European holidays: where to go for an easy escape

Alicante photo
Alicante photo
(Image credit: Rex Features (Shutterstock))

Need a quick bit of travel inspiration for your next European break? Check out one of these delightful destinations...

Whether it's a summer holiday or a city break, there's somewhere for everyone in Europe. Plan your next European escape with these ideas for a lovely, simple break.

Lovely Lyon with Eurostar

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Lovely Lyon with Eurostar

There's a direct route from London to Lyon, so there's no excuse not to visit this gorgeous city. A stunning mixture of old and new, Lyon’s architecture and main sights are unmissable. When you get there don't miss the new Musee des Confluences, which launched in December. The striking building, which resembles a floating crystal made of steel and glass, sits by the Rhone and Saone rivers, and houses over 2 million artefacts dating from the 16th century to the present day. Stay at the chateau-like Cour des Loges, whose 61 rooms are linked by secret passageways and winding staircases. Located in the heart of historic Vieux-Lyon, its restaurant boasts a Michelin star. Rooms from £170, courdesloges.com.

Swiss style in Zurich

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Swiss style in Zurich

There's a new contender for most stylish Swiss city. While Geneva is generally seen as the country's sophisticated lakeside destination, Zurich is its richest and most cultural. But a new hotel is bringing it up in the style stakes: the Kameha Grand Zurich, set to open in March, is the creation of world-renowned designer Marcel Wanders, who also designed the striking Andaz in Amsterdam, and the Mondrian in South Beach. His quirky eye results in features such as 11 themed suites, with names like the Burlesque Suite, the Serenity Suite and the Poker Face Suite, and Swiss touches such as lamps that look like cowbells and Toblerone-shaped sofas. If you check in here, you might forget to head out and visit the city?s many attractions, including its ancient Gothic churches, historical museums and lake. Rooms start at £225 per night (+41 44 525 5000, kamehagrandzuerich.com); direct flights cost from £155 return with swissair.com.

Why Iceland is hot

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Why Iceland is hot

Iceland has always enchanted with its geysers and glaciers. It's the home of adventure, with excellent hiking opportunities and, inside Europe?s second largest ice cap, the Langjökull Ice Cave. It stretches nearly 300 metres into the solid glacier, around 30 metres below its surface, with five big chambers to explore which showcase its stunning, deep-blue coloured ice. This is a don?t-miss experience; book the excursion from Reykjavik (£167 per adult, £84 per child aged 12-15 years) during a three night stay with Discover the World from £159 per person (01737 214 291, discover-the-world.co.uk/Iceland). Return flights to Reykjavik cost from £136 with icelandair.com.

Wake up in Copenhagen

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Wake up in Copenhagen

Why love Copenhagen? It's a compelling blend of old and new, with the historic centre just as appealing as the city's cutting edge modern architecture. Plus it serves some of the best food in Scandinavia. Visit the iconic Little Mermaid statue, perched wistfully overlooking the harbour at Langelinje Pier. The opulent, rococo, 18th century Amalienborg Palace has been home to the Danish royal family for centuries. Colourful Nyhavn, by the old port, is lined with historic, brightly-painted houses which have been renovated and turned into cafes, bars and restaurants. No. 20 is where Hans Christian Andersen (who wrote the Little Mermaid) used to live. And don?t miss the Tivoli Gardens, one of the world?s oldest amusement parks; home to a range of rides, historic buildings and a casino, it also holds shows and musicals (opens from 1 April; tickets from £10). Double rooms at Wakeup Copehagen start from £58 per night (or £29 per person). Visit wakeupcopenhagen.com. Return flights from London to Copenhagen with Norwegian Airlines (Norwegian.com) start from £58.

Take Stockholm

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Take Stockholm

It?s a city divided into 14 islands, where life by the water is the way forward. Explore Gamla Stan (the elegant Old Town), a charming pocket of cobbled streets which is home to the imposing Royal Palace, and the late 13th?century Riddarholmen Church, where Swedish monarchs are buried. From here, you can head down Stora Nygatan, which is full of chic wine bars, art galleries and craft shops, or down Västerlånggatan, lined with stylish design stores, chocolate shops and restaurants. The beautiful Berns Hotel dates from 1863, and has played host to VIP guests including Bill Gates and the Dalai Lama. It features two restaurants and several cocktail bars, and it even has its own concert venue which has featured ABBA and Diana Ross. Rooms start from approx. £118 per double room per night (or £59 pp). Flights to Stockholm cost from £88 pp return with Norwegian (Norwegian.com).

The Beauty of Barcelona

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The Beauty of Barcelona

Spain?s beachside city has got sun, sea and sightseeing galore. Gaze in awe at Gaudi?s unfinished Sagrada Familia, impressive both inside and out, where he is also buried. Look over the city from the top of Montjuic mountain, which features buildings left over from the 1992 Olympics, then head to the beach; with over three miles of sand, and lined with beach bars (known as chiringuitos) it makes for a lovely and relaxing afternoon. Barceló Raval is a contemporary 4* hotel nestled in the heart of the vibrant Raval district, just a few hundred metres from Las Ramblas and the famous Boqueria Market. Rates start from £46 per person per night, based on two sharing. To book call the hotel direct on +34 933 201 490 or visit www.barceloraval.com. Return flights to Barcelona from London cost from £64 with Easyjet (easyjet.com)

Take a bite out of Brussels

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Take a bite out of Brussels

Why visit in 2015? Forget its old image as a boring bureaucrat?s hangout; Belgium?s capital has got a great foodie scene, as well as a growing focus on art. Stroll through the stylish Sablon area, lined with elegant ancient buildings and divine chocolatiers, such as old favourite Wittamer, and the more modern Pierre Marcolini. And take in the huge central square of the Grand Place, where you?ll see the imposing Town Hall as well as the guildhalls which represented the city?s different trades, from bakers, to sailors to shopkeepers. Nearby is the famous Mannikin Pis, the statue of the little boy peeing into a fountain, who is often dressed in different outfits. The Hotel Amigo is a luxury hotel situated just off the Grand Place, with 173 individually decorated bedrooms using handpicked fabrics and artworks. A one night break, including breakfast, via Eurostar costs from £189 per person with Railbookers. To book, visit railbookers.com or call 020 3780 2163.

Magical Marseille

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Magical Marseille

This buzzing port town is still reaping the benefits of being voted 2013’s European Capital of Culture. Start at the original port (the Vieux Port), which is now crammed with restaurants, bars and cafés. At one end, a giant mirror designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster reflects tourists, locals and eager chefs at the daily fish market. By the northern side of the port is the Villa Méditerranée, used for performances, conferences and film screenings. Then head back to the port where Marseille's most famous thoroughfare, La Canebière, begins. 
Lined with shops and buildings such as the beautifully–restored Opera House, it dates from 1666 and was built by the decree of King Louis XIV to link the docks to the rest of the city. The Hotel de Rome et de Saint Pierre is in the centre of the city, a 5 minute walk from the old port and just 90m from La Canebiere. It has 43 colourful, smart and individually decorated rooms. British Airways holidays offers three nights, room only, at the Hotel de Rome et de Saint–Pierre from £182pp, two adults sharing (or £60 per person per night), in March. Visit ba.com/marseille or call 0844 493 0758.