitors flocking to enjoy its historic waterfront villas, glorious gardens and pretty villages. In summer it’s possible to enjoy every activity from sailing and kitesurfing to hiking, boat trips and cycling around this famously beautiful lake. Winter opens up opportunities of its own, thanks to the easily accessed ski resorts in the surrounding mountains – big names such as St Moritz, Livigno and Courmayeur are all within easy transfer distance.
Cosmopolitan Montreal is the most European of Canada’s cities – a centre of culture, good food and festivals enhanced by an architecturally impressive ‘old town’. Combine famous sights with local secrets on a holiday to Montreal from Glasgow Airport
A hub for artists and artisans, Montreal is home to international institutions such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1380 rue Sherbrooke Ouest) and the Place des Arts theatre complex (175 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest) as well as some well-kept local secrets. The metro murals at the Place des Arts and Champ de Mars stations among others are surprisingly intriguing examples of modern art, and you’ll find further innovation at warehouse sculpture gallery Arsenal (2020 rue William) and at nearby Antoine Ertaskiran (1892 rue Payette).
There’s barely a day of the year in Montreal that’s festival free, and the city plays hosts to some truly great events. May sees over 450 artists descend on Downtown for the Festival TransAmériques, one of the largest celebrations of dance and theatre in Canada. The glitzy World Film Festival draws star spotters to the city in August, while rock fans can see the best international bands at the Osheaga Festival Musique et Arts. Things calm down a little in winter, but the darkest days of the year are still enlivened by ice-sculpting contests and comfort food at the Fête des Neiges in January and February’s all-encompassing Montréal en Lumière. Among the city’s biggest events are the world renowned Montreal International Jazz festival which runs June and July plus the “Just for Laughs” comedy festival running in July - which attracts major worldwide artists and comedians. For glitz and glamour a visit in June is a must when the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place on Montreal Island.
Hit the shops
Foodies and fashionistas alike will be wowed by the sheer diversity of Montreal’s shopping scene. Start at the Marché Jean-Talon (7070 avenue Henri Julien), Little Italy’s covered gourmet market, before working the designer boutiques that line Rue Saint-Denis. Revenge at 3852, which showcases around 40 local designers, is particularly worth a garners. Montreal’s Underground City, a huge network of subterranean malls and boutiques near the Rue Sainte-Catherine, makes shopping in the city a treat – even in the coldest winter months. And if after all that, you’ve still got some spare time, head to Quebec’s picturesque, UNESCO-listed capital by train: Quebec City’s famous Château Frontenac, thriving art scene and international dining spots are only a few hours away.
The quintessential Austrian city, Salzburg is a place of parks, palaces and half-timbered houses encircled by glorious green mountains. From lingering in coffee shops and picnicking in landscaped parks to skiing and hiking in the Alps, few European destinations present such a smorgasbord of opportunity.
The Sound of Music
Home of the real-life Family von Trapp, Salzburg has a venerable musical heritage. Mozart was born here, and today the bright-yellow Mozarts Geburtshaus (Getreidegasse 9) has been transformed into a fascinating museum. If you can secure a coveted ticket, the Salzburg Festival (July-August) offers the opportunity to hear some of the world’s best orchestras perform pieces by the great composer, as well as a selection of more contemporary works. Otherwise, concerts take place regularly at the Festival Halls (Hofstallgasse 1), while lesser-known but equally charming music festivals include Mozartwoche (January), the Osterfestspiele (Easter) and the traditional Salzburger Adventsingen (December).
Castles and cathedrals
Salzburg is crowned by the Festung Hohensalzburg, a 900-year-old clifftop fortress with panoramic views over the surrounding mountains. While away a morning exploring its lofty ramparts before heading back down into the city and visiting three more palatial highlights of the Salzburg skyline: Residenz Castle (Residenzplatz 1), Mirabell Palace (Mirabellplatz 4) and Schloss Hellbrunn (Fürstenweg 37). Salzburg’s churches also count among its architectural treasures. Don’t miss the chance to see inside the baroque Salzburger Dom (Domplatz 1) and the Benedictine monastery of St Peter’s (St Peter Bezirk 1).
