Valletta, Malta: Pleasantly warm if you’re travelling soon

Valletta, the capital city of Malta, is one of the best-preserved historic cities in Europe, offering medieval and Renaissance splendour combined with easy access to the natural beauty and historic sites of the surrounding region.
The summer months in Malta can be too hot for some, with daily mean temperatures of over 85F (30C), but autumn is pleasantly warm, with mean temperatures just above 70F (21C) in October and highs around 73F (23C). Evenings can be cool, so jumpers or light jackets are advisable. October and November are relatively dry months, although December can see heavy rainfall.
The main attraction of Valletta is its beautiful city centre. The capital was founded by the Knights Hospitaller, a medieval religious order more commonly known as the Knights of Malta, and its buildings and monuments reflect the order’s history. For instance, the Co-Cathedral of St John contains chapels endowed by different groups of knights, each from a particular country; these groups, called langues, strove to outdo each other, giving the cathedral its present breathtaking interior. The building which houses the country’s parliament and president was once the palace of the order’s grand masters.
The dense concentration of historic sites in Valletta earned it the distinction of being one of the first cities to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking through the narrow, winding streets of the medieval city reveals new sights around every turn, but if you dislike long walks or love to drive you will find that the same narrow streets that give Valletta its character make driving a frustrating challenge!
Malta’s history extends far back beyond the middle ages; among the island’s most famous monuments are its megalithic temples complexes, one of which can be found in Tarxien, a suburb of Valletta. These massive stone monuments are approximately 5,000 years old.
Accommodation in Valletta during the autumn is relatively easy to find; the summer months are the most crowded. Available hotels range from small guesthouses, which charge as little as 20 Euros per person per night, to more luxurious establishments such as the famous Phoenicia, a five-star hotel which played host the Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Malta. Self-catering houses and apartments are a popular choice for visitors to Valletta, with typical prices starting at around 80 Euros per night.

Cagliari, Sardinia: Buildings, beaches and a taste of history

Cagliari, the capital of the autonomous Italian region of Sardinia, combines historic buildings, beautiful beaches, easy access to nature, a mild climate and superb cuisine. Although it can be crowded in the summer months, the drop in tourist numbers during autumn makes Cagliari an ideal holiday destination for this time of year.

Highs in Cagliari in the autumn can range from around 70F to 77F (20-25C). Evenings can be cool, so warmer clothing for evening walks is advisable. The autumn remains dry, with up to around seven rainy days per month but little overall precipitation. November is cooler than October, with December quite chilly, so early autumn is the ideal time for a trip to Cagliari.

Summer is the busiest time for Cagliari’s beaches, but they remain an important attraction into the autumn. The main beach, Poetto, has both public areas and beach clubs which charge for entry, chairs and other amenities.

Cagliari has been settled ever since Phoenician merchants established a colony on the site in the 7th century BC. The city’s sights include the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, testifying to Cagliari’s importance as a major naval base and capital of Sardinia. The city, together with the island, has changed hands many times over the centuries, with each new regime adding new buildings and monuments. Most of these can be seen in the old city. History lovers with a taste for the macabre should be sure not to miss the monumental cemetery of Bonaria, located atop one of the city’s seven hills.

One of the most striking things about Cagliari is the number of parks. Large areas are given over to green space, making it one of the greenest cities in Italy. The largest of these parks is Regional Park of Molentargius, which is home to a wide variety of local plant and animal species.

Getting Around
Cagliari’s relatively small size means that most major areas can be visited on foot. This is fortunate, because driving and parking in a tightly-packed medieval city can be challenging! In addition, the old city is situated on a fairly steep slope, so if you are walking you should allow extra time to explore this area and schedule plenty of rest breaks.

As with many Italian cities, accommodation ranges from holiday villages to luxury hotels. Many hotels are located in the suburbs or on the outskirts of the city rather than in the city centre, where only limited space is available.

easyJet: getting the cheapest tickets

We know that many of you fly with easyJet, so this month we thought we’d take a look at what seem to be exciting times for the Luton-based budget airline.

