Continent, please

Ease yourself back into travel with a weekend in one of Europe’s cultural cities

Nice, France

by Zoe Bishop |

Nice, France

Nice, France

Sophisticated Nice never fails to impress. Wander the cobblestone streets of Vieux Nice, the Old Town, and discover its central square – the Place du Palais de Justice, a melting pot of tourists and locals.

Soak up the sights and scents of the Cours Saleya market, which has everything from hand-crafted carvings to fruit and veg. Towards the eastern end of Cours Saleya is the house of Nice’s most famous inhabitant, the artist Henri Matisse. It’s not open, but you can view it from outside, and head to the Musée Matisse, which houses one of the largest collections of his work.

Another must-see in the city is the iconic port. With views of luxury boats, it’s the place to relax, have a drink or meal and bask in the Mediterranean sunshine.

If you prefer to keep moving, the Promenade des Anglais runs the full 4km of the Bay of Angels. Look out for famous landmarks – including the Hôtel Negresco, the art deco Palais de la Méditerranée and Niçoise sculptor Sabine Géraudie’s giant sculpture, La Chaise de SAB.

To explore further, the Colline du Château (Castle Hill) is 93 metres above sea level, and offers panoramic views. There’s a park at the top, so take a picnic or grab something from the café. And if you don’t want the climb, there’s a lift!

• Easyjet Holidays offer two B&B nights at the four-star Novotel Nice Centre from £231 per person, including return flights. Easyjet.com

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

The Austrian city is famous for Mozart and The Sound Of Music, but with its picture-perfect old town and fairy-tale fortress, there’s much more to discover.

Visit the Festung Hohensalzburg, a 900-year-old clifftop fortress that’s one of the best preserved in Europe. It’s accessed by a steep 15-minute walk from the centre or a ride up in the Festungsbahn funicular. Elsewhere, the 17th-century Schloss Hellbrunn offers gardens, the Wasserspiele (water features) in summer months, and the 18th-century Mechanical Theatre. Schloss Mirabell, another palace, boasts the Pegasus statue, steps and gnomes of the Zwerglgarten (Dwarf Garden), all recognisable from The Sound Of Music.

For museums, Museum der Moderne covers more recent art, while the Salzburg Museum showcases the city’s rich history. Finally, for a taste of Austria, the monastery-run brewery, Augustiner Bräustübl, serves up home brew beer and hearty snacks – including ham hock, pork belly and giant pretzels.

• British Airways offers two nights at the four-star Holiday Inn Salzburg City from £172 per person, on a room-only basis including flights. Britishairways.com

Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk, Poland

Located on the Baltic Sea, Gdansk is a beautiful city. For hundreds of years, it alternated between Polish and German rule, and was one of the first areas to fall under Nazi control in WWII. Rebuilt in the ’50s and ’60s, it has a Dutch and French feel rather than its old Germanic style.

To explore, walk down the Dlugi Targ. There’s plenty to see, including the Golden Gate at the western end, the Main Town Hall and the Neptune Fountain. Other attractions include Bar Mleczny Neptun – a milk bar – and Artus Court, once a meeting place for merchants, now a museum. The street ends at the Green Gate, which leads out onto the Green Bridge and Gdansk’s waterfront.

St Mary’s Church dominates Gdansk’s old town and is one of the world’s largest brick churches. If you can face the 408-step climb up its tower, the views are worth it. The waterfront has cafés and bars, and Mariacka Street, with its old architecture and gargoyles, is a cool place to explore.

Finally, you can learn about the impact of WWII on Poland at the Museum of the Second World War, and about Gdansk’s more recent opposition to communist rule at the European Solidarity Centre.

Lastminute.com are offering three nights at the four-star Hanza Hotel from £222 per person, including return flights

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

The Athenian Riviera has undergone a resurgence and boasts boutique bars, trendy hotels and restaurants, and a growing art scene. Rodeo Gallery has an exciting exhibition programme, The Intermission showcases acclaimed international artists, and Carwan Gallery offers contemporary design.

For big names, head to Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, which includes the Greek National Opera, the National Library of Greece and Stavros Niarchos Park – one of the city’s largest green spaces. The Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation is home to the one of the most valuable private collections in the world, and the Acropolis is where you’ll find Classical Greek art.

For even more culture, check out Agia Triada – a church of awe-inspiring size. Finally, you wouldn’t be in Greece if you didn’t enjoy alfresco dining with whitewashed houses and ocean views. Check out Varoulko Seaside restaurant in Mikrolimano, and Orizontes, which sits atop Lycabettus Hill and looks out on the Acropolis, over the Aegean Sea, and the city below.

• Stay at The Alex, a stylish hotel in Piraeus, Athens, where rooms start at £110 per night. Santikoscollection.com

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