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Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
With the holiday spirit very much in the air, we’re ready for some cosy, hyper-wintry weekends away. When you don’t have time (or perhaps funds) for a full-on ski trip or winter sun escape, a city break is just the ticket for a seasonal boost. We’ve picked out some of the less obvious options for a long weekend.
Anyone looking for a bona fide wintry experience, look no further than Bergen. Norway’s second-largest city (despite a petite population of 271,000), it has a small-town feel and is a picture of coastal architecture with brightly painted red and orange houses lighting up the harbour. It’s fabulous if you want to get away from it all without feeling totally isolated. Jet off to explore the nearby fjords or hike the surrounding mountains for a few hours, then come back to wander the streets and enjoy an early evening pint by the fire in a seaside pub. One of our favourite things to do is check out KODE, a group of seven museums and composers’ homes, which house one of Scandinavia’s largest collections of art, music and design. The exhibitions include artists ranging from Edvard Munch and Paul Klee to Joan Miro and Picasso.
For a city break that will make you feel like you’re inside a snow globe, put Salzburg on your calendar. Not only is it home to the stunning Von Trapp villa from The Sound of Music, but there are also Baroque-style castles scattered across this hilly city. As if it couldn’t get any more elegant, Salzburg is also Mozart’s birthplace, and his childhood home is open to the public at No. 9 Getreidegasse. For the very ambitious, you can even squeeze some skiing into a long weekend trip here, as Kitzbuhel, Flachau and Zell am See are all driving distance away.
Another home to an iconic artist is Delft, a gorgeous city that Vermeer called home and that is often overshadowed by neighbouring Rotterdam and The Hague. It’s smack in the middle of both, so easy to combine on a longer trip, but we’d recommend luxuriating in the pace of small-town life during a weekend here and focusing on the adorable local shops and cafes. When not making the obvious stops at the Vermeer Centre and picking up Delftware (the blue- and white-painted pottery invented here) for your mum’s Christmas gift, cosy into a corner at hip “pure food cafe” Hills & Mills. For vegetarian fare, The Living deli is a must thanks to its hand-scrawled chalkboard menu and hanging copper lamps. The cosy chairs and abundance of plants will make you feel as though you’re in an actual design-savvy Scandinavian living room in an instant.
The fact that Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace, where Beauty and the Beast is set, comes as no surprise. The wooden Medieval houses lining the Rhine River and Gothic cathedral make for a madly romantic atmosphere in the wintertime, so all you’ll want to do is wrap yourself in your fluffiest coat and wander hand-in-hand through the snow with a lover. Not to mention, Strasbourg is known as a “Christmas Capital” thanks to its massive holiday market, so head here just in time to get in the spirit with gallons of mulled wine, sweet gift stalls and evening concerts (where you’ll manage to stay warm by stomping your feet to the music). For a no-expenses-spared evening out, reserve a table at Brasserie Las Haras, which is set in an 18th-century horse stable that Alain Ducasse’s design team Jouin Manku has magically spun into an haute modern eatery. Try each course with a different Alsatian wine pairing for the full experience.
If you’re on the hunt for a hip of weekend away, we’ve found your destination. A hotbed for creatives, you’ll have no trouble stumbling upon avant-garde art galleries, grungy music venues full of beautiful people and boutiques stocked with clothing you’d see on Scandi Instagrammers like Josefine H. J. in on-trend Gothenburg. When not browsing record stores or dining at a former-theatre-turned-restaurant, pop into a brewery, a city staple since the 17th century. Hops and Brewers Beer Bar is one of the best for its wide selection of craft beers and knowledgeable staff. The one thing we can’t stress enough on a trip here? Only pack your half-full – the rest will be filled with modish Swedish wares you’ve bought to renew your winter closet by the time the weekend is up (we blame Heyday).
