As summer rests its sleepy head, autumn comes bursting through in a glorious blaze of orange, leaves falling from the trees in a patchwork puddle. Pumpkins lay plump for the picking, TV shows come back in the fall, you all cuddle under fluffy blankets. Pumpkin latte frothed with milk, Disney onesies and slippers, couples browsing holidays, summer lingering wistfully. And while most are content to burrow under the covers, to me autumn conjures a wanderlust, a deep longing to jump on a plane and see where life takes me next. I would feast on sumptuous delights from Italy, creamy burrata exploding in my mouth, dessert wine coating my lips, but in New York I would people watch, smooth ice cream round my chops, dripping down my chin. And what about sipping smoothies in Bali, watermelon, refreshing and sweet, silky soft sand tickling your toes? It has nearly been a year since I last went away to Amsterdam, and I am craving a new escape, into an unknown world where nothing is familiar. I want to submerge myself into a magical domain of travel, whether that be Greece, Portugal, Thailand, or elsewhere, there is nothing I desire more than a holiday right now. So while summer isn’t even over yet, I’m already getting a big angsty, desiring a trip away, whether that be with my boo, friends or on a solo adventure, it would be so incredible to plan my next trip. And what better than a short autumn break? After all Autumn is a great time of year to go travelling. You don’t have the problems winter weather can throw your way, it is generally cheaper to book flights, and you can bring your Autumn wardrobe back into rotation again. What’s not to love?
If you’re like me and love taking time to Google away in the hopes you’ll find some unique hotspots to check out, then you’ll love this shortlist of six funky places I think are worthy of a break just before winter kicks in. From living like a Derry Girl to eating chestnuts on a Croatian street corner, here are six spots worth checking out, that are guaranteed to titillate your fancy. Question is where will you go on your short autumn break?
I’ve previously written about 5 incredible things to do in Frankfurt on the blog, but I highly recommend that you do a little research into this unique German city regardless. I get Birmingham vibes off it as it has a big industrial past, but despite its futuristic skyline Frankfurt is quite trendy and a good alternative if you’ve already been to Berlin and want to try something new. Home to the busiest German airport and located on the river Main, Frankfurt is the financial capital of Continental Europe, with the European Central Bank and the German Stock Exchange proving popular with visitors on business trips. So naturally a big part of the town is a financial hub like the London docklands, so you’re guaranteed some lovely river walks and posh bars that get busy after work hours. Even if you are not interested in finance, there is more to Frankfurt than its ‘serious business image that it projects’ and is a lively, cosmopolitan city that is renowned or its bars, revived by Frankfurt’s huge expat population. If you are anything like me, you love exploring new restaurants and bars, which Frankfurt has in heaps. For bars, I have my eye on the fabulously eccentric Hunky Dory bar, listed in Time Out’s definitive list of the 10 best Frankfurt bars, where you can quite literally ‘dial up your drink’. Confused? Well if you are too comfortable sitting down and would rather not get up and wait for eons at a bar where people’s sweaty armpits are in your face, then go to Hunky Dory where drinks are brought to you. Crammed with flea market finds from the 1930’s and 1940’s, the booths have wonderful black vintage rotary phones on speed dial to the bartender who will in turn deliver signature cocktails such as the Break Point (hibiscus, vodka, apricot brandy, agave syrup, lime and pickled chilli).
While German cuisine is not renowned for being vegetarian friendly, for the veggies and vegans like myself, there are a plethora of vegetarian and vegan restaurants that are guaranteed to whet your appetite . If you are looking for a fully vegan restaurant to enjoy on your short autumn break, for no frills delicious food try the divine ‘Savory’, who serve vegan delights such as The Hawai Burger, which uses seitan as a meat substitute and is layered with mouthwatering vegan cheese and fries. Or if you prefer fine dining, Seven Swans offers seasonal menus that make the most of what vegetables have to offer, with culinary delights such as Jerusalem Artichoke with Burnet & Onion, and red cabbage with beetroot and dead nettle from it’s winter menu which is also used during autumn. For things to do in Frankfurt if simplicity is what you are after in a short autumn break, then there is nothing more relaxing than taking a riverboat when it’s one of those really sunny Autumn mornings, even if it is a cold day. Just wear your fluffiest faux fur coat, and come kitted out like you have just robbed a blanket farm to stay warm on the tour, with the biggest sunglasses that you can find.
