Bruges is often regarded as the ‘Venice of the North’. Best accessible by foot, there is much to see in this perfectly conserved medieval city. Must-sees include the Flemish Primitives, Michelangelo’s Madonna, and the Belgian Fries museum.
Little bridges and parks dotted around the city add to the romantic feel of Bruges, and amazing views can be seen from a boat tour. Minnewater park, a very charming park, the Lake of Love, is a lovely place for picnics, dates or to bask in the sunshine. BT
Fly: £51, EasyJet.
Save: for groups of under 25s, the Go Pass 10 is a good way to travel within Belgium, allowing you ten trips within cities for £50. It does not have an expiry date, and can be used by an unlimited number of travellers.
Rest: Passage, a hostel-cum-hotel-cum-restaurant, offers rooms for €16 per person per night. Passage is also famed for its mussels-and-frites dish, which although steep at €19, is well worth the price.
Montmartre plays host to an eclectic mix of tourist hotspots, at the heart of bohemian Paris. Climb to the top of the hill and you will pass through French Place du Tertre: home to artists who line the square with their easels and harmonicas. Linger, and you will be sitting for a portrait before you can say ‘Monet’.
The Basilique du Sacré-Cœur lies at the summit. Venture inside and let the singing soothe your stresses before descending towards Montmartre’s bustling red light district, home to the infamous Moulin Rouge. AK
A week for two: £250.
Stay: Hotel Des Arts is a perfect base to explore the area from, affordable, clean and quirky – each room is named after a famous artist!
Cabaret: Lapin Agile – haunt of Picasso, Modigliani, and Apollinaire.
Bavaria is a place known for its snowcapped mountains, grassy valleys, lederhosen and timbered houses – and a holiday here can cost just over £200 for a week’s stay.
Munich is an obvious tourist destination, but for a more out of the way rural hit, Berchtesgaden lies north of Lake Königssee. The Bavarian Alps surround its clustered shop-fronts, and the people of the region are friendly and welcoming with a fierce pride of Bavaria as a place unlike any other in Germany.
Lake Königssee itself may be explored by boat, and is surrounded by National Forest land and a variety of hiking trails. CG
Fly: Stansted – Munich, July, £21, RyanAir. Stansted – Karlsruhe-Baden, £12.
Regional travel: www.bahn.com – €29 for a regional ticket for up to five people travelling anywhere for a day.
Camping: a cheap, safe and sociable option.
On the town
While Albufeira can offer the Magaluf ‘experience,’ the Algarve has a whole has more to offer than just a piss-up abroad.
Nevertheless, Kadoc, a taxi ride from the main strip, is one of Europe’s biggest clubs with seven floors.If you prefer to stay by the strip there are still plenty of bars and clubs to choose from, such as Kiss and Matt’s bar where the mechanical bull sets the standard.
Albufeira’s main beach is only a short walk from the strip and for the more adventurous, Aqualand water park is a short bus journey away. AM
Fly: Faro, September, £85, EasyJet.
Eat: at Alvor harbour, a small fishing village dating back to Roman times, you will find arguably the best seafood restaurants in the region.
Drink: of the two local beers, Sagres and Super Bock, pay the premium and buy Sagres.
Old turn of the century buildings, pedestrianised cobbled streets and towers and churches on every corner characterise the medieval city of Lucca, within an hour of Florence and Pisa. It began as a Roman settlement where two main roads crossed at the forum which is today’s Piazza San Michele.
Shops in this bustling town shut between one and four in the afternoon for a traditional Italian lunch break, during which cafes and restaurants hum. They re-open from four, and the streets are crammed until late. It is a walled city and biking or walking the perimeter is a real pleasure.
Spend time in a café in one of countless Piazzas enjoying a cappuccino and tiramisu. Be sure to try a local Macchiato – short black coffee with a little milk at the bottom. CG
Fly: London or Stansted – Pisa, £50, RyanAir.
Eat: Buca di San Antonio on Via della Cervia – c.1782, the oldest restaurant in Lucca. It is moderately priced with wonderful food. Always full, so make a reservation.
Travel: bikes or Vespas.
The Costa Blanca is one of the most maligned holiday destinations in Europe, bringing to mind images from the sitcom ‘Benidorm’. But behind the mask of the Costa lies a region blooming with culture and character.
The historical city of Elche, for example, is a jewel in the crown of southern Valencia: ringed with a forest of palm trees, it is the home of no less than 17 separate botanical gardens, and plays annual host to its own Mystery Play, the only European city other than York to still observe this tradition.
Elche is a million miles from Benidorm – without being a million miles from Benidorm. JH
Fly: £27 – £89 each way, EasyJet.