Our top tip with easyJet is that if you want to get the best deals then book early! You don’t get last minute bargains with easyJet – the flights get more expensive the closer to departure date you get – but if you can book a few months in advance you’ll get great savings. Apart from waiting to book in their January sale, there really is no mystery to flying cheaply with easyJet: the earlier you book the cheaper it is.

easyJet have been trialling allocated seats on selected flights, meaning that rather than facing a scrum to get on the plane, or getting speedy boarding to be one of the first onto the plane, you can choose your actual seats as you would with a traditional airline. The airline has said that if trials continue to go well they could begin to offer allocated seats on all their flights. Prices in the trial have ranged from around £3 to £12 depending on which seats you wish to reserve.

[UPDATE: easyJet now offers allocated seats on all their flights, ranging from £1 to around £20 depending on which flight you choose.]

The airline has also teamed up with Airbus and is currently trialling a new kind of weather radar called AVOID which will detect volcanic ash clouds and allow the plane to divert around them. We know that some of you were caught up in the ash clouds last year, so this seems like a very welcome invention!

Get away from the crowds in Trogir, Croatia

For an interesting mix of beaches and culture, many people head to Split in Croatia, a Mediterranean city on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. But if you’re looking for an alternative to crowded Split, consider the smaller but equally historic town of Trogir, just four miles from Split Airport but a world away in terms of its pace of life.

What to see

Trogir was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 1997. Among its most imposing features is the Kamerlengo Fortress, built by the then-powerful Venetians in the mid-15th century. The view from the top of the walls is outstanding, although it does require a little effort to get up there. It’s worth checking locally for details of the events held in the courtyard throughout the summer.

Even Kamerlengo Fortress, though, is outshone by the truly remarkable Cathedral of St Lawrence, dating back 750 years. A massive, triple-naved structure, the cathedral demonstrates Dalmatian Romanesque and Gothic styles of the medieval period. Although the West Portal by Radovan is its most famous feature, the cathedral’s Venetian upper windows and the slightly later bell tower are also worthy of note.

For such a small place – Trogir’s population is barely 13,000 – the amount of history on display is remarkable. Many visitors enjoy a stroll around the central Old Town area, since almost wherever you go, you will stumble on a gem. One idea is to follow the route of the city walls, mostly still in existence; this has the side benefit of taking you close to the attractive palm-lined promenade to the west.

Where to stay

The four-star Villi Moretti is a comfortable boutique hotel, located in a well-preserved 17th century shipowner’s house and still family run. There are just four double bedrooms and one suite, which enjoy excellent views across the water to the Old Town. The centre is a few minutes’ mostly level walk away. Accommodation is provided on a bed and breakfast basis and costs around £70 per night.


If you like it hot then you’re in luck: July temperatures in Trogir can be rather high, often nudging 30 degrees C (86F), although the town’s coastal location helps to moderate the heat. By September, things are somewhat more comfortable, with 25 degrees C (77F) closer to the norm. Trogir usually enjoys clear conditions, averaging around 10 hours of sunshine per day in late summer and early autumn.

So if you fancy somewhere a little bit different, this could be just the holiday for you!

Copenhagen: A Walk in the Park

Clean, green Copenhagen is the perfect place for a week or long weekend away, with plenty to see and do. The climate is mild, reaching just over 20 degrees C (69F) in July and August, but the weather can be unpredictable, so pack a raincoat!

The city is divided into districts, each with its own distinctive feel, from the mediaeval, cobbled streets of the Indre By to the waterfront area of Christianshavn. Innovative modern buildings rub shoulders with traditional Danish architecture.

The flat landscape makes for incredible views. Climb the Round Tower, or dare the stairs that wind round the outside of the Church of Our Saviour and look out over the rooftops to Sweden across the water.

From above, you’ll notice what a green city this is. It’s impossible to walk far without coming across a park or garden. The gardens surrounding Rosenborg Castle are a popular destination for picnicking or sunbathing, while the Langelinie includes a stretch of shoreline and the famous Little Mermaid statue.

