Seven European Destinations for a Sun-Soaked Bank Holiday Break

Planning your four-day-weekend getaway? Read on for our pick of the beautiful European destinations to bookmark, from a lesser-known Portuguese paradise to a pine-covered Croatian idyll – via a sorbet-fuelled pit stop in the Sicilian capital

In need of some March motivation? You've come to the right place. With that four-day weekend just around the corner, we've been busy tracking down the coolest destinations for a balmy bank holiday escape. You know the sort: sun-kissed coastlines dotted with pin-striped parasols, picturesque neighbourhoods brimming with family-run restaurants, boutique bedrooms that deliver all the extra trimmings (hello, private terraces and rooftop plunge pools) and enough cultural delights to keep even the most curious entertained. Join us as we tour a lesser-known pocket of Portugal, a pine-studded Croatian enclave, a sorbet-fuelled pit stop in the Sicilian capital and more.

Seven beautiful destinations for a bank holiday break

Tavira, Portugal



Sidestep wine-soaked Porto and Lisbon's colourful plazas in favour of the tranquil Tavira for your next Portuguese break. Slotted between the foothills of the Serra do Caldeirão mountains and the Algarve's sun-kissed coastline, this lesser-known neighbourhood has all the ingredients that make for a brilliant weekend break. The perfect morning? A stroll along the pine-dotted banks of the Gilhão River, admiring the beauty of the waterside villas, before slipping into the municipal market for fresh fruits and veggies. Spend an afternoon wandering around the old town, stopping at the 11th-century castle and crumbling ramparts originally built as a defence against seafaring enemies. Pause for an evening paddle at the sandy Praia do Barril, then linger over dinner at sustainable restaurant Cercle, whose locally sourced menu - think homemade sourdough loaves and chickpea curries - and stellar low-intervention wine offering have made it a hit with locals.

Where to stay: São Paulo Boutique Hotel

Palermo, Italy


Sicily, Italy

Palermo - or Kingdom of the Sun, as the Sicilians call it - is a city loved for its edgy, free-spirited character. Having shaken off its mafia-bruised reputation, Sicily's capital is today a colourful canvas of open-air food markets, charming palazzos, family-run trattorias, jazz-infused bars and enough art-filled hangouts to have seen it crowned Italy's Capital of Culture in 2018. Dump your bags at Palazzo Sovrana and start your adventure with a peach-flavoured sorbet from the award-winning Cappadonia Gelati, followed by a visit to Pietro Tramonte's outdoor library for some fresh reading material. Come sunset, it's homemade pasta at family-run Bisso Bistrot and drinks at cocktail bar Bocum. Start your holiday countdown by booking a ticket at Teatro Massimo, Italy's biggest opera house, which is famed for its ornate interiors and perfect acoustics - and also hosts magical silver screen showings.

Where to stay: Palazzo Sovrana

Nafplio, Greece



Just a two-hour drive from Athens, Nafplio is exactly what you'd picture a charming Greek getaway to look like: convivial tavernas, leafy squares, steep, higgledy-piggledy streets and a wildly romantic coastline lapped by the turquoise Aegean. The beauty of Nafplio is that you can explore the entire city in just a day, strolling between colourful bougainvillaea, overgrown palms and Venetian villas, swimming in various white-sand bays (Neraki is the best of the bunch) and feeding your inner boffin with a tour around the ancient hilltop fortress and Palamidi Castle. When hunger hits, head to Pidalio Taverna, where zucchini croquettes, prawn orzo and spicy feta dips are served alongside herb-drenched veggies and grilled meats.

Where to stay: Regno Di Morea

Montpellier, France



Found yourself considering a French relocation since binge-watching the newest instalment of a certain Parisian Netflix series? You're not alone. But before you book that one-way ticket, consider the multicultural city of Montpellier, which might just sway you south. There, tree-lined boulevards, elegant squares and traditional Haussmann townhouses are made all the more charming for not being overwhelmed by tourists. Ramble around the old town, exploring delis brimming with local produce, eclectic antique emporiums and dinky boutiques showcasing handmade collections, then have a rummage in Absolute Vintage Le Boudoir, where you're pretty much guaranteed to find a gem. For a romantic meal, book a table at the candlelit Le Bistrok. If it's a livelier vibe you're after, then sharing plates and craft ales at Hopulus Brewpub are always a great idea.

Where to stay: Maison Bayard

Berat, Albania



Southeastern Europe is having a real moment, and we're giving all praise to the green and glorious mountainous country of Albania. Bordered by Greece, Macedonia and Montenegro, it's the Unesco-protected town of Berat that we think you'll want to make your base, specifically, one of the slick rooms at Amalia Hotel. Hike up to Berat Castle, where you'll be rewarded with sweeping views of the famous Gorica Bridge and the emerald-green waters of the Osum River. Later, make a splash at picture-perfect Borsh Beach, where you'll find pin-striped parasols and sun-bleached fishing boats bobbing on the calm waters. Hungry? Onufri Restaurant offers streetside dining, standout sunset vistas and affordable, delicious plates - if the spinach pie is on the menu, order it.

Where to stay: Amalia Hotel

Cadiz, Spain



Cycled the streets of Seville? Tapas-hopped around Barcelona? Make the low-key city of Cádiz your next Spanish hit. Situated on the tip of southern Spain, it's loved by in-the-know travellers for its go-slow attitude. Meander through the palm-strung streets of La Viña, a neighbourhood whose outdoor dining spaces are characterised by chalkboard menus, chequered tabletops and enough lanterns to illuminate a festival. We love Bar La Tabernita for its patatas bravas and La Dorada for its fried fish. Seeking an indoor set-up? Make tracks to El Faro de Cádiz. Between sun-sure lounging and surfing the white-capped waves at Tarifa beach, make time to visit Museo de Cádiz, which is home to centuries-old artefacts and archaeological finds dating back to the fifth century.

Where to stay: Hotel La Catedral

Sibenik, Croatia



While we can't wait to party at the beachside festivals of Tisno and Pag this summer, it's the small Croatian city of Šibenik that we head to when in need of a recharge. Just an hour's drive from Split, the city is the gateway to the Kornati islands - hop on a boat tour to explore the most idyllic of them. While navigating the Unesco-protected waters, you'll likely spot at least one pod of dolphins - and have your cossie ready for the pit stop at the turquoise waters of the Lojena Lagoon. Our favourite red-roofed address? The Armerun Heritage Hotel, partly for its prime, water-facing location, but largely for its stylish bedrooms that come with private terraces.

Where to stay: Armerun Heritage Hotel & Residences

This article was updated 20 March 2023 to remove a mention of a catamaran ride between Cádiz and Tangier. It contains affiliate links, which means SUITCASE may earn a small commission if you click through and book.

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