The 10 best last-minute breaks

Travel broadens the mind, and it needn't empty the wallet, even during peak season. Simon Calder picks his top spots for the bank holiday weekend


Frankfurt

Frankfurt

The secret of a cheap getaway is to choose a place where demand is light, accommodation plentiful and cultural life strong. You can fly to Germany's financial centre cheaply from various UK airports; hotels are half-empty; museums are excellent; and there are classy places to eat and drink.

Lufthansa (08457 737747; www.lufthansa.co.uk) from Birmingham, £154

Belfast - best budget break

Northern Ireland will be enjoying the long weekend, which means it is a good time to see Belfast at its most relaxed. Wander through the Botanical Gardens, enjoy the handsome Victorian architecture or try to make sense of the sectarian divide along the Falls and Shankhill Roads.

EasyJet (0870 600 0000; www.easyJet.com) from Liverpool, £65

Ostend

With one of the finest beaches on the Belgian coast, and a town centre full of good places to eat and drink, you can't avoid the August crowds in Ostend. But many holidaymakers will be returning home to Dortmund or Düsseldorf on Sunday afternoon, freeing up space for visiting Brits.

Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) from London Stansted, £280

Valencia

Spain's third city keeps its secrets well hidden, compared with its larger siblings of Madrid and Barcelona. It has elegant buildings, great restaurants and an elegant beachfront suburb, which is mercifully free of tourists.

Iberia (0845 601 2854; www.iberia.com) from Heathrow, £191

Porto

By the time the Duoro river reaches Portugal's second city, it has carved a wide canyon through northern Portugal. Porto perches precariously on the edge, a magnificent, crumbling relic of the 19th century.

TAP Air Portugal (0845-601 0932; www.tap-airportugal.pt) from Heathrow, from £327

Copenhagen - best overall break

Probably the best lager brewery in the world: that is a fair claim for the aesthetically beautiful home of Carlsberg. The Danish capital as a whole is an extremely tasty blend of human-scale city and calm, clear water.

Maersk Air (020-7333 0066; www.maersk-air.com) from Gatwick, £168

Lyon - best luxury break

The city is a master of disguise, with Roman origins, Flemish overtones and Parisian pretensions. The succession of masks reaches its unnatural conclusion with the trompes l'oeil that adorn the exteriors of many of the city's buildings.

British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies from Manchester for £366

Lille

The Clapham Junction of continental Europe - where Eurostar trains link into the high-speed network - is a superb destination in its own right, with fabulous architecture, delicious food and (unusually for France) great beer on offer, just two hours from London.

Eurostar (0870 518 6186; www.eurostar.com) from London Waterloo or Ashford, £105

Zürich

For some reason, Switzerland's largest city barely shows up on the radar for Britain's leisure travellers. Yet it is brilliantly located close to the Swiss lakes and mountains, with an attractive city centre and - in August - lots of bargain, high-quality places to stay.

Swiss (0845 601 0956; www.swiss.com) from London Heathrow, £188

Milan

Italy's commercial capital is half asleep in August, which makes it ideal for a dreamy getaway. Many citizens abandon the city to the tourists, and for one month in the year you can wander through the city streets, green spaces and designer stores in relative tranquillity.

Jet2 (0870 737 8282; www.jet2.com) from Leeds/Bradford to Milan Bergamo for £223

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor