Looking for a weekend escape that doesn’t eat up half the weekend getting there? Try these six on for size. They’re all within three hours by train or plane from London.
The largest city in Basque country is surrounded by lush green mountains rather than golden beaches. Just two hours’ flight from London, Bilbao’s biggest attraction is its Guggenheim museum – designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry.
Bilbao’s charming Casco Viejo (old town) includes gems like the art deco Mercado de la Ribera market, with an intricate stained glass ceiling covering the lanes of local produce.
With Friday evening flights available from Luton Airport, and Monday morning flights that’ll get you back by 7:50am, this petite Polish city is easy to squeeze into your schedule.
After exploring the old town square with its colourful merchant houses, take a stroll to the Stary Browar, an old brewery complex transformed into a trendy shopping centre. Other attractions include a museum dedicated to the city’s favourite treat, the St Martin’s Croissant –a horseshoe-shaped pastry stuffed with almond and poppy seed paste.
3. Leeds, Yorkshire
Hop on a train at Kings Cross after work and you’ll be in Leeds a couple of hours later. With more than 16 free museums and galleries to visit – and more listed buildings than any British city outside of London – there’s plenty to keep you occupied even if it rains.
Leeds is the perfect strolling city, with cobbled pedestrian streets and the stained-glass arcades of the Victorian Quarter providing an atmospheric backdrop. As well as a wealth of cute shops and hip restaurants, Leeds city centre also boasts 33 craft beer pubs – unsurprising for a city with two centuries of brewing heritage.
A Mediterranean paradise, the largest of the Balearic Islands is just over two hours by plane from London. Don’t hop on the shuttle to Magaluf – head to the capital, Palma de Mallorca, instead.
This vibrant city is packed with independent boutiques and cute tapas restaurants serving up chilled vermouth, exactly what you need after a day frolicking on the city’s soft sandy beach. Hire a car for the day and explore the island’s hidden beauty spots such as the quaint town of Valdemossa, the sweeping sea views at Son Morroig and the Es Salt das Freu waterfall.
5. Lake Como, Italy
It doesn’t take long to reach Milan, and once you’re in northern Italy’s fashion capital it’s only a quick train ride to Como – as little as 35 minutes. Como is packed with gorgeous Renaissance architecture and offers easy access to the rest of the lakeside destinations, including hilltop Brunate and luxurious Bellagio. Back in the city, there are plenty of al-fresco options in Como’s medieval centre and promenade. Find your favourite terrace and sip negronis as the sun sets. Bellissimo!
6. Manchester, England
Regular trains to Manchester depart from Euston station, with a journey time of just over two hours. A top spot for weekenders, Manchester is famous for its vibrant nightlife and music scene. During the day there are plenty of interesting neighbourhoods to explore, including Europe’s third largest China Town. Take a stroll through the Northern Quarter – a hipster hotspot packed with vintage and vinyl stores – or pay homage to football greats at Old Trafford.
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