It’s finally time: spring is here. To celebrate, we’re launching flights to four fantastic destinations. Each city has its own charm and makes for a great city break. With plenty of cool culture and inspiring sights, choosing one will be tricky. If you aren’t tempted enough already, these flights are all direct from Birmingham, making your trip that much easier.
Fly with Monarch from April, flight time from 2 hours 20 mins
Known for being one of the oldest European centres, Porto has a thriving historical core. Its hilly, cobbled streets and bohemian character give it its alluring charm, and there is no better time to visit than in spring, when the temperature is mild. Don’t be fooled by its ghostly appearance – between the empty façades, art deco neons and quiet shop fronts, Porto is steadily coming back to life.
The southern neighbourhood of Ribeira, on the banks of the river Duoro, is the life and soul of Porto. Explore the maze of alleyways, plazas and tiled townhouses to discover some of the best restaurants in town, serving traditional cuisine with spectacular views over the river. Ribeira’s laid-back vibe is echoed in the cool cafés, hipster bars and general pace of life. Don’t leave without sampling Portuguese wines and tapas.
Discover the city’s past
At first glance, Porto seems derelict and abandoned, but that is exactly what makes this city so mesmerising. The crumbling urban infrastructure gives Porto a surreal aura. Join a guided tour to explore all the architecture. Visit the 13th century tower house in Bairro de Barredo – one of Porto’s oldest civilian buildings. Marvel at the gothic São Francisco church and its detailed baroque interior, or the neoclassical Palácio da Bolsa, with its mosaic-filled Arabic room.
Soak up the culture
Enjoy the fun atmosphere and fresh produce at the Mercado do Bolhão. If you’re feeling creative, take part in a workshop with local artists, where you can enjoy anything from tile painting and seat weaving to printing and glass fusing. A visit to Porto wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Port wine cellars, where you can sample the city’s namesake.
Fly with Monarch from June, flight time from 2 hours 45 mins
Valencia has seen some major economic developments in the last decade, adding cutting edge architecture and nightlife to the culturally vibrant Mediterranean city. Valencia has a flourishing restaurant scene, museums and shops galore, and of course, miles of sandy beach. Spring is a wonderful time to visit, as cafés and restaurants open their terraces.
Experience the old traditions
Discover the historic Barrio del Carmen neighbourhood – an atmospheric, maze-like area, rocking both the hipster new and the charming old. Visiting the art nouveau Central Market is a must. With seasonal fresh fruit and veg up to your ears, this place is a feast for all your senses. You can also get a peek into Valencia’s past at Llotja de la Seda, site of the ancient silk trade and jewel of gothic architecture.
Explore modern architecture
Head to the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. Its extraordinary sculpted interior is home to a science museum, opera house and planetarium. Get stuck into the interactive exhibits and marvel at the impressive structure housing it all. Another architectural spectacle worth visiting is L'Àgora, which is used to stage everything from concerts to conventions.
Soak up some vitamin D
The seaside is only ever a short walk away from Valencia. The sandy beaches of El Cabanyal and La Malvarrosa are within walking distance of the city centre. Here you can find the popular Paseo Marítimo and marine-inspired restaurants, serving paella and seafood tapas. Take a stroll along the city’s coastline and soak up some rays – if you’re lucky, it might even be warm enough to take a quick dip.
Fly with Thomas Cook from May & with Monarch from June, flight times from 2 hours 55 mins
With one of the biggest historical centres in the world, housing over 400 churches as well as the iconic gulf and Mount Vesuvius, it’s a wonder Naples hasn’t received more attention. Despite its slightly shabby exterior, the city has a thriving contemporary art scene, energetic street life and exquisite cuisine. It enjoys a mild southern climate and temperatures reach 18°C in spring, allowing you to stroll the city’s streets without layering up.
Explore the city’s past
For an immersive experience of Naples’ history, join the Holy Mile walking tour, where you’ll get an insider’s perspective of the cosmopolitan Rione Sanità district. Visit the 12th century Norman Castle dell’Ovo at Porto Santa Lucia and watch the sun set from the top, admiring the breathtaking panoramic views over the city. And a trip to Naples wouldn’t be the same without a stop at the Museum of Archaeology, housing a collection that includes Greco-Roman art and artefacts.
Admire the spectacular geology
Visit Lake Agnano – what was once a lake on top of the Agnano volcano, is now home to steamy sulphur baths and picturesque walks. Take a trip to the Gulf of Naples, where you can admire the scenic beauty of the volcanic hills, the coastline and the Bay of Naples’ Islands. From here you are within easy reach of Pompeii, the Herculaneum ruins and the Amalfi Coast.
Take a relaxing stroll
Kick back and soak up the warm weather and sunshine in one of Naples’ green spaces. Stroll along the urban oasis of Villa Comunale, a leafy seaside strip dotted with gorgeous fountains and home to the Anton Dohrn aquarium. Also worth a visit is the neoclassical residence of Villa Floridiana, housing the magnificent National Museum of Ceramics. The beautifully landscaped land and botanical gardens surrounding the villa provide a haven away from the busy city streets.
Fly with BMI Regional from May, flight times from 2 hours
The cosmopolitan Swedish port of Gothenburg is often referred to as the capital’s bohemian cousin, but a recent revival has seen the city become one of Europe’s top weekend destinations. Far from its ship-building days, Gothenburg today boasts quirky boroughs, tram-clattering streets, hip cafés and gorgeous green spaces. There is no bad time to visit this vibrant city and with the weather warming up, the streets come to life once again.
Get on the water
Hop on a kayak tour and paddle your way past the city’s magnificent sights. This is a unique and peaceful way to view some of the biggest tourist’s hotspots and neoclassical architecture. Alternatively, try out the Paddan Tours that tour the city’s moat and canals, whilst providing a detailed history of the city’s construction and defence.
Shop ‘til you drop
Experience the real hustle and bustle of the city on Avenyn Boulevard. At one end of the boulevard stands the Gothenburg Museum of Art, and at the other, the oldest part of the city, surrounded by a moat. Lined with glitzy boutiques, restaurants and bars, you won’t be short of options. Make sure to check out the side streets and street art jazzing up the walk.
Explore the suburbs
Once a hippie hang-out in the 60s and 70s, Haga, Gothenburg’s oldest suburb, is now a creative hub. It harbours fair-trade fashionistas and cool boutiques. Wander the cobbled streets and discover the array of independent shops and eateries, buying and tasting as you go.