Features

European city holidays: Summer breeze

11 Feb 2022 by Hannah Brandler
Sagrada Familia (istock.com/Eloi Omella)

As travel restrictions (along with testing requirements) ease, we look ahead to holidays in European cities for some Vitamin D and culture.

BARCELONA, SPAIN

The Spanish seaside capital offers a great deal of attractions, from the bustling tree-lined boulevard Las Ramblas to the Barceloneta beach and the remarkable sights of Sagrada Familia and Park Guell from renowned architect Antoni Gaudi. It’s also a foodie spot, with tapas and sangria served until late (or early).

What’s new? Last year the city launched the app Check Barcelona, providing travellers and residents with real-time information about the congestion at approximately 280 tourist sites, and allowing them to make reservations at attractions in advance of visiting.

Stay: The 120-room Hotel El Palace Barcelona (pictured below) occupies the former Ritz of Barcelona, and as such has inherited its 100-plus years of history. El Palace pays homage to former guests, including Salvador Dali, Josephine Baker and more recently Ronnie Wood, in its one-of-a-kind Art Suites, with décor inspired by the stars. Meanwhile, guests can enjoy all-day dining at the majestic Great Hall, cocktails at speakeasy bar El Bluesman, or appreciate panoramic views at the floral rooftop garden.

Abercrombie and Kent offers three nights in a classic room with breakfast from £720 per person, including return flights from London airports, a half-day tour of the city and entrance fees to the Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Park Guell and Gaudi House Museum.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Straddling the Bosphorus – the strait between Europe and Asia, Turkey’s largest city dates back to the year 330 when it was declared the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Its rich history, continues to draw international visitors to view the sights, including the Hagia Sofia basilica and Blue Mosque. There are plenty of shopping opportunities at the colourful bazaars.

What’s new? The city’s port area underwent a US$1.7 billion redevelopment and has reopened to the public for the first time in 200 years. The neighbourhood, known as Galataport Istanbul, features 250 food outlets, bars and retail shops, restored buildings, such as the Tophane Clock Tower, built in 1905, and the new Renzo Piano-designed building for the Istanbul Modern museum, which is well worth a visit.

Stay: Park Hyatt Istanbul – Macka Palas is located on the city’s European side in the affluent Nisantasi district. Rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows (and suites with their very own Turkish bath experience), while other facilities include a steakhouse restaurant, a wine bar, a 20-metre rooftop pool, a fitness centre and a Turkish spa.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

The lively cosmopolitan city marries old and new – from the ancient port of Jaffa to the world’s largest example of 1930s Bauhaus architecture in the White City area – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Beachgoers can enjoy 14km of coastline, and a party atmosphere as night falls.

What’s new? The city is seeing a flurry of luxury hotel openings, including last year’s debut of a Soho House property in the Jaffa neighbourhood, and the forthcoming Nobu Hotel Tel Aviv.

Stay: The 4-star, high-rise Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv Beach hotel is located in the centre of the city on the seafront, with direct access to the sandy Gordon Beach. There are also two restaurants, one of which offers sea views, an outdoor pool, and a health club with a pool, gym, dry and wet saunas.

Travelink UK offers seven nights in a double/twin room with breakfast from £1,279 per person (based on a departure date of May 2), including return Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow, one checked-in suitcase and private transfers.

DUBROVNIK, CROATIA

The magnificent medieval walled city in southeastern Croatia, otherwise known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, has become increasingly popular over the years as a filming location for TV dramas such as Game of Thrones. Wander through the narrow streets of the Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and tour the gothic, renaissance, and baroque monuments.

What’s new? The 2.4km-long Peljesac Bridge, set to open this June, will connect Dubrovnik with the Croatian mainland by road – travellers currently have to pass through two border checkpoints between Bosnia and Croatia at the Bosnian port of Neum.

Stay: The beachfront 5-star Valamar Collection Dubrovnik President Hotel is located on the tip of the Babin Kuk peninsula, a few metres from the pebbly Val President Relax Beach with views of the Elaphiti Islands and just 6km from the old town. Facilities include an outdoor and indoor pool, an adults-only spa, fitness centre, three restaurants, and a diving centre on the beach.

Prestige Holidays offers seven nights in a classic seaside room with balcony with breakfast from £980 per person (based on a departure date of May 9), including return flights from London Gatwick to Dubrovnik with British Airways, one checked-in bag per adult, and shared transfers.