Nature: Fonts d’Algar, Orihuelan lakes and Mountain Range, Flamenco Bay.
History: Mount Segura, Guardamar.
To avoid the typical itinerary of a Roman Adventure and explore lesser known parts of Italy, the islands are a great place to start. Visit in September, when the tourists have departed but the sun has not. Sardinia is full of white beaches and hidden creeks set against a mountainous background. Stay in one of Cagliari’s many campsites virtually on the south coast beaches.
For a faster paced, Mafia-tinged experience, take the ferry to Sicily. Palermo boasts Capuchin Catacombs, the Teatro Massimo and Porta Nuova gateway.
Take a short train to Céfalu to climb La Rocca for stunning views over the island. Budget travellers will find it easy, with arancini (delicious Sicilian fried rice balls) for around two euros; however there are a vast array of delicious outdoor fish restaurants that will serve three courses for around €15-20 . Take advantage of this, as it would seem the mantra of Italian life is ‘to eat’. EH
Two locations, 6 nights: £187. Céfalu
Fly: London Stansted – Cagliari, £34 one way, EasyJet.
Rest: Cagliari – Camping Pini e Mare €9 ppp night.
Ferry: Cagliari – Palermo. Every Friday 7pm, 14 hours. €55 pp one way.
Rest: Palermo hostel Ai Quattro Canti, €18 ppp night, inc.: breakfast, internet, tour.
Fly: Palermo – London Stansted, £36 one way, RyanAir.
Recently voted the best city by the sea, being on a limited budget won’t limit your experience of this vibrant city. Barcelona is awash with cheap hostels. Kabul Hostel is fairly basic – no marks for interior décor – but is cheap, clean, and located just off Las Ramblas, right in the heart of the city.
The English-speaking staff organise events and bar crawls every night, which is a great way to meet other travelers, and gets you access to clubs at discounted rates. Prices are under €20 per night, including a large breakfast and internet access.
Spending a day on the beach is also absolutely free. Although these beaches can get very busy, the further away from the centre you walk, the less crowded it gets; but don’t stray onto the nudist beach! EW
Fly: September, £63, EasyJet.
Panorama: Gaudi’s Parc Guell (entry free).
Art: Picasso Museum and Museu Nacional d’Arte de Catalunya (free entry on the first Sunday of the month).
Travel: T-10 ticket gives you ten journeys on the bus or metro and costs €6.65. More than one person can use the ticket at the same time as well.
Sandwiched between Germany and Italy is the little-known province of Austria called the Tyrol region. Very popular in the skiing season, it is mountainous and an ideal location for snow sports of all kinds. It is often overlooked, however, as a summer destination. Its proximity to Germany and Italy brings a unique cultural mix to the region, and combined with the overwhelming beauty of the area, you’ll find that you needn’t be a competent skier to enjoy the best of Tyrol.
The stunning landscape is immediately obvious from the moment you arrive. The Wilderkaiser Mountains in particular are spectacular in summer, and Scheffau, a small Alpine village which stands on their slopes, is an ideal base from which to explore. Not to be missed is the Hintersteinersee, or ‘Lake Behind the Stones’. Mainly meltwater, the refreshing lake is crystal clear, through depths of up to 36 metres. Hikers, cyclists and rock-climbers would be well advised to include a swim in the lake as part of any route through the surrounding nature reserve.
The Hohe Tauern National Park is a little south of the Wilderkaiser range, and certainly rivals its beauty. It is one of the few places in Europe where Marmota Marmota can be seen in its natural habitat- and if the Alpine Marmot doesn’t set your pulse racing, there are also numerous Luge tracks peppering the surrounding mountains.
Just west is Swarovski’s Kristallwelten, an attraction originally built for employees using the company’s finest material; featuring some of the world’s largest cut crystals, as well as whole rooms encrusted with multicoloured specimens, it truly makes for a dazzling visit.
Although the main attraction of the region is in its rugged horizons, it does lie within reach of both Salzburg and Munich, so day-trips to these two metropolises are easy to arrange. Salzburg is particularly rewarding, and gives a great flavour of Austrian culture; it will also probably be the cleanest city you will ever visit. A settlement with a fascinating history, it was named after its principal export – salt. In fact, a number of salt mines in and around the city are still operational, and many offer informative tours which are well worth seeing.
Tyrol is an ideal place to visit. The whole region has only one main road which runs its entire length – the E60 – and so public transport is simple and can get you almost anywhere. Backpacking is also a great option, however, and will allow you to enjoy more of the scenic Alpine villages which the area has to offer. As long as you strap on your walking boots instead of your skis though, Tyrol is sure to give you more than your money’s worth. JH
Fly: £21.99 each way, EasyJet, to Munich, just a short trip over the border from the Tyrol.
