Your last-minute Brexit break: Top 5 European cities
Updated: Apr 3, 2019
✨ FREDDIE HUTCHINS
So Brexit has been postponed. [Insert reaction here] One thing to say about it, though - I was tickled to read of the boost in last-minute Easter break deals being one of the (very many, and comparatively utterly unimportant) outcomes, as the possibility of April travel disruption evaporated (along with so, so much else) in recent weeks.
So, in celebration (probably not the right word to use, but we're all out on a limb here) I give you my list of some of the perhaps lesser thought-of places to cut a last-minute dash to. Let's say escape (emigrate?) to, if it'd make you feel better.
I love this city. It’s got something for everyone - whether you’re young, old, in love, heartbroken - actually probably especially the latter. There’s so much art, for one thing: statues on every corner (my three favourites are the unearthly Anonymous, the extraordinary statue of Franz Liszt and the utterly heartbreaking Shoes on the Danube Bank) as well as some truly spectacular art galleries. Then there are the baths. These are an initially scary prospect to the uninitiated, but once you’ve taken the literal plunge, you’ll never look back. A great place to cut your bathing teeth are the opulent Széchenyi Baths in the middle of City Park. Once you’re in the swim and bathing like a local, the fun lies in seeking out the many hidden gems the city has to offer - the tiny, twinkling Rudas Baths being a favourite.
One of several jewels on the island of Sicily, Syracuse combines essences of everything that makes Italy’s football so special, and so beguiling: food, history, architecture, and the ever-present, ever-sparkling Mediterranean. Flying into Catania, one is understandably a little unsure of what Sicily might hold in store - more an industrial port city, it doesn’t necessarily scream Italian getaway destination. A short hop down the coast however, and you can sit sipping your Cinzano, watching the sun set in veritable Italian heaven. No further endorsement necessary, surely? Grab a guide book to fill you in on all the fascinating architectural sites nearby, and get going.
I put this on the list as, whilst it needs no introduction, it might be a place that requires earnest recommendation to those who don’t consider themselves lads on a stag weekend, looking to undertake a comprehensive hash café crawl whilst dressed as giant nappy-wearing babies. That was my perception. And it’s a true one: get off the train at Amsterdam Centraal and there they are - there was even one bloke dressed as a condom. A curious thing, though: these red light district-crawling, booze-hunting, weed-toking stags really don’t stagger past the Singel Canal - the very central horseshoe-shaped canal in the heart of Amsterdam. Beyond that, the city is yours for the taking - and boy, is it worth it. Enjoy.
Topical, eh? The only time I’ve ever forgotten my passport I was heading to the airport to fly to Belfast. Hit with that typical sick, panicky feeling, I suddenly realised: I didn’t need it to get to Northern Ireland. Passing through an airport passport-less feels utterly disconcerting, but my driver’s license was all I needed to wave to deliver me to a city that’s part of the same country as the one I live in. Which, in all senses, never ceases to amaze me. A place all its own, Belfast is somewhere I will return to (many times, I hope) to explore further. The same is true of everywhere on this list, but I didn't in truth expect to find it so in Belfast - somewhere so close to home in some ways, and so far in others.
My cheeky wild-card. Fly here for next-to-nothing, or else take a more leisurely train journey - changing at Disneyland Paris, of all places. I think of Bordeaux as the equivalent of one big, posh, hotel room: you can happily spend all of your time in it for any length of trip, and not feel the need to explore further. Bordeaux has the best of everything in one manageable city - great food and wine (of course) but also great shopping, outdoor spaces (it’s a true river city) and a vibrant cultural scene. Just watch out for the trams - and good luck navigating the city's unfathomable one-way system by car. Again I say: just fly and flop. Bordeaux will look after you.
Wot, no Paris?
Ever heard of Paris Syndrome? It’s the name given to a medically-documented psychological syndrome affecting an increasing number of overseas visitors heading to Paris each year. In short, they arrive expecting Amélie / Midnight in Paris / Ratatouille (my personal favourite Parisian film) and are so utterly discombobulated by the often harsh, unfriendly, dog-poo ridden reality that they need to be escorted home, courtesy of their embassy. True. Fact.