The Caribbean hardly has a shortage of perfectly sculpted islands, but in Barbados it boasts somewhere that consistently draws large numbers of UK tourists. What’s the big appeal? In addition to the still-evident British heritage, the weather’s often heavenly (particularly between January and April), the culture incorporates everything from rum shacks to cricket greens and, along its beach-scalloped west coast, it has some of the best hotels and restaurants in the Caribbean.
Hit the beaches
Barbados may not be an enormous island but its beaches pack in plenty of variety. The sands of the west coast are cover-shot material complete with palm trees and lapping waves, while the more exposed southern and eastern shorelines are legendary among surfers. What’s more, there’s beachside accommodation of various shapes and size too – rub shoulders with celebs at the expansive Sandy Lane (Highway 1), or opt for something far smaller like Little Arches (Enterprise Beach Road).
Venture out of the resorts
The island’s hotels and resorts are well suited to visitors who want nothing more than somewhere to sunbathe and indulge in Bajan food and drink, but you’ll be missing out on a destination of real character if you remain resort-bound for your entire stay. Capital city Bridgetown has some great old colonial buildings and good shopping potential, while the Friday night ‘fish fry’ at the town of Oistins is a local institution.
Explore the heritage
Barbados’ combination of African, West Indian and British roots has resulted in somewhere with plenty of heritage on show. It means that a holiday to Barbados from GlasgowAirport gives the chance to visit plantation houses, rum distilleries and historical museums. And for something completely unexpected? Visit the Nidhe Israel Synagogue (Magazine Lane), the oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere.
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).
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.
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.
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.