More adventurous members of the party can enjoy the rides at the Tivoli, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, while others may prefer to admire the fairground buildings, some of which date back to the nineteenth century.

A tour of the harbour and canals by boat is a great way to see the city. Glide past the opera house, the Little Mermaid and the self-governing Freetown Christiania, passing under ornate bridges and alongside historic buildings.

Copenhagen is amply supplied with restaurants, cafes and bars, whether you want to sit with a coffee and a pastry and watch the world go by, stop off for a quick open sandwich during a shopping trip, or dine at Noma, reputedly the best restaurant in the world. Wherever you choose to eat, though, bear in mind that restaurants in Denmark often close early, and plan to place your order by 9 p.m.

It’s easy to get around Copenhagen on foot, by bicycle or on public transport. The level ground and a superb cycle network make cycling a pleasure. Why not ride out of the city to one of the many nearby beaches for a stroll or a swim?

A system of buses, metro and regional trains connects the districts of Copenhagen and links the city to the wider world. Make a day trip to Roskilde, a picturesque town with a Viking ship museum, or visit Malmö in southern Sweden, just a ferry ride – or a drive across the impressive Øresund bridge – away.

Copenhagen has something for everyone, whether you like your holiday as fast-paced as a roller coaster ride, as laid-back as a walk in the park, or somewhere in between.

Secrets to saving money when booking your holiday

When you completed our survey last month, 70% of you said that you would visit Europe more often if it were less expensive. Keen to help, we asked people in the know for their top tips to get the cost of your holiday down. Their view: the secret is to get prepared before you travel.
  1. All-inclusive can be cheaper than self-catering. All-inclusive deals are getting more popular, and tour operators are offering them in an increasing number of places. They are especially good if you or the children often want drinks, ice creams or snacks.
  2. Book transfers to your resort in advance. If you can book transfers to and from the resort with your flight, or through a cheap online deal, you can save a considerable amount of cash.
  3. Book car hire somewhere other than the airport. Airport prices for car hire can often be high. To save money on car hire, either book online before you leave the UK or ask your hotel to recommend a good value car hire company once you are in the resort.
  4. Make a list of what you’ll need to take. This sounds simple, but if you make a list of essential items and buy them in the UK you will avoid having to use local shops which can often charge a high price on items you can’t do without. Don’t forget travel plug adaptors, shaving equipment, sun cream and after-sun lotion.
  5. Book excursions before you leave. You can get coupons, money-off vouchers and good deals online for trips that you want to take while you are abroad. Your tour operator may not always be the cheapest for these trips, but make sure the web site you book with is reputable.
  6. Exchange cash before you leave. You’ll often get a better exchange rate in the UK than overseas, and by taking enough cash you can avoid paying costly fees to use your credit card or debit card. If you have money left over you can either exchange it when you return or, since you’ll most likely be using Euros which you will use again at some point, keep the cash until your next holiday and save on exchange fees for converting it back again.

Ibiza: Not just for the party people!

Ibiza: the party capital of the world, surely no place for a couple seeking a relaxing and peaceful break? Well, in actual fact you would be mistaken! If you have been disregarding Ibiza as a holiday destination for fear of your summer getaway being gatecrashed by rowdy party-goers and drunken teens it’s time to take a fresh look. Sure, if you head for San Antonio during the notorious clubbing season (mid May to late September) you will almost certainly be outnumbered by youngsters ‘painting the town red’, but being the third largest Balearic island, Ibiza has plenty of space for everyone.

San Antonio is on the west of the island, so avoid the west coast if you want a nice relaxing time. Two quieter resorts that you will enjoy are Santa Eulalia on the east coast and Portinatx up on the northern coast. Both resorts are blessed with beautiful beaches of white sand and crystal clear waters, and are perfect for couples or families seeking a more peaceful holiday on the island.

Santa Eulalia is famous for its palm-lined promenade that stretches the length of its beautiful sandy beach, and for its yacht marina which is perfect for people-watching! Whether you fancy some retail therapy, browsing an art gallery or dining out at some of the island’s most popular restaurants, you will find it all here.

