Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Top 10 Recommended European City Breaks For 2015

A guide to the top 10 destinations for a city break in 2015, including what to do and where to stay in Seville, Mons, Milan, Krakow and Málaga

1. Lyon

Given its status as the gastro capital of France, Lyon has never had the profile among British travellers which it should have done. But from next year we will have no excuses. On May 1, Eurostar (eurostar.com) starts a year-round non-stop service between London and France’s second city up to five times a week. You can be there four hours 41 minutes after leaving St Pancras, from £89 return. Even if you have been before, you may want to pay another visit. This year saw the inauguration of the the Rives de Saône - an ambitious riverside promenade along the Saône - and earlier this month saw the opening of the Musée des Confluences - a new science centre and anthropology museum.
Lyon is the gastro capital of France
Stay at: Villa Florentine (0033 472 565 656; villaflorentine.com). Traditional hotel on a steep hill overlooking the Saône: £231.

Read the full review: Villa Florentine, Lyon

2. Seville

The most complete and varied of Andalusia’s great cities, Seville has wonderful food (especially the tapas), great wines (especially the sherry), world-class sights (the cathedral and the Alcazar), great art (Museo de Bellas Artes), remarkably good shopping, and a pulsating nightlife (including the world’s best flamenco dancing). In short, it makes the perfect short-break destination - especially since British Airways (ba.com) will start direct services from Gatwick five times weekly from March 29 - by which time the temperatures should be warming up nicely.
Seville is the most remarkable and varied of Andalusia's great cities
Stay at: Hotel Alfonso XIII (0080 032 545 454;luxurycollection.com/alfonsoxiii). A 1920s hotel decorated in classic Andalusian style with a pool and gardens, near the cathedral: £258.

Read the full review: Hotel Alfonso XIII, Seville

3. Plzen

Tasted the beer? Try the city. Plzen, in the Czech Republic and hour or so west of Prague, is where the Pilsner lager (Pilsner Urquell) was invented in 1842 and where it is still made. In 2015 it will be basking in the attention of being one of two European Capitals of Culture. It is an attractive town in its own right: key monuments are the 13th-century St Bartholomew’s cathedral, the grand Renaissance-era city hall and, nearby, the great 19th-century Velka synagogue. Information on the programme for next year is still a little scanty, but will be published onplzen2015.cz.
Pilsner lager was invented in the city in 1842
Stay at: Angelo Hotel (0042 037 801 6111; vi-hotels.com). Contemporary accommodation near the Brewery museum: £61, including breakfast.

4. Mons

Another beneficiary of City of Culture status for 2015, Mons is a beguiling Belgian town whose cobbled streets weave around a historic central square. Its strategically important hilltop location (hence the name) has guaranteed a troubled past, and this year it has been commemorating its key role at the beginning of World War One - this is where the first British soldier was killed. Next year however, it will be looking to the future, and a full schedule of exhibitions, events and festivities is at: mons2015.eu.
Mons is a beguiling Belgian town
Stay at: Hotel Dream (0032 653 29720; dream-mons.be). Quirky, 57-room hotel converted from a former convent precinct: £89.

5. Catania

EasyJet’s (easyjet.com) new direct flights from Bristol to Catania in Sicily opens up lots of possibilities - Taormina and Syracuse are within easy reach of the airport, which is also a great way for exploring the whole of the island. But vibrant Catania, often overlooked by tourists, is a great destination for a short break. It has excellent restaurants and markets and a rather lovely baroque centre, rebuilt after earthquakes and a catastrophic eruption of nearby Mount Etna in the 17th century. Sicily’s mild climate is particularly appealing in May when the new twice-weekly flights begin.
Catania is often overlooked by tourists
Stay at: Liberty Hotel (0039 095 311 651; libertyhotel.it). Elegant art nouveau hotel: from £95, including breakfast.

6. Bern

You don’t find many more picturesque or relaxed capital cities than Bern, whose old town straddles a narrow bluff above a sharp bend in the river Aare. This is Switzerland at its most charming - cobbled streets, glittering fountains, and wooded slopes running down to the river and views of the Bernese Alps. (From the city centre you can be at the top of the 2,830ft summit of Gurten in half an hour by tram and funicular). Einstein lived here while developing his theory of relativity, and Paul Klee was born here (there are museums dedicated to both). Now, with new daily flights from Skyworks (flyskywork.com), it is within easy reach of Southend airport.
Cities don't come more picturesque than Bern
Stay at: Hotel Schweizerhof (0041 313 268 080; schweizerhof-bern.ch). Smart, city-centre hotel with spa and rooftop terrace: £271.

Read the full review: Hotel Schweizerhof, Bern

7. Milan

Two major events next year will shift the focus away from Milan’s shopping and fashion credentials onto two of the city’s other great strengths: art and food. You might not think of Expo 2015, which runs from May-October, as a tourist draw, especially with the slogan “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. But as well as focusing on the environmental challenges facing the globe, it will also be a celebration of food cultures around the world, not least the great culinary traditions of the host city. And from April 15 to July 19, at the Palazzo Reale, Milan will also host the largest exhibition of works by Leonardo da Vinci ever held in Italy. Food for the body and soul.
Milan will be celebrating its art and food in 2015
Stay at: Bulgari hotel (0039 028 058 051; bulgarihotels.com). Flagship, city centre hotel: £569.

Read the full review: Bulgari Hotel, Milan

8. Deauville

Deauville is a vibrant seaside resort which has retained much of the smart sheen it acquired when it first became fashionable in the 19th century. Come here for excellent seafood, the race course, the beach, the casino and the golf. It is also an excellent gateway to the Normandy coast - so important in the development of the Impressionist movement (there is an excellent collection in the museum in nearby Le Harve). And some of Normandy’s most attractive towns - including Bayeaux and Rouen - are within an hour’s drive. Ryanair (ryanair.com) begins a new twice-weekly service on the short hop between Stansted and Deauville on April 3.
Deauville is an excellent gateway to the Normandy coast
Stay at: Les Manoirs de Tourgeville (0033 231 144 868;lesmanoirstourgeville.com). Stylish, relaxed hotel in large, leafy grounds: £179.

9. Krakow

British Airways (ba.com) begins direct flights from Heathrow to Krakow, four times a week from next May, partly because of the demand from Polish people living or working in the UK. But it is also a great opportunity for the British to visit Poland’s second city whose splendid market square, its barbican and castle, its wonderful array of synagogues and historic churches, and grand city-centre palaces were spared destruction in the Second World War. Among the highlights are The Collegium Maius, where Copernicus studied and which is now home to Chopin’s piano.
Krakow is Poland's second city
Stay at: Metropolitan Boutique Hotel (0048 124 427 500;hotelmetropolitan.pl). Recently renovated city-centre base: £169, including breakfast.

10. Málaga

Picasso’s birthplace has for a long-time slipped under the radar as a destination for a short break. It has always been a thriving city, but for more than a decade it has been riding a cultural wave of new investment which began with the opening of the Museo Picasso Málaga in 2003. Next year will see the opening of another, the Centro Pompidou de Málaga in 2015 in the revamped port area - the first branch of the great Parisian institution to open outside France. For the next five years it will display selections from its seminal collection of 20th century art.
Málaga is the birthplace of Picasso
Stay at: Molina Lario (0034 952 062 002; molinalario.warwickhotels.com). Modern hotel on the seafront promenade: £89.
For the best hotels in more than 130 destinations worldwide, go totelegraph.co.uk/hotels

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