Perched on the strip of Adriatic coastline just below Slovenia, Trieste has a Slavic flavour, a dash of the culture and canals of nearby Venice and a grand Habsburg architectural heritage thanks to its glory days as a prosperous port of the Austro-Hungarian empire. At the turn of the 20th century, it became a magnet for artists and writers.Ask the tourist board for information on literary tours of the city and go for coffee at the Caffe Pasticceria Pirona where regular patron and Trieste resident James Joyce wrote Ulysses, and Caffe San Marco which was a favourite of Italo Svevo and Umberto Saba.
We recommend a Stay at Hotel Greif. Get there with from Stansted.
The first capital of modern-day Italy is steeped in history. But it's also a smart modern city with cutting-edge contemporary museums including Castello di Rivoli with works by Richard Long, Joseph Beuys and Sol LeWitt, and the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo which celebrates the avant-garde movement. Turin also spawned a string of famously fast cars - visit the Museo dell Automobile to gawp at Ferraris and Maseratis from years gone by. It hosted last year's Winter Olympics and you can enjoy one of the event's legacies by dining in great style at restaurant P which was designed especially for the Games. The city is the home of the Slow Food movement, and there are so many good places to eat that it's worth just following your nose.
We recommend a Stay at Art Hotel Boston, which has a modern in-house art collection including work by Lucio Fontana, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Doubles start at around £80. Fly from London Stansted.
Often overlooked in favour of Barcelona up the coast and Ibiza across the water, Valencia has become a hot destination hosting, as it is, the Americas Cup this year. Famous as the birthplace of paella, its excellent restaurants now play second fiddle to the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences cultural complex built by local architect Santiago Calatrava. Make time to visit the ostentatious palace that houses the Museu Nacional de Ceramica and the modern art museum and at night head for the buzzing bars of the El Carmen district.
We recommend a Stay at Ad Hoc Monumental Hotel. Get there with from Stansted.
For all their baroque magnificence, the Polish capital's palaces, churches, burghers' houses and grand Royal Castle aren't quite as old as they seem, as they're replicas of the originals destroyed in the second world war. Other more contemporary cultural attractions, including the Zacheta National Gallery and the Centre for Contemporary Art reflect a prosperous recent past as Warsaw is one of the big boom towns of Eastern Europe. See this new side of the city at glitzy lounge bar The Cinnamon, where the local media/model/millionaire crowd down fancy cocktails and dance on tables until the early hours.
We recommend a Stay at Hotel Rialto. Get there with from Edinburgh, Gatwick or Stansted.
If you thought that Zurich was just a boring city full of bankers, think again. Lenin once lived here and the founders of the Dada art movement made it their home. Book a guided half-day bicycle tour with Guide Experience Switzerland to get the inside line on the latest counter-culture and then head for up-and-coming Seefeld district for dinner at Nine.
We recommend a Stay at the super-slick Hotel Greulich in the edgy, cultural district of Aussersihl. Fly from Stansted and Manchester.
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