There‘s a plethora of cities within easy reach of London
We get it. It’s supposed to be summer and yet the good old British weather has done it again. There’s a reason why they call these weather systems depressions. But don’t think you need to dash off to the airport just yet if you’re desperate for some sun.
Slow travel, like slow food, can be a revelation. Bolt your food and you’ll miss savouring those beautiful flavours; jet off for your city break and you’ll fly over some of Europe’s best scenery. Instead, take the train and bag a window seat. There‘s a plethora of cities within easy reach of London or Paris just begging to be explored.
Shortest travel time from Paris: 1 hour 52 minutes
Single fares from 15 euros
With good train connections from Gare St Lazare, Normandy is an easy long weekender from Paris. Caen’s walled chateau and historic abbeys make it a good base. The famous Bayeux tapestry is only up the road and it’s not far from the coast if the summer weather has you yearning for the beach.
If you prefer your history to be modern, the beaches of the D-Day landings are within easy reach. Don’t miss a visit to the Caen Memorial Museum first. It’s said to be the best World War Two museum in the whole of France.
Shortest travel time from London: 2 hours 25 minutes
Single fares from 48.80 euros
The delightful city of Bruges is a sure bet for a long weekender whether it’s your first time or you’re an old hand. Summer is the perfect time to visit. Take a cruise along its many canals, climb the steps of the Belfry for views of the city under blue skies or clip clop over the cobbles on board one of its horse-drawn carriages. It’s also a city that demands you eat, and we don’t just mean chocolate: summer is mussel season and there’s no bad time to eat frites with mayonnaise from a Bruges street cart.
Shortest travel time from Paris: 2 hours 55 minutes
Single fares from 48 euros
To guarantee the sun, you’re best to head south, and with direct Eurostar connections from London as well as frequent TGVs from Paris, Avignon’s our pick. Its Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic palace ever built is the city’s flagship landmark and one which hosts sound and light shows towards the end of summer. And if you ever sang the song at school, you’ll want to dance “Sur le pont” too. The bridge in question is the Pont St-Bénezet, completed in 1185.
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Shortest travel time from Paris: 51 minutes
Single fares from 15 euros
Historic Reims is positively bursting with must-see landmarks, with UNESCO recognising three of them: the cathedral, the Palace of Tau and Saint Remi Basilica. But this region is best known for its fizz and Épernay, champagne central, is so close you can almost hear the corks popping.
In summer, not only can you tour the cellars of such well-known names as Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger, but the weather’s sunny enough to hire a bicycle and ride out to the vineyards on the edge of town.
Shortest travel time from London: 4 hours 11 minutes
Single fares from 59 euros
If you thought the German city of Köln was all about the Christmas markets, you’d be wrong. The Rhine buzzes with life all summer long, with the parks and gardens that face the river packed with street entertainers, picnickers and lovelorn locals.
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Once your boat trip docks, explore the cobbled streets of the atmospheric Old Town and step inside the imposing Dom, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe and Germany’s most visited attraction. Don’t forget to call in at the city’s popular Chocolate Museum to stock up on supplies for the train journey home.
Lowest fares based on a sample long weekend Friday to Monday in July or August, available from Trainline.eu website. Lowest fare doesn’t necessarily match fastest journey time.