While a tour is a great way to see Frankfurt, if you are after something a little more unique you can get ‘peed on by a tree’. And yes it’s exactly as it sounds, as part of the Frankfurt art initiative Komishe Kunst (comic art), where the artist Friedrich Karl Waechter decided to give a tree at Lake Jacobiweiher a voice to express what it feels about being peed on a daily basis. It’s a novel attraction, and the Pinkelbaum’s sign stating that ‘for 300 years I was peed on, starting today Ipee back is sure to make you laugh. If you would rather not be pissed on (it’s not actual pee) at the Dialog museum you can step into a blind persons shoes for an hour, experience a simulated setting where you cross a road, go on a road, buy a drink, take back change and perform other tasks in pitch darkness.
What you need to eat: Kleinmarkthalle on a Friday around lunchtime
What you have to see: Römerberg, the main square that harkens back to the old day.
Where you just have to stay: Capri by Fraser Frankfurt
Hands up who’s been binge watching Derry Girls on Netflix? I love that show, and now the little city in Northern Ireland has become the spot to go for a real weekend break. It’s the kind of city where you’ll be walking around historic walls in the morning and visiting ancient Irish forts half an hour later, making it a wonderful experience for a history enthusiast like myself. Plus one of my best friends is from Northern Ireland, so it would be great to finally explore where she grew up in Ballymena which is just an hour and 7 mins (by car) from Derry, making Derry a great Northern Irish gem. While Derry Girls has made Dery increasubingly popular with fans eager to re-trace the steps of Saoirse-Monica, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnel and Dylan Llewellyn, there is more to Derry than just being a popular TV show. From dipping into open air art, with breathtaking street art and murals creating a keyhole viw into a time known as ‘The Troubles’ to getting spooked at Halloween at ‘Derry Halloween’ a Gothic ball at the Glassworks, a spooky 19th century church. If you would rather not dance with ghosts on your short autumn break, then why not go for a spooky stroll through the ‘Awakening of the Walls’ or take a tour through a haunted house for a ‘spooktacular Halloween’.
For nature enthusiasts a visit to County Londonderry is a must, with stunning coastline, rugged mountains and glorious views that will take your breath away. Acting as a cosmopolitan gateway between two epic touring routes- the wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coastal route, it might be Ireland’ ony surviving walled city, but there is more to it than meets the eye. A buzzing, modern city, Derry speaks for itself, where you can cross the stunning Peace Bridge and embark on a laid back adventure, a bridge which has won numerous awards since it opened in 2011. ‘Slow living’ is a focal part of Ireland’s rich tapestry of culture, nature and art and while it has the usual bars, and tourist hotspots for something a little more relaxing, why not take a short autumn break to Londonderry, and take the stunning Causeway Coastal route, where you can walk past the stunning Mussenden Temple, a neo-classical folly perched above a gorgeous beach? It’s little wonder therefore that this temple is a popular wedding spot, where you can enjoy panoramic views down to the sandy beach below. If golf is more your version of ‘slow living’ then why not take a trip to nearby Portstewart Golf Club, stunningly located in beautiful sand dunes, and boy will you be rewarded with glorious views. You are also close to Portstewart Strand, with crashing waves and golden sand that stretches on for miles. You might also fancy a swim, but remember it is a lot colder than Mediterranean beaches!