Portinatx is perhaps the most peaceful resort in Ibiza and is recognized as one of the island’s best known beauty spots, having arguably the best beaches (it has three to choose from). Although there are not as many restaurants here as there are at many of the other resorts on the island, there is still plenty to make it a firm favourite for many couples wanting a relaxing holiday.

Nestling to the east of mid-Spain, and parallel with southern Italy, you can expect the weather to be warm but not too hot, with little chance of rain. Slightly warmer and sunnier than Barcelona, daily average temperatures are 22C – 25C (71F – 77F) in June and July, with highs of 26C – 29C (79F – 84F).

So ignore any preconceived notions and enjoy a beautiful and peaceful holiday in Ibiza.1

Barcelona: A city with something for everyone, including a beach!

With the F1 Grand Prix in Barcelona having just finished we thought we’d take a closer look at this great Spanish destination, since we’ve heard so many people recently telling us how nice it is. If you like a mixture of culture, sight-seeing and relaxing on the beach, this could be the perfect holiday for you!

Barcelona is a city on the coast of north east Spain, just to the south of France. As you’d expect from its location, in June and July it’s likely to be pleasantly warm and sunny with little chance of rain: average temperatures of 20C – 23C (38F – 73F) with average highs of 24C – 27C (75F – 81F).

The Barri Gòtic (“Gothic Quarter”) is the centre of the old city, and many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as Roman times.
There are several World Heritage Sites in Barcelona including Park Güell, a garden complex designed by Antoni Gaudí with many spectacular architectural features; the breath-taking Sagrada Família church; and the Palau de la Música Catalana concert hall.

There are many museums that between them cover a wide range of subjects including art, archaeology, maritime history, Egyptology, and there is also Cosmocaixa, a science museum that received the European Museum of the Year Award in 2006.

To relax, you can visit one of the 68 parks in Barcelona, which includes 12 historic parks and 5 botanical parks.

Since Barcelona is on the coast you can also visit the beach! Barcelona was rated number one in a list of the top ten beach cities in the world compiled by Discovery Channel and National Geographic. Barceloneta Beach, given a new lease of life in the huge waterfront makeover for the 1992 Olympics, is among the most popular.

So no matter what you’re into, Barcelona should definitely be on your holiday shortlist this year.

Tips on how to avoid losing your baggage

  1. Expensive bags are more likely to get stolen: Consider whether you really need to flaunt your designer bags, or whether you can keep it subtle and fly under the radar of the baggage thieves.
  2. Label outside: Use the label that comes with your suitcase, and clearly include your name, address, telephone number (mobile is best, especially if it works abroad) and email address. Also use the elastic tie tag that you will likely be given at check-in. Always have a hand luggage bag too, with your passport, some cash, and items you can’t risk losing.
  3. Label inside: Tape a label, with the same information as above, to the inside lid of your case. Also tape your itinerary there, so that your luggage stands the best chance of getting back to you if it is lost.
  4. Take off the old tags: Make sure any old tags or barcode stickers are removed from your luggage, otherwise your bag could accidentally make its way to where you went on holiday last year!
  5. Colour code your bag: Have a bright tag on your case, or some easily-identifiable marker like a sticker or a piece of coloured string tied around the handle. That way you can easily pick your bag from a sea of similar bags on the luggage carousel or the coach.

Culture on offer in Paphos, Cyprus

Also warm at this time of year, and perfect for those who love a bit of culture mixed in with their beach holiday, is Cyprus. The Tombs of the Kings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are over 2,000 years old, and are ornately cut into the native rock. You can also see Roman mosaics in the villas of ancient Roman noblemen. You’ll find the Paphos mosaics in Kato Paphos, near the harbour. While you’re in the area, you can also visit Paphos Castle, a listed building which always proves a popular backdrop for photographs. If you still have time for the beach after all that, the temperature can reach highs of 21 degrees C (70F) in April, and 24 degrees C (75F) in May. More information on Paphos.