This brilliantly brash seaside town takes all the pizzazz of a Mediterranean beach resort and adds its own distinctly British flavour. Whether it’s a romantic mini break you’re after or a sun-soaked family holiday, a weekend away to Bournemouth from Glasgow Airport makes the ultimate summer staycation.
Sand and surf
The seven-mile crescent of tropical-style sand that fronts Bournemouth to the south has been seducing holidaymakers since Victorian times, and it’s still one of the resort’s prime attractions. Make like a regular and hire a beach hut from the Bournemouth Seafront Office (Undercliff Drive) for the perfect couple’s retreat. Even if it’s not quite warm enough to swim, you can still enjoy the water by booking a course at Bournemouth Surf School (Toft Steps Undercliff Drive) or by chartering a boat for a luxury cruise of the Jurassic Coast.
Prepare to party
After dark, Bournemouth transforms from a sleepy bucket-and-spade kind of place into the nightlife capital of the south coast. It’s a popular choice for stag and hen parties, who congregate around super club Halo (Exeter Road) and the brand new Cameo and Myu Bar (Fir Vale Road) – but if you want to avoid the wedding veil and handcuffs brigade then there are plenty of kookier after-hours options. Try creative arts and live music venue The Winchester (39 Poole Hill), Flirt Café Bar (21 The Triangle) or alternative rock and metal club Sound Circus (140-142 Holdenhurst Road).
Fun for the family
It might be famous for its dusk-til-dawn nightlife, but Bournemouth is as much a family town as it is a clubbing mecca. Treat the kids with rides and candy floss on the pier, ride the Land Train (Pier Approach) along the bay or visit the UK’s only Peppa Pig World at nearby Paultons Park (Romsey). If your nippers are dinosaur fanatics, then hiring a set of wheels from Front Bike Hire (Undercliff Drive) and cycling the fossil-filled Jurassic Coast makes the perfect family day out.
Its name is rich with overtones of fine wine, gourmet food and high culture – and Bordeaux more than lives up to the hype. With a UNESCO-listed core and the chateaux-dotted wine lands of the Gironde region wrapped around the city, a holiday to Bordeaux from Glasgow Airport is all about indulging in life’s finer things.
Wining and dining
Few cities can hold a candle to Bordeaux in the gourmet stakes. Start your gastronomic journey of discovery at Marché des Capucins (Place des Capucins), where stalls selling succulent local produce mingle with wine sellers and fresh seafood stands. Admire the ornate neoclassical architecture that gives the city centre its dramatic character before wandering across to the École du Vin (3 cours du 30 Juillet) for an introduction to the area’s wine scene. Ready for dinner? With seven Michelin-starred restaurants within the Bordeaux city boundary and plenty more dotted throughout the surrounding countryside, you certainly won’t lack for choice.
On your bike
The best way to explore the vineyards of Bordeaux and the Gironde is to cycle. Grab a bike from a rental shop such as 02Cycles (7 bis avenue Charles du Gaulle) and join one of the many wine routes that run through the famed Médoc, Graves and Saint Émilion regions. If you’re keen to get off the beaten tourist track, the stunningly scenic Sauternes region is a sleepy grape-growing backwater dotted with ancient chateaux, where delicious wine is on sale at jaw-droppingly low prices.
Coasts and caves
It’s easy to overindulge in Bordeaux, but a day trip out to the nearby Atlantic coast will cure most drink-induced ills. Scramble up the Dune du Pyla to experience the airy ocean views from atop Europe’s highest sand dune, or grab a surf board and head for the 200km of powdery sand that stretches south from the Gironde estuary. If the weather isn’t playing ball, the famous UNESCO-listed Cave of Lascaux near Montignac makes for an equally refreshing day trip.
Better known by its German name, Bromberg, this elegant riverside city is packed with museums, music venues and Gothic churches. A calendar brimming with trade fairs and several world-class conference venues draw business visitors from across the globe, but there’s plenty to do outside of office hours too. Hop on a flight to Bydgoszcz from Glasgow Airport to find out more.
