Our Pick of the Top Winter Destinations for a Mini-Break
Summer may be over but there are plenty of places at home, on the continent and further afield to break up that stretch between now and Christmas. Whether you’re a culture vulture, natural born explorer or simply prefer lying on a sunbed with a good book we’ve put together our pick of the best places for a mini break this autumn including what to do and where to stay.
Just a stone's throw away, Europe offers visitors something 365 days of the year from fascinating historical cities to world-class cuisine, picture-postcard villages to beautiful Mediterranean beach resorts.
Madrid - Having undergone somewhat of a facelift over the past few years, Spain's capital city is a great destination for those looking for a culture-rich weekend. The Winter months can be cold ut more often than not the skies are blue and the sunshine bright so as longn as you wrap up warm you can take a pew in one of the plethora of pavement cafes, delis or gastro-bars and soak up the atmosphere. That's after you've shopped until you've dropped in the many smart boutiques of course!
Visit - Madrid’s multitude of museums offer something for everyone and most are bigger and better than a couple of years ago. Museo del Prado is considered to have one of the world’s finest collections of European Art and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia too is a must for art lovers. Meanwhile, Museo Arqueologico Nacional contains an extensive accumulation of ancient artefacts behind it’s lofty façade.
Stay - Centrally located at the end of Gran Via, The Dear boasts a calming palette of pale grey and natural tones created by leading interior designer, Sandra Tarruella, providing a peaceful haven away from the hectic streets beyond. Whilst on the top floor there is a rooftop plunge pool in which to cool off in and admire the views!
Marseille – France’s oldest city, Marseille, is having a moment! Edgy and dynamic, like Madrid, it has seen a lot of urban regeneration since its European Capital of Culture status in 2013 and combines the buzz of a big city port offering a long maritime history with an energetic melting pot of cultures. What’s more, it’s Mediterranean climate means it enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year and boasts warm days well in to November.
Visit - Mast-to-mast with yachts and pleasure boats, the vibrant Vieux Porte is the where the action is at whilst just a short walk away is the historic Le Panier district. Alternatively, if it’s sea and sand you’re after then hop on a ferry over to the small island of Iles de Frioul for pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters or venture a little further along the coastline to the magnificent Calanques - a series of fjord-like inlets where, if you’re prepared to take a hike, it’s not hard to find a secluded swimming spot!
Stay - The five star Le Petit Nice offers spectacular views across the Mediterranean and immaculate, simple rooms. Part of the Relais & Chateux group, the hotel includes a cocktail bar, leafy terrace, swimming pool, famous Gerald Passedat restaurant.
Ljubljana – The capital of Slovenia, picturesque Ljublijana is well known for its green spaces and curving river lined by outdoor cafes. A paradise for foodies, the Open Kitchen market runs every Friday until the end of October and is the perfect place to try Slovenian and international dishes whilst enjoying musical performances and other entertainment. Elsewhere, sample the city’s culinary delights on a Slovenian Food Walk or enjoy one of the many superb restaurants, the best of which receive the Ljubljana Quality Mark including Strelec, Cubr, Cubo, Kavac and Maxim.
Visit - Take the funicular up to the mighty medieval Jubljana Castle where you will be taken back in time whilst also enjoying spectacular views across the city and beyond. Restaurant Strelec in the Archers’ Tower and Gostilna Na Gradu, both awarded the Ljubljana Quality Mark, offer haute cuisine from on high!
Stay - Hotel Cubo is the city’s sleekest hotel! Housed in a stunningly refurbished 1930s building each of the 26 bedrooms feature abstract art on the walls and glassed-in bathrooms with huge walk-in showers and L’Occitane toiletries. Some also boast views across to the castle!
If you're willing to fly a little further then the world is your oyster as they say!
Montreal – After the heat of summer, October sees the temperatures start to drop and with it hotel prices too. Green spaces seem to transform overnight in to an explosion of vibrant Autumnal colours and there is just so much to do in this creative city where French and North American culture sit side-by-side. Browse the bountiful farmers markets during the day whilst taking in the vibrant nightlife after dark. From bands to award-winning film to dance troupes the City is well-known for its round-the-clock entertainment.
Visit - Orient yourself with a walk through 200-hectare sprawling Mont-Royal Park which boasts lakes, picnic areas, a playground and paths a plenty, not to mention stunning views from the summit. Follow this up by jumping on the Metro to City institution, Schwartz’s Deli for world-famous smoked meat sandwiches!
Stay - Dating from the 1850s and within walking distance of the Old Port, Hotel Nelligan combines rustic charm with refined elegance. The service is highly-regarded and notable features include the exposed brick walls, softly-lit rooms, and rooftop terrace!
Oman – If you are after unrivalled luxury then you can’t go far wrong in Oman! Whilst enjoying the same mid-twenties warmth as its more well-known neighbours, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it offers a greater sense of refinement. The country offers a diverse landscape including the beautiful beaches of Zighy Bay, the huge sand dunes of Wahiba desert and the ancient architecture of artistic Muscat.