If romantic ruins are what you are after then the rugged ruins of Dunluce Castle (Late Middle Ages and 17th Century) will make your jaw drop, a glorious clifftop location that packs drama, nature, sightseeing and photography all in one beautiful vista. Thought to have been the inspiration for ‘Cair Paravel’ in C.S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1954) and the film location of the Game of Thrones Seat of House Greyjoy, the great castle of Pyke, Dunluce is more than just your ordinary castle. With the feel of a medieval epic, Dunluce isn’t the only historic gem that you should set your sights on; drop into the Neo-Gothic Guildhall, originally built in 1887 by The Honourable The Irish Society, a red sandstone building with Tudor overtones. Restored in 203, the new and improved Guildhall boasted an interactive tourist information point and a new dedicated exhibition exploring how the plantation has shaped their history. Having welcomed its one millionth visitor in July 2016 since its restoration in 2013, Guildhall is perfect for history and architecture lovers.
What you need to eat: Turnovers – a softer pastry style version of a croissant you’ll only get in this part of Ireland
What you have to see: Free Derry Corner
Where you just have to stay: Shipquay Hotel – a small boutique hotel in the literal centre of town (Hotels here are quite cheap, and you’re guaranteed a great night out with pubs full of charm. It can take a few minutes for your ear to tune in to the accent as people here tend to talk very fast, but it’s an incredibly friendly city.)
There are three very specific reasons I’m putting Glasgow down as a must for an Autumn, and that’s not just because it qualifies as a staycation. Food, gigs and greenery. Glasgow is low-key one of the best cities in the UK, in my opinion, and Autumn is when you’re going to have the best time there. The city centre is incredibly compact, which is great if you’re there for a shopping spree on Buchanan St, while the local food scene is like perusing the greatest takeaway menu ever. They have high-end pizza, burger, Indian and kebab spots that highlight how much people here like their food.There are gigs on pretty much every night, so you’re never at a loss for things to do in the evenings. And over 32% of the city is classified as “green spaces” with parks like Glasgow Green, Kelvingrove (in the trendy west end) and Queen’s Park absolute bliss for a morning walk. Not convinced? Read on to find out why Glasgow is an ideal spot to take a short autumn break this year. As someone who is always hangry, there is nothing I love better than eating my way through a country, one city at a time, wrapping my tongue around cultural delights that burst into flavour in my mouth. And where better than up and coming Glasgow , which is considered to be one of the most vegan friendly cities in the UK?
If you are a vegetarian like myself or a vegan, there is nothing more frustrating than piss poor veggie options which consist of a wilted salad and not much else, because apparently just because we are plant based we don’t have the same need for fantastic grub. Well let me tell you something, as someone who is hungry 99% of the time, just because I don’t eat meat, does not mean that I want to eat carrots for the rest of my life. Not today Satan, not today. If vegan afternoon tea is what you are after, then why not head to the gorgeous Hidden Lane Tea Room in the popular Finnieston area?As the name suggests its a bit of a secret find, but believe me it will all be worth it; adorable vintage crockery in pastel tones, and vegan cakes and sandwiches await your ravenous tummy with gleeful surprise. While Hidden Lane is not a vegan or vegetarian tea room, they cater for dietary requirements excellently and have veggie and vegan options outside of the afternoon tea menu such as Mull of Kintyre Cheddar Sandwich with apple and ale chutney and a Houmous Sandwich with Cucumber, Tomato, Red Onion and Balsmaic Glaze. Or if you are after fully vegan ‘cafe’ style food then you will love The V&V Cafe which has a vegan mini market and cafe, offering tasty treats like a vegan haggis pie Sunday Roast with roasted potatoes, carrots, broccoli and roasted parsnips, their infamous fry up with toast, veggie sausages, potato scones, homemade baked beans, spinach and cherry tomatoes as well as fabulous pastries and cakes to whet your appetite too.
