European Destinations a Short Hop from England

  • Romance Paris Style


    Since the advent of the Channel Tunnel, (aka Chunnel) you can get on a train in Central London and emerge about 3 hours later in the centre of Paris.  For this reason alone, Paris, Brussels and Lille (and any other connecting French or Belgian station) have been brought a whole lot nearer London.  Taking the train to the mainland feels decadent and nostalgic, like the golden age of steam, but with a much faster and quieter mode.  Where once air travel felt luxurious, now it's train travel that adds that certain je ne sais quoi.  Don your favourite threads, pack a hamper of bubbly and nibbles, and you'll be browsing the Marais and romancing the night away, Paris-style, before you know it.

    Photo courtesy of Guillaume Cattiaux

  • Delectable Lyon


    Just a two-hour train ride from the French capital, you find yourself in Lyon. . . home to the Lumiere brothers, and the birth of cinema.  This bourgeois gateway to the south of France is a city which rivals Paris for gourmet destination status.  Two rivers, the Rhone and the Saone, meander past elegant apartment buildings, snaking round the hills of St Jean and the Croix Rouge in the north and east.  The large flat Place Bellecour and the Place de L'Opera are linked by a vibrant shopping street full of designer and high street brands.  Eat in one of the bistros in St Georges on the banks of the Saone, and try the Quenelles one of the city's specialities. Wander through the traboules and bag yourself a 'pot lyonnais' a glass bottle used to serve wine.

    Photo courtesy of FaceMePLS

  • Germany's Twin Cities

    Bonn and Cologne

    Bonn used to be the German capital, an accolade which, with the fall of the Berlin wall, has returned to Berlin.  Bonn, and its larger and edgier neighbour Cologne are worth visiting if you want something different from a European weekend.  Both cities nestle along the mighty Rhein and have green trees and parks aplenty.  Bonn has a more genteel feel, with elegant appartment blocks and villas,  whilst more modern Cologne is a media centre with vibrant night life and Germany's largest gay scene outside Berlin.  Don't miss Cologne's cathedral, just by the central station, or Bonn's Museum of German History.  Day-trip via regional train along the Rhein for lush vinyards.

    Photo courtesy of el_thommo

  • Mole Antonelliana


    Turin is often overlooked for Rome, Florence and Venice.  But the Alpine city has a quiet charm.  Part reserved aristocracy and part salt-of-the-earth workers from southern Italy, Turin's demographic is a good flag bearer for modern Italy. It's where the campaign to unify Italy's disparate city states, in the movement known as the 'Risorgimento,' came from.  You can go and see the room where Cavour worked, in the Circolo dei Lettori, a public reading rooms and cultural centre in the heart of the old town.  Downstairs is a great restaurant producing exquisite Piedmontese cuisine. Turin's view of the Alps beautifies all its disparate quarters, and provides a secondary day trip outside the city confines.

    Photo courtesy of Andrew and Annemarie

  • Scottish Sojourn

    Edinburgh and Glasgow

    Scotland's two principle cities are worth consideration. Edinburgh houses the Scottish parliament and is a city of "the Enlightenment."  Walk down its Grand Royal Mile, or climb up to Arthur's Seat for a 'recreate a film  moment (One Day, with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess).  For a gourmet stop-off, don't miss Valvona e Crolla.  Grittier Glasgow has always played second fiddle to its posher neighbour.  However, once its docks dwindled, the city has been undergoing something of a regeneration, and is worth seeing.  Glasgow's got a thriving arts and film scene, and you can get some great local food at the Ubiquitous Chip.

    Photo courtesy of JohnSeb

  • Delicious Dun Laoghaire


    The celtic tiger may have had its claws clipped, but Dublin is still one of the most expensive cities in Europe.    That said, it's green, it's elegant, it's fun, and they give good craic . . . an Irish term for "fun." Most young visitors to the city head for Temple Bar and its famed nightlife. Trinity College, the river Liffey and the old town are daytime must-sees.  For something a bit more genteel, try Dun Laoghaire, Dublin's old fashioned, fading seaside town.  Pastel-coloured Georgian houses line its narrow streets and leafy lanes, and the seafood can blow you away.

    Photo courtesy of Kieran Lynam

  • Cool Copenhagen


    Denmark, along with its Scandinavian neighbours, has long been a destinations of choice, and is regularly recognised as having the best lifestyle in the world.  Relaxed, good-looking Danes happily cycle around their capital, exuding charm and cool wherever they go.  Fashion, food, art and living have converged in a perfect marriage here.  Hire a bike to tour the city, and stop off to take in Kristiana, the alt "city within a city. The new foodie trend of 'foraging' started here; Chef Rene Redzepi's Noma restaurant cooks up new twists using traditional Danish ingredients.

    Photo courtesy of JamesZ_Flickr

  • Sultry Spain


    Madrid works hard and plays hard, all night long.  The city almost never sleeps, albeit enjoys a brief, sultry siesta in the afternoon.  Store up your energy reserves prior to arrival.  Hit the Tapas bars with the Madrilenos before partying on a rooftop terrace, dancing in a club, and then arriving for Chocolate y churros as dawn breaks over the Prado.  There's so much to see, it would be hard to fit it all in one weekend.  If you want to watch the mighty Galacticos battle it out at the Bernabeu, book in advance and be prepared to pay.  For most other things, you can arrive, get advice and go with the flow.  Just make sure you've got a week to sleep on your return.

    Photo courtesy of PromoMadrid

  • Bikes, tall houses and canals, Amsterdam


    Amsterdam has long been famous for its permissiveness.  Cannabis cafes and a famous red-light district have made it a target destination for Europe's party goers. But - surprise! - it also has the oldest stock exchange in the world, a relic of Dutch days as a powerful sea trader.  There's lots to see and do in Amsterdam: cycle along pretty canals, visit its many museums (including one dedicated to the Dutch painter, Van Gogh).  Buy some tulips or take yourself back to the dark days of WWII, when Jewish author Anne Frank penned her now-famous diary while hiding in the city.  In the small, flat Netherlands, you can jump on a highly train and quickly find yourself in Rotterdam, or the pretty town of Leiden, all under an hour from Amsterdam.

    Photo courtesy of Chris Yunker

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