Q. Simon, it's my daughter's 21st birthday in late August, I'd like to take her on a city break to somewhere not too expensive to get to but which will give her great memories. By the way, we've been to Paris.
A. How lovely. My one concern is the time of year: late August is peak season, especially in terms of holidaymakers returning at the end of their summer breaks. Therefore fares can be fearsomely high. Last August, inbound flights from some of Spain's great cities, such as Malaga and Barcelona, fares were as much as £500 one way. In addition, cultural hotspots such as Vienna and Florence are going to be full to bursting in August. So instead, stay north: you can expect bright skies, long evenings and reasonable prices.
Amsterdam is temptingly easy to reach, but hotel rates will be sky high. So instead, consider one of the great, unsung German cities. Travel will be cheap and easy, because Germany is a business destination - and many travelling executives are on holiday in August. Hotels are excellent quality and value, and the food is great.
In any reasonably sized city, the cultural wealth is considerable. Steer clear of Berlin and Munich in August, because they will be crowded with tourists. You can't go wrong in either Cologne or Hamburg, each home to a wealth of art - and both of them great river cities with good, cheap boat trips on offer. But it is also worth considering lesser-known locations, particularly Bremen and Nuremberg, where you can get to know the city more intimately.
All these cities on the budget airlines' radar, so you can simply use the SkyScanner.net price-comparison site and choose whichever location looks best value for the dates you want to travel. Book direct with the airline, then consult our latest 48 Hours in the city you choose - which will prescribe great places to stay, eat, shop and stroll.
Finally, if Germany doesn't appeal, then consider postponing the celebrations until the first weekend in September, when you will find that fares drop across the Continent - and the fine Scottish capital, Edinburgh, also empties as the festival-goers head home.
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