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
The lastest fado in
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).
Cottages have various accommodation options at Greenway – the South Lodge
sleeps six (from £297 for 2 nights).
A fairytale weekend
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
The First Hotel Grand has stylishly understated rooms in
Odense (from £95).
Shooting the city of
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).
A weekend homage to
George Orwell wasn’t always especially polite about Barcelona – describing the
city’s most famous landmark, the Sagrada Familia, as ‘one of the most hideous
buildings in the world’. Nonetheless, his masterly 1938 account of the Spanish
Civil War, Homage to Catalonia, means his name has long been enshrined in city
folklore. Iberianature offers regular Spanish Civil War day tours of Barcelona,
covering various locations associated with Orwell’s time here. Casting the
city’s most familiar streets in a new light, tours revisit the scenes of
gunfights and bomb blasts around La Rambla and the Barri Gòtic, as well as
offices where Orwell and his Marxist comrades were headquartered (tours £16). For some R&R, head to the seaside town of Tarragona, a
90-minute train journey south (from £12 return, up to £55 for fast train taking
30 minutes) – Orwell spent time in the city recovering from injuries
during the civil war.
Hotel Banys Orientals is a popular boutique hotel in El
Born, just north of the Barri Gòtic (from £110).
Visiting “the family”
Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster dynasty may have plied their bloodthirsty trade
in New York – but their homeland lay among the sun-bleached stone villages and
dusty byways of rural Sicily. Godfather fans still make pilgrimages to the
medieval village of Savoca near Taormina – home to the church where Al Pacino’s
character Michael is married in the original movie, and to Bar Vitelli – the
vinedraped 18th-century stone building where the reception was held. Sicily
Life offers day tours to these locations and others nearby (from £68). Finish your weekend by exploring the ancient Greek remains and
shady squares of Taormina – a hillside town facing up to the snows of Mount
Etna and out to blue Medditerranean waters.
The Hotel Villa Belvedere in Taormina has simple rooms with
majestic views of the Bay of Naxos (from £105).
Monster Munch in Oslo
Home to various ducks, holiday cabins painted scarlet and bobbing pleasure
boats, the banks of the Oslofjord might not be the first place you’d associate
with bloodcurling shrieking. However, it was by these waters close to the
Norwegian capital that Edvard Munch set his bestknown work, The Scream. This
year sees Oslo celebrate the 150th birthday of its famous son with a dedicated
exhibition at the Munch Museum (admission £11). The next day,
pay a visit Munch’s summer home at Åsgårdstrand, a 90-minute drive south of
Oslo. Preserved just as he left it, this simple house is where the artist
painted some of his most famous works (admission £6).
The 19th-century Grand Hotel in Oslo offers beautifully
appointed rooms with high ceilings (from £160).
A viking raid on the
A dubious legend tells that the first Vikings who settled the Faroe Islands
planned to sail to Iceland, but got seasick en route, chickened out and got off
early instead. Reminders of the these ferocious seafarers can still be found on
these islands, which are a self-governing part of Denmark. Nordic Visitor’s
Long Weekend Break in the Faroe Islands tour takes in the small seaside village
of Funningur, the site where these (possibly queasy) Vikings first stepped
ashore. After exploring the islands’ vertiginous cliffs and squawking seabird
colonies, visitors stay in Tórshavn – the world’s tiniest capital city, which
nonetheless borrows its name from Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning
(three nights from £670 per person, including accommodation in hotels and
Brushing up on Irish
Despite being within spitting distance of Dublin, the landscapes of County Wicklow
are as wild as any on the Emerald Isle, with desolate gorse and bracken-strewn
uplands, rushing rivers and verdant pastures helping to earn it the moniker
‘The Garden County’. One way to get to grips with the region is to enroll on a
weekend course at the Irish School of Landscape Painting. Based out of a studio
of the banks of the River Vartry, students render the stirring landscapes of
the region in pastels, oils, watercolours and pencils in the company of an
instructor (courses from £95). Don’t leave
the county without exploring nearby Glendalough – the remains of a 5th-century
monastic settlement set over a valley criss-crossed by walking trails.
The Hunter's Hotel in Rathnew is a charming old coaching inn
The article 'Nine culture-filled weekends' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.