While some people like to stay home at Christmas, others prefer a short getaway that refreshes the batteries and provides a welcome chance to relax before the demands of the New Year. This is usually the young and single or the couple with no children – is this you?
Short breaks are really accessible these days, with not only the budget airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet offering discount travel, but mainstream carriers like BA and Lufthansa offer cheap flights to European destinations, especially on festive days.
A quick break to Barcelona is always welcome, with sunshine, Gaudi and heavenly food all on the menu.
For a full-on Gaudi experience, visit the following:
La Sagrada Familia cathedral.
If you have time for only one sightseeing outing, this should be it. La Sagrada Família inspires awe by its sheer verticality, and in the manner of the medieval cathedrals it emulates, it’s still under construction after more than 100 years. When completed, the highest tower will be more than half as high again as those that stand today.
North of Gràcia and about 4km from Plaça de Catalunya, Park Güell is where Gaudí turned his hand to landscape gardening. It’s a strange, enchanting place where his passion for natural forms really took flight – to the point where the artificial almost seems more natural than the natural.
This undulating beast is another madcap Gaudí masterpiece, built in 1905-10 as a combined apartment and office block. Formally called Casa Milà, after the businessman who commissioned it, it is better known as La Pedrera (the Quarry) because of its uneven grey stone facade, which ripples around the corner of Carrer de Provença.
Paris is for the culturally starved or the hopeless romantics, with art, fashion and fashionable things to do all on offer.
For a great experience take the Eurostar through to Gare du Nord and check into a boutique hotel on the west bank. Walk along the river before heading to the Moulin Rouge for a show and dinner.
Next day head to the Louvre for a lazy walk around the art exhibition or head to Notre Dame for a more bohemian experience, before taking in a romantic trip to the Eiffel Tower. Dinner at a great restaurant rounds off the day to perfection.
Go to Lonely Planet for details of great hotels and restaurants to try, in all budget ranges.
Another great destination is Berlin, where a trip in a vintage Trabant or a walking tour of this former border city will interest you before you dive into the constantly changing creative heart of the city.
Take in the central city, visit Checkpoint Charlie and the old border between East and West Germany, where bits of the Berlin Wall still remind you of a more somber past. Then go to one of Berlin’s excellent restaurants for traditional or modern cuisine.
Next day spend the day in the Tiergarten (Berlin’s answer to Central Park) and, when this proves too chilly, go to one of the many museums or coffee shops, according to your taste. Art galleries and shops are everywhere and you certainly won’t be bored.
Whatever destination you choose, travel safe, travel well, and come back for a great New Year!
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