And while Glasgow has a buzzing vegan scene, it is also famed for being gig central, with everything from comedy nights to music , festivals and dance shows that are guaranteed to get you in the party mood. For music, there are great bars such as Broadcast, Blue Dog and Slouch that cement Glasgow’s status as a UNESCO City of Music, a city that is heavily associated with the rock, indie, folk and dance scene. Broadcast is famed for throwing killer live gigs in Glasgow, playing host to both talented local music heroes such as The Bleeders UK to bands from further afield such as Seattle’s sequin punk Tacocat , making Broadcast the cool and quirky place to be. If it’s New York style and swagger that you are after then why not head down to the seriously cool ‘Blue Dog’, a cozy piano bar, where you are serenaded with jazz and blue tunes, with an equally fabulous cocktail list to boot. Open 7 days a week, Blue dog has one of the most extensive cocktail menus that I have seen, with each drink sorted into categories such as long and short drinks, and even a ‘top dog’ loyalty card for regulars who like to get their drinks on the cheap. Delicious sounding cocktails include the ‘Southern Belle’ with Southern Comfort, Gabriel Boudier Pomegranate Liquer, Grand Marnier, Fresh Strawberries, Fresh Lemon Juice and Cranberry Juice, and a Cherry and Chocolate Caipirinha with Davna Cherry Vodka, Gabriel Boudier Creme De Cacao, Fresh Limes and White Sugar. Or if you are after something a little different then head over to Cubatas Lounge, for a fabulous Spanish live music night in the heart of Glasgow .
What you need to eat: The ‘Notdog’ at Bloc, an amazing mixture of falafel, veggie chilli. walnuts, avocado. cheese sauce, apricots and american mustard.
What you have to see: The view from the top of the Necropolis in the East End
Where you just have to stay: The serviced accommodation in Merchant City that will have you feeling like a local in no time at all.
Geneva is somewhere which had always titillated my imagination ever since reading the Princess Diaries as a kid (man how I loved those series) and while Mia might have been a ‘fictional Princess’ the real Geneva was just as enchanting, enshrined in history,culture and more green spaces than you could shake a stick at. For history nerds Geneva is the ideal place to go for a sort autumn break, as you marvel over its origins as an Allobrogian border town, when the Romans took it in 121 BC, to becoming Christian under the Late Roman Empire, and ruled by a count in the Middle Ages, it’s safe to say that Geneva is far from boring. In the 15th century an oligarchic republican government emerged with the creation of the grand council, but in the first half of the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation reached the city which caused religious strife for a country that was once staunchly Catholic. In 1541 as Protestantism grew in numbers, John Calvin, the protestant reformer and propeller of Calvinism became the spiritual leader of the city and established the Republic of Geneva, but it was in 1907 when Geneva truly flourished, as the separation of Church and State was adopted, leading to Geneva becoming the seat of many international organizations.
If religious history is not your thing, then perhaps a heady dose of Geneva culture will be your cup of tea, with thrilling activities such as L’Escalade (12 December), celebrating the defeat of the surprise attack of troops sent by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy during the night of 11-12 December 1602. Festive traditions include such fancies such as chocolate cauldrons filled with vegetable shaped marzipan treats and the Escalade procession on horseback in seventeenth century armor. If music and festivals are what get you ticking, then you will love Geneva’s very own opera house the ‘Grand Theatre de Geneve’ which has the largest stage in Switzerland. Officially opened in 1876, partly destroyed by a fire in 1951 and reopened in 1962, this isn’t your average opera house with its fascinating historical timeline. Featuring opera and dance performances its Victoria Hall is used for classical music concerts and is the home of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Of course a visit to Geneva wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its beautiful Christmas market, especially if you’re used to cramped Christmas markets as we have in the UK. But not in Geneva, titled the ‘Best Christmas Market’ on Lake Geneva, Montreux Marche De Noel has been defined as the market to watch in the Lac Leman region, with enthralling views not just of the lake but also the snow covered Alps, making Geneva a very scenic city that has managed to retain much of its charm and one where you’ll be snapping pics of every quaint cobblestone street. Christmas at Geneva, especially in its markets are magical, with a special Santa’s House on Rochers-de-Naye and a Christmas Town in Caux. Or you might choose to spend your Christmas in Geneva at the special Medieval Christmas Market at Chateau de Chilton for a one of a kind market experience.
