Best weekend breaks

best weekend breaks

Nowadays, a short haul plane ticket can set you back less than a train ticket and, for us, that's a good enough excuse to plan a mini break. If you fancy a trip to banish the winter blues, take a look at this list of our favourite weekend break destinations

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

The Danish capital is a great option for a weekend of hygge fun (and if you don't know what hygge means – where were you in 2017?) . If your idea of a good time is cycling along waterways, visiting royal palaces, and browsing chic, understated furniture shops then a city break in Copenhagen should be at the top of your list.

If your trip isn't going to be adults-only, you might want to skip the window shopping in favour of Copenhagen's mind-blowing Planetarium, or take a trip just outside the city to Bakken – the world's oldest amusement park.

Copenhagen isn't a cheap city, but flights from the UK are cheap as chips so you'll have a bit more cash in your pocket when you land. The best times to visit are May, early June and September as you avoid both the crowds and the cold weather. Finally, it's worth noting that a trip here will make you want to up sticks and move – you have been warned…

Flights to Copenhagen

Seville

Seville

Lonely Planet have named Seville their No 1 city to visit in 2018 – and with good reason. This sun-soaked Andalusian gem has it all: history, culture, delicious food, and a dynamic nightlife.

A visit to the Real Alcázar – a dazzling palace complex that has presided over the city since 913 – is an absolute must. If your kids get restless when sightseeing, Seville is a great option as many of the must-see attarctions are pretty interactive, whether you're climbing the Giralda for panoramc views over the city or taking a gondola ride around the canals of the impressive Plaza de España. If you're travelling with younger children, the Maria Luisa Park is a great place for them to let off steam.

In the evening, head to a traditional Flamenco show for a performance that will captivate the whole family. Seville is blessed with great weather for much of the year, so you can dodge peak-season crowds and still catch some serious rays – September and October are your best bet for cheap flights.

Flights to Seville

Brighton

Brighton

If you'd rather keep things local, Brighton is a great UK town for weekend exploring. Brighton is where a quaint Victorian seaside resort and a buzzing Bohemian town collide, so there's plenty to do – no matter what you're into.

A compact, family-friendly town: you can stroll along Brighton's pier, visit the Royal Pavilion, and browse all the quirky shops tucked away in the Lanes in an afternoon. If you fancy a record-breaking adventure, you can ascend the British Airways i360 – the world's tallest moving observation tower. There are also loads of restaurants to choose from in Brighton, including delicious fresh seafood and plentiful vegan options as well as the traditional fish and chips.

Visiting without the kids? The town really comes alive at night – it's packed full of cocktail bars and the home of the UK's biggest gay scene. It's a great city to come to any time of the year – but you'd better stick to the summer months if you fancy a paddle.

Trains to Brighton

Berlin

Berlin

For an edgier mini-break, head to Berlin. With the perfect combination of thought-provoking historical sites and wild nights out, there is plenty in the German capital to keep you busy. However, if you want to go away as a family, don't let Berlin's reputation as a party city deter you – it's also a great, reasonably-priced destination with plenty to do for kids.

This city really comes into its own as a great place for older kids to engage with 20th century history outside of the classroom and, although younger kids might not be keen on traipsing around lots of the heavyweight museums, there are some great child-friendly alternatives like the Computerspiele Museum (the first computer game museum in the world) and the highly interactive DDR museum, which is all about day-to-day life in East Germany

The best time to visit Berlin is between May and September, from October onwards the weather gets a lot colder and you won't be able to take advantage of the city's many fantastic parks.

Flights to Berlin

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges has fifty chocolate shops which is reason enough to book a trip. However, if you need more, this medieval city also boasts canals, winding cobbled streets, atmospheric towers and a huge selection of (strong) beers. Bruges is a great option for a short break with or without kids but, if you're crossing the channel with kids in tow, you can rest easy that there will be no meal time drama; Belgium is famous for waffles and chips – two foods most kids are pretty keen on.

Bruges is pretty packed during the summer months, with holidaymakers and day-trippers alike, so we'd recommend you visit in spring, when daffodils transform this already-picturesque town into a fairy tale destination, or in winter to really beat the crowds (it is pretty chilly, though). Bruges is also perfect for travellers who don't like to fly as you can just hop on the Eurostar with an easy change at Brussels.

Trains to Bruges

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Don't be deterred by stag do horror stories, Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful and culturally-rich cities in Europe. With more museums per square mile than any other city in the world, you won't be short on things to do: the Van Gogh Museum is fascinating and a very manageable size if your children have a low art gallery tolerance threshold.