Music and mayhem
Whether your taste runs to classical, jazz or pop, Poland’s most musically minded city will have you toe-tapping in no time. As well as the world-famous Pomeranian Philharmonic Orchestra House (Andrzeja Szwalbego 6) and the offbeat Mózgu jazz club (Gdańska 10), Bydgoszcz boasts an impressive annual line-up of music festivals. The Bydgoszcz Opera Festival (April-May) and the Bydgoszcz Jazz Festival (October) have both evolved to become leading showcases of talent within their genres.
The old and the new
Bydgoszcz’s harmonious blend of historic and modern architecture gives the city a unique aesthetic. Take a stroll along the waterside streets of the Old Town, past the fragmented remains of the 15th-century walls, and lose yourself in the jumble of stalls that fill the neo-Gothic Market Hall (Magdzińskiego). Then make a beeline for Mill Island – Bydgoszcz’s ‘Little Venice’ – where a series of restored galleries houses some of the city’s leading museums. The Modern Art Gallery (Mennica 8) is the biggest draw.
Just an hour’s drive from Bydgoszcz is the UNESCO-listed Old Town of Toruń – a visual feast of Gothic architecture that has yet to register on the international tourism radar. The astronomer Copernicus was born here in 1473, and his old house is now a fascinating museum (Kopernika 15-17). Another medieval secret guarded jealously by those in the known is the idyllic little town of Chełmno, with a town hall that dates back to the 13th century. The Iron Age fortified settlement of Biskupin, once dubbed the ‘Polish Pompeii’, is also an easy journey from Bydgoszcz.
Crowned by a Disney-esque medieval citadel and fringed by glorious rolling wine country, Carcassonne makes a perfect base for exploring the Languedoc. Delve into the history and culture of this sleepy French city on a short break to Carcassonne from Glasgow Airport.
Legend has it that the sprawling battlements and tall turrets of Carcassonne Citadel were the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and this famous hilltop fortification certainly has a fairytale feel about it. The UNESCO World Heritage site is the most visited tourist attraction in France after the Eiffel Tower, so don’t expect to have the drawbridges and cobbled lanes all to yourself. Venture out to Cathar castle Château de Lastours in the nearby Haut-Minervois, though, and you’ll be able to soak up the medieval atmosphere without interruption.
The Minervois to the north of Carcassonne and the Corbières to the south are two of the Languedoc’s finest and most prolific wine-growing areas. Tours run up to the Montagne Noire foothills and visit famous wineries such as Domaine O’Vineyards (885 avenue de la Montagne Noire) and Château de Pennautier (2 boulevard Pasteur). If you don’t fancy venturing beyond the city limits then why not try the local tipple in one of Carcassonne’s chic wine bars. Le Comptoir des Vins et Terroirs (3 rue du Comté Roger) and Le Bar à Vins (6 rue Plo) are both local favourites.
Below the imposing silhouette of La Cité is a lively modern city packed with delis and boutiques. Avoid Rue Clemenceau, the main shopping thoroughfare, and head straight for edgier Rue de Verdun. Around here you’ll find an eclectic jumble of independent stores, including interior design mecca On Dirait le Sud (15 rue Auguste Rodin) and gourmet heaven La Ferme (55 rue de Verdun). The market that takes over Place Carnot on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings is also worth a garners.
East meets west in Crete’s second largest city, which is an evocative blend of Venetian and Turkish architecture clustered around a stunningly beautiful harbour. With the white beaches of Elafonissi and Balos just a short drive away, a holiday to Chania from Glasgow Airport is the perfect chance to catch up on some R&R.
Magical history trail
The ancient mosques, Venetian mansions and charming sepia-toned streets of the Old Town all support Chania’s claim to be one of the most beautiful cities in Greece. Start your journey of discovery at the harbour, with its 16th-century fortifications and fine old lighthouse. Stop for a peek into the Mosque of Kioutsouk Hassan before strolling onto the Archaeological Museum in the Church of San Francisco (Halidon 30) for a more comprehensive insight into the area’s history.
Fruits of the sea
After all that sightseeing you’re bound to be hungry, and Chania is fast building a reputation as Crete’s foremost foodie city. Gorge on fabulously fresh local seafood at small but perfectly formed taverna Antigoni (Akti Enoseos & Deukalionos Corner) or discover a jealously guarded local secret at the Well of the Turk (Sarpaki 1). For authentically local cuisine with a sophisticated edge, you can’t do better than Portes (Portou 48), an upscale fine dining restaurant with everything from meatballs to wild snails on the menu.
