When you’ve been working in London for more than three months, commuting to and from your dishevelled bedroom (in that hysterically-overpriced house you share with seven other equally untidy humans) via an underground train that resembles a Tesco Value sardine-tin, all you want to do with your weekends is a) get so drunk you forget this is your life or b) get the hell outta town and flee for the countryside. It’s the escape that never falls out of fashion.
But even though the English countryside is so beautiful a single tear rolls down your cheek the moment you leave London, we all wish the weekend was roughly twelve days longer than it is so that you could go travelling and actually escape reality for a bit. The problem is, travelling - like everything else in this crazy thing called life - costs a whole chunk of change, meaning the best any of us can hope for is a cheeky weekend away, taking the Friday off work so we can extend that window of opportunity by an extra twenty-four hours.
Luckily, ye olde England perfectly placed because Europe is packed full of epic places to spend a solid three days relaxing, recuperating and taking selfies of you living your best life. Sure, it might not be Mexico, California or the Gold Coast, but for a three-day break, these spots are plenty exotic enough. So pop that out of office on early, get ahead of the rush hour traffic, leap onto a plane come Thursday night and enjoy an overseas weekend adventure full of cocktails, romance, fun times and memories, and we’ll see you back in the office on Monday.
Cinque Terre, Italy
If you’re thinking about upping your Insta-game and seeing those likes and follows fall into your lap like that time you opened a box of cereal upside down, you need to head to Cinque Terre; a place of pastel-hued perfection and coastal vistas more dramatic than the cast of Mean Girls, making it perfect for a mini-but-mad-roadtrip. No, it’s not the uncharted slice of Shangri-La it once was, but do you really care? You’re going on a weekend getaway. If you wanted to visit a platter of sleepy fishing villages, you would just head to Suffolk, which this isn’t. This is a place where the wine is delicious, the beaches are beautiful, the cliffs are otherworldly and your chance to have some sophisticated laughs may as well be endless.
Split is rare. It’s that somewhere awesome you won’t forget in a hurry. A place where the hustle and bustle keeps rolling; a 24-hours city where each fuzzy-eyed morning starts with a fresh coffee in some quaint café outside Diocletian’s Palace, each day is filled with long walks along stone-laden beaches, gentle hikes into the coastal mountains, and plenty of delicious food - from upmarket seafood dishes to cheap eats - and each night ends with a dollop of moonlit revelry as you dance, dance, dance; the bass-heavy clubs near Bačvice beach refusing to let up as you throw yet more dodgy shapes and try your hand at some semi-fancy footwork. Wake up. Coffee. Explore. Eat. Drink. Dance. Repeat.
Forget the hip-hop feuds of the 1990s, the real west versus east coast battle belongs to Sweden because if Stockholm is the bigger and better-known Biggie Smalls then Gothenburg is Tupac - that laidback alternative with a sunny disposition. It’s as chilled as a seal on a sun lounger, where neoclassical buildings line the tram-jiggled streets, locals soak up the rays on canal banks (local beer in hand) and a slew of alternative attractions ooze from the least expected places. There are artist-run galleries and a buzzing indie-art scene, quirky eateries celebrating the most recent foodie renaissance to sweep the city, local microbreweries you will love and one of the best clubbing scenes to ever pop up from nowhere. Basically, if you’re looking to escape the norm for a handful of days and experience something totally fresh and weird, Gothenburg’s the place.
People who consider Portugal for a bit of whistle-stop escapism tend to stick to the same two places that make up the Portuguese rite of passage: Lisbon and the Algarve. And we can’t argue with it. One is a capital city everyone should delve into once and the other is epic beach bars and life-affirming beach bonfires. But we still think Porto is the better option. It’s the truest Portuguese experience, full of fine wine and finer food and jaw-dropping views. It’s a place with so much romance it makes Paris feel like that Little Chef just off the Mildenhall roundabout. It’s a place for book-lovers and sandwich-chompers, those that love chit-chatting to locals and those that feel a shiver run down their spine when surrounded by history; gorgeous history. It’s one of those rare cities where you get a chance to enjoy the past while forever looking ahead. It’s a place that - literally - bursts with charisma.
