CULTURAL BREAKS | TRAVEL FEATURE
With this issue being so arty and refined, Laura Blackwell delves into some of the best hassle free cultural destinations just a plane, train, or bus ride away.
Possibly the current poster child for city breaks, Amsterdam is a millennial magnet, boasting its nationally treasured Van Gogh Museum, charged Red Light District and wide-ranging coffee shops. Embracing everything from soft drug use to prostitution, the reputable city prides itself on its “Dutch tolerance.” Aside from its buzzing night life, Amsterdam is adorned with canals, parks and botanical gardens — and you can find a suave studio apartment somewhere on AirBnB for relatively cheap.
Home to Stockholm Fashion Week, Sweden’s experimental attempts to blur the lines between masculine and feminine ideas of fashion have been recently celebrated, currently making it extremely relevant in the fashion world. The Scandinavian city is also a sweet stop for foodies, with bakeries on every corner selling the native Swedish cardamom buns known as cinnamon rolls, or “Kanelbulle.” And you wouldn’t be doing a trip to Sweden right if you didn’t pay the IKEA Museum a visit: educate yourself on the origin of Ingvar Kamprad’s desire to design affordable furniture, and the transition in Swedish society that paved the way for a new vision of versatility and comfort.
Only a train ride away, Oxford’s prestigious backdrops for the Harry Potter films make it brilliantly British as well as a certified gem for film fanatics, offering a guided tour of some of the university’s oldest buildings, and of course film locations. Wander through the Covered Market dotted with cake shops and cafés, or indulge in a three-course dining experience on the Thames. It makes for an idyllic day trip, but if you’re keen to stay a little longer you won’t struggle to find affordable accommodation. In fact, to extend your culture fix why not check out the Malborough House Hotel for rustic comfort accompanied by an inclusive breakfast.
Italy’s capital is easy to get to from Cardiff, and a no-brainer with direct flights from as low as £89 with FlyBe. Dedicating a day to visit the now extended Colosseum is essential, the visitor route protruding to the underfloor passageways of the half-circus, half-sports arena that once saw gladiators and wild beasts battle. On the other hand, the city’s well-worn history is complemented by its more contemporary additions — MAXXI is Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid’s winning composition of coexisting environments naturally illuminated through a special roof system, equipped with an array of public spaces including the Linea Restaurant and bookshop.
On Princes Street in Edinburgh in 1996, Renton and Spud sprinted away from security guards after shoplifting from John Menzie’s in director Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. Scotland’s capital city is a location for settings such as the famous Volunteer Arms pub and Muirhouse Shopping Centre featured in some of the opening scenes of the Academy Award nominated cult film, and now, Trainspotting 2. The novel by Irvine Welsh and screenplay was said to have immortalised the young, discontented heroin-addicts during the late Thatcher era, and in doing so similarly affected Scotland’s historical hub on the southern shore.
Flying with RyanAir for the tiny cost of £43 means escaping to the largest city in Ireland couldn’t be simpler. Punctuated with landmarks, its known for the Spire of Dublin or ‘Monument of Light’ which symbolises Dublin’s place in the 21st century, as well as Dublin Castle, formerly a means of defence for the city and home to Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. But besides being a hotbed for culture, Dublin is equally abundant in traditionally Irish pubs, including Whelan’s — where Gerry famously serenades Holly in P.S. I Love You.
Champs-Elysées translates to “Elysian Fields” — implying someone once decided this romantic avenue in Paris was Heaven on Earth which, defined by the Arc de Triomphe, makes this a fair statement. It’s difficult to not constantly be in a state of awe when in the French capital, be it enamoured by the glimmering lights on the River Seine at night, or enticed by the effortless charm of the Champs-Elysées’ offerings of high street clothing outlets and macaron shops in the day. Flights from Cardiff Airport are available from £71 if you book with FlyBe.
For a tamer get-away, situated in the south-east corner of St. Bride’s Bay in Pembrokeshire, you can’t go wrong with this quaint fishing town in Wales’ possibly most notable family holiday destination, offering literal gardens of history and impressive restored castles. When it comes to accommodation choose from converted barns and cottages and experience life in the countryside on a proper Pembrokeshire farm. Sykes Cottages has a plenty of twee locations.