Let a city break save your summer, from Bologna to Berlin

If booking two weeks on the beach feels too risky… let a ‘safer haven’ city break save your summer

  • Neil Simpson picks four ‘safer haven’ city breaks to consider this summer
  • Amsterdam is a top choice for a long weekend, while Nice offers art and glamour 
  • Bologna is the perfect choice for a taste of Italy – it’s a foodie paradise

If you’re desperate to get away this summer, but have been put off by the new quarantine rules suddenly slapped on holidaymakers in Spain, your saviour could be long weekends in some of Europe’s most amazing cities.

Better still, prices are low for many short breaks, with some packages costing less than half as much as a year ago, and there’s so much availability you can normally book at the last minute.

Here are four ‘safer haven’ city breaks to consider.

The scary swing at the A’DAM Lookout in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a top choice for a long weekend. Flights are under 90 minutes and the train journey from the airport to the city centre takes just 15 minutes and costs about £5.

Arrive in the evening and eat at one of the many restaurants that spill out over cobbled streets lining the canals.

The next day, art-lovers can take advantage of new limited numbers (and extra space) in the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum to see works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and many more.

Take a free ferry to the Eye Filmmuseum, housed in what looks like a giant white spaceship.

Then head to the sky deck of the A’DAM Lookout building next door to have a go on Europe’s highest ‘over the edge’ swing.

Day two should include the extraordinary Anne Frank House. Then get a taste of Holland by walking past windmills in Amsterdam Forest on the way to the Boerderij Meerzicht pancake house for a sweet or savoury treat.

Visit lastminute.com for flights and two nights in a four-star hotel from £129pp.

Berlin is where political history comes alive. A bus from the airport takes 30 minutes and costs about £2, or a taxi is around £25. The city’s unofficial slogan is ‘Poor but sexy’, so expect a grungy but vibrant weekend of street art and flea markets.

Walk the line of the Wall and learn its secrets at the old Checkpoint Charlie, where post-war politics is explained on dozens of information boards.

Renting a bike helps cram in plenty of sights. Ride past the Brandenburg Gate and cross the Tiergarten to climb the Victory Column for an amazing view of the city. Then circle back via the Reichstag with its Norman Foster additions to ‘museum island’, where one ticket gets you into all five buildings.

Shining example: The imposing Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Day two can include a walking tour through the Soviet architecture of East Berlin, where the revolving restaurant at the top of the old TV tower at Alexanderplatz is now open again.

Or head to Tempelhof airport, famous for the Berlin airlift. It’s now an urban park where you can walk down the runways before grabbing a drink or snack from a food stall.

Visit ba.com/berlin for flights and two nights in a four-star hotel from £149pp.

Bologna is the perfect choice for a taste of Italy. It’s a foodie paradise with great markets and excellent restaurants. Flights take just over two hours, and the five-mile trip from the airport to the city centre costs about £6 by bus or £20 in a taxi. Toast your arrival with an Aperol spritz in a pavement bar amid the tangles of Unesco-protected medieval streets that twist off the perfectly preserved Piazza Maggiore.

During the day, food tours have restarted, with strict hygiene at tasting stops. Bologna is famous for Parma ham, balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese and incredible pastas and lasagnes.

It is also a great place to see some Old Masters – head to the National Art Gallery for works by Raphael, Titian and El Greco, or try MAMbo for contemporary art and lunch in its stylish cafe.

Vibrant: The view over Bologna, which is the perfect choice for a taste of Italy

Dinner can be eaten alfresco in a warm Italian square. Then stroll the ancient streets, gelato in hand.

Day two starts with a walk along the Portico di San Luca. At nearly 2½ miles, it’s the longest colonnade in the world, with 666 arches stretching out of town to the basilica of San Luca.

Back in Bologna, two medieval leaning towers, Le Due Torri, are symbols of the city. There’s a viewing area at the top of the straightest one. Climber numbers are limited to ensure social distancing.

Trailfinders.com has flights, private transfers and two nights in a four-star hotel from £249pp

Nice is the place for a weekend of old-school glamour and art. Oligarchs usually get from the airport to the city by helicopter – non-oligarchs can take a taxi for about £30 or a half-hour bus ride for £2.

Start a Riviera weekend with a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais and consider blowing your budget with a drink at the Hotel Le Negresco.

French fancy: Nice is the place for a weekend of old-school glamour and art

Next morning, after coffee and croissants, head back to the Corniche and tour the Massena Museum. It’s a Belle Epoque mansion that tells the story of the town and its famous residents, including Napoleon Bonaparte.

For glorious views across the Mediterranean, climb the Colline du Chateau from the old town. Back at sea level, a photo of the red-domed Russian Cathedral will make friends think you went to Moscow.

Dinner could include local favourite salade nicoise.

Next day, tour the flower market or head to the Musee Matisse or Musee Marc Chagall to see works by two of the town’s most famous adopted sons.

Want a final taste of glamour before you head home? Monte Carlo is half an hour away by train.

British Airways (ba.com/nice) has flights plus two nights in a four-star hotel from £169pp.

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