With most of the European continent due to freeze over and push all and sundry into warm and cosy pubs, it’s easy to think “I’ll hibernate till Spring and go travelling again then” and put your travel plans on hold.
But just as the cold and rain creeps up, it’s time to buck that trend of thinking and find some locations around Europe to escape to for a more comfortable climate and still satisfy your wanderlust (promise I’ll only use that word once a year).
My rule of thumb during winter is to head south. Anywhere on the Mediterranean is generally a good bet and will yield a bit of sunshine and at least a few degrees warmer than everywhere else. Based on my research, here’s a selection of cities I’ll be looking to hit up for cheap holidays during 2012 once the duvet/doona/blanket (depending on where you hail from) and couch starts to look like a better option.
A timeless classic. Home of the street performer, souvenir selling gauntlet that is La Ramblas, Barca is a city sprawling with culture, delicious food and history. Sporting bucket-loads of sunshine, a heaving nightlife and architecture that looks more like an acid trip courtesy of Gaudi, there’s never really a time of year when this city isn’t great to visit.
Photo by www.flickr.com/aigle_dore
Wander around the narrow laneways of the El Born area and find yourself a nice pintxos joint for some late night snacks and a few bottles of Estrella. Have a look at our 48 hours in Barcelona guide for all the info you need to plan your trip to the Catalan capital.
A mix of Spanish and Moroccan cultures, Tangier is the first city you step foot on in North Africa after you disembark from the ferry over from Spain. On the northern tip of Morocco, it’s been an important city for the Moroccan Berbers for centuries and has been sliced between the Spanish and the French repeatedly during colonial times.
Tangier is one of the most important cities in Morocco, and has undergone a boom in recent years with loads of seaside resorts popping up. With highs of 16-17 degrees through winter, Tangier is a top destination to head down to to soak up the culture and sunshine.
Photo by abbeyh
The glitzy jewel on the Cote d’Azur, Nice is that quintessential southern French city that people think of when they think “the south of France”. The beaches are all stony, but you’re not here to go for a dip anyway. In winter, it’s about enjoying the finer things, like lots of splendid French wine and locally caught seafood.
Nice is home to a number of great museums, with reportedly some of the finest collections outside of Paris. When you’re done, waltz along the long beachside boulevards and meander around the many beautiful squares in town before settling into a tucked away cafe for a few cheeky apertifs.
Nice also is home to an impressive Russian Orthodox cathedral, something you wouldn’t expect to find in the south of France hey? Due to Nice’s close proximity to Monaco, you’d be worth taking a train across to the casino packed playground for the super-wealthy as well to see what all the fuss is about.
For more ideas, check out what Timeout thinks are 10 great things to do in Nice.
With the revolution over and done with, Tunisia is open for business. Along with Marrakech and Beirut, Tunis is a former French North African colony and maintains all the hallmarks to give you that “this is where the French Foreign Legion come to buy their cigars between killing cobras in the desert” kind of feel.
Here it’s all about the souks, the mosques and admiring the French colonial architecture. For history buffs, take a train 15 km north to check out the extensive Roman ruins in Carthage. Tunis is thankfully super easy to get around in with the metro system, and from recent reports tourism is flourishing, making right now a great time to explore this melting pot of French, Arabic, Roman and African influences.
Where do you usually take off to for a break when winter settles in?
Disclosure: this post contains a paid link for First Choice holidays.