You may remember Steve Earle or – more recently – Ed Sheeran crooning about a certain girl from this picturesque city in the west of Ireland, but did you know that Galway boasts a bohemian vibe with year-round events, a thriving arts scene and even a beach?
Foodies can experience a weekend of gastronomic delights at the International Oyster & Seafood Festival (September 28-30), while The Galway International Arts Festival (July 16-29) features exhibitions, theatrical performances, and an appearance from rock band The Flaming Lips is scheduled for this year.
Clients can also visit the seaside suburb of Salthill, which is less than a 30-minute walk from the city, to take a dip in the ocean or walk its promenade, which garners a mention in Earle’s ode to his famous Galway belle.
Julie Wakley, head of Great Britain at Tourism Ireland, says Galway offers a great alternative to Dublin.
“The city has a reputation for artistic creativity with a full calendar of festivals and events – from music and horseracing to literature and oysters.”
She points out that with the beautiful Aran Islands and Connemara on the city’s doorstep, a holiday or short break in Galway is a great option, particularly for those with a penchant for the coastline.
Book it: Shearings has the Galway and the Aran Islands seven-day coach tour from £584pp (available by air from £809pp), with three excursions and half-board accommodation included.
Sweden’s third largest city sits in the Oresund region on the south-western tip of the country and is linked to Copenhagen by the Oresund Bridge – made famous by Scandi noir television drama The Bridge. However, Malmo is a far cry from the eerie scenes presented to us on the small screen.
From the cobbled streets and coffee culture of the old town of Stortorget to the grandeur of bright red Malmo Castle – the oldest preserved Renaissance palace in the Nordic region – the city should appeal to city breakers who enjoy nature, says Rachel Jelley, sales and marketing manager at Sunvil. She points to the city’s 16 parks, waterfront and beaches as standout attractions.
“Malmo is a compact city, and I love exploring by bike or while running. Normally, I head to the coast and run along the sandy Ribersborg and Sibbarp beaches. There are views to the Oresund Bridge from here and across the water towards Denmark. Parkrun has just launched in Malmo and I can’t wait to join this event on my next visit – the route offers views of the Turning Torso [the tallest building in Scandinavia] and the beach.”
Book it: Sunvil offers the seven-night Malmo and the Swedish Riviera itinerary from £934pp with flights to Copenhagen and four days’ car hire included.
Where Amsterdam is renowned for its quirky museums and liberal cafe culture, The Hague represents the nation’s more measured side. Home to the seat of the Dutch parliament and the UN’s International Court of Justice, the city has plenty of stately mansions and green boulevards for clients to explore.
Located less than an hour’s drive from Rotterdam in the western Netherlands, The Hague also has a beach, with a Blackpool-esque promenade, lighthouse and watersports.
When clients need a break from visiting attractions such as the Mauritshuis art museum with its Rembrandt exhibitions, and the city’s many restaurants, Patrick Millar, marketing manager at Kirker Holidays, recommends they take a trip to the nearby Scheveningen beach.
“Amsterdam’s less-visited sister, The Hague, is a charming city with picturesque canals, excellent restaurants, stylish boutiques and cafes. Few visitors realise that it is also on the coast. A 15-minute tram ride from the city centre will see clients relaxing on the vast sandy beach at Scheveningen, where they can also waterski and kite surf.”
Book it: Kirker has three nights in the Carlton Ambassador from £678pp based on two sharing, including Gatwick flights, private transfers and tickets to the Mauritshuis.
Vintage trams, hidden restaurants, and, of course, port wine make Portugal’s second city an irresistible European destination for discerning gourmands seeking a chilled-out city break.
Clients can sample some of the planet’s finest tawny and ruby ports at Taylor’s Port Cellars (around £10) before chartering a boat up the Douro Valley to take in the region’s vineyards. If things get too hot in the city, visitors can travel via public transport to nearby Costa Verde and the beaches of San Lorenzo, Langre El Sardinero and Quevas del Mar.
Gary Gillespie, national sales manager at Super Break, says: “Porto is a great destination for those who want to enjoy a laid-back atmosphere, excellent local cuisine and the port houses, which are open for tours and tastings. It is the gateway to the Douro Valley, lined with quaint villages and vine-clad terraces. For an added twist, Porto lies within the Costa Verde coastline, with numerous beaches in the area that many visitors will not realise can be enjoyed too.”
Book it: Super Break has three nights at the Tryp Porto Centro Hotel in Porto from £279pp with Gatwick flights included.
Estonia’s capital has everything you’d expect from a European city break destination – ancient churches, medieval streets and museums. But for Annely Vurmer, director at the Estonian Tourist Board, Tallinn’s proximity to the coast provides a perfect getaway for children and adults alike.
She says: “This is especially true in the summer season, renowned for its beautiful white nights, when there’s barely any darkness. My favourite beach is Pikakari on the Paljassaare Peninsula in northern Tallinn, as it is the ideal option for nature lovers. The Paljassaare nature reserve, a birdwatching haven, is just a stone’s throw away. Its hiking trail is a great choice for a day out in the sun.
“Stroomi, a child-friendly sandy beach on the northern coast of Tallinn, is the perfect destination for families. It is fitted with barbecue facilities, a playground, an open-air gym and two cafes.”
Book it: Regent Holidays offers four nights at the Hotel St Barbara with Air Baltic flights from £573pp.
Home to the Lego flagship store, the Carlsberg headquarters and brewery and the Little Mermaidthe statue, Copenhagen also boasts a botanical garden and is full of retro cafes and hip record shops.
A citywide pledge to become carbon neutral by 2025 means Copenhagen is one of Europe’s least-polluted cities, with bicycles the preferred mode of transport.
The shopping streets of Ravnsborggade, Elmegrade and Jaegersborggade have no chain stores either, giving the city a truly authentic Danish feel.
Dennis Englund, director at Visit Denmark UK, urges clients to check out the city’s lesser-visited beaches as well.
“Copenhagen is ideal for travellers looking to combine historic highlights with a buzzing city atmosphere and is best experienced on foot or by bike. Guests visiting over the summer can enjoy one of the many beaches surrounding the city such as Amager Strandpark, which offers a great selection of watersports. It is easily reached from the city centre by bike and is only three stops on the Metro. The harbour baths in the city also make for a great way to cool down with the locals all year round.”
Book it: The Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Copenhagen, has stays from £106pn. Ryanair flies to Copenhagen from Stansted from £26 (round trip).