Sarah Loughlin hunts down the best travel deals for weekend breaks.
Autumn is a time for weekend breaks. Not because weekends are particularly spectacular in autumn, but because you have run out of holiday allowance at work.
Unless by some miracle you have been rationing your holidays like a sensible person, in which case I applaud you!
I however, have not been lucky enough to squirrel away many holiday days! So will be spending the next few months wishing I had had a bit more self- control with those last minute summer bargains. And taking weekend breaks. Lots of them.
Here are my top picks to tide you over until the New (holiday) Year!!
October: Oslo, Norway. Friday 24th – Monday 27th October.
There is a choice of flights from London Stansted for £53 return.
On Booking.com I found the Anker Apartment which has both apartments and also dorm rooms depending on your budget; it is great value in a good location, £90.50 per person for three nights (based on two people sharing a twin room with a private bathroom and kitchenette) and it has good reviews on Tripadvisor. It has basic cooking facilities, which can be handy if you don’t want to spend too much money on eating out; Norway is notoriously pricey compared to the UK. On average a beer costs about £7. Traveling from the airport to town takes about an hour, you can either get the bus or train.
If I were going to Norway (which since doing the reading about the city, I might do just that!) this is how I would spend my weekend:
*All prices converted from Norwegian Krone to GBP to give you an idea of cost*
The Oslo Opera Festival is on during October – why not check out the performance of Madame Butterfly for free at the Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania. The performance starts at 7pm and the hotel is about 30 minutes walk from the Anker Apartment (see map below for location).
Norway has some fantastic history – spend the day exploring some of the museums:
The Edvard Munch Museum – Dedicated to Norwegian artist Edvard Munch whose famous works include The Scream. Adult entry £9, open from 11am-5pm, guided tours everyday at 1pm. Aprox 20 minutes walk from the Anker Apartment (see map below).
The Viking Ship Museum – Check out some genuine Viking ships! Entry £6, open 10-4pm. To get there from the Anker Apartment: Take the number 30 bus from the Dælenenga (stop next to the Anker Apartment) towards Bygdøy. Get off at Vikingskipshuset. Journey takes about 30 minutes and costs £9 for an all day bus ticket or £3 for a single journey if you buy your ticket before you get on the bus. For more information on getting around check out Oslo’s journey planning website.
Nobels Fredssenter (Nobel peace price museum) – Learn all about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize and some of the people who have received it such as Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. Adult entry £9, open 10am-6pm. 40 minutes walk from the Anker Apartment (see map below).
After your hectic weekend of learning about Norwegian culture and history make time to relax with a live band on Sunday afternoon at Bla, a well known Jazz Club. It is only 20 minutes walk from the Nobels Fredssenter and 20 minutes from the Anker Apartment (see map). There is a 4pm acoustic set, and an electric set at 8.30pm – free entry.
Not a museum fan? Don’t panic, here is plenty more to do! Check out the Everywhereist’s blog post on Oslo – its very funny. Lonley Planet has some good suggestions, and The Oslo Pass website has a page of ‘Top 10’s’ for every occasion.
The Oslo Pass is about £28 for the day and gives you access to various museums and sights, so if you are planning to have an action packed day it might work about cheaper than paying for attractions individually.
November: Jersey, UK. Saturday 8th – Monday 10th of November.
Flight and hotel package with the BA Holiday Finder for £99 per person based on two people sharing a room (breakfast included) at the Mayfair Hotel St Helier. This hotel has great reviews and is right in the centre of town.
This will be the last weekend of the annual Channel Islands ‘Tennerfest’, which runs from 1st of October to the 11th of November. The Tennerfest, which has been going for over 10 years, is a six week period in which over 180 restaurants across the Channel Islands have a special fixed price menu exclusive to the Tennerfest. So not surprisingly most of my suggested activities are based around food – mixed in with some sporty outdoor type things to justify all the food.
To get from the airport to the hotel take bus number 15 from outside the airport terminal. It goes roughly every 15 minutes and costs £1.70 for an adult fare (Use the handy Journey Planner to check bus times).
After dumping your bags head to the St Helier bus station and take the number 22 bus towards L’etacq. Get of at St Ouen’s beach close to El Tico’s Restaurant (ask the driver if you are not sure where to get off).
Laneez is the surf shop on the beach next to El Tico’s you can rent a surfboard and a wetsuit for £10 for 2 hours, or all day for £20. If you have never surfed before, no problem, they also offer lessons. The surf is best at St Ouen’s at mid- to low- tide so check the times before you set off. If you don’t fancy a surf, St Ouen’s is Jersey’s longest beach, great for a nice walk to stretch your legs after the flight.
Stop at El Tico’s for dinner or a late lunch, during Tennerfest they are doing two courses for £15 or three courses for £17.50, check out the menu here.
Afterwards why not head to the bonfire night display at Moulin de Lecq Pub which starts at 6.30pm.
The Collas Crill Island Walk, formally known as the Itex Walk is the annual 48 mile round the Island walk to raise money for charity. On their website the walk is broken down into 13 stages of varying length and difficulty. Pick a stage that suits you and go for a walk to explore the island.
Alternatively there are the ‘Aletrails’ which are six walking routes put together by Visit Jersey, described as ‘walking routes to build thirst’ – they all end at pubs, which is very convenient. You can download the PDF and print it out to take with you before you go. I would pick Walk 4, which is a bit more challenging and starts and ends at the Vic in the Valley pub. They are offering two courses for £10 and three courses for £12.50, check out the menu here (open for lunch between 12 and 4.30pm). To get there take bus 28 or bus 8 from the bus station in St Helier.
If the weather holds out why not make the most of your last day in Jersey and take a guided bike tour around the island – starting at £25 per person including equipment hire the rides can be tailored to your group.
Afterwards try out another of the Tennerfest menus at the Adelphi Lounge in St Helier, click here for menu. They are offering two courses for £10 or three courses for £12.50 (open for lunch between 12 and 2.30pm).
December: Berlin, Germany. Saturday 6th of December – Tuesday 9th of December.
Two words. Christmas. Markets.
The Practical bits: Fly from London Stansted for £73 return.
Stay at Penthouse am Checkpoint Charlie in the centre of Berlin with AirBnB for just £105.50 per person based on two sharing. The Penthouse is in a prime location on Charlottenstraße (Charlotte Street) – see map below. Not only is it well connected for public transport, but it’s on the same street as the famous Fassbender-Rausch chocolate restaurant, and it is right next to the Christmas market WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt. To get from the airport to the city take the train, you can buy a Berlin WelcomeCard which covers public transport and also gives you a discount to selected tourist attractions.
Now for the fun parts. Berlin at Christmas is just incredible. The polar opposite to Oslo, everything here is great value compared to London. A mug of glühwein or beer will set you back around €3 (or about €4 if you want to keep the souvenir mug that it is served in).
Christmas market to do list:
Drink Glühwein – It is pretty chilly in Berlin in December, so wrap up warm and grab a mug of glühwein (german mulled wine) from one of the stalls as you wonder around the market.
Eat Bratwurst – Again super good value and amazingly tasty – will help keep you going on your Christmassy adventures.
Eat Cedar – Planked Salmon – The salmon steaks are nailed to the charred planks and then propped against the fire to cook. Then they are broken up and put in a bun with some herby mayonnaise. Totally amazing. And a good alternative to the bratwurst if you are not a meat eater!
Eat Chocolate Covered Fruit on Sticks – It wont keep you particularly warm, but it is really delicious. And healthy. Compared to a bratwurst. Maybe.
Drink more Glühwein – It really can get quite chilly! Plus the Christmas markets come into their own in the evenings, there is a fantastic atmosphere with lots of people meeting up to look around or have bite to eat and a drink, so stick around and get involved.
There are many great Christmas markets to choose from in Berlin, but my favourite were:
Alexanderplatz Christmas Market (Alexanderplatz, Berlin, 10178) – I will always have a soft spot for this market because it was the first one I had ever visited and I was beyond excited. Its also really close to some of the other markets so you can wander between them very easily.
WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt (Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin, 10117) – I really enjoyed this market, there were quite a few more covered/indoor sections with lots of hand made crafts. Including a man who made sculptures from antique cutlery, very cool. There was also entertainment in the evening. Plus it is across the road from the Penthouse am Checkpoint Charlie!
Winterwelt market at Potsdamer Platz (Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, 10785) – This Christmas market has curling and an apres ski party from 7pm! It is also next to Arkaden Shopping centre, so if your travel buddy is all Glühweined out, they can do a spot of shopping while you grab another bratwurst and some chocolate covered fruit!
Go to the Visit Berlin website for more details on the markets, or see Richard Carter’s Article for more reviews.
Other things to do in Berlin:
Charlottenberg Palace – This beautiful 17th century Palace and Gardens is only a short train ride from the centre of town. We didn’t actually go inside, but did a self guided tour of the gardens from my guidebook. Plus there is a Christmas market in front of the Palace, so you are never too far away from a warming Glühwein!
Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm) – See the whole of the city from over 300m up! This is a popular attraction, so book ahead to avoid the waiting time, and go during the evening so you can see the city lit up late at night. The view from the top of the tower is fantastic. Un-like similar sites in other cities the TV tower is very reasonable, entry is €13 and a cocktail costs around €6/7. So make time to relax at the bar and enjoy the view, or why not make a dinner reservation at the TV Tower restaurant ‘Sphere’.
Chocolate restaurant – On the same street as the Penthouse am Checkpoint Charlie, opposite the entrance to the WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market you will find the most amazing chocolate shop you have ever been too. There are huge intricate sculptures of buildings made of Chocolate as well as little Santas and tiny chocolate truffles. But thats not the best bit! Upstairs you will find a restaurant serving food and drink inspired by chocolate (even savoury main meals, crazy!). We only had time to dash in for a quick hot chocolate, but blimey, it was quite the hot chocolate indeed!
Walking tour of Berlin – Not being much of a history buff I found this tour fascinating! Learn all about WW2 and the years afterwards, and how the city is still recovering. Plus it’s a chance to see some of the famous sights while burning off a few of those bratwursts! But remember to wrap up warm, and take snacks. Nothing like a spot of ‘Hanger‘ to ruin your trip! With your Berlin WelcomeCard you get 25% of the walking tours with Insider Tours, the ‘Famous Insider Walk‘ leaves daily at 10am and cost €9 with the discount.
If these don’t grab your fancy see my post ‘How to Fly for £17 Return’ for tips on hunting out great travel deals.
All prices and availability were accurate on Tuesday 14th of October; please check websites for up to date pricing.