Last-minute escapes from the UK

Travel inspiration

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October 4, 2021

By | October 4, 2021

Cheap weekend getaway? Here are our — and our customers’ — picks for a last-minute city break from the UK

There’s still plenty of time to get yourself a low-cost trip to one of hundreds of destinations across Europe. Whether you want a city break, a lazy few days on the beach, one last party, a spot of culture — or all of the above! — check out our cheap last-minute flights and deals, and take a break for less than the cost of two meals at the airport!

Check out underground Prague

Blonde girl with hat and backback near famous astronomical clock in PragueIf it’s your first time in Prague, you’ll want to tick off the classic sights like the famous astronomical clock — Shutterstock

Prague is almost the quintessential city break destination. Only a couple of hours from the UK with cheap flights from almost every major airport (and quite a few less major ones!) it’s affordable, friendly, beautiful, and lively.

If it’s your first time, you’ll want to tick off the classic sights: the Old Town Square with its ancient astronomical clock; Charles Bridge for views of the Vltava river and the wooded hills rising from its banks; Malá Strana, Prague Castle, and St. Vitus Cathedral with their tumbling cobbled alleyways; Wenceslas Square, site of forment, protest, and revolution across the centuries.

But be on the lookout for other, lesser-known distractions too. Head up Petřín hill to its tower, observatory, gardens and mirror maze (fun for all ages, trust me!), have a beer in the bright autumn sunlight over on Letná hill, or investigate one of the more curious museums, those dedicated to subjects as diverse and puppets, Communism, torture or sex. Prague has something — and often more than something — for everyone!

Discover wild parts of Tirana

people sitting in a square Tirana The capital of Albania is chaotic, lively, and charming — Shutterstock

For a while now, the Balkans have been attracting visitors who want a mix of things: decent weather, great prices, interesting history, a bit of the unknown but with hints of familiarity to hold on to. Places like Croatia and Montenegro have seen their beautiful coastlines attract millions of tourists, while cities like Belgrade appeal to party animals and people-watchers alike. Slowly but surely we can now add Tirana to this list.

The capital of Albania is virtually the last remaining outpost of the Wild East, a city that’s disorganized, chaotic, crumbling, and irrational… and yet these are precisely the qualities that give it its charm. Case in point: in the early 2000s, the mayor of Tirana decided to paint the city into the 21st century, resulting in a city center that’s a selection of mad colors used in often inappropriate ways. But this is exactly it, this is why it’s fun because it’s all a bit mad. The locals just grin and shrug and grab another strong coffee. Cool bars, eclectic restaurants, a giant, concrete pyramid (really!), and many other slices of insanity make this one of the most vital cities in Europe right now.

Relax in untouched Zakynthos

Hanging wooden bridge to Cameo Island, Zakynthos, GreeceIn the interior of Zakynthos island, the traditional way of life has remained almost untouched, with tiny villages of whitewashed cottages dotting the landscape — Shutterstock

Greece was one of the first countries to relax its entry requirements at the start of the summer, feeling that the need to kickstart the tourist trade was of pressing importance. So, as we head into autumn, there are loads of good deals still to be found on its many, many islands. Search Kiwi.com to see what’s available, but Zakynthos looks a good bet. The south of the island was (and to a small extent still is) synonymous with package tours and the like, but there’s a lot more going on than just that.

It’s one of the most heavily wooded and rugged of all the Greek islands, meaning that inland the traditional way of life has remained almost untouched, with tiny villages of whitewashed cottages dotting the landscape, while to the west of the island, all your classic Mediterranean cliches come true: sheer white cliffs dropping spectacularly to clear blue waters below; turtles swim and empty beaches beckon you. Swim and snorkel amongst the wrecks of ancient ships, or experience island life by staying on a farm, learning a craft, or helping in an olive grove. This is one escape that truly can be a different life… if only for a few days.

Get to know the many sides of Bucharest

Deck bar in Bucharest RomaniaThe city of Bucharest is so alive with modern while still wearing its past for all to see — Shutterstock

So, you like concrete, eh? That’s many peoples’ first thought when they think of Bucharest, a monochrome museum of crushingly socialist monoliths and thumping great statues. And, in a way, that’s not far from the truth. But in another way, that does Bucharest a huge disservice. For while it is true, the fact that the city is so alive with modern spirit while still wearing its past for all to see is a testament to the love and liveliness instilled by its people.