With temperatures hovering in the sizzling 20 degrees for most of the year, Chania is a haven for sunseekers. Nearby beaches include Nea Chora and Agii Apostoli, but it’s worth hopping in your car and driving a few kilometres further to discover the crystalline sand and exotic emerald waters of Elafonissi. Balos Beach, spanning a lagoon blue enough to rival the sky, is another gem just a short journey from the city, while the popular watersports venue of Falassarna is an hour’s drive away.
If you haven’t been to Northern Ireland’s second city then now is the time to begin planning a visit. A broad-brush makeover in the run-up to Derry’s year as UK City of Culture in 2013 transformed the waterfront into an oasis of cool, adding an edgy modern veneer to this famously warm and welcoming metropolis. Add a mesmerising history and sumptuous scenic surroundings into the mix, and you’re left with the perfect alternative city break destination.
Pull up a bar stool
The excellence of Northern Ireland’s pub scene is so widely recognised that it’s become something of a cliché – but there’s nothing hackneyed or unoriginal about the barn-storming boozers that line almost every street in Derry. Whet your lips over a pint of stout at the colossally cosy Bound for Boston (27-31 Waterloo Street), then head to the Gweedore Bar (61 Waterloo Street) and boogie the night away to live Irish music.
Dive into Derry’s history
One of the oldest continually inhabited areas of Northern Ireland and the only intact walled city in the region, Derry is a place where history accosts you at every turn. The neo-Gothic Guildhall (Guildhall Square) and St Columb’s Cathedral (London Street) are the top two cultural draws for visitors looking to immerse themselves in the past, but the Museum of Free Derry (55-61 Glenfada Park) and the Bloody Sunday Memorial on Rossville Street are perhaps the city’s most poignant sights.
Hit the Causeway Coast
The coastline that snakes between the cities of Belfast and Derry is so spectacularly otherworldly that it was chosen as one of the main settings for fantasy series Game of Thrones. From the crumbling grandeur of 12th-century Carrickfergus Castle (Marine Highway, Carrickfergus) to the ethereal steps of the Giant’s Causeway, a holiday to Derry from Glasgow Airport is the perfect opportunity to explore this iconic coastal landscape.
Croatia’s cultural capital and the diamond of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik combines a glorious ancient citadel with airy sea views and brochure-ready beaches. Its ubiquitous charm draws hordes of visitors during high season, including a glittering army of celebrities, but there are still secret to be discovered within those medieval city walls.
Soak up the history
A weekend away to Dubrovnik from Glasgow Airport is nothing short of a cultural odyssey. The UNESCO-listed Old Town is ringed by weathered stone fortifications, built between the 13th and 16th centuries and rising to 25m high in some places. Take a day to explore the walls and their medieval forts by foot, stopping off to see the crumbling Pile Gate and the shell-pocked beauty of St Saviour’s Church (Od Puča 8). Then enjoy a taste of the city’s secret history by wandering down sleepy Iza Roka Street and hunting for a piece of 16th-century graffiti that warns boys against playing football in the area.
Pull up a sunlounger
Ranging from elegant crescents of icing sugar sand to hidden rocky coves, Dubrovnik’s beaches are the wonder of the Adriatic. Banje Beach is just a stone’s throw from the Old Town, but venture out a little further to Sveti Jakov and you’ll discover the locals’ favourite coastal hangout. For tropical-style strips of sand, take a Jadrolinija ferry from the port and hop off at Lopud Island with its fragrant cypress parks and white-sand bay. Saplunara Beach on the eastern side of Mljet Island is another secluded gem.
The narrow, pedestrianised streets of Dubrovnik’s Old Town are scattered with top-class seafood restaurants. Tuck into exquisitely crafted Dalmatian dishes at Proto (Široka 1), where fresh oysters and garlic shrimps are served against the backdrop of a romantic first-floor terrace. Restaurant Nautika (Brsalje 3) might be costly, but you can’t put a price on those spellbinding views over the Adriatic or on the famously warm service. Working to a budget? Lokanda Peskarija (Na Ponti bb) is a bustling seafood restaurant with reliably delicious food.
Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital, combines the appeal of a friendly, modern city with a close connection to the great outdoors. With the region's distinctive seascapes and stunning landscapes getting around is all part of the adventure here as you will soon discover on your holiday to Halifax from Glasgow Airport.
Breath of fresh air
This breezy seaside city is surrounded by natural playgrounds, from the golden sands of the Northumberland Strait to the ethereal mountains of the Cabot Trail. Spot orcas and dolphins on a whale-watching trip around the Bay of Fundy, hike through Kejimkujik National Park, explore the fertile Annapolis Valley lowlands by bike, or hire a surfboard and hit the huge waves of the Eastern Shore. Thrill-seekers can raft on the Shubenacadie River’s tidal bore; and if you’re looking for something a little less death-defying, there are more than 75 golf courses dotted around the province.
A calendar packed with cultural highlights makes Halifax an exciting year-round destination. The Halifax Jazz Festival kicks off in July, bringing the crème de la crème of the international jazz scene to the city. Autumn is enlivened by The Word on the Street (September) – a day-long celebration of the written word that encompasses every form of literacy from poems to books and magazines. The Atlantic Fringe Festival (August-September) provides a platform for edgy, up-and-coming artists, while MultiFest (June) is a long-running festival aimed at preserving cultural traditions in the province.
Bright lights of Nova Scotia
It might be best known as an outdoor adventure hub, but Halifax is also the nightlife capital of Nova Scotia. Mix with an elite crowd of actors, journalists and student trendies at tapas bar Economy Shoe Shop (1663 Argyle Street), join in the singing and quaffing at sociable hangout Lower Deck (1887 Upper Water Street), or relax with a chic cocktail at hipster hangout Onyx (5680 Spring Garden Road). The Carleton (1685 Argyle Street) hosts live acoustic music accompanied by scrumptious side dishes late into the night.
The dynamo at the centre of Poland’s Upper Silesian Industrial District, Katowice is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting places in the country. Dismiss it as an industrialised backwater at your peril – today, that jumble of German Gothic, art nouveau and socialist architecture hides a cultural scene that’s developing as rapidly as the city’s powerhouse economy. With Krakow and the strikingly diverse landscapes of southern Poland virtually on the doorstep, there’s also plenty to do when urban life begins to pall.
A short break to Katowice from Glasgow Airport is the perfect chance to catch one of the region’s fabulous festivals. Off Festival (August), the giant independent music fiesta that attracts A-list bands from all over the globe, relocated to the city in 2010, and dozens of smaller events have sprung up in its wake. The best known include the Rawa Blues Festival (October) and the Ars Cameralis (October/November), a celebration of musical and visual arts. The quirky Cult Film Festival (May) and cutting-edge music festival Tauron Nowa Muzyka (August) are also exciting additions to the annual line-up.
Silesian cuisine is famous for being easy on the palette but heavy on the arteries, with dumplings, meat, goulash and cheese all essential staples. Sample regional specialities cooked to perfection at Szynk Old Fashioned (Ligonia 16), a snug little restaurant-cum-bar with a sterling reputation. Looking for something lighter? Katowice’s culinary scene is quite literally a cultural melting pot, with scrumptious sushi at Japanese joint Sushi Do (3 Maja 30), exquisite Italian fare at Via Toscana (Uniwersytecka 13) and intriguing experimental dishes at Patio Park (Kościuszki 101).
From dusk ‘til dawn
From craft breweries to elite cocktail bars and from cosy corner pubs to huge super-clubs, Katowice boasts a full hand of after-hours entertainment. Start by sampling the views – and the killer cocktails – at the Altus Tower’s Sky Bar (Uniwersytecka 13), then head onto a live gig at Hipnoza Jazz Club (Plac Sejmu Śląskiego 2). For an injection of high culture, the Silesian Philharmonic (Sokolska 2) and the Silesian Opera (Moniuszki 21-23) both host regular international-class performances.
