Now we are nearing the end of February, those lighter evenings and bright days of Spring and Summer are tantalizingly close, yet somehow still seem just out of reach. Without the Christmas festivities or the challenges of New Year’s Resolutions as a distraction, February can end up feeling rather uninspiring, wintery and seemingly endless. But booking your next run-away trip can provide the perfect pick-me-up. Giving you something other than dreaded deadlines to anticipate, planning a break is a sure-fire way to get these long February days moving along a bit quicker!
What’s more, keep your wits about you (as prices can rocket up or shoot down from one day to the next) and you’ll see it’s not too difficult to uncover a whole host of exciting and surprisingly student friendly breaks: It’s all about when and where you look. To kick-start your next search be sure to check out sites like Skyscanner and Wowcher Travel, and be smart with your dates – with Easter weekend falling later than usual this year, booking in early April could make your money stretch much further.
Here are my top 6 suggestions to get you day-dreaming and planning the time away:
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
When imagining Ljubljana (Slovenia’s capital), think cobbled streets, staggeringly beautiful natural surroundings, magical architecture and an atmosphere of serenity, as this destination – summarised by Lonely Planet as ‘elegant and leafy’ – has not yet touched any international radars. As the European Commission’s Green Capital of Europe 2016, transport and vehicle hire costs are categorically out of the window. Ljubljana is a city to be discovered and explored on foot or bike, and thus, ideal for the student traveller.
- Valencia, Spain
Though often overlooked in favour of popular Barcelona or Madrid, in Valencia you can observe an astonishingly and authentically seamless blend of modern innovation (see la Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) within a city that is nevertheless steeped in a rich cultural history. Spend a quarter of an hour climbing the uneven staircase of Valencia’s cathedral tower and you will be truly rewarded with an unequalled, panoramic view of the stunning city and its surroundings (costing less than €10 – believe me, it’s worth it!). As an added bonus, between 15th-19th March, the city holds its famous Falles festival, which transforms the Valencian streets into an ongoing party, day and night.
- Baden-Baden, Germany
A traditional spa town located in south-western Germany, nestled near the renowned Black Forest, Baden-Baden is a destination that seems to belong more in the pages of Grimm’s Fairy Tales than in real-life. Not to be missed during your trip is a visit to the Museum Frieder Burda, a cornucopia of modern art. Alternatively, indulge yourself at Caracalla Therme, where you can experience Baden-Baden’s supposedly remedial thermal baths. Its position just 10km from the France-Germany border also means you could even cheaply include a visit to the nearby, charming city Strasbourg (a UNESCO world heritage site) within your Baden-Baden break away.
- Gothenburg, Sweden
Located in western Sweden, Gothenburg is one of Europe’s up-and-coming second cities. Without perhaps the grandiose designs of the Scandinavian capital Stockholm, Gothenburg still boasts an understated waterside beauty. Described as having an artistic, bohemian vibe and creative buzz, it’s certainly one for the student bucket-list. The city is ideal for shorter breaks, though also a great spot from which to travel either around the Gothenburg archipelago or further north along the breath-taking Bohuslӓn coast.
- Tromso, Norway
For the active holiday-goers, run away to the snow-covered mountains and fjords of Tromso, Northern Norway which offers a wealth of outdoor activities (e.g. hiking and kayaking). While marginally more expensive than the other listed destinations, Tromso (being 350km north of the Arctic Circle) brings the unbelievable opportunity to witness the magnificent aurora borealis within the grasp of your student budget (unlike pricier Iceland) – that is, if you can squeeze in your visit before the arrival of the longer Springtime days.
- Vienna, Austria
A prominent European hotspot, Vienna’s palatial cityscape is as captivating as its music scene, (from the country that gave the world Shubert and Mozart, Vienna is often heralded as the music capital of the globe). Must see sites include the Habsburgs’ Schönbrunn Palace and the Gothically restored St Stephen’s Cathedral. After this, experience the intimate luxury of the truly Viennese coffee house culture. And, by making the most of Vienna’s fresh, open-air food markets, (e.g. Naschmarkt), you can sample Austria’s local produce at a great price.
Some other remarkable and affordable destinations that might take your fancy include Tallinn (Estonia), Cork and Kerry (Ireland), Prague (Czech Republic) and Verona (Italy).
Though cheaper holidays can often come with a bit of added risk, first-hand reviews are easy to find and an invaluable way of avoiding those scams. Be savvy with your research, and you just might find an undiscovered, unforgettable runaway destination!
– Holly McSweeney