Visit - Haggle a bargain at Muscat’s lively Muttrah Souk where it is possible to buy pretty much anything from silverware and toys, to frankincense and spices. Elsewhere in the City, take a guided tour of Oman’s premier destination for arts and culture, the magnificent Royal Opera House. Learn its secrets, marvel in its beauty and even enjoy an evening performance!
Stay - Six Senses Zighy Bay boasts every personal comfort including a butler service whilst offering unique and personal encounters crafted by a wealth of experts from visiting spa practitioners and celebrity chefs, to star gazers and marine biologists. In Muscat, the Chedi combines minimalist design with quiet luxury set amid 21-acres of landscaped gardens. And just two hours from the City, the luxury Desert Nights Camp in Al Wasil is the ideal base for an Arabian adventure!
Essaouira – Immediately enchanting and offering a laid-back vibe, Essaouira is Morocco ‘s seaside city. At its heart lies the vibrant and bustling blue and white ‘medina’ (inner walled city) where you can explore tiny passageways and traditional souks overflowing with pungent spices or for the best views, walk the beautiful and imposing ramparts! For a more peaceful afternoon head beyond the walls to the fishing port filled with a mass of small boats and the beach where you can enjoy wind-surfing, kitesurfing and horseriding.
Visit - Take a trip to visit an Argan Oil Cooperative. Argan Oil is native to Morocco and it’s worth the half hour trek out of the city to witness the elaborate process which still uses ancient tools to hand press the kernals.
Stay – You can’t come to Essauira without staying in a traditional Riad and you can’t go far wrong with Villa Maroc. Situated in the heart of the Medina the 18th century guesthouse offers 21 shabby-chic style rooms. Or if you prefer to be away from the crowds, then check out their countryside retreat, just 15 minutes outside of the City with onsite Hamman and beautiful pool.
But why venture overseas when there are so many fabulous places right here on our doorstep? After all, a staycation is the vaction!
The Gower Peninsula – Designated as the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty way back in 1956, this stunning stretch of rugged Welsh coastline still remains largely as it was over 60 years ago! A favourite destination for walkers and surfers alike, the beaches along the 19-mile long peninsula are simply breathtaking whilst further inland you’ll find lush woodland and rolling hills, not to mention a warm welcome in any one of the many fine pubs!
Visit - Rhossili Bay holds the prestigious title of Wales’ best beach 2017 as well as being voted among the top ten beaches in the UK for the past five years! This huge expanse of sand is famous for several remarkable landmarks including the Helvetica shipwreck, visible only at low tide. Grey seals often bask on the rocks, and the dunes are a bird watchers paradise. Those who prefer more adrenaline packed action can opt for coasteering - climbing the cliffs before leaping in to the waves!
Stay - At Fairyhill it’s the little details which count – bigger beds, luxury herb-infused Welsh toiletries, fluffy bathrobes, Clipper teas and Bose sound systems. Stay in the grade II listed building in rooms previously occupied by the aristocracy and even celebrities or opt for the chocolate box Georgian Coach House, which sleeps 6 making it perfect for a getaway with family or friends.
New Forest – Once a royal hunting ground for William the Conquerer, the New Forest is well known for its unspoilt heathland, forest trails and native ponies. Quaint traditional villages such as Beaulieu, Brokenhurst and Burley are perfect for exploring dusty antique shops, or enjoying a local pint whilst Hythe and Lymington’s weekly farmer’s markets are the perfect place to pick up some local produce.
Visit - The award winning National Motor Museum houses a world famous collection of over 250 cars including F1 race cars and vintage motorbikes whilst Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway boasts an impressive collection of exotic trees, alongside the Rothschild flower collection including colourful rhododendrons and azaleas.
Stay - You may have heard of The Pig Hotels – there are five across the UK altogether doing a good job of reinventing the English country house hotel, including Brockenhurst. The hotel describes itself as comfy, interesting and homely with a touch of luxury. Eating at The Pig is a memorable experience – uncomplicated, simple, homegrown British food influenced by the garden and driven by the seasons. Everything is sourced from within a 15 mile radius!
York – The wealth of heritage and culture packed in to this small walled City, mean you can’t fail to fall in love with this place at first sight! It’s like stepping back in to the middle-ages! Visit the oldest shopping street in Europe – The Shambles, relax in one of the many cosy cafes which line the quaint cobbled corridors or prepare to be scared on a spooky ghost tour (York has been declared the most haunted city in Europe!).
Visit - No trip to York would be complete without a visit to its huge 13th century Gothic cathedral, York Minster. Taking over 250 years to build it’s the largest in Northern Europe and a masterpiece in stained glass and stone where you explore state of the art interactive chambers and discover our Roman and Viking roots in the Undercroft Museum.
Stay - Wth only 11 rooms The Parisi Hotel offers a personal, warm and relaxing place to base yourself within the City. Filled with original art and decorated in a colourful eclectic English style the tiny family run boutique hotel has won numerous awards for its unique interiors and attentive service.
We hope we've provided some inspiration!