Any recommendations for a week’s summer holiday in Europe? Probably end of May/June – nowhere too hot or touristy, but chilled and relaxed. And not too expensive, if that’s possible…
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Andalucia might be a good option – great cities to visit (Seville, Cadiz, Granada, Cordoba) and you could rent a house up in the mountains for some relaxation time too. June might be hot though…
Thank you, Time of my life and Edge of the City – I’m very taken by the idea of Portugal (Porto has been on my To Do list for a couple of years now), and Schwerin sounds absolutely delightful! Thank you for sharing your tip, Edge of the City – hopefully the city won’t be overrun by Rough Guide authors and readers now the secret is out..!
The Minho up in the very north of Portugal was gorgeous last year. No tourists, super cheap, lovely beaches, superb wine and – in the Peneda-Geres National Park – some genuine wilderness. Weather can be a little iffy but you should still get plenty of sunshine.
The Algarve east of Faro could be a good option. It doesn’t have so much of the golf-coursey, tourist colony-ness of the western Algarve, which is a plus. Faro itself is well served by cheap airlines and is a pleasant town to use as a base or hang out for a couple of days. Otherwise head out to Tavira where the eating and drinking is good and you can take the ferry out to the extensive Atlantic beaches on the sand bars (these are quite developed for tourism, but trek the short distance beyond the beach bars and brollies-for-hire and you’ll have space to yourself). The roads feel far less intimidating to drive on than a lot of southern Europe and it shouldn’t be too meltingly hot at that time of year.
I’m somewhat loathe to post this, given that it is my great off-the-beaten track secret but, oh well, just for you…
If you want somewhere that is summery but not too hot and is way off the tourist trail (for non-Germans anyway), you could do a lot worse than Schwerin, in Northern Germany. Seriously, don’t laugh until I’ve told you more!
Schwerin is Germany’s smallest and prettiest State Capital, with a population of only around 100,000. It used to be part of the DDR (a.k.a East Germany) but is the complete opposite of the dreary, concrete, communist hell-hole of the popular imagination. It’s a beautiful place, in a solid Hanseatic way, complete with a fairytale castle and magnificent inland waterways. It also has the best regional art gallery I’ve ever been to, with works by Dutch masters that will leave you awestruck. The people are kindness itself and so unused to international tourists that you’ll make local friends in every bar you go to. The surrounding countryside is the very definition of ‘pleasant’, with abundant opportunities for hikes and sailing. The Baltic Sea is just a short train-ride away, where – despite the images that the word ‘Baltic’ conjures up – you’ll find lovely little beaches.
You can get to Schwerin from Hamburg by train in about an hour and once there, the place is compact enough to see by foot, although there is an extensive and efficient tram system. If you truly do like to get away from the usual places, go now before it appears on ‘Places to Go in 2015′ or some such list!
I agree with Alison that Andalucia would be lovely – a few years ago we spent a week in Las Alpujarras (near Grenada) which was really quiet and relaxed. We stayed here and found it a great base for both exploring and doing very little.
Otherwise, I always love France at this time of year – the smaller, quieter villages of the Dordogne are especially lovely, and great places to just relax (and eat loads of good food!).
Portugal is the place to go! I agree with Edward!! With only 10 mil people in the whole country you can escape the crowds very easily. North from Porto you can have a great time exploring smaller cities and towns. With a week you will be able to maybe start in Porto, which is a great city (pretty large, but a good starting point) go north to Viana do Castelo, then Braga and the ton’s of churches that are free to visit, then Guimaraes for the great old town, Castle, Convent, and yes great churches. I add churches as thay are usually free, have great art work and can be very quiet. All of these places can be reached by train or bus easily if you are not driving. One of my favorite places is south of Porto, but worth a trip from Porto and that gem is Coimbra, which is a university town and I think the university was founded in the 13th century if my memory works. It’s so alive, but then again you can find quiet at the same time. It’s a good workout walking up there, but great view and such history. Lot’s of cheap student eat’s going up the hill or down the hill. I think it is perfect to add to your week. Less is always better, so research and then pick and choose what interests you.
Algarve is great, but lot’s of expats, more expensive, great beaches, but if you want to escape, I would go north, but that is only my opinion. I will be returning to Portugal in 3 weeks for a 2 week driving trip and will spend most of my time in quieter and smaller towns and cities. You will have so much fun and Portugal is cheaper than most of Western Europe. Been there many times and away’s find a reason to go back. Great people, amazing food, best wine, and so much packed into a small country. The weather is great in May!!!!!!!!!!