It’s a city of many faces, with Ceauşescu’s more modern city the one that has all the concrete. It’s a paean to ego, madness, and faith in a system that its leaders thought would last a thousand years. To the south of Piaţa Universităţii, a scene of many historic events, lies the nicely atmospheric Old Town, with its plethora of bars and restaurants. It’s not all urban sprawl, however: check out the lovely Cişmigiu Gardens, also in the city center, or perhaps the vast Herăstrău Park, situated on the lake for which it’s named. The one thing you must know is that you can’t judge Bucharest before you’ve been.

Have some much-needed fun in Barcelona

tourist woman in coat at Guell Park in Barcelona, Spain looking into the distanceBarcelona has everything, from parks and gardens to clubs and nightlife and some of Europe’s best sights — Shutterstock

Ah, Barcelona, a city that seemingly has everything, from parks and gardens to clubs and nightlife. Some of the finest old buildings in Europe to huge modern shopping malls. Beaches, boulevards, markets, tourist traps, and quiet corners. Sport and culture from football to opera, festivals, events, and much much more. There’s never a bad time to visit.

Autumn, however, might just be the finest time of all. You’re past the height of the summer, but the weather’s still warm enough to feel like you’re topping up on that much-needed vitamin D, and everything feels just a bit more laid back. You can take a bit of extra time doing things you might feel pressured to do — see that, go here, do this! — well, not so much in autumn. Rather than rush, you can stroll, amble, wander. Don’t gulp, savor. Look rather than just see. Your bucket list is whatever you come across, whether that’s a secret square, a coffee shop you’ll come back to again one day, a flea market that rewards you with a curious souvenir, or whatever Barcelona happens to put in front of you. Just enjoy it.

Drink Bordeaux – the city and the wine

Street view of old city in bordeaux, France, typical buildings from the region, part of unesco world heritageBordeaux is elegant, refined, attractive, everything you’s expect a French city to be — Shutterstock

It’s always seemed odd to me that Bordeaux feels slightly overlooked as a destination. It’s almost not really a place, more a brand name, a word that means wine, but not the place it’s from. Well, what an oversight that would be were it to be true. Bordeaux is a lovely city: the wine and food are (obviously) great, but it’s everything you’d imagine a French city to be as well. It’s elegant, refined, attractive, with just a hint of yes-we-do-know-how-lucky-we-are.

Get your bearings by climbing to the top of the free-standing spire of the St. Michel cathedral for views over the whole city. Walk along the Garonne and through what was once abandoned warehouses and empty docks, now transformed into artisan shops and lively cafes, interspersed with touches of greenery. Treat yourself to a shopping spree in the boutiques of the Triangle d’Or, Bordeaux’s historic heart. And, of course, take in what made the region famous at the Cité du Vin wine museum. You’ll wonder why on earth you hadn’t been to Bordeaux before.

Lean on Pisa as a getaway to Tuscany

Pisa, Tuscany, happy tourist visiting the famous leaning towerIf you go to Pisa, it’s almost mandatory to take that stupid photo thing of seeming to hold the tower up — Shutterstock

Yes, leaning tower. Yes, cathedral. Yes, Campo Santo. Yes, you’ll need to do that stupid photo thing of seeming to hold the tower up, LOL, etc. But there’s more to do than just that, of course, there is. If you’re a church or architecture fan, you’ll be (if not actually, then figuratively) in heaven. Head into the city proper to get away from the crowds and see what the actual residents do: take a walk along the banks of the lazily-flowing Arno, or duck into a friendly trattoria.

Otherwise use Pisa as a base to see those two other great Tuscan cities, Florence and Siena. Florence’s glories are well-known, with the Ponte Vecchio, the wonderful Uffizi gallery, stunning cathedral, and much more; while Siena is slightly less well-known but no less lovely. Sit on the huge, fan-shaped Piazza del Campo and watch the world go by, or walk out of town and look over the vineyards and hills that surround it. This triangle of wonderful cities is an amazing introduction to everything the romantic side of Italy has to offer.

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