The fact that Turin was home to the 2006 Winter Olympics certainly doesn’t hurt its reputation as a go-to for a wintertime experience, but that’s not all that’s drawing us in. We’re gushing over the proud allure of the facades of grand apartment buildings surrounding the main squares, and can only imagine the gorgeous Italian Christmas scenes going on within their thick stone walls. Despite its uniform stateliness, Turin draws in an outlandish number of art lovers from all over. While Artissima (the city’s answer to Frieze) was at the beginning of November, the ultra-modern Fondazione Merz defies all expectations for such a classical city with its disruptive art pieces in a minimalist space. With a flurry of independent art exhibitions passing through the city, as well as picture-perfect Italian architecture capped by a dusting of snow to drool over, this one is high on our list for a winter escapade.
Stuttgart manages to fuse classicism and modernity in a way that most other cities can’t manage quite so seamlessly. Built in swathes of gothic and baroque architecture while simultaneously housing Porsche and Mercedes (both of which have state-of-the-art museums in the city), it’s a wonderland for those interested in all things design. Visit with an architecture student or Frank Lloyd Wright admirer and set out on a walking tour of the city, interjected by pit stops for warming bowls of spätzle and pints of local beer.
While Porto might not normally be the first thing to pop into your mind when thinking of a wintry weekend away, it can be a fantastic place to visit off season. Not only will you miss the waves of summertime crowds, but it’s also a place where lots can be done indoors. Schedule a full-on tour and tasting with a few of the local port houses that sit atop the hill overlooking Porto’s city skyline. It’s a perfect time of year to spend a few hours deep in the houses’ cellars without feeling guilty about missing out on sun time, and there’s nothing better than warming up with a sampling of port before stepping back out into the chill. Our favourites to visit are Graham’s Port Louse, which has stunning facilities and a glassed-in restaurant for a luxe lunch overlooking the town and its multiple famous bridges. Cálem and Sandeman are also well worth a visit. Make sure to have dinner at Chef Rui Paula’s famed restaurant DOP one of the nights you’re there.
Nothing screams wintertime like a city connected to the North Sea; Hamburg is criss-crossed by canals and the city’s harbour is its central hub. The maritime atmosphere is deep in this town’s roots, so much so that it inspired Hamburg-born Karl Lagerfeld’s sailing-themed 2017/18 Métiers d’Art Chanel show. Take a cue from his outfits and embrace your inner seafarer, while also paying a visit to the modern Elbphilharmonie, where Lagerfeld’s presentation was held. The glassy concert hall sits atop an old warehouse, and houses one of the world’s most superb acoustic spaces. Make the most of your time in one of Germany’s cultural nuclei and get dressed up to see the local philharmonic orchestra perform here on one of your evenings in the city. For something a little grungier, spend Sunday morning checking out the UNESCO centre of Speicherstadt, which is the largest district of warehouses on earth, and pop into Kaffeerösterei, an old coffee warehouse, for a pick-me-up from the night before that you can select from over 70 type of bean.
Surrounded by the Alps, Grenoble is a natural (yet surprisingly underrated) choice for a winter weekend away. If you don’t have the time to book a proper ski holiday, this is the next best thing in terms of getting close to nature. There are parks surrounding the city on all sides, and the views of the mountains are spectacular. If you love travelling by train, Grenoble is one of the easiest destinations to get to from London; hop on the Eurostar to Paris and then zip across the country on the TGV, which will have you there under three hours. A classically French city, you’ll get everything you want form a trip to France (mainly excellent food) without the stresses of navigating Paris.
Warsaw is a cultural haven packed with far too many things to see during a single weekend away. While both can be overwhelming, we nevertheless wholeheartedly recommend it for a winter weekend break. Why? The jigsaw of influences literally protruding from the city’s walls – there is everything from skyscrapers and soviet facades to castles and clock towers – means that many of the different facets of the city’s history are within walking distance from one another. You’ll get a hefty serving of insight into Polish culture by simply taking a stroll to get your morning coffee and rogalik (a sweet and buttery croissant-style roll). To enjoy a local specialty come sundown, pop into Klar vodka bar for infused vodkas and creative cocktails.
You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? That’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best bits and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local – it was written by one. Eat your heart out, shop until you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.
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