I also love cities that are quite close to amazing green spaces and on a crisp autumn morning is the ultimate spot for grabbing a coffee and going for a walk with its playground, 6 giant chess boards, lounge chairs and botanical garden for your viewing pleasure. The entrance on Place Neuve is the meeting point for chess players, with six humongous chess boards to play with, and ping pong tables are also available for those who prefer to play with balls. And no that was not a euphemism. In the summer sun loungers are made available to the public, which make it an ideal green space to people watch, have a delicious picnic or simply relax and let all your stresses fade away. On the entrance side there is a gorgeous majestic building called the Eynard Palace, built in 1817 for a Swiss banker by a Florentine Architect, and a visit to Parc des Bastions wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its glorious botanical garden created in 1817 by Augustin-Pyrame de Candolle, which was the first botanical garden in Geneva, Speaking of botanical gardens for the horticulturalists among us, you might choose to visit the breathtaking Jardin Anglais, an English Landmark inspired park featuring an 1862 fountain, a flower clock sculpture and lake views.
What you need to eat: Double cream meringue, especially as a treat with coffee
What you have to see: The Red Cross Museum
Where you just have to stay: Fraser Suites Geneva – as central as you can get for a great price
Here’s a weird thing you’d never hear someone say about a city; their tap water is amazing. I suppose when you have mountains surrounding you, it’s a safe bet. Vienna is an incredibly clean city and one that oddly feels quite quiet in the Autumn, which makes it the ideal location to go on a short autumn break. It’s this quiet solitude that makes Vienna a beautiful escape from reality, with highlights including Schonbrunn Palace, Prater and Seegrotte that immerse you in Vienna’s glorious natural world. If you are after a trip that revolves around nature, parks and stunning palaces then Vienna is the short break for you. For a start the glorious Shonbrunn Palace is entrenched in history; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers, and spans a history of over 300 years, reflecting the changing tastes, aspirations and interests of the successive Habsburg rulers. The 1441 room Rococo palace is of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in Vienna and has been a major tourist attraction since the 1950’s. And it’s easy to see why, sweeping baroque rooms, an example of synthesis of the arts and a sculpted garden space featuring an Orangerie, palm house and Tiergarten, Shonbrunn is a marvelous palace. Its little wonder therefore that the Shonbrunn is Vienna’s most popular tourist attraction and was attended by 3,800,000 visitors in 2017.
For those who are big kids at heart Vienna welcomes you to the Prater, filled with turbulent roller coasters, spooky ghost trains and a 5D cinema that is guaranteed to put a pep in your step. As its website says ‘no other place radiates so much energy and joi de vivre as the Viennese Prater, making it the ideal location for both young and old. Iconic attractions that the Prater is known for include the Vienesse Giant Wheel, which was built in 1897 and is one of Vienna’s landmarks, the Liliputbahn, a guage light railway that is a 75 year old attraction and the Praterturm, which is the highest flying swing in the world at 117 metres and was buillt in 2017. If you would rather not swing around Vienna, clutching your face for dear life, then perhaps a gentler look at the city is needed. With Vienna being such a green city, you know you’re going to get plenty of park walks with leaf kicking guaranteed, while the vineyards dotted around the outside of the city guarantee it’s the best time of year to go wine tasting.
It’s nice to explore and see all the sights, and there are many, but Vienna is also about the finer things in life as illustrated by its wealth of palaces, open green spaces and botanical gardens. However part of this ‘luxury aesthetic’ is not just associated with its natural landscape but also its status as a business-centric town, as Austria’s economic powerhouse with numerous business and career opportunities which makes it ideal if you work in the finance industry and need a new location to conduct your affairs on a short term autumn break. Because of its reputation as a financial hub, Vienna naturally is home to a series of cafes, bars and restaurants that are a welcome respite from work, with a lot of the restaurants serving traditional food like Apfelstrudel (an apple filled strudel) in cute little spots that have remained the same for decades. A lot of the best cafes and bars are hidden down various side streets like Cafe Schwarzenberg (the oldest cafe on the Ringstrasse), Cafe Pruckel (a pillar of the Viennese coffee house movement for more than 100 year), If Dogs Run Free (an atmospheric bare bones bar that has been described as The Matrix meets Mad Max) and Top Kino (an arthouse cinema with one of Vienna’s friendliest bars). One thing is for sure, you will never be bored in Vienna.
What you need to eat: Any cake, especially Sacher Torte. All cake comes with a massive dollop of whipped cream.
What you have to see: Prater Amusement park with its iconic Ferris wheel
Where you just have to stay: Boutique Hotel Das Tigra
Croatia is starting to come together as a prime summer holiday spot with lots of new resorts popping up along the coast and festivals like Defected Croatia and Hideout Festival making waves during sunny months.The country’s capital, which has to be a definite for an amazing answer on Pointless, is still a relatively untouched tourist spot and its hard to see why. After all when Zagreb is home to festivals like RujanFest ( a combination of gastro/drinking activities featuring Crotaian cuisine and live music from local artists), the International Puppet Festival , as well as the ‘Museum of Broken Relationships’, Museum of Illusions and the Zagreb Botanical Garden, it is difficult to understand why Zagreb has slide under the radar. Potentially it could be because Zagreb is pretty far East and has limited flights that explain its status as a fairly untouched gem (although you can fly direct from Heathrow, but most UK airports require a transfer in Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Vienna) but regardless Zagreb is a delightful city to visit on a short autumn break this year. Not convinced? Read on to find out why you should visit Zagreb this autumn.
For a start Zagreb is quirky, after all where else can you visit a museum that is dedicated to personal objects from former lovers, or visit a centre dedicated to illusions, puzzles and games? The Museum Of Broken Relationships is an interesting one; situated in a baroque palace in Zagreb with a second location in LA, the museum is a physical and virtual public space created with the sole purpose of treasuring and sharing your heartbreak stories and symbolic possessions. An original creative art project conceived by Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic in 2006, it won the EMYA Kenneth Hudson Award as the most innovative and daring museum project in Europe in 2010. If you would rather not waste time with the past, then a visit to the Museum of Illusions might be more your scene, an attraction featuring various optical illusion exhibits and a smart playroom with games and puzzles. With over 70 exhibits you can enjoy the largest collection of holograms in this part of Europe , as well as a ‘Dilemma games concept’ in the museum’s smart playroom where visitors of all ages can play, compete and just have fun.There are puzzles galore, impossible knots to untangle, math games and various other didactic concepts that will stretch and challenge your brain to the max.
If nature and culture is more of a reason to go somewhere on a short break this Autumn, then Zagreb has open green spaces, markets, theatres, cathedrals and so much more to titillate your fancy. After all Zagreb is quite a lovely looking city that is extremely walkable and has many different architectural influences that you can see from the buildings. The Zagreb Botanical Garden , founded in 1889 is a prime example of how architecture and nature merge in one seamless attraction, with the garden hosting more than 5000 different plant species, including a valuable collection of rich Crotian Flora, as well as an Arboretum in the style of an English Garden, n aesthetic that was devised in the 17th and 18th century in contrast to the strictness and formality of the omnipresent Baroque gardens found in many European Castles. The Arboretum style usually features informal gardens with open spaces, artificial lakes and creeks and even grotto’s for that romanticized version of an English Garden. Here at the Botanical Garden many features of an English Garden is evident, especially in relation to ‘lined up trees’ such as the fascinating Ginkgo tree that dates back to the Jurassic Epoch and is the only sole surviving species within the Ginkgo family.
Handy Tip: Head around September, and you’ll find it is possible to eat and drink outside and not feel a chill. The temperature drops around mid-October and the city is chock full of cosy little bars you can find a nook in (Croatia is underrated for making amazing beers) Bars you should try include Swanky Monkey Garden, Botanicar and Program.
What you need to eat: Chestnuts from a street vendor – a paper bag of sweet, nutty goodness
What you have to see: The Christmas Market which starts on 30th November
Where you just have to stay: Indigo Centar – a trendy hotel that can get really cheap
Where Would You Like To Go On Your Next Short Autumn Break?
Please note this is a collaborative post but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by monetary compensation.