March 2024

Six short-haul, summer holiday stars

There’s nothing like the promise of longer, warmer days to pull you up and out of the final throes of winter. All the better if that dream can be realised in just a couple of short hours from the UK

And so, we’ve asked some of our well-travelled Executive Club Members – as well as our own British Airways colleagues – for their favourite hop, skip and a jump getaways. As much suited for a long weekend as an extended stay, these gorgeous spots offer everything from bucket-list-worthy beaches and unbeatable local foodie fare, through to world-famous architecture and cultural calendars bursting at the seams.

Split, Croatia - Katie Merkli
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Split, Croatia

Says who? Katie Merkli, British Airways Social Media Executive

Known for its crystal-clear coastline and supremely photogenic architecture, Split is one bright jewel in Croatia’s already bursting treasure chest. For first-timers, Katie suggests: “Start your day with some of the area’s most beautiful scenery by taking public transport to – or booking a tour at – the waterfalls of Krka National Park.” This acts as a dramatic focal point at the end of a hike or promises a cooling dip in the heat of the summer. “Back in Split, grab a table at Bepa, a restaurant in the Old Town’s People’s Square – the pljukanci à la Bepa, a pasta dish with a vegan pumpkin and coconut sauce, is delicious,” adds Katie. “While in town, Hvar is only a short distance away, and worth a ferry over to, allowing you to soak up some island sights. Once you’re there, the town of Stari Grad is only 20 minutes by car from Hvar Old Town and is a must-see!”

Stockholm, Sweden - Mark Evans
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Stockholm, Sweden

Says who? Mark Evans, Gold Member 

Frequent flyer Mark notes that Stockholm might not be an obvious summer destination choice, but reckons “it really does have something for everyone”. He loves walking around the historic old town, with its palaces and accessible royal guards. “It’s a delight to hear the kerfuffle, only to discover you timed it to coincide with a changing of the guard ceremony, complete with horses and band, all free unless you wish to enter the buildings and see what’s inside,” he says. Elsewhere, Mark suggests wandering the waterfront, taking a boat around the archipelago (“the water is what makes Stockholm so special”) or heading straight to the heart of the action – the ABBA Museum. “Although the Vasa Museum is well worth a visit, too.” He adds: “After a busy day I like to eat and drink outside in one of the many parks or harbourside venues. It’s a chill way to unwind and people-watch with great views.”

Lanzarote, Spain - Nikki Tilwani
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Lanzarote, Spain

Says who? Nikki Tilwani, British Airways Colleague Recognition and Insight Coordinator

“Hiring a car is the best way to get around Lanzarote,” says Nikki. “We had no issues with parking and the roads were incredible to drive on.” Being free to explore the island on your own terms also means coming across the best views, which Nikki says can be found at the sea caves around Los Hervideros and Mirador del Río, an architectural viewpoint built by local hero César Manrique. If you’re the adventurous sort, Nikki recommends a volcano buggy tour by H20 Sports Lanzarote – a unique way to see the moon-like landscape – as well as parasailing, diving and jet skiing near her favourite hotel. “That’ll be La Isla y El Mar, which is only a ten-minute drive from the airport and yet so close to the main strip and best beaches,” she says. “It organised one of our trip highlights: a catamaran tour that included free drinks, stunning views and the chance to snorkel off Playa de Papagayo, a secluded beach.”

Tirana, Albania - Jeff Cason
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Tirana, Albania

Says who? Jeff Casson, Blue Member

While Albania might now be booming and “increasingly green”, says Jeff, compared to his first trip to the country back in 2013, he still loves nothing more than a wander around its old towns and cities – “despite the majority of visitors heading for the beaches”. His favourite spot? Its capital, Tirana, which he’s visited half a dozen times thanks, in part, to its fascinating museums. “The Bunk’Art Museum and House of Leaves are excellent,” he says, the latter being a museum dedicated to the wacky world of secret surveillance. “If you have time, add on one or two nights in quirky Durrës, with its mix of beaches, Roman ruins, and Communist-era Brutalist architecture,” he adds. Or, failing that, Korçë, Berat and Shkodër are all worth a short stay. “One thing is for certain,” Jeff concludes. “Wherever you end up, your budget goes a very long way.”

Istanbul, Turkey - Barbaros Sahin - right
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Istanbul, Turkey

Says who? Barbaros Sahin, British Airways Key Account Manager

As someone who was born and raised on the Asian side of Istanbul, Barbaros says he strongly recommends visiting this part of the city, which is big enough to make a whole holiday out of alone. The vast region, which enjoys a moderate climate year-round, is home to such popular sights as the magnificent Beylerbeyi Palace and Şemsi Pasha Mosque, which was built in the 1500s. Barbaros also recommends a look at the stunning Maiden’s Tower, which, “located on a small island, offers a breathtaking view of the city.” Barbaros also recommends Kadıköy: “It’s famous for its vibrant food market and the colourful murals adorning its winding streets. Or, if you’re fond of swimming as I am, visit the Princes’ Islands during summer and enjoy the beaches.” If he had to choose a spot? “My favourite cove is Çam Limanı in Heybeliada, it’s surrounded by pine forests and home to the popular Ada Beach Club, one of the island’s top beaches.” 

Porto - Angela Catterall
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Porto, Portugal

Says who? Angela Catterall, Silver Member

Porto is a city break of two halves, says retired educator Angela, as two very different, yet complementary experiences take place either side of the city’s Douro River. “North of the riverbank, wander Porto’s UNESCO-protected Old Town for grand buildings, a beautiful cathedral, incredibly fresh produce in the Bolhão market and even a stunning railway station.” But what awaits on the river’s southern banks? “Port!” says Angela. You can get the funicular cable car down or walk across Ponte de Dom Luís I – one of the city’s most famous bridges – to get there. “All the major port houses are here, such as Cálem or Porto Cruz, or try a smaller bar, like those in the Beira-Rio market,” she adds. For the hungry, Angela recommends the oldest restaurant in Portugal: “Flor dos Congregados is a small, family-run place where you can feast on terylene toasties and codfish balls, followed by veal in red wine or grilled seabass.” She concludes: “At the end of the night, stumble back to HF Fenix or Eurostars Centro – both great value-for-money hotels.”

This article has been tagged Destination, Travel Tips