Nowhere on the planet has a good-time reputation to match that of Las Vegas. The simple reason? There’s nowhere else quite like it. A pleasure pot of gargantuan proportions, Sin City is everything you’ve heard – and more. It blends party-hard hedonism and no-holds-barred luxury with globe-slaying entertainment and legendary casino resorts. Gamble, eat, drink, go wild. What happens on a city break to Las Vegas from Glasgow Airport … stays in Vegas.
No one comes to Vegas for an early night. Speakers pound, corks pop, dancefloors shake. There are clubs, bars and shows of every shape and size. After a blockbuster stage performance? Catch Britney Spears at the Planet Hollywood Resort (3667 Las Vegas Boulevard South). A pool party in Prince Harry’s footsteps? Make a splash at XS Nightclub (3121 Las Vegas Boulevard South). And if you just want a great bar with even greater people watching? Head to the Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South).
Make a meal of it
If you thought Las Vegas was all buffets and burgers, think again. Its gastronomic line-up is seriously impressive, with celebrity chefs like Joël Robuchon and Wolfgang Puck – both of whom have restaurants at MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South) – just two of countless examples. Meat lovers should be aware that Carnevino at the Palazzo Hotel (3325 Las Vegas Boulevard South) has what some critics consider to be the best steaks in the USA.
Las Vegas built its name on glitz, glam and goodfellas, but away from the casinos and nightclubs there are some hugely rewarding alternative activities. A trip to the Grand Canyon is the obvious example – by helicopter, if you’re feeling flush – but other options include dune-buggy racing, balloon rides and the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay (3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South).
An exotic blend of tradition and modernity, Marrakech is one of the world’s most intriguing cities. This is a place where donkey-drawn carts share the road with Rolls-Royces, centuries-old souks squat in the shadow of luxury hotels and snake charmers rub shoulders with be-suited businessmen. The heat, the beauty and the breakneck pace of life add up to a truly intoxicating experience.
There’s only one place to start exploring Marrakech, and that’s in the main Djemaa el-Fna square. A UNESCO World Heritage Site at the heart of the old medina, it’s a whirlwind of acrobatics, storytelling, belly dancing and street theatre. But the best time to come is in the evening, when hundreds of chefs descend on the square to create one of the greatest alfresco dining experiences on the planet.
Souk up the atmosphere
The labyrinthian souks behind Djemaa el-Fna are packed to bursting point with craft stalls, fresh food stands, traditional fashion shops and pop-up stalls selling almost anything you can bring to mind. Keep an eye out for ancient herbalist shop Herboriste Avicenne (172-174 Souk Laghzel), gorgeous jewellery boutique Atelier Moro (114 place de Mouassine) and Aya’s Where (11 bis Derb Jdid Bab Mellah), a favourite with celebs including Sarah Jessica Parker.
Relax and unwind
A holiday to Marrakech from Glasgow Airport is the perfect chance to chillax. Start by wandering around the glorious Majorelle Garden (Rue Yves Saint Laurent), then make a beeline for a hammam such as Dar Karma (51 Derb El Mennabha) near the Royal Palace. With modern bars springing up like mushrooms around the city centre, there are plenty of places to unwind on a hot evening. Try the secret roof terrace at Kechmara (3 rue de la Liberté), where you can sip on a chilled cocktail while admiring the panoramic urban views.
A bundle of historic red-roofed charm wrapped up in a shiny avant-garde veneer, Bavaria’s zingy capital has an appeal that goes way beyond its traditional ‘bier und bratwurst’ image. Whether you visit for the palaces, the galleries, the world-beating clubs or – yes – the famous Bavarian beer halls, a holiday to Munich from Glasgow Airport is the ultimate way to get your German culture fix.
Where past meets future
A hodgepodge of quirky crenellated houses and green-domed clock towers gives Munich’s Old Town a fairytale charm – but the city is equally famous for its contemporary architecture. Indulge your inner history buff with a stroll around the Marienplatz, taking in the twin-domed Frauenkirche cathedral and the Gothic-style Alte Hof palace; then jump on a tram and trundle out to the northern suburbs for a glimpse of the spaceship-style BMW Welt (Am Olympiapark 1) and the stunning Allianz Arena. Barcode House (Sohnckestraße 6), a hidden gem secreted away on the outskirts, is also well worth a garners.
