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



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; 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; from Liverpool, £65


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; from London Stansted, £280


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; from Heathrow, £191


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; 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; 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; flies from Manchester for £366


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; from London Waterloo or Ashford, £105


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; from London Heathrow, £188


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; from Leeds/Bradford to Milan Bergamo for £223

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam