When planning a short break many people won’t think further than the usual European short breaks such as Paris, Rome or Madrid. In fact, there are many more places to go for luxury short breaks with a huge amount to offer.
With exotic food, a medieval souk lightly touched by tourists, five star hotels at three star prices, Roman ruins and one of Europe’s top museums, a weekend will reap rich rewards. Specific highlights include the 18th century Bardo Palace which houses the world’s finest collection of Roman mosaics, exquisite, 2,000 year old snapshots of daily life, the much pillaged ruins of Carthage, Hannibal’s birthplace, and the seaside suburb of Sidi Bou Said, an Arabian Capri with white villas, pale blue doors, frilly iron window grills and flowers everywhere. The souk, the city’s innermost maze of historic lock ups, is brilliant both for handicrafts and atmosphere.
Most people go for the amazing stock of museums, from Freud to funerals, topped by the MuseumQuarter, a vast complex of culture housed within the former baroque stables of the Hapsburg emperors. Other stellar sights include the Spanish Riding School, the Cathedral and the Hofburg, former winter residence of the Hapsburgs, and the Belvedere Palace. But we particularly love Vienna for its scores of historic cafes where you can sit on a bentwood chair, at a marble topped table, and watch the world go by, all of them about as far removed from a speedy, frothy Starbucks as you can go. Favourites include Central, an old literary/politicos hangout, and the 18th century Demel, a gateaux grotto of dark panelling, gilded and pockmarked mirrors and chandeliers. Good news for travellers this year, in addition to the events and exhibitions celebrating the 150th anniversary of Gustav Klimt’s birth, will be the summer opening of the new Skylink extension to the airport.
What’s pink and green and blue all over? The map of Stockholm. Sweden’s capital is a jigsaw of fourteen islands afloat on the silver-plated water of the Baltic. You can swim right in front of the City Hall, fish for salmon opposite the Royal Palace and hop on a fleet of ferries to heavenly islands. Stockholm has the pros of a metropolis - designer shopping, interesting restaurants, historic going on fairy-tale architecture, hip hotels, lots of museums and plenty of nightlife - with all the advantages of small town living. Gamla Stan, the city’s medieval downtown with narrow cobbled alleyways, munchkin houses, spikey towers and erratic skyline, is a good place to wander, have coffee, shop and lunch. Djurgarden, the old royal hunting grounds thick with ancient oaks, is home to the warship Vasa, the Titanic of the Middle Ages which sank in 1628 just minutes into its maiden voyage.
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