The mercury is rising, but with no guarantee of sunny days in the UK, we’re looking further afield for our long-weekend holiday destinations this spring. From romantic city breaks to secluded beaches, these are the hottest locations for a long weekend away in the sun.
Stay: Just off Las Ramblas at Hotel 1898, a chic, marble-clad sanctuary in the heart of the city. Its doors open onto the sophisticated pavement cafes that line the famous leafy boulevard below. Alternatively, bed down at the Serras in the city’s historic Gothic Quarter – once the studio of Pablo Picasso, it’s now a stylish urban hideaway with a roof terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Eat: Like a local at one of the city’s traditional bodegas or tapas bars, where dusty bottles of wine are stacked to the roof and candles light tempting small plates of Catalan food – Bar Mut is among the finest.
Do: Barcelona is a city shaped by the visionary architect Gaudi. Spend a sun-drenched day wandering through the verdant Güell gardens in the sunshine. One of the artist’s most famous works, its pathways are lined with colourful structures, mosaics and secret caves.
Stay: Known as the Paris of the East, Budapest is set on the banks of the longest river in Europe. Buda’s old streets, monuments and castles hug the hillside on the West side of the river, whilst to the East, Pest is a lively cosmopolitan centre. Stay in the lap of continental luxury at the Corinthia Hotel Budpest, or bed down in the romantic Castle District’s boutique Pest-Buda hotel.
Eat: Aside from the national dish, chicken paprikash, Budapest is famous for its historic cafes, with Hungarian baking and confectionary among some of the world’s finest and arguably at its best within the legendary salon of Café Gerbeaud. For chic dining after dark, Onyx serves up modern Hungarian cuisine with a twist in very elegant surroundings.
Do: Hungry has a grand tradition of thermal baths and bathing culture dating back to the Roman occupation. Take the waters at Szechenyi Baths with its three lavish outdoor pools, or dip into the Art Nouveau interiors at Gallert Baths complete with steam room, sauna, plunge pools and fountains.
Stay: In the pocket-sized but beautiful Maltese capital. The UNESCO-protected site was built in the 16th century and its boulevards are full of cultural and historic treasures. Casa Ellul is a luxury boutique hotel in an old palazzo built around a secluded courtyard. Watch the world go by from one of its wrought-iron balconettes with views across the rooftops and church domes of the ancient city.
Eat:Under olive-laden boughs on the limestone terrace at Rampila, a restaurant that uses the best regional produce and where you can sample fine wine from the country’s well-established vineyards. House specials include garlic-marinated octopus and traditional Maltese rabbit dishes.
Do: Combining sun, sea and world heritage with cultural and culinary influences from across Europe, Valetta’s history is its most unique draw. Plunge into the baroque interiors of the cathedral, or discover the country’s aristocratic past and present at the opulent Casa Rocca Piccola, a working palazzo where a Maltese noble family still live.
Stay:One of the Mediterranean’s most relaxed coastal cities, Palma combines urban energy with laid-back island living. Situated in a beautifully restored Mallorcan mansion, original features co-exist with modern luxury at the Hotel Sant Francesc. Soak up the sun from its rooftop terrace pool and enjoy the views of the Gothic cathedral.
Eat: The city is perched on a sickle-shaped bay, and the seafood here is abundant and fresh. Eat beside the tranquil harbour in the shade of towering palms at the Portixol hotel, or explore the cafes and bars of the labyrinthine streets of the Old Town. Tables on the square at Hotel Cort are in high demand with delicious food served from the Mediterranean kitchen from breakfast through to dinner.
Do:A day in Palma is best spent strolling through the streets at a leisurely pace, the sight-seeing punctuated be regular stops for pastries and sangria. Enjoy the Art Nouveau buildings, take in the majesty of the great cathedral, peer into curio shops and indulge your taste for baskets and rafia bags. Alternatively, soak up the blissed-out Balearic vibe at the Nassau Beach Club. The world is your oyster.
Stay: Only two hours and 45 minutes from London, Puglia is Italy’s sun-bleached heel combining Baroque architecture, rural idylls, olive groves and olive-green seas. Stay atop the dramatic cliffs of Polignano a Mare with its winding streets, medieval squares and famous cornetterias. Or, head further south to the old port town of Monopoli and bask in the boutique luxury of the Hotel Don Ferrante.
Eat:The food of Italy is enough to make a gastronome’s heart sing, and Puglia is a region were seafood dishes come to life alongside a host of other local specialities. Mint Cucina Fresca in Polignano a Mare serves up seasonal ingredients sourced locally, whilst the picturesque harbour at Monopoli is surrounded by traditional trattoria serving up cheese-laden pizzas and just-caught frito misto.
Do: Charter a yacht and sail up the coast to the St Stefano monastery where you can drop anchor and plunge into the deep blue Adriatic Sea, or spend a day sightseeing in Alberoberllo. The town is a Unesco World Heritage site and its quiet streets are lined with the region’s famous conical-shaped houses, trulli. Here you can while away an afternoon and sample local rustic food beneath the bougainvillea.