We love Mexico and America but usually spend at least a week when we go, mainly because of the time it takes to get there. A 10 hour flight each way tends eat in to your holiday time, and just when you’ve got your sleeping patterns in sync, it’s usually time to come home again. A lot of our travel isn’t long haul though – it can’t be with limited annual leave allowances! With a bit of research you can enjoy a variety of European breaks and spend just a couple of hours in the air getting there – whether you’re looking for relaxing beaches, mountain views, historical sites or buzzing cities. Here are five of our favourite European destinations just two hours from London.
Berlin, Germany – for a modern city fix mixed with fascinating history (London Stansted to Berlin Schonefeld: 1 hour 45 minutes)
Berlin is one of the easiest cities to get to from London, and once you’ve landed the city centre is a very easy, 30 minute train ride away (the train station is just next to the airport).
Head to Berlin if your looking for good food and drink in a city with lots of different districts, each with their own personality. If you want to learn something new, Berlin is a great place to soak up some history too. We’ve been to Berlin a few times now and learn something new about it’s chequered past each time we go. There are some fascinating museums in the city, as well as plenty of open spaces and parks to explore, sit in, sunbathe in, watch karaoke in (Mauerpark, Sundays from 3pm) , shop in, drink and eat in, etc. There’s a surprising amount of open space in Berlin, so it doesn’t have a typical cramped capital city feel.
Kreuzberg is our favourite place to be when in Berlin, but the city has something to offer everyone. If you can , try to walk to your destinations rather than always taking the metro. The riverside paths are beautiful for strolling or biking along on warmer days. Take a walk through Tiergarten on a sunny afternoon and explore the park. There are lots of hidden gems including bars overlooking boating lakes for a afternoon beer in a beautiful setting.
Venice, Italy – for a quirky and intricate city experience (London Stansted to Venice: 2 hours 10 minutes)
Venice is like nowhere we have ever been before and is definitely worth a trip to experience the winding streets and tiny bridges, the blue water of the canals, ancient buildings and the delicious wine and cicchetti!
Venice gets incredibly busy in the summer months, so try to avoid this time if possible. Head there in Spring or early Autumn so you can still enjoy the warm weather and experience the city in all its glory.
Check out our post here on what you need to know before heading to Venice.
Tossa De Mar, Spain – for escaping the tourist trap by the beach (London Stansted to Girona: 2 hours 5 minutes)
Tossa De Mar is a little further down the Costa Brava coast from Lloret De Mar, a very popular tourist stop for British tourists and quite a loud and busy town. Tossa De Mar is a bit more low key than Lloret De Mar, but close enough that you can head there for the night if you want to have a bigger night out (12km).
Tossa still has a local feel to it whilst being busy enough to have an atmosphere. It’s an ancient fisherman’s village with a lot of history but the slightly more modern hotels and restaurants that have cropped up create a nice mix.
There are quiet coffee shops and restaurants along the narrow cobbled streets of the old town that serve great seafood for lunch or dinner. Just a short walk away is the beach which is enclosed in a small bay that gives it shelter from the sea breeze.
Visit the medieval castle at the top of the cliffs and take a walk within it’s walls to explore the labyrinth of houses, shops and bars still within them. You can walk further along the cliffs to see some spectacular coastal views too or spend your days relaxing on the sand and work your way through the quaint bars and restaurants in the evenings.
Even if you’re only there for a few days, Tossa is a great place to relax, read a book, take walks and learn about the medieval history of the town in the sun, without feeling like you are surrounded by too many tourists.
Bellagio, Lake Como – for breathtaking views and a change of pace (London Stansted to Milan: 1 hour 55 minutes)
It’s less than 2 hours flight from London but you could be million miles away in Bellagio.
Lake Como gives you spectacular views of surrounding hills framed by the calm waters of the lake. We’ve stayed in Bellagio before, but there are many other towns surrounding the lake that are just as beautiful. Most of the towns surrounding the lakes are very old, with windy streets up into the hills and tiny shops and cafes squeezed in along the way.
Take the ferry to surrounding towns and see what treasures they have to offer, or climb up into the hills for a real panoramic view. And of course, this is Italy, so the food and wine is pretty amazing here too.
The views are stunning in Bellagio and you can’t help but feel very small with the imposing hills surrounding you. Bellagio, or any of Lake Como’s towns are perfect for a quiet couple of days retreat – a real contrast the hustle and bustle of a traditional city break. Bellagio is a tiny town with a relaxing and chilled out atmosphere – you can’t help but feel a little bit more calm and at ease there, than before you arrived.
Paris, France – for romance and sightseeing (London Stansted to Paris Charles De Gaulle: 1 hour 20 minutes)
Paris can be big and bold and a bit over the top, but there are parts of the city that have a more traditional feel. We stayed in Montmartre for just 48 hours, a beautiful and traditionally bohemian part of the city that still had a small town feel it, even though you could see the Eiffel tower and bright lights of the city not far away.
Spend some time walking along the banks of the Seine admiring the views and veer off when you approach the Effiel Tower or Notre Dame to explore these and take a closer look.
When it’s dark, climb the highest hill the city in in Montmarte and see Sacre-Coeur lit up – the views over the city are beautiful – and then head to one of the many cozy bars or restaurants close by.
Paris has great shopping, some of the most famous attractions in Europe, history upon history, snails (try them, they’re delicious!) and with super short flights (or Eurostar journeys), it’s somewhere you can get to in no time from London.
Next time you’ve got two or three days spare, take a trip to one of these destinations and make the most of what (if you live in England!) we’re lucky enough to have on our doorstep.