DESTINATION • October 2019
In November, a typical short-haul flight can take you from climes where winter has tightened its grip, to sun-kissed beaches where the warmth of a gentle autumnal sun can still settles on your shoulders. Travel writer Rob Crossan roams the seasonal crossroads to pick the best spots for the last rays of sun – or the first flakes of snow – across Europe
Make no mistake, the largest of the Canary Islands is still gorgeously warm in November, with the thermometer bobbing around the 20-degree mark – ideal for walks and hikes that would be too draining in the full furnace of summer. Try ascending Mount Teide in the eponymous national park – you’ll pass fields of black lava on the five-hour walk to the 12,000-foot volcanic summit, the highest point in Spain. If the hike feels a bit arduous, a cable car can take you there in eight minutes flat. Autumn also means it’s easier to get a booking for one of the island’s ultimate epicurean excursions, namely the creations of Juan and Jonathan Carlos at El Rincon (pictured above) where the €90 ‘grand menu’ includes fried brioche with cod brandade and oxtail sandwich with fermented pepper mayonnaise.
Dream flight: Take BA2730 from Gatwick at 08:35 on Friday. Arrive into Tenerife at 13:05.
One of Europe’s most compact and walkable capital cities, Helsinki’s imposing Art Nouveau-style architecture, vast public squares and immaculate parks simply beg you to wrap up warm and take a brisk stroll across them, preferably with a cup of superior coffee in hand. The Finns drink more of the stuff than anywhere else on earth, and nowhere does it better than Ekberg Café, which has been serving up caffeine and pastries to grateful locals since 1852. Afterwards, visit Helsinki City Museum, which features a ‘time machine’ room (pictured above) where vintage cityscape photos combine with VR technology to create a huge screen on which ancient and modern city scenes overlay each other.
Dream flight: Take BA6032 from Heathrow at 10:20 on Friday. Arrive into Helsinki at 15:15.
Surrounded by steep terraces, forests of pine, volcanic basalt and sheer cliffs, Madeira’s capital is a surprisingly demure place. Get your breath back from the country roads’ hairpin bends by gazing upon orchids at 19th-century Quinta da Boa Vista estate – the climate means they’re visible all year round. Later, take a short trip to the craggy clifftops overlooking the Bay of Funchal. Here, all but drowning in lush sub-tropical gardens, Belmond Reid’s Palace is, after a recent renovation, keen to reclaim its crown as the island’s most sybaritic retreat. Dinner at the Michelin-starred William restaurant is an exercise in almost balletic sensuality, with locally inspired dishes including escalope of foie gras with plum followed by suckling pig with caviar, cauliflower and almonds.
Dream flight: Take BA2780 from Gatwick at 07:10 on Friday. Arrive into Funchal at 11:00.
Arguably Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval town never quite gets crowd-free, but wandering the streets in November is an infinitely less hectic experience than in high season. Rise early and you might not have to queue to climb the 366 steps to the summit of 13th-century Belfort tower: at this time of year there might even be a scenic dash of frost on those ancient rooftops below. Afterwards, give your legs a well-earned rest at the beer speciality pub of your dreams. Brugs Beertje (pictured above), meaning Little Bear of Bruges, is tucked away from the main drag and where discriminating, beer-loving locals come to imbibe on a 300-strong menu of Trappist, fruit and lambic tipples in a cosy time-warp interior that looks as if it hasn’t changed much since the Great War.
Dream flight: Take BA0396 from Heathrow at 10:55 on Friday. Arrive into Brussels at 13:10.
Imperial grandeur always looks at its most magisterial on cold, frosty morns, and Vienna is no exception. Start your day with a brisk stroll around the terraced gardens of Schloss Belvedere (pictured above), the duo of Versailles-esque palaces commissioned by Prince Eugene of Savoy, before ducking inside to glimpse masterpieces by Klimt, Monet and Van Gogh. You can’t visit Vienna without making acquaintance with the Habsburgs, the family who ruled here, and much of Europe, during Renaissance times. The Kunsthistorisches Museum showcases an immense collection of Egyptian, Roman and Hellenistic antiquities they acquired during their long reign. After such a grandiose day, slip into somewhere more comfortable for dinner. Silberwirt is a homely bistro serving up comfort food in the form of stuffed onions with mincemeat and pumpkin soup.
Dream flight: Take BA0700 from Heathrow at 10:50 on Friday. Arrive into Vienna at 14:10.