Nine culture-filled weekends in Europe
The hillside town of Taormina, on Sicily's east coast, dates back to Ancient Greek times. (BBC)
This article is the second in a series featuring destinations and activities perfect for a quick getaway. From cuisine to culture to the great outdoors, discover ideas that will help you make the most of your weekend.
Boasting such names as Henrie Cartier-Bresson and Agatha Christie, Europe’s essential haunts are only a short break away. Delve deeper into the corners of the continent that helped to inspire writers, musicians, artists and Vikings.
The lastest fado in Lisbon
Take a Portuguese guitar, a soulful singer and a generous dollop of tender, world-weary melancholy and you have fado: the music that has been the soundtrack to Lisbon life for centuries. For a fado weekend, navigate the winding streets of the Alfama district, the spiritual home of the genre, to find the best venues. Senhor Vinho restaurant hosts first-class performances amidst ceramic tiled walls and knotty beamed ceilings, accompanied by a seafood-heavy menu. Nearby, the Museu do Fado offers an authoritative introduction to fado folklore (admission £4). Two hours’ train ride north of Lisbon (from £36), the town of Coimbra was Lisbon’s predecessor as Portugal’s capital and has its own distinct fado tradition: songs performed en masse by students. Drop by A Capella – a 14th-century chapel now hosting fado performances.
Lisbon Story Guesthouse is a B&B with eclectic décor (en suite from £55).
Get clued up on Agatha Christie’s riviera
Agatha Christie set her novels everywhere from the banks of the Nile to the carriages of the Orient Express, but one of her most trustworthy muses proved to be her native Devon: a county of sandy beaches, rolling pastures, prim gardens and soaring murder rates. One of the most dangerous places to be a character was Greenway – a whitewashed holiday home overlooking the Dart Estuary, whose grounds provided the inspiration for crime scenes in Dead Man’s Folly and Five Little Pigs. Now safely in the care of the National Trust, guests can brave an overnight stay in outbuildings set in wooded gardens. Whilst there, drop by the main house to see interiors that have changed little since the 1950s (admission £9).
National Trust Cottages have various accommodation options at Greenway – the South Lodge sleeps six (from £297 for 2 nights).
A fairytale weekend in Odense
Denmark might currently be synonymous with grisly crime dramas, but once upon a time it exported more wholesome stories. The city of Odense was the childhood home of Hans Christian Andersen and it still looks the part, with cobbled streets, gothic spires and eccentric statues dedicated to its famous son. Walking tours take visitors from Andersen’s childhood home to various important places in his life. To see a castle worthy of any fairytale, take a day trip to Egeskov Slot – a moated 16th-century pile 20 miles south of Odense (admission from £20).
The First Hotel Grand has stylishly understated rooms in Odense (from £95).
Shooting the city of light
Henri Cartier-Bresson was the godfather of street photography. A Parisian and pioneer known for his shadowy compositions, curious-looking portraits and for catching his subjects unawares, he practised much of his craft in the French capital, so follow his example with a weekend photography course in Paris. Creative-holiday company Frui provides a masterclass in the company of an instructor – snapping figures among the cobblestone streets of Montmatre, canoodling couples along the banks of the Seine and street performers outside the Pompidou Centre (two days £349).
Hôtel Chopin recalls 19th-century Paris in a building hidden down a delightful covered shopping arcade (from £90).