If you're hoping to get away without the kids, you can explore Dutch masters on display in the Rijksmuseum at your leisure, or visit the harrowing museum that now occupies the apartment in which Anne Frank wrote her famous diary. You do need to be organised though, as advance tickets to many attractions are snapped up weeks in advance. We recommend visiting Amsterdam in April as this marks the height of tulip season and the weather is generally good.

Flights to Amsterdam

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Dispel any thoughts of Trainspotting, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK and the perfect spot for a weekend away. There's loads to do but a tour of the Edinburgh Gin Co. distillery – where you can create your own signature gin – is a must for adult visitors and kids will love the optical illusions and dazzling spectacles on offer at Camera Obscura. If you've been gripped by The Crown on Netflix, make time to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia at Leith – it's a wonderful tourist attraction for adults and kids alike.

Although Edinburgh can be as busy and bustling as any capital city, it's also easy to escape the crowds. A walk up Arthur's seat is an inevitable part of any visitor's itinerary and a great way for kids to let off steam, but there are many other lesser-known – but no less beautiful – vantage points and lush escapes: we love the Water of Leith Walkway – a system of footpaths and cycle routes that allows you to explore different areas of the city by following the river.

Edinburgh is synonymous with its internationally-recognised Fringe Festival, and if a smorgasboard of theatre, comedy, burlesque (and more) is what you're after, then plan your visit for August – but be prepared to pay a bit more. Alternatively, wrap up warm and visit in the winter; a whole host of Hogmanay activities begin on New Year's Eve and continue throughout January.

Flights to Edinburgh

Lisbon

Lisbon

If you can't decide between a city break and a beach holiday, you don't have to – Lisbon is a pastel-coloured city surrounded by gorgeous sandy beaches, many of which are accessible via public transport.

Lisbon is very hilly and the majority of its streets are covered in cobbles that aren't very pram-friendly, so it might not be the ideal destination for families with very little children. However, if you're visiting with older kids or adults, spend an afternoon climbing one of the city's seven hills until you reach the miradouros – a network of terraces with incredible panoramic views of the city – then park yourself with a coffee and pastel de nata and take it all in.

If your family prefers a more active afternoon, you can try your hands at sea kayaking or take a day trip out to explore the colourful Pena Palace at Sintra. Lisbon can get very hot at the height of summer, but if you visit in late spring you will find a city carpeted in purple jacaranda blossom and weather warm enough to hit the beach – without the crowds.

Flights to Lisbon

Reykjavik

Reykjavik

For something a little bit different, venture to Iceland – home to hot springs, the world's northernmost capital, and spine-tingling sights (not to mention some seriously impressive gender equality laws). Iceland is generally a very child and baby-friendly country, but it has to be said that slightly older kids might get more out of such a unique trip.

Although Iceland feels radically different from most other European countries, it's actually only a three hour flight away, making it the ideal destination for a long weekend with a difference. It's also cheap to get there but expensive to stay for an extended break – so keep it short and sweet to minimise damage to your bank account.

The capital Reykjavik (with a population of just 122,000) is the perfect base for first-time Icelandic explorers and is small enough to explore on foot with ease. After spending a day exploring the city, take a day trip out into the surrounding countryside. The most popular route is known as the Golden Circle and it encompasses pretty much all of Iceland's most spectacular bucket list sights, including Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. Kids will love splashing around in the Blue Lagoon -and getting covered in mud- and, if you're lucky, you might spot some Icelandic ponies on your tour. The weather in Iceland is best during the summer months, but your best bet for seeing the Northern Lights is from September to mid-April.

Flights to Iceland

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Calling all Game of Thrones fans! Head to Dubrovnik for an atmospheric mini break on the Adriatic coast. Dubrovnik is so beautiful that you can easily while away an afternoon just wandering through the white-washed streets of the old town but, if you prefer more organised fun, we've got plenty of suggestions. You can stroll along the ancient city walls, take a Game of Thrones tour culminating in a brief reign upon the Iron Throne, scale Mt Srđ in a cable car and take in the terracotta roofs far below, and kids will love the floating water parks on the coast. For a thoughtful counterpoint, visit War Photo Limited – a compelling museum dedicated to exposing the reality of war, with a permanent exhibition dedicated to the wars in Yugoslavia.

It is warm enough to swim in the sea in Dubrovnik from May until the end of October, but the high summer months are best avoided due to stifling temperatures and an influx of cruise ships.

Flights to Dubrovnik