10 girls’ getaways

Make a break for it with your best friends


If you’ve exhausted Barcelona, then check out a less touristy, but real joy of a city in Madrid (above). Kickass tapas bars, a buzzing nightlife with loads of cool bars and small clubs to explore, