Short-hop celebrations: the best city breaks by the sea

Saunter through one of these beautiful cities, exploring historical sites and grazing on sizzling street food, before dipping your toes in the ocean at a sun kissed beach. Here are our favourite short breaks by the sea.

Walled cities and golden bays: Valletta, Malta

The waterfront city of Valletta is incredibly romantic, with evocative, timeworn streets and beautiful Baroque architecture on every corner. It also appeals to lovers of a different kind – those that are passionate about seriously good food. The Maltese celebrate homegrown and locally sourced produce and there are five Michelin-starred restaurants on the island – 3 of which are in Valletta – perfect for a candlelit dinner for two. Spend a few days strolling around the museums, galleries and fresco-adorned buildings, and don’t miss the shopping and cocktail bars on lively Republic Street. When you're ready for a change of scene, take a trip to one of the Blue Flag beaches dotted around Malta's coastline. Golden Bay is one of the best; make sure to bring your mask and fins, as the crystal-clear waters make it a top spot for snorkelling.

valleta malta

Stay

Stay at The Phoenicia Malta, an iconic landmark that sits proudly at Valletta’s city gates. A firm favourite with the Queen, you can expect elegant décor, indulgent afternoon tea and the royal treatment, as well as modern nods such as a stunning infinity pool with views over the harbour.

Expert tip

“Go beyond the city walls and visit a vineyard in the picturesque countryside. Maltese wine is raved about by oenophiles and rarely exported off the island, so stock up on a few fruity bottles to impress at the next dinner party.”

Faye Gallacher, Europe Destination Expert

phoenicia malta

Explore Lisbon’s hidden gems

A city of contrasts, Lisbon blends old and new perfectly. The capital's 2,000-year-old history is visible in its grand buildings, while its upscale shops and trendsetting restaurants give it a modern edge. It’s a hilly city, so expect breathtaking vistas from the city viewpoints as well as plenty of rest stops as you traverse the sloping streets. To save your legs, hop on one of the little yellow trams that rattle through the city or relax in a cafe; sampling one of Lisbon’s famous custard tarts is sure to restore your energy. We recommend taking a few days to explore the quirky neighbourhoods. We love Alfama, where you’ll find crumbling buildings and snug restaurants wafting out Portuguese Fado music, and Baixa, home to stylish boutiques and tree-lined boulevards. For an easy way to tick off the sights in one swoop, take a look at our Highlights of Lisbon tour.

lisbon

Stay

Stay at Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, a landmark hotel in the heart of Lisbon’s grandest avenue. Celebrate your occasion by toasting sunset at the Sky Bar before a dining sensation at SEEN, the cities hottest rooftop restaurant.

Expert tip

“The cosmopolitan seaside town of Cascais is just a short hop from Lisbon and is a popular alternative to staying in the capital. You’ll find fabulous beaches here, and the characterful old town is brimming with fish restaurants, museums and colourful street art. Stay at Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel & Spa, a former royal residence with sea views and a gorgeous spa.”

Tracy Martin, Kuoni Programme Manager – Short Haul

tivoli avenida liberdade

Tapas trails & city sands in Palma, Mallorca

Mallorca’s capital, Palma, is gaining a worthy reputation as a fantastic city break destination. There’s quaint cobbled lanes and palm-fringed squares, excellent shopping and nightlife, and a foodie scene that rivals some of the best cities in the Med. Go on a tapas trail to find a great value menú del día or stroll around Palma’s oldest market, Mercat De Santa Catalina, where you’ll find artisan bakeries, Charcutiers and typical Mallorcan street food. Balance out the sightseeing with a day of sun-soaking at an urban beach; Ca'n Pere Antoni is the closest beach to the old town and has a spectacular backdrop of the city’s magnificent Cathedral. But we recommend making a beeline to the smaller coves on the outskirts of town for a more chilled-out vibe.

mallorca

Stay

Hospes Maricel & Spa Hotel is a romantic oceanfront retreat in the peaceful town of Cas Catalá, just 10 minutes from the bright lights of Palma. You can set yourself up for the day’s adventures with the ‘best breakfast in the world’ – claimed at the Madrid Fusion Gastronomic Summit a few years back – and recuperate with a blissful treatment in the cave-style spa.

Expert tip

“From Palma, you can hop on a vintage train to citrus-scented Sóller, one of Mallorca’s prettiest villages in the UNESCO-listed Tramuntana mountains. People-watch on the main square with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and soak up the mountain scenery peeking out behind the terracotta-topped roofs”.

Heather Flanagan, Product Team

hospes maricel spa hotel

A taste of Sicily

Palermo's rococo architecture and multi-cultural history make it a fascinating place to visit. This is a city where you can happily ramble about the medieval streets for hours, perhaps watching a traditional puppet show or admiring the mosaics in the Norman Palace. But the real draw to a stay here is the cuisine. Graze your way through the Sicilian street food in the souk-like markets, where local vendors rustle up Italian delicacies like arancini, chickpea fritters and delicious antipasto. Gelato is also a go-to snack, served customarily in a sweet brioche bun – and often for breakfast. After dark, try the catch-of-the-day in a family-run trattoria before hitting the town; nightlife ranges from opera nights at the theatre to dancing in al fresco bars.

palmero

Stay

Expect 1950’s film star glamour at Villa Igiea, A Rocco Forte Hotel, a renovated art nouveau palazzo with sweeping views over the Bay of Palermo. If you can pull yourself away from the poolside ‘Sophia Loren’ cocktails, there’s a free shuttle to whisk you into the city.

Expert tip

“If you’re staying at Ville Igiea, A Rocco Forte Hotel, treat your other half to a day of sailing in style on their private villa boat. Your skipper will drop anchor at the best local swimming spots, such as Mondello or Cefalu, and you can tuck into a Champagne picnic lunch on board.”

Andrew Dodd, Store Manager, Kuoni Harrogate

rocco forte hotel

Inspired?


If you’re short on time but have a big occasion to celebrate, let us help. Our Europe experts are full of ideas on how to make the most of a few days away, so talk to us to start planning.

This feature was published on 28th June 2022. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.