My wife and I love to try and cram as much sightseeing into a holiday as possible. A dual centre holiday is ideal for you do this, in effect it can be like two holidays in one. Below is a list of places to make your base, and our recommended day trip or short break cities/areas to partner them with. Don’t forget your passport if day tripping to another country, obvious I know, but it can be forgotten so easily. Any costs stated will be wrong, as I have copied this blog (lazy!) off a blog of mine from another provider a couple of years ago. So check the website of the company if stated.
Tallinn + Helsinki
Estonia is much cheaper than Finland, so it makes sense to stay in Tallinn and take the ferry across the Baltic Sea to Helsinki. The ferry takes 2 hours or so, and the fare is between 28 – 44 Euros eachway, or Linda Line’s day return at 35 or 38 Euro’s. Try booking online in advance to get the best price, or just turn up at the port and buy on the day of travel. Tallinn is a beautiful medieval city, Helsinki is art nouveaux interlaced with quirky modern architecture.
Tallinn + Stockholm
A day in Sweden’s Capital, at prices from 110 Euros each, for a ‘return cruise’ for 2 people. This involves an overnight ferry in each direction, book more than 28 days in advance for best prices, restrictions apply. This is a good way to see some of Stockholm’s 28,000 islands on the way in to port.
Copenhagen + Malmo/Lund
Sweden, in comparison to Denmark is very expensive, so even staying in Denmark’s most expensive city is better value. Cross the Oresund bridge on a train from Copenhagen to Malmo every 20 minutes. Journeys to Malmo in around 30 minutes, and Copenhagen direct to Lund takes about an hour. According to Lonely Planet (I have forgiven them for the Surrey entry) it is worth the extra mileage to get to Lund;
Lund – The Tetra-Pak building. The trouble is, it’s so difficult to get inside. lol
If you are staying in Malmo rather than Copenhagen, then the ‘Round the Sound’ two day card is what you should go for. Only available in Malmo, unfortunately.
North Wales + Dublin
More specifically a day trip from Holyhead to Dublin by Stena Line ferries. The North Wales coast has marvellous castles. (Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Conwy)
It also has famous beach resorts at Llandudno and Colwyn Bay, private railways with lovely scenery, and Snowdonia National Park as its ‘backyard’. Not forgetting Portmeirion and Anglesey for somewhere a bit different from the norm to visit.
Bangor is a good base for the area, and only 40 minutes or so from Holyhead.
Bratislava + Vienna
Want to travel on the famous Danube River? Bratislava is the place to do it, rather than the much dearer prices in Vienna. Slovakia has more reasonably priced food and accommodation than Austria too. The lovely city of Vienna can be reached very easily from Bratislava by bus, train or even a hydrofoil fast boat.
Lille + Brugge/Gent
Lille’s living costs are a bit cheaper than Gent, and a lot cheaper than Brugge. Staying in Lille will also save time travelling via Brussels, using the Eurostar, save some cash too.
If staying over is too expensive, then the Day trip to Brugge/Bruges page could be the answer.
Amsterdam and any other dutch city
Amsterdam Centraal railway station.
The Netherlands is so small you can use the capital as a base, and take your pick of the wealth of options available. (Harlem, The Hague, Leiden, Utrecht, etc.)
As always use the man at seat 61 site for info on how to get there by train/ferry from London Liverpool Street station or Eurostar.
Maastricht, Aachen and Cologne
Maastricht will surprise you with the amount of sightseeing you can do, especially it’s 20,000 tunnels, and hills too. Seventy five minutes on a train is all it takes to visit Aachen’s Cathedral, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, although the cathedral is a bit small compared to Cologne’s. Ah well, just jump on another train for just under an hour to Cologne, and see the gigantic Koelner Dom and prepare to get neck ache trying to see the top from ground level. Sit on the right side of the train to view the Cathedral from afar. Then be prepared to be amazed at the Hauptbahnhof as the Cathedral is adjacent.
Budapest, Esztergom and Sturovo(Slovakia)
From Budapest Ujbest bus station (Terminus of Metro line M3) take a bus to the small but delightful town of Esztergom, or take the train which is slower and further out from the centre of town. From Esztergom, just walk across the bridge over the Danube river to Sturovo in Slovakia, and don’t forget your passport. Not much to see, but it was nice to tick off another new country. Try and have your lunch here as it’s cheaper than Hungary. Walk back across to Esztergom and maybe get the (slow) boat back to Budapest?
Naplio (aka Naplion) and Athens
Athens from the top of Mount Lycabettus. (Click on this photo and hover pointer over yellow boxes for popular tourist sites descriptions.)
Instead of suffering the heat and terrible air polution of Athens in Summer, stay instead in the scenic town of Naplio. This town can be used as a base for the Peloponnese peninsula, which has plenty of interesting sites, including Olympia (original site of the ancient Olympic Games) While in Naplio look at the Athens daily weather reports and choose a cooler and fresher day or two for sightseeing.
Here is a tripadvisor recommendation for travelling from Athens to Naplio. I assume the bus takes the same time from Naplio;
”Take KTEL bus to Nafplio (€12) goes hourly on half-hour, should take 2.5 hours unless you are caught in a weekend traffic jam (do NOT try this on Fridays in August).”
Some tips that you probably know already;
If a holiday is being offered at an incredible price reduction, look for the reason behind it. Is it the monsoon or hurricane season? Too hot or too cold? The political regime being overthrown? I am always sceptical about ridiculously cheap holidays, and use the web to find out why they are being discounted, and so should you. If the bargain is genuine, however, then go for it.
Also a cheap price is used to entice people to a website or to phone a company that had no such deal on offer, but wants to sell you a similar holiday for a vastly inflated price
Ladies, ‘always’ take your ladies products if needed when travelling outside the UK. Otherwise you will get low quality items at high prices, if you can find these items in the first place.
And Another Thing…….
I want to
rant post about how England gets less Bank Holidays than Scotland and Northern Ireland. But then what do we expect from a country that celebrates a foreign national patron saint (St. Patrick) with a parade through it’s capital city, and no parade on St. George’s day. Scandallous. I thought now we are in the EU, that everything is standardised, so that everyone enjoys equality. If that’s the case, then England & Wales should at least have an extra BH for New Year, (like the Scots) and both can have their respective patron saints day as a BH too. Some may disagree with another early in the year BH, due to Easter and poor weather, I must admit I agree with this. In that case why not have a BH on the Monday after the longest day of the year? (23rd June in 2014) At least there will be plenty of daylight, if not much sunshine.
Thanks for reading,
Mr & Mrs G