A string of coastal villages, with pastel buildings tumbling down the hillside around picture-perfect harbours and clear blue seas – over the last few years the Cinque Terre has become one of Europe’s top wishlist destinations. With the sun shining, a plate of pasta and a glass of prosecco in front of you, it’s not hard to see why.
Although I love a good European rail trip, I’ve never been Interrailing. The post-university right of passage for 20-something Europeans passed me by, but the passes aren’t just for gap-yearers. Their main selling point is that they makes rail travel around Europe easier and cheaper – but it is true? It definitely would be if you’re under 28, doing a month-long trip, on the move almost every day and making up your itinerary as you go. But what if you’ve only got a couple of weeks, have your itinerary already planned, and 28 has been and (long) gone? I tried out an Interrail pass on my France and Italy rail trip this summer to find out.
South Africa had been on my wishlist for longer than anywhere else in the world. It’s got a bit of everything – wildlife, beaches, wine regions. The only downside is the long journey, so it’s not exactly a weekend break. But if you can find a good flight deal, the value of the rand (with 100 rand getting you £6/€7/US$8) makes it a really affordable place to visit right now.
Wedged between the sea and the mountains, Cape Town’s stunning scenery means a lot of the city’s biggest attractions are free – you can wander around the V&A Waterfront, check out the colourful houses in Bo-Kaap, spend the day on the beach at Camps Bay or hike around Table Mountain National Park.
The Seychelles – just the name conjures up images of golden sandy beaches, palm trees, turquoise waters, sunset cocktails and five-star beachside resorts. The islands are a luxurious enclave for honeymooners, celebrities and billionaires. So when I found a flight to South Africa with a stopover in the Seychelles along the way, I couldn’t resist – the only problem was that my travel style’s more budget-luxury than five-star.
Barcelona has Gaudi, Granada has the Alhambra, Santiago has the pilgrims – but if you’re looking for the perfect Spanish city break destination, then Madrid has a bit of everything. This vibrant, energetic city has plenty of different sides to it. You can soak up the culture in the city’s museums and galleries, or drink cocktails on a rooftop terrace and dance until dawn. Fill up on plates of tasty tapas or feast your eyes on its beautiful architecture.
The Scottish capital might be best known for its August festivals and Hogmanay parties, but Edinburgh’s got a whole lot to offer at any time of the year. There’s the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town with its cobbled streets, Gothic buildings and narrow alleyways. Or the wide streets and Georgian mansions of the New Town. Then there’s the outlying villages that have been absorbed into the city like Stockbridge and Morningside, each with their own character.
The city of 1500 bridges, endless canals and even more bikes, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular cities. Along with its beautiful gabled houses and flower-decked watersides, there’s an enormous amount to see and do, whether your interests are more Golden Age art or graffiti, high culture or getting high in a coffee shop. But this wealth of experiences doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag attached. So here are my top tips for making the most of Amsterdam on a budget.
Colourful waterside townhouses, boats on the canals, Michelin-starred restaurants and miniature mermaids – Copenhagen is famous for a lot of things, but being a budget destination is not one of them. Scandinavia has some of the world’s highest prices, but Denmark’s are actually not quite as scary as those you find in Norway or Sweden. This pretty, laid-back city is worth the splurge – and it is possible to get a taste of Copenhagen’s high quality of life and designer style without spending big.
When it comes to city breaks, Berlin’s got a bit of something for everyone. There’s the fascinating history, both the recent stories of the Berlin Wall but also the wartime history and the museums with their artifacts dating back thousands of years. Then there’s the modern vibrant, multicultural culture of street art and music that mixes in influences from around the world. And there’s also the great nightlife, whether you’re looking for a lazy afternoon in a biergarten or a clubbing marathon to last past dawn.