Bright lights and beer
Home to the Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer-themed festival, Munich is a city that really knows how to party. It’s a crime not to begin your night out here with a pint of the good stuff, and Augustiner Bräustuben (Landsberger Straße 19) in the Augustiner brewery is where the local brewmasters head when they want to enjoy a beer and a bite to eat. Chow down on some fabulous Bavarian grub before weaving over to P1 (Prinzregentenstraße 1) for an evening of celebrity mingling and funky dance music. A more sophisticated option is to net a coveted ticket for the world-famous Bayerische Staatsoper (Max Joseph-Platz 2).
Escape from the city
If you’re keen to flee the urban mosh pit then it’s just a short drive from Munich to some of the most dazzling scenery in Germany. Banish the mental cobwebs on a boat tour of Lake Königssee, explore the fir forests and snow-garnished mountains of the Bavarian Tyrol or take in the Disney-esque castles of Neuschwanstein, Hohensalzburg and Hohenschwangau. The Dachau Concentration Camp Holocaust Museum (Alte Römerstraße 75), a bone chilling but must-visit site, is also within easy reach of Munich.
Bursting with bars, galleries, contemporary restaurants and quirky museums, this architecturally extravagant city is one of
Buff up on history
Stary Rynek –
Markets and malls
When you’re done with sightseeing, grab a hold-all bag and make a beeline for
Like many other Polish cities,
Cultural beacon, political hotbed, nightlife mecca – the Czech capital is many things to many people. Discover one of the world’s most seductive cities on a short break to Prague from Glasgow Airport.
Prague’s Old Town is so crowded with architectural masterpieces and iconic sights that it can leave first-time visitors feeling a tad overwhelmed. Be sure to squeeze in a visit to the instantly recognisable Týn Church (Staroměstské náměstí), with its twin Gothic towers. The Astronomical Clock and Jan Hus Statue in the Old Town Square are also must-sees. Just outside the city’s historic core, the heavily graffitied John Lennon wall (Velkopřevorské náměstí) is a more recent addition to Prague’s cultural tapestry.
Let the music play on
When Mozart feared that the people of Vienna would find his latest opera, Don Giovanni, too challenging, he chose instead to premiere it in Prague. Since then the city has been at the cutting edge of classical music, showcasing talented local composers such as Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana as well as the international greats. Its world-class venues include the Rudolfinum (Alšovo nábřeží 12), Prague State Opera House (Wilsonova 4), Municipal House (náměstí Republiky 5) and National Theatre (Národní třída 2), but there are dozens of smaller and more eclectic concert halls to discover as well.
Gone are the days when Prague’s rock-bottom prices and zingy nightlife scene made it Europe’s number one stag do destination. The city has matured culturally – but while the tackiest bars may have had their day, the quality of the beer and the cutting-edge nature of the clubs remain constant. Start your night at microbrewery U Medvídků (Na Perštýně 7), which produces some of the strongest – and most sippable – lager in the country. Classy cocktail joint Hemingway (Karolíny Světlé 26) is an alternative for non-beer drinks, while the industrial-style Cross Club (Plynární 23, Holešovice) is the place of the moment to party.
It might be the largest city in the Baltic States, but Riga retains a whimsical charm that no amount of economic growth or frenetic construction can dilute. With its UNESCO-listed Old Town, staggeringly beautiful art nouveau architecture and electrifying nightlife culture, this is a place to come back to time and time again.
Central Riga is one big aesthetic banquet, so it’s no surprise that this culturally minded city has something of an obsession with the arts. Get the story behind its most iconic buildings at the Riga Art Nouveau Centre (Alberta iela 12) and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Skārņu iela 10/20) – then head to the Latvian National Museum of Art (Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela 10a) to gorge on an impressive selection of historic Russian and Latvian paintings. The recently opened Art Museum Riga Bourse (Doma laukums 6) is the hottest new hangout for visiting culture junkies.
A short break to Riga from Glasgow Airport is the perfect chance to indulge your inner Anna Wintour. The city once dubbed the ‘Paris of the East’ is awash with quirky little fashion boutiques, including art nouveau shoe gallery Madam Bonbon (Alberta iela 1-7a) and jewellery store Tornis (Grēcinieku iela 11-2). Bookworms can lose themselves in Jāņa Sēta (Elizabetes iela 83/85), the largest travel bookshop in the Baltics.
