Escape the ordinary with a warm break. Europe is filled with both coastal cities and warm urban sprawls year-round. There’s no reason you can’t take in a quick escape from winter and enjoy some shopping, new food discoveries or taking in the scenery. With top-notch destinations just a short flight away, city breaks are yours for the taking. Whether its a quick weekend away or an entire week, consider a winter break to warmer climates for some fun, sun or romantic meals for two.
- Average temperature (February): 14°C
- Reasons to visit: fewer visitors with warmer weather and active nightlife
Step off the plane and be greeted by the warm embrace of Greece’s ever-present sun and piercing blue skies. Athens, the birthplace of Western civilisation, transcends time with its rich history blending with modern energy and influx of development that has transformed the bustling city into a cultural hub with indistinguishable joie de vivre.
While the city is famed for its ruins, which transport you back millennia to a bygone era, you will be rewarded for venturing off the beaten path. Head to the district of Kolonaki, in the Athenian hills, to discover some of the city’s finest contemporary art galleries before wandering through the halls of the Acropolis Museum.
Immerse yourself in the piquant, mouth-watering wafts and tastes of sun-ripened vegetables and meat grilled on open flames in the restaurants of the up-and-coming neighbourhood, Pangrati. End the evening in the laid-back neighbourhood of Koukaki, home to a charming yet sophisticated nightlife scene teeming with lively bars.
Whether it’s sharing home-made wine or ice-cold ouzo with the locals in a taverna or walking through the cobbled Byzantine streets to the top of the Parthenon, take comfort knowing that your choices are unlimited. Come for the mild winter sun and stay for the Greek zest for life.
- Average temperature (February): 15°C
- Reasons to visit: incredible architecture with unique culture
In the heart of the Mediterranean, this rocky archipelago is blessed with over 300 days of sun per year, an almost guaranteed relief from the grey clouds back home. Located only 3 hours by plane from the UK, Malta is a melting pot of history and culture offering something special to suit every taste.
Rich in Baroque and Medieval architecture, Malta’s centuries-old capital Valetta, is a cosmopolitan city brimming with an atmosphere characterised by the charm of the locals. While St John’s Cathedral and the Grand Master’s Palace are the highlights that fill every guide book, head to the Lower and Upper Burraka Gardens and be welcomed by the panoramic views over the city’s stunning Grand Harbour.
If you’re looking for something a little quieter, head to Gozo and ease into the slower pace of its scenic, rolling hills and swathes of sand leading into turquoise blue waters. Bask on the flat sandstone rocks which line the coast before diving in to cool off. Don’t forget to pack some pastizzis on your excursions; filo pastry pockets filled with ricotta whose juices run down the chin, leaving you queuing up ready for more.
- Average temperature (February): 14 °C
- Reasons to visit: luscious green surroundings with options for outdoor activities all year-round
Closer to the UK than the more popular islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria, Madeira is for those searching for an escape in the sun that is less touristy and more authentic. Its subtropical climate and yearlong warm weather make it a no brainer for those whose idea of a perfect holiday mixes the majesty of the outdoors with life’s finer comforts like delicious food and poolside cocktails.
At only 20 kilometres wide, Madeira’s varied and dramatic terrain makes it easy to explore by bike or car. The capital, Funchal, lines the main island with a blanket of terracotta rooftops which lead into the sea. Lining its streets are open-air bars and cafes, performers and street art, the perfect backdrop to watch Madeiran life play out.
Explore the island’s mountain trails which carve its interior, weaving in and out of lush forested hills alongside levadas or canal pathways, many of which lead out to idyllic golden, sandy beaches. Hop aboard the cable-car to Monte to watch the sun descend into the ocean before ending the day with some freshly caught fish and a glass of poncho, the local’s drink of choice that blends white rum with a zesty punch.
- Average temperature (February): 5 °C
- Reasons to visit: inexpensive with one-of-a-kind nightlife and culture
Only a couple of hours away by plane is the vibrant and one-of-a-kind city of Berlin. Germany’s capital is unlike anywhere else in the world filled with artisan shops, blooming restaurants, bars that delve between dive to high-class and some of the best nightlife in Europe.
Why not take a weekend away and dive into one of the hippest cities in Europe? You have the option of either taking a sophisticated journey through some of the finest restaurants and bars, such as Pauly Saal in Mitte (central), which doubles as a top tier cocktail bar with live jazz on some weekends. Around it, you have some of the best upscale shopping on Weinmeisterstrasse, as well as galleries on Museum Island.
If you want a wilder weekend full of all-night adventures then aim your stay in the East of Berlin. There you have better access to nightclubs that stay open all through the weekend even in winter, including About Blank and Tressor. Kreuzberg and Friedrischain have great hostels and flat rentals and the local food and bar scene is also unmissable, like the famous Burgermeister stand and schnitzel house Max and Moritz.
If you do decide to stay in Berlin be sure to take advantage of Sixt Share, a new and incredibly cheap carsharing option. Simply find the car, drive it and leave it at the destination, hassle-free. Perfect for short stays!