A breath of fresh air
Looking for an active break? A holiday to Salzburg from Glasgow Airport opens up a raft of adventurous opportunities, from skiing at nearby resorts such as Ski Amadé and Alpendorf to mountain biking around the Untersberg. Fans of The Sound of Music should hop on bus 840 and make the 17km journey to Marktschellenberg meadow, where the famous opening scenes of the film were shot. If you’re keen to get off the tourist trail, though, lace up your hiking boots and discover the network of airy walking trails around the National Park Hohe Tauern.
There aren’t many North American cities with more overall appeal than Toronto. The waters of Lake Ontario lend it a coastal feel, a fizzing cultural scene means there’s always something happening and a postcard-friendly assortment of towers, museums and parks provide a setting for one of the most multi-ethnic populations on the planet. A city break to Toronto from Glasgow Airport can guarantee you one thing – you won’t be stuck for ways to fill your day.
The CN Tower (301 Front Street West) was once the world’s tallest free-standing structure, and at 553m high it remains the landmark building in the city. The view from the top is every bit as impressive as you’d expect – you’re given a sense of the extreme scale of both the metropolis and the lake – and since 2011 it’s been possible to strap on a harness and step above the void below on a (frankly terrifying) Edge Walk.
Mooch around a museum
Unsurprisingly for a city brimming over with diversity and creativity, Toronto has some first-rate galleries and museums. The pick of the bunch is the enormous Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West), which boasts a strikingly modern facade designed by Frank Gehry, but take time too to see the quirky Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor Street West) or the Hockey Hall of Fame (30 Yonge Street), which gives a good idea of Canada’s love affair with ice hockey.
Step out to the islands
Sitting a short distance off the city shoreline, The Toronto Islands are straightforward to reach – there are ferry services, and by the end of 2014 there will even be a pedestrian tunnel in place. The islands themselves are green and expansive, complete with beaches, amusement rides, petting zoos and picnic spots – families, cyclists and kayakers will be in their element.
The jewel of Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast, Varna is a hopping-off point for some of the best beaches in Eastern Europe. Top up your tan and soak up a little culture at the same time with a holiday to Varna from Glasgow Airport.
Life’s a beach
The beach resorts of the Black Sea Coast rival the Mediterranean for comfortable hotels, zingy nightlife and shimmering sands. If you’re keen to escape the youthful crowds who descend on this sun-soaked coastline during the summer months then the leafy resort of St Konstantin, with its Blue Flag beach and scattering of secluded rocky coves, is just a 17km drive from Varna Airport. Another lesser-known gem is Albena: its 5km-long white-sand beach and sleepy atmosphere make it ideal for families with small kids in tow.
In need of some serious R&R? The coastline surrounding Varna is famous for its mineral springs, which are said to cure everything from stress and neurosis to asthma, arthritis and bronchitis. Combine a soothing thermal bath with some beach action at Golden Sands, one of the coastline’s largest and liveliest resorts. There’s watery fun of a different kind to be had at Aquapolis (k.k. Zlatni Pyasaci), Golden Sands’ famous waterpark, while a sparkling constellation of clubs and bars offers plenty of after-hours entertainment.
If you can drag yourself away from the beach then Varna itself is fraught with historical and cultural interest. It’s easy to while away a day exploring the ancient churches of St Michael the Archangel (ul 27 Yuli), St Anastasios (ul Graf Ignatiev) and St Sarkis (ul Han Asparuh 15) or wandering around the Varna City Art Gallery (ul Lyuben Karavelov 1). Don’t miss the 2nd-century Roman baths, which are the largest in Bulgaria: part of the complex still stands at the corner of Han Krum and ul San Stefano.