Eat: Cheap in pubs, expensive in restaurants. The Gastropub isn’t a recognised entity in Austria- pub food is simple and cheap. Restaurants should be visited sparingly, although they are certainly worth the effort.
One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, it seems as though Geneva has it all: bustling industry, historic landmarks, fine dining and natural beauty. City breaks are becoming increasingly popular at the moment, and even if you’re not a fan, a week exploring this iconic city is time very well spent.
Exploring Geneva is an experience to be savoured. The architecture of the city is unique, and despite being so influential and populous, it has an airy, open feel. Quite apart from anything else, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had in simply walking the streets of Geneva, admiring its parks, bridges and monuments. Explore, explore and re-explore; after you feel like you know the place, take a tour of the lake by boat or even helicopter – you’ll see a whole new side of the city.
Geneva’s shopping facilities can only be described as comprehensive. Designer outlets are abound, but the Plain de Plainpalais flea-market is one of the largest of its kind – and certainly worth a look, if only for comedic value. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, and here you’ll find that many of the stallholders claim to be selling treasure. Geneva is home to a number of notable historic buildings, especially cathedrals, and also one or two fascinating museums. The Natural History Museum in particular holds a very extensive collection.
The surrounding mountains offer unparalleled views of the city, especially at night: the lights, the lake and the illuminated fountain create a picture unsurpassed in Europe. You’ll find that city-based accommodation is expensive, so renting a chalet in the country surrounding Geneva is a pleasant and perhaps inexpensive venture. The cheap and simple fare of the more rural inns also provides an alternative to metropolitan dining.
For those looking to make the most of the continent, Geneva is an ideal destination, whether fora city break, a romantic weekend, or even a couple of weeks walking the surrounding mountains. People often mistake Geneva for the capital of Switzerland, and once you’ve been there, you will be able to understand why. JH
Visit: Clock Museum, Museum of Natural History.
History: Geneva Cathedral, see the whole city from its towers.
Eat: Generally quite pricey. Try buying from daily farmers’ markets, for fresh produce at reasonable prices – better quality than supermarkets, for a slightly higher price. Don’t forget to haggle!
For students used to the thrifty side of life, Paris is a perfect place to indulge, even if it’s just on culture rather than shopping. Best of all, much can be done for free or discounted for students or people aged 18 – 26.
With just a flash of your passport, you can set about investigating the seemingly endless collections of the Louvre. Enter from the Carrousel de Louvre entrance, neatly bypassing the intimidating queues that form in front of the infamous pyramid. It’s then only a short stroll through the Jardin de Tulieries, to experience Monet’s Waterlillies at the Musee de l’Orangerie. If your artistic muse is still not sated, the Musee d’Orsay is situated just across the Seine – also free.
Throw in one of the capital’s many churches for good measure. The chapel of Sainte-Chapelle is arguably one of the most stunning examples of stained glass in Europe, without touching your wallet. Get here early to avoid a queue and as it only takes around 10 minutes to fully explore, you can be back out in the sunshine in no time.
Walking is the way to see the best of Paris, and as you’re often traversing the Seine, the view is never dull. Make sure to have a map to hand though, as street signs are not always comprehensive and if all else fails, hop on the metro. But be warned: it may seem easy to slip through the metro barriers two at a time but if the police catch you, it’s a standard €50 fine. Claiming “je ne parle pas Francais” will unfortunately not get you anything more than an unimpressed glare.
And you don’t even have to be counting your pennies to save them. A recommended night out, no matter your budget, is buying a bottle of wine from a local Monoprix and heading down to the banks of the Seine within view of the Notre Dame. Just remember to buy a screwtop or take a corkscrew, and you will be enjoying the street music and blending in with the locals in no time. You too will be part of the tourist attraction as boat parties with flashing cameras pass intermittently, intent of a wave or a snap. JC
Fly: July, £25 – £70 one way, bmiBaby.
Visit: Musee D’Orsay for the art, the banks of the Seine at night for the atmosphere.
Eat: If you’re not careful, eating in Paris can be expensive. Visit Rue de la Huchette, Quai Saint- Michel, for the cheapest food in Paris with set three course meals starting from €10. Alternatively Rue St-Dominique has a wealth of pizzerias within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower.
Photography: Lucy Dixon, Caitlin Green, Justyn Hardcastle, James Harle, Emily Heggadon, Jennifer Hooton, Brina Tan