Hotel de Russie, a Rocco Forte Hotel

ROME, ITALY

The Eternal City continues to attract international visitors thanks to its vestiges of the ancient republic and artistic masterpieces by the likes of Michelangelo and Caravaggio. Tourists can also head to the epicentre of Christianity, St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, or embrace la dolce vita at cafés in the Italian capital’s piazzas.

What’s new? Last summer, the city opened the tunnels and chambers at the 2,000-year-old Colosseum, allowing tourists to discover the corridors where gladiators and wild animals waited before entering the ampitheatre. This is part of a multimillion euro restoration project set to complete by 2024.

Stay: Located between the Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps, the 5-star Hotel de Russie, A Rocco Forte Hotel, has been a popular haunt for artists and writers over the years – so much so that it was nicknamed ‘paradise on earth’ by poet Jean Cocteau in 1917. The property was designed in the early 19th century by architect Giuseppe Valadier, and its main USP is its 2,800 sqm tiered secret garden with palm trees and white climbing roses. It also houses a spa, Le Jardin de Russie restaurant and the Stravinskij Bar.

Elegant Resorts offers seven nights in a classic room with breakfast from £2,545 per person (based on a departure date of August 6), including return economy flights from London Heathrow, private transfers and UK lounge passes.

THESSALONIKI, GREECE

This Greek port city is the country’s largest after Athens, and offers ancient and contemporary highlights, with 15 monuments included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Visitors can learn about the region’s major discoveries at the Archaeological Museum, experience views of

the city from the top of the 15th century 34-metre White Tower, or stroll along the 3.5km New Waterfront area, designed by Nikiforidis-Cuomo Architects.

What’s new? Last November UNESCO named Thessaloniki a City of Gastronomy, the first Greek city to earn such an accolade.

Stay: The Excelsior Hotel located in downtown Thessaloniki dates back to 1924, and the 5-star property is just steps away from Aristotelous Square. The neoclassical building houses 34 rooms, along with fine dining restaurant Clochard and the jazzy Charlie D Brasserie.

Sunvil Holidays offers three nights in a classic room with breakfast from £906 per person (based on a departure date of June 13), including return flights from Manchester airport and private transfers.

PAPHOS, CYPRUS

Located on the southwest coast of Cyprus, the city transports you back to ancient Greece – it’s regarded as the birthplace of goddess Aphrodite – and historical sites, such as the Tomb of the Kings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet it also offers a modern harbour packed with lively bars and restaurants along with sun-soaked beaches.

What’s new? Sun-seekers can head to Antasia Beach Club, which opened last summer on Kato Paphos beach. The two-floor site includes indoor and outdoor spaces, an extensive roof terrace overlooking Paphos Castle, and a restaurant and bar with Asian-influenced cuisine.

Stay: Annabelle Hotel opened in 1985 as the first 5-star hotel in Paphos. Set across 24 sq km of lush seafront gardens, it comprises 244 contemporary rooms and suites, three outdoor pools, and Ouranos Wellbeing Spa – a rooftop spa named after the Greek god of the sky and the heavens. Plus there are ten dining venues and bars – from alfresco mezze to candlelit tables overlooking the water gardens.

Sunvil Holidays offers seven nights in a sea view room with breakfast from £1,016 per person (based on a departure date of July 2), including return flights from London Gatwick and private transfers.

Tropical Gardens - Annabelle, PaphosCyprus

VALLETTA, MALTA

Located on the northeast coast of the island of Malta, the so-called Fortress City might be Europe’s smallest capital but it’s not short on attractions – from its historic bastions, forts and cathedral to Baroque architecture and the picturesque Grand Harbour to the east and Marsamxett Harbour to the west. Built by the Knights of St John in the 16th century, the city is also (unsurprisingly) a UNESCO World Heritage City.

What’s new? If you think you have seen it all, perhaps it’s time to go a little deeper. Tourist site Underground Valletta – Heritage Malta launched at the end of last year, and operates tours of the city’s historic tunnels.

Stay: Set in a 17th century mansion in the heart of Valletta lies the 5-star Hotel Rosselli, a property formerly owned by a member of the Knights of Malta. The hotel includes 25 rooms and suites in six different designer categories, a restored fountain dating back more than 400 years in the central courtyard, an outdoor pool, and the Michelin-starred Under Grain restaurant.

Cox and Kings offers four nights in an entry level room with breakfast from £1,990 per person, including a tour of Valletta, a tour of the vineyard in the village of Dingli, and return flights with private transfers from London.

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