INSPIRATION • September 2018
Whether it’s flat-out lounger lazing or an urban exploration you’re after, here are seven destinations perfect for a spontaneous mini-break, says The Sunday Times Travel Magazine’s Alicia Miller
Larnaca has all you could want in a Med mini-break: glittering turquoise waves, palm-fringed beaches, atmospheric historical sights (the ninth-century Saint Lazarus church - pictured - is a corker) and a buzzy waterside cafe culture. By day, spread towels on powdery sand (highs hover at 27˚C throughout October); by night, down grilled fish, crisp flatbreads and bountiful salads in the whitewashed buildings of Skala, the old Turkish quarter. Wake up the next morning and do it all again...
Dream flight: BA0662 leaves Heathrow at 11:45 on Friday, arriving into Larnaca at 18:20
There’s no need to venture long haul for tan-worthy sunshine in October, because Gran Canaria is beach heaven all month, with highs hitting a steamy 25˚C. But don’t just stick to sand: this is the time of year for getting active, whether it’s frolicking in the still-warm waves – the island is famed for surfing, diving and sports fishing – or hiking through austere volcanic peaks and towering pine forests.
Dream flight: BA0488 leaves Heathrow at 08:00 on Saturday, arriving into Gran Canaria at 12:25
Its Unesco-protected Old Town, with pastel burgher houses and a spacious square, is perfect for strolling if the weather is fine. Its many, moving museums – detailing the city’s WWII occupation (Warsaw Rising) or the history of local Judaism (POLIN) – can fill days if it’s not. Rain or shine, the Polish capital impresses in October; time your visit with the Warsaw Film Festival (this year 12-21 October), one of the largest in the region, or the craft-brew-filled Beer Festival (25 to 27th).
Dream flight: BA0864 leaves Heathrow at 16:25 on Friday, arriving into Warsaw at 19:50
Dry, sunny and reliably hot, Abu Dhabi’s just the sunblast you need at this time of year – and unlike in December or January, beaches are quiet and hotel prices affordable. Between sun-soaking sessions wander the alabaster Sheikh Zayed Mosque; ride the coasters at theme-park-packed Yas Island; or explore the new Louvre outpost – you’ll find the likes of Egyptian sculpture, moody Impressionist scenes and kaleidoscopic Paul Klee abstracts under its silver web-patterned roof.
Dream flight: BA0073 leaves Heathrow at 12:45 on Friday, arriving into Abu Dhabi at 22:55
Sizzling sausages and knee-weakening palinka brandy; crunchy sugar-coated ‘chimney’ cakes; snug restaurants and overflowing beer steins – all this and more awaits in Budapest in October, when the Hungarian capital, with its cobbled streets, celebrates a multitude of unique food and drink festivals (including its own Oktoberfest). While you’re there explore Buda’s rambling castle, sip a frothy beer in a cosy ‘ruin’ bar, and warm up at the wedding-cake-ornate Szechenyi thermal baths (pictured).
Dream flight: BA0868 leaves Heathrow at 14:50 on Friday, arriving into Budapest at 18:20
Estonia’s Baltic Sea-side capital is rammed in summer – the stone fortifications of the Old Town hum with visitors, and the viewing platform of the steely Teletorn TV Tower fizzes with the click-click-click of cameras. But visit in October, and you’ll be greeted with a more local scene: wind-swept cobbled streets, a near-empty (but just as Baroque-bling) Kadriorg Palace (pictured). And yes, it’s known to rain, even snow, at this time of year – but all the more reason to curl up in one of the city’s many cosy chocolateries-cum-cafes, for an hour, or an afternoon...
Dream flight: BA0876 leaves Heathrow at 15:45 on Friday, arriving into Tallinn at 20:35
First it was Berlin, then Lisbon – now Athens is Europe’s hot hipster city du jour. From vegan souvlaki spots in the Exarcheia neighbourhood to Metaxourgeio’s edgy street art, the Greek capital has more going for it these days than just ancient Acropolis ruins or the taverna-packed Plaka. And autumn is prime time for a trendy weekender: sweltering summer temperatures have cooled, and island-hopping tourists have gone home – leaving you with 23˚C days and sleepier sights.
Dream flight: BA0632 leaves Heathrow at 13:15 on Friday, arriving into Athens at 18:55