Put the spring back in your step with a European city break

by Jules on December 21, 2011

If you’ve got limited funds then the holiday season, at least until the spring, can feel a long one, and things can seem a little flat in the wake of the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

The ideal way to ward off the January and February blues is with a short break. Cheaper and quicker than a longer holiday, it’s surprising how refreshed and energised you can feel after just a few days away.

Equally, if you feel it’s ages since you’ve spent any quality time with your partner (relationships can sometimes be neglected, after all, during hectic family Christmas and New Year celebrations), then a short break is the perfect way to focus on each other as you relax and explore somewhere new. Why not whisk your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend off on a short European city break for Valentine’s Day, the most romantic day of the year?

The advantage of travelling between New Year and Easter is that many places are less crowded, while the deals on flights and hotels are extremely attractive. Thanks to the wide availability of cheap online flights, all of Europe is more accessible and affordable than ever.

While it may not be beach weather, there are plenty of places across Europe where you can expect pleasant temperatures which are ideal for sightseeing. And it can often be more enjoyable than trying to walk around in searing heat at the height of summer.

Grab a couple of cheap flights to Malaga on Spain’s Costa del Sol, for example, and you can look forward to a typical Mediterranean climate, and it is generally much dryer in January and February than November and December.

It may be this Costa’s largest city, with lively nightlife on offer if you want it, but Malaga also has a distinctly laid-back feel, especially outside the peak summer months. With an attractive coastal setting, hiking, and excellent shopping and cuisine on offer, there are also some genuinely interesting attractions, from Moorish castles to the Cathedral to the beautiful remains of a Roman theatre.

Malaga is also Pablo Picasso’s birthplace, and a must-see museum with more than 150 of the artist’s works, donated by his family, opened here in 2003 in the city’s Buenavista Palace.

For a different yet equally satisfying European city break, think about booking a couple of cheap flights to Amsterdam and recharging your batteries with a few days in the Dutch capital.

Like Malaga, this town has a laid-back vibe, and Amsterdam is famously liberal in its outlook. It’s also pretty compact, and easy to explore by glass-covered boat, tram, bike or on foot.

A network of lovely medieval canals criss-crosses the city, which started life as a small fishing village in the late twentieth century, with some 1,500 bridges spanning them. At night, some of the bridges are beautifully illuminated.

Whether you love serious partying, are a culture vulture or a history buff, or just hanker after the impressive architecture and relaxing charm of an ancient European capital, Amsterdam has something for everyone.

With some 7,000 registered historic buildings to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice for places to visit in Amsterdam, from medieval houses to churches, windmills and museums. Stand together on the Magere Bridge, more than three centuries old, and take in the Dutch architecture as you look out over the river.

And, of course, this city has an amazing collection of museums, whether artistic masterpiece or vodka are your thing! Some of the most famous ones include the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum, with its large collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings. Equally, the Van Gough Museum houses the world’s biggest collection of artwork from this Dutch Post-Impressionist painter.

You can take organised city tours, from canal boat cruises to guided visits, but, unless you really need a guide, you may find it easier and cheaper to look around on your own.

You may have to wrap up while you’re outside, but February is one of the driest months in Amsterdam, and there are plenty of places where you can stay warm indoors.

So, with budget airlines offering great value tickets to Spain and Holland, what are you waiting for? Grab your partner, book a cheap flight, fling a few things in a bag and jet off! You’ll return with a spring in your step!

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