Between the excitement of New Year’s Eve and February half-term, prices for flights and accommodation are generally lower and your need to escape dark, gloomy evenings is generally higher. It’s the perfect time to see a new European city, travel to Scotland and experience a Burns Night supper, or head further afield for some winter sun.
Here are four suggestions for cities you could go to cheaply and easily. We’ve based our choice on the handy interactive travel tool we created to compare the cost of different cities across the world. The tool outlines what you can get for £100 a day in each city, for example luxury accommodation, local meals, a round trip in a taxi and visits to the top attractions. For the cities below, we’ve also added in specific recommendations from those who work at Starling - where to eat, what to do, how much you can expect to spend.
Lisbon city break
January is the coldest month in Lisbon with average temperatures of 11.5°C. But that’s still several degrees warmer than the average in British cities. There are direct flights from Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Bristol, with prices for return flights for less than £50 on certain weekends.
For a £100 a day budget, you can book yourself a beautiful room in a hotel and treat yourself to dinner at a lovely restaurant in the evening. During the day, you can find some local tapas or seafood. For the local pastry pastel de nata, try Pasteis de Belem, or for a beautiful Portuguese taverna, head to Bairro do Avillez. If you’re planning ahead and want to book somewhere, Cantinho Lusitano is a tiny hidden gem.
Many of the best attractions are free - wander through cobbled streets to Praça do Comércio, the main square, or Bairro Alto, an ancient district of Lisbon decorated with stunning street art.
Weekend in Warsaw
The capital of Poland is full of pretty pastel houses and old red brick churches. There’s plenty to do and see over a weekend, all within a £200 budget for two days and two nights. There are direct return flights from London, Liverpool, Doncaster, Birmingham and Edinburgh for as little as £40.
You could spend Friday and Saturday night in a hotel and enjoy two dinners out with a lovely bottle of wine. On Saturday, you could have breakfast at the hotel, take a taxi into town and tick off all five top attractions. These include the Old Town, the Royal Castle, Łazienki Park and the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace, which only costs £4.15.
Also within your budget, according to our tool, would be lunch at a restaurant and public transport to get you from place to place. Recommendations for places to eat include Stary Dom for traditional Polish dishes such as pierogi, and Stixx Bar & Grill for steak.
On Sunday, you could see some more sites, such as the Palace of Culture and Science or try Room Escape, where you’re locked in a room with a team of people and together have to work out how to escape.
Closer to home, Glasgow makes for a great weekend away. On the train, it’s just over three hours from Manchester, or four and a half from London. Or you could fly direct to save time.
Our travel tool doesn’t include many British cities at the moment but we wanted to flag up Glasgow for its vibrant music scene and world class cuisine. Top recommendations include Eusebi Deli and Restaurant for Italian or Ox & Finch for contemporary tapas.
In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay. There are street parties and concerts and fireworks galore, not just in Glasgow but all over Scotland and especially in Edinburgh.
For the weekend of 25th January, you may well be roped into a ceilidh, the name for a traditional party with Scottish dancing, to celebrate Burns Night, the birthday of Scottish national icon and poet Robert Burns. For example, the organisation Scotland in Union is hosting its annual Burns supper which will include poetry readings and a traditional three course meal. You’ll toast the haggis with a shot of whisky.
For live music, try The Pig and the Butterfly, which hosts singers and bands every night of the week, or Òran Mór - its name is Gaelic for ’great melody of life.’
Winter visit to Marrakesh
If you can take more time off, look into Marrakesh - a walled medieval city in the heart of Morocco. There are direct winter flights from London, Manchester and Liverpool for less than £50. For January and February, there are average high temperatures of 19/20°C.
Once you’re there, for £100 a day, you’ll be able to book a centrally located hotel and use taxis to go to the markets and many attractions scattered throughout the city. The most expensive entrance fee is for the Bahia Palace at just £6.34. A must visit market is Jemaa el-Fnaa. There are also beautiful gardens including Le Jardin Secret and the garden of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Outside the city, you can do a day trip to the Atlas mountains or arrange a camel ride or quad bike trip in the desert.
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to food. Local cuisine consists of couscous and tagine, full of fragrant spices. You’ll be able to buy paprika or cumin within the Medina, a maze-like quarter of Marrakesh. Recommendations for restaurants include Comptoir Darna, and Le Foundouk for candlelit dinners, or Roti d’or for something small, cheap and cheerful.
We’ve based these recommendations on price comparisons from our £100 a day travel tool. But of course, how much you really want to spend is up to you.
Wherever you go and however much you want to spend, remember that you can do so with your Starling card with no extra fees from us, for taking out cash or using your card abroad.