Putting Barcelona into words isn’t possible. Not with a thesaurus, and not with the same command of counter-culture language as Hunter S. Thompson or Charles Bukowski. Instead, it’s a place that leaves you speechless. The out-there architecture, the tongue-fizzing foods, the toe-tapping music, the beaches and bars, La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter - the culture in this seaside city is too vibrant to detail. It’s a place that has become more popular than Kylie Jenner, and yet it hasn’t lost any of its indie-spirit or jazz. It has a cool streak that can’t be dampened. It doesn’t matter what your reasons are for escaping - whether it’s to get your creative juices flowing, skate the best cities of Europe or just hangout somewhere that doesn’t quite feel real. If you haven’t already, you need to be shaken and stirred by Barcelona for a long weekend.
Belgium isn’t big. Not by anyone’s standards. In fact, it’s about the size of a Pac-Man snack. But don’t let that fool you because this almost-always-overlooked spot is bursting with confidence, and it has every right to be. It has everything you could need for a great weekend escape. It’s historic yet hip, beautiful yet bizarre, confident yet reserved, medieval yet modern, and multicultural to its roots and beyond. Explore the palaces, walk the eerie streets, take a selfie at Manneken Pis, try the local mussels, indulge in Belgian waffles, scrunch your face at the crazy architecture and then give in to that urge by saying, “we should definitely come here again” because this place - whether it’s cool to say or not - is a game-changer.
Prague, Czech Republic
This is one of those weekend getaway suggestions that tends to make people roll their eyes because, come on, everyone has been to Prague. Some go there on a rugby tour, others find themselves their via praguepissup.com, while most head there on a cliche but epic stag-do they only remember through photographic evidence. But there’s more to Prague than bars and clubs, and more to it than an ABC tour (Another Bloody Castle). There are beer spas, nuclear bunker expositions, a museum dedicated to sex machines, the St. Vitus Cathedral, the mind-bending astronomical clock, the picnic-perfect Petrin hill and, yes, lots of bridges and castles. Basically, it’s the perfect place to stay up all night having fun and then smile all day as you step back in time and enjoy the sites because they are all tonics for hungover eyes. Also, coming to think of it, God the beer is good here.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is one of those places everyone should live at least once, for a minimum of six months. It’s just one of those places that surprises you with how much there is to do and see. And yet the amazing layout of this urban paradise is perfect for those spontaneous adventures and impromptu trips. It’s an open-air treasure chest that has everything for anyone. Idolised-museums that will make you bite your bottom lip, shops packed with vintage tidbits, golden age canals you won’t want to stop exploring on two-wheels, buildings that tilt to left and right, gables you can’t stop gawping at, the Rijksmuseum, the Vondelpark, crazy coffee shops and some of the most amazing places you could ever hope to drink and dine. Forget about the weed and the drugs and all that stuff; Amsterdam is no normal trip - it’s a culture trip, dude.
We were going to steer clear of Berlin and tickle your curiosity with Munich instead. But we couldn’t do it. We just couldn’t step around Berlin. It’s too awesome. It’s a place where every single night is designed to excite you; shivers rolling up and down your spine like mallets on a xylophone. It’s a rare spectacle where glamour and grit are shaken in the same cocktail mixer before mesmerising your every sense. It’s quirky, it’s cool, it’s vibrant, green, packed with culture, loaded with secret spots, rich in kooky watering holes and bursting with cutting-edge architecture. It dances with underground scenes, from art to music to counter-culture. It does food for foodies like nowhere else on earth. It holds the sort of history that will blow your mind and, yeah, it’s perfect for partying. It doesn’t matter what sort of weekend escape you want, need, hope for or desire, Berlin will deliver something you won’t forget in a hurry.
And there we have it.
Nine places that are barely a stress-ball throw away; places that know just how to make long-weekends great again. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to get blind drunk with the lads, soak up a far-off culture on your own, whisk your significant lover away somewhere romantic or you’re just hoping to keep it summertime, all the time. These hotspots tick all the boxes. So, what are you waiting for? Pop that out of office on and get the hell out of dodge.
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