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Top Holidays

Six of the best last-minute European holiday ideas to inspire your next trip

  • Inspiration
  • By Francesca Brooking
  • Published 12 May 2023
  • Revised 18 June 2024

Have you booked your holiday for this summer yet? If you haven’t, fear not. We’ve put together a list of last-minute European breaks that have the wow factor to make picking your next holiday a no-brainer. 

Whether you’re in need of beach time, a family escape or a weekend away, these destinations absolutely nail it. Foodies, city breakers and those seeking a staycation in the country are sorted too and we’ve even selected the perfect five-star hotels. 

From Corfu to Barcelona, discover our top pick of short-haul European holidays for couples, families and everyone in between.

The weekend away: Paris

Just a hop over or under the English Channel (depending on your preferred mode of transport), Paris makes an easy weekend break when you need a mini holiday.

The City of Love is a well-known hotspot for couples wanting to spend quality time together. Those not chasing romance can still enjoy a happy few days shopping, eating and sightseeing. 

What to do: Take a spin around Paris’ iconic sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and the Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre. A noteworthy day trip is the Palace of Versailles, the old haunt of King Louis XIV. 

If you’re an art lover, make sure you visit the treasures of the Louvre. Luxury shoppers should also make a beeline for the Champs-Elysées where the flagship Louis Vuitton store is hard not to miss. 

Once you’ve had your fill of art and shopping, walk arm in arm along the Seine with your beau and stop at a café for refreshments. Café de Flore is particularly beautiful. 

As for the best croissants in the city, the decadent treats of Pierre Hermé are highly rated and La Maison D’Isabelle has won awards for its buttery pastries. 

Where to stay: Shangri-La Paris is the epitome of French elegance with its signature Asian twist. Taking pride of place in the 16th arrondissement, the five-star hotel was once the home of a former prince, and it certainly looks the part. 

The building is a Monument Historique status and the décor’s palatial glamour make you feel like royalty – or at the very least, a Hollywood star. 

Better still are the views from your window. Shangri-La overlooks both the River Seine and the Eiffel Tower. Stay in La Suite Gustave Eiffel with its terrace and view of the iconic French landmark.

View from Eiffel Duplex Terrace Suite

View from Eiffel Duplex Terrace Suite

The city break: Rome

Italy’s capital, Rome offers the perfect city break for travellers seeking culture right on their doorstop. Food, ancient history, architecture, shopping, art, culture, wine… it’s all here in the Eternal City. 

What to do: A member of the prestigious list of Seven Wonders of the World, the Colosseum should be first on your itinerary. The Ancient Roman amphitheatre held over 50, 000 spectators in its heyday. While much of it is in ruins, the cylindrical shape of this impressive feat still stands proudly today. 

Next door to the Colosseum is the Palatine Hill & Roman Forum, the once beating heart of the Roman Empire and the site of the legend of the birth of Rome. 

Make sure you stop by the Pantheon, a once Roman temple and now a Catholic church. Close by, you’ll find the 18th century Trevi Fountain. We advise you see the latter early in the morning if you want to escape the crowds!

Lastly, book the VIP breakfast and early access tour of the Vatican Museum and get iconic sites like St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel all to yourself. 

Where to stay: Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel boasts five-star luxury fit for a Roman Emperor. Sitting astride a hill above the city centre, the hotel offers a cool oasis away from the heat and crowds. 

Enjoy aristocratic suites each with their own large balcony or terrace to enjoy the view. Most suites also have their own whirlpool, offering an ideal haven to relax in after a busy day exploring Rome. 

As for where to eat, La Pergola is a must. Rome’s only three Michelin star is also one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world. 

Penthouse Suite Rooftop Terrace

Penthouse Suite Rooftop Terrace
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The island escape: Corfu

Greece is one of the top places in Europe to soak up the island life. In fact, 277 of its 6,000 islands are inhabited. 

A favourite of ours is Corfu for its brilliant beaches, rugged mountains, diverse heritage, child-friendly resorts and buzzing nightlife. It’s an island which certainly packs a punch. 

What to do: Allow yourself to sink into island life in Corfu. Here, time slows down and you can languish over long lunches, stroll through Corfu’s Old Town, sunbathe on the beach or sail the Ionian Sea. 

For horse lovers, Trailriders offers horse trekking excursions for kids and adults. What better way to explore the interiors of the island than on horseback? Alternatively, a modern island adventure can be had with Ikos Odisia’s fleet of Tesla Model 3 cars. 

If you need a break from the sand and sun, make the most of the Culture Pass which gets you free access to island’s best museums like the Museum of Asian Art and the Old Fortress in Corfu’s Old Town. 

Where to stay: A popular family resort is the five-star Ikos Odisia, sprawled over a quiet corner of Dassia Bay. It’s nestled within 60 acres lush woodland and benefits from a 420-metre stretch of beautiful beach. 

It’s also the perfect place for R&R. Saunter over to one of 10 swimming pools, be pampered at the spa and eat feasts fit for the gods. Kids are well taken care of here with a range of clubs suitable for toddlers to teens. 

Enjoy deluxe bungalow bedrooms with soft neutral furnishings that give all the glory to the mesmerising sea or garden views outside the window. 

Ikos Odisia from above

Ikos Odisia from above

The countryside staycation: Scotland

Nothing beats a good dose of country air, and where better than the rugged landscape of the Scottish Highlands? Windswept glens, dazzling lochs, romantic castles and hearty meals await here.  

What to do: Don your tweed jackets and riding boots, it’s time for an escape to the country. Perthshire is the geographical heart of Scotland, spanning both the Southern Highlands and the Northern Lowlands. 

Here, the Grampian Mountains reign supreme interspersed by 215 castles, towers and fortified houses. Some of the most famous include Scone Palace, Aberuchill Castle, Castle Benzies and Blair Castle & Gardens. 

When you’re not channelling your inner laird, outdoor pursuits range from fishing to horse riding and clay pigeon shooting. 

If you prefer shooting of another kind, you can learn to capture the majesty of the landscape on a photography masterclass. Or why not grab your hiking boots and go on guided walks with a picnic lunch or hit the cycling trails. 

Where to stay: Gleneagles Hotel is your ‘glorious playground’ within the heart of Perthshire. The magnificent country estate is a five-star boutique hotel that’s made a name for itself as the place to go for golf (after St Andrews of course). 

Warm Highland hospitality greets you with each of its impeccable luxury rooms and suites. Each one has been carefully decorated to evoke a cosy yet sumptuous feel of home. There’s are also interconnecting family rooms for kids, grandparents and pets. 

Enjoy leaderboard-topping golf courses, Franco-Scottish fine dining restaurants, a world of wellness at the spa and plenty of outdoor countryside pursuits that the whole family will enjoy. 

Gleneagles grounds

Gleneagles grounds

For food and drink: Barcelona

Barcelona is where the city meets the beach. The city is a colourful combination of unique art, architecture and modernist landmarks within touching distance of the Mediterranean Sea. One of the best things to do here? Eat!

What to do: You can learn a lot about a culture through food – and Barcelona’s eclectic cuisine certainly doesn’t disappoint. First on your food-to-try list is paella. Cooked with bomba rice, shellfish, seafood and a tomato sauce base, you just can’t beat this classic. 

Head to the Paella Club to learn how to make it or dine at the 120-year-old Can Solé restaurant for one of the best paellas in town. 

Next on your list is tapas. The exceptional sharing-style meal is best enjoyed with your nearest and dearest over jugs of freshly made sangria.

 Look out for heavenly small plates of patatas bravas (fried potato), croquetas, Iberian cured ham, tortilla, chipirones fritos (fried squid) and roasted red peppers to name a few. Finish off with delicious crema catalana. 

If you’re feeling confident, head to the famous food market La Boqueria and browse the delicious offerings. If you prefer to learn from the locals, call our personal travel managers to arrange a private street food tour. 

Where to stay: The most iconic hotel in Barcelona has got to be W Barcelona. Designed by legendary architect Ricardo Bofill, the hotel is an impressive nine floors. It’s sail shape graces the Barceloneta Boardwalk with a golden sandy beach running alongside it. 

The five-star hotel has 473 guestrooms and suites each with panoramic views of city and the sea. Sample the very best comfort in the signature W bed with pillow-top mattress, goose-down duvet and 350-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets. There’s even a pillow menu. 

Our favourite is the Extreme Wow Suite with a Gaudi-inspired bar, 65-inch curved screen TV, full-wall speaker and DJ booth. There’s also a huge terrace complete with a plunge pool and sunbeds. The dream!

Fire at W Barcelona

Fire at W Barcelona

The beach break: Algarve

Portugal is renowned for its long stretches of beautiful beaches. If you’re craving seaside relaxation, it’s the perfect European destination for you. 

Just under three hours by plane from London, Portugal’s southernmost region, the Algarve is simply irresistible. 

What to do: The best thing to do in the Algarve? Beaches – and there are plenty of them. Top rated beaches include Praia da Falésia, Praia da Rocha, Praia Dona Ana, Praia da Marinha and Praia do Camilo. A more luxe beach experience can also be found at the five-star resorts that dot the coastline. 

If you get tired of the beach, make sure you visit the beautiful Ponta da Piedade, geological formations caused by ocean waves eroding the rocky shoreline. 

Another spectacular site is the Benagil Cave. The gorgeous seaside cave has a distinctive hole at the top which allows the sun to sine through like a spotlight. It’s reachable by boat, kayak and stand-up paddle board. Combine it with dolphin watching for an unforgettable experience. 

Where to stay:
Situated in Quinta do Lago, Conrad Algarve is utterly breathtaking with its contemporary style that nods to Portuguese palaces of the 18th century. 
Sophisticated relaxation is effortless here with its Michelin-starred restaurant, four swimming pools, a golf course and an exquisite spa. 

And of course, what you’re really here for – Conrad Algarve has its own private beach just a short and complimentary shuttle ride away. 

As for the rooms? Splash out on the Infinity Penthouse with Private Pool which includes a terrace, sauna, private infinity pool, spa and butler service. It doesn’t get better than that!

Vale do Lobo Beach at Conrad Algarve

Vale do Lobo Beach at Conrad Algarve

Like the sound of these last-minute European holidays? Call our personal travel managers today and receive a tailored itinerary for your dream trip away in May. 

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