Riga is the gastronomic centre of Latvia, with an increasingly eclectic line-up of cafés, restaurants and markets. Traditional Baltic grub is the theme at the LIDO Atpūtas Centrs (Krasta iela 76), where the buffet yields up delicacies such as cold beet soup and pork tongue, and waitresses clad in frilly milkmaid outfits serve craft beer to thirsty patrons. You won’t find a hint of such kitsch at Istaba (Krišjāņa Barona iela 31a), a funky loft restaurant floating above an alternative art gallery, with dishes dreamed up by celebrity chef Mārtiņš Sirmais. The local secret is Dorian Gray (Mazā Muzeja iela 1), where intellectuals linger over cups of hot, strong coffee.
Unlike certain other popular cities in Central and Eastern Europe – places like chocolate box-pretty Prague and Kraków – the Polish capital of Warsaw is defined more by its energy and development than its medieval looks. This is largely because so much of the city has had to be rebuilt post-war, of course, but its dynamic character and packed events scene continues to make it one of Europe’s most underrated urban centres – something easily ascertained on a city break to Warsaw from Glasgow Airport.
Warsaw’s Old Town was reduced to rubble in the war years, so what you see today is a painstaking reconstruction that took almost a decade and a half to complete. The Historical Museum of Warsaw (Rynek Starego Miasta 28-42) gives a full overview of the area’s phoenix-like rebirth, while another key attraction is the Royal Castle (Plac Zamkowy 4), which has some excellent artworks on display to match its extravagant interiors.
Warsaw’s history stretches back more than 1,400 years, but in many ways it’s the 20th century that remains its most fascinating period. The Palace of Culture & Science (Plac Defilad 1) is a soaring Stalin-era tower that remains the tallest in the country, granting wide city views, but it’s the Warsaw Uprising Museum (Grzybowska 79) that provides the most interesting insight into the mid-1900s. It details the work of the resistance movement in liberating the city from Nazi Germany.
This isn’t a city that rests at sundown. Warsaw’s legions of pubs and bars have quite a reputation these days, and if you’re in search of a drinking experience worth the name then you’re unlikely to leave disappointed. Try bars like Meta (Foksal 21) and Kawowy Piotrus (Nowy Świat 18) for a beer with atmosphere, or sample the microbrews at BrowArmia (Królewska 1).
With an Old Town plucked straight out of the Middle Ages, a dazzlingly picturesque riverside location and a slap-up portion of traditional Eastern European charm, Wrocław is nipping at Krakow’s heels in the ‘Polish cities everyone wants to visit’ stakes. Discover a delicious combination of cultural heritage, mind-bending views and great beer on a short break to Wrocław from Glasgow Airport.
Walk this way…
Poland’s fourth largest city has one of the grandest and most intriguing Old Towns in the country. Spread across several islands and linked by 100 bridges, the best way to see this architectural treasure box is on foot. Explore the streets around the 13th-century Town Hall (Rynek) – one of the few buildings in the city centre not to have been destroyed by WWII bombing and subsequently reconstructed – before breathing in the breathtaking views from the spire of St Elizabeth’s Church (Świętego Mikołaja).
A profusion of beer halls, brewhouses and Bavarian bars cluster around the streets and squares of the Old Town, giving Wrocław its well-deserved reputation as the nightlife capital of southwest Poland. Renowned brewpub Spiż (Rynek Ratusz 2), hidden in the atmospheric cellars of the Town Hall, was the first of its kind in Poland and is still the first go-to for modern-day beer lovers. Český Ráj (Bogusławskiego 9) and Zakład Usług Piwnych (Ruska 34) are also both worth a look-in as the night progresses.
The Great Escape
It’s just a short journey from the centre of Wrocław to the Museum of Allied Prisoners of War (Lotników Alianckich 6, Żagań), which sits on the razed Nazi prison camp made famous by The Great Escape. A visit here offers a harrowing but enlightening insight into Poland’s recent history. The site of the infamous Gross-Rosen concentration camp is also within striking distance of Wrocław, and today serves as a memorial to the victims of Nazi genocide.