7 sensational European destinations for weekend breaks
1. County Mayo, Ireland
Escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and spend a weekend in the rugged and wild landscape of County Mayo on the West Coast of Ireland. Despite occupying almost 6,000 square kilometres, Mayo has a population of less than 140,000 people and is joyfully devoid of tourists. Instead, Ireland’s third largest county is covered with sandy beaches, craggy mountains, dense undergrowth and wide, open lochs. One of the most pleasurable activities is simply driving around the countryside and enjoying the dramatic scenery.
Mayo also offers plenty of outdoor activities, from horse riding to golf. Try your hand at fishing on one of Mayo’s lochs, although make sure you wrap up warm as even in April temperatures can plummet.
If you want to sample Mayo’s night life head to the capital, a bustling market town with some excellent. It is a must visit for curry lovers and Mick Byrnes is a cosy venue that serves an excellent Guinness.
County Mayo is also a pleasingly cheap place to spend a weekend, and you can book flights from London to Knock for as little as £50 return with Ryanair.
2. Bruges, Belgium
In the past few years Bruges (or Brugge) has become a popular weekend destination for the European traveller, and for good reason. Proud to be a relic of the past this pretty city has barely changed architecturally since the 18th century. It is defined by its floral canals and white bridges that criss-cross the city while cobbled streets and quaint alleys are hemmed with buildings. One such building is the Belfry tower; a medieval bell tower infamous for hosting the gruesome demise of Brendan Gleeson’s character.
For a cultural fix, visit the Church of Our Lady which houses the evocative Madonna and Child, which is treasured by the locals as it is one of the few Michelangelo statues not residing in Italy.
For a relatively small city there are a large number of museums, though quality is somewhat lacking. Still, the Groeninge Museum is worth a visit for its modest yet charming selection of Belgium artwork. Food wise, try The Old Chocolate House for your Belgian chocolate fix.
For a more savoury option, head to the Gran Kaffee de Passage for Flemish stew or Waterzooi; a delicious creamy chicken stew with herbs and vegetables.
3. Lagos, Portugal
Lagos may not be the obvious choice for a Spring getaway yet for the active traveller it could be ideal. Although temperatures don’t generally reach the 20s, there’s plenty of sunshine and opportunity for outdoor activities.
Spend the day at Ponta da Piedade, a section of coastline dotted with enchanting caves, grottoes and sea arches. You can either witness these natural wonders from a far or book a boat excursion which takes you up close and personal. Head down to one of the beaches to book a tour rather than in the town centre. Expect to pay around 10 euros.
There are also plenty of trekking and mountain biking opportunities along and above the coastline. Bikes can either be rented (e.g. Lagos Bike Rent) in the centre of town or you can book a tour (e.g. The Mountain Bike Adventure) for a day-long adventure. Feel free to explore to your heart’s content but mind you don’t end up unwittingly wandering onto one of the nudist beaches.
From a night life perspective, the centre of Lagos, though small, offers some razzle-dazzle. Try The Star for a cheesy night or Roskos for its cocktails and party atmosphere.