The short winter days and chill in the air can leave even the best of us craving a bit of warm sunshine from time to time. Finding the sun during the winter months may conjure up ideas of far off destinations, but with some careful shopping around you should be able to find a sun-soaked weekend getaway within Europe. There may not be the scorching 40-degree temperatures of summertime, but that little bit of heat and extending daylight hours will be just the trick to do you the world of good.
The Sicilian city of Palermo on the northwest coast of the island is a perfect seaside city break for anyone looking for some winter warmth. Cathedral hop for a look at the architecture or use our guide to eating out in the city that will leave your mouth watering. The brioche con gelato is a must-try and to see how the locals eat, head to the famous Ballaro market to stock up on supplies for some authentic Sicilian cooking. If you have the time and want to explore a bit more of the island, rent a car and drive along the coast to towns like Cefalù, San Vito Lo Capo or even onwards to Trapani if the mood takes you. Stay close to the coast and discover the small coves and beaches along the way.
So often holidaymakers fly into Malaga only to leave in favour of a nearby resort town. The coastal Andalusian city is well worth exploring with beachside suburbs like Pedregalejo, a great place to find some beaches away from the tourist crowd. The centre of Malaga itself also has plenty going on, from the imposing Alcazaba that dominates the peaks of the city to the pedestrianised central shopping area that is a joy to walk around and explore. Malaga is also the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and there is a museum in his honour, or for something a bit different, the bullring in Malaga also houses a museum to honour the controversial bullfighting tradition.
Another coastal Spanish city for you to explore is Alicante on the Costa Blanca. It goes without saying that the beaches around here are stunning but if you’re looking to get out and stretch your legs, try heading to El Palmeral, a coastal park on the outskirts of the south of the city that feels a world away from city life. The impressive waterfalls and tranquil walkways are a great place to stroll around on a Sunday, all you need is a picnic, a good book and you’re set for the day.
If watersports are your thing, then there is only one place you should be heading in Europe: Portugal. The town of Sagres on the southwest tip of the Algarve faces out into the Atlantic making it a haven for surfers, windsurfers and scuba divers alike. Spear-fishing is another thing to try your hand at but if you’d prefer to look at the sea rather than get into it, try the cliff walks from the lighthouse around the Cape of St Vincent which looks out on to the gateway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The views out to sea on a clear day are spectacular, and it’s a great spot for bird-watching. Bring a wooly hat; it can be fairly windy on the cliffs even if the sun is shining.
The warmest place in Europe for year-long sunshine is also about as far away as you can get from it on a map. Much like Malaga, many people think of the Canaries as a destination that only caters to the package, all-inclusive holidays but really there is so much more to these distinctive islands. Head to Lanzarote for some volcano climbing in a landscape that will make you feel like a Jedi from Star Wars. For culture vultures head to the island of Tenerife and enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage site of San Cristobal de la Laguna, a quaint colonial town filled with historic churches, architecture, and museums. If you want to dig a little deeper into the islands’ history, try the Museum of Nature and Man at the port of Santa Cruz where you can learn more about the islands’ inhabitants prior to colonialism. The high peaks of all the Canary Islands are a model for hiking and hill walker and the fantastic light in this region makes it a gem for any budding photographers.
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