Need a break already? Try these Europe destinations

Winter is coming, deadlines are looming and summer feels like a distant memory. A long weekend in Europe may be just what you need to revitalise your motivation and give you some much needed sunshine. Look no further for some autumnal inspiration.

Portugal offers reliable sunshine and a last opportunity to feel the warm sand between your toes. If flights to the lively and popular capital Lisbon are still pricey, look at Porto or Faro. Both are equally vibrant cities, serving up excellent fresh Portuguese cuisine. Make sure not to miss the ‘pastéis de nata’ – scrumptious little custard tarts – and their world-renowned cod – ‘Bacalhau’.

In Porto, you can wander between the blue mosaic-clad churches. Alternatively, take a stroll along the top layer of the double-decker Dom Luís I Bridge for breathtaking views. On the Porto side of the river you will see the technicolour row of houses and the Port warehouses on the Duoro side, which you should be sure to visit for a tasting!

Belgium boasts Liège and Antwerp, which are harder to get to but make for fabulous day trips from the capital if you have the time. Brussels however has charm and culture in abundance, whilst still being a very ‘walkable’ city. Relive your childhood in the Comic Strip Museum and enjoy spotting murals of Tintin around the city, before tucking into ‘Moules-frites’ in the Grand Place. You can even enjoy a traditional Trappist beer, guilt-free, knowing that you are appreciating a UNESCO-protected sip of Belgium’s cultural heritage.

If you’re not a fan of flying, head to Ireland on the ferry. In Dublin, be sure to book in advance for the Guinness Storehouse, where the view from the top-floor Gravity Bar is as good as the tour itself. The impressive Old Library at Trinity College should also be on everyone’s list, whether you are a lover of literature or not.

A mid-term trip away doesn’t have to cost the earth. However, if price is dictating your destination, input your departure airport and search ‘everywhere’ on skyscanner.com for ideas of where your cash can take you. But before you jet-off, remember that planning will save you money.

In the excitement of finding low fares, it’s easy to book flights to an airport that then turns out to be miles from the city centre. Check the airport code carefully to make sure you don’t end up spending more on transfers than you’re saving thanks to the cheap ticket.

In terms of accommodation, hostels are an increasingly popular choice for students, usually combining excellent location and a free breakfast. Some hostels also offer double rooms, giving you the privacy of a hotel at an excellent price. In addition, Hostelworld.com has a useful app, offering plentiful information and a secure booking platform.

Free walking tours are an excellent way of getting your bearings on the first morning of your trip, after which you’ll be able to plan the rest of your stay. To ensure you eat like a local, don’t forget to ask your guide for restaurant recommendations.

When planning your daily activities, check online for book-in-advance discounts and details of when queues are shorter. Always takes your student ID but remember that most museums in Europe are free to EU citizens under the age of twenty-six.

Is Ryanair still up in the air? The dispute between the Civil Aviation Authority and Ryanair seems to be coming to a resolution as the airline publishes clearer advice regarding passengers’ rights in relation to recently cancelled flights in the autumn and winter period on their website. So go ahead and grab those low-cost flights!

Nothing beats a spontaneous weekend abroad with friends, allowing an escape from the pressures and stress of university life. Make sure you and your friends stay safe; stick together, and don’t forget to look up from your phone screen once in a while and take in the culture and beauty of your surroundings.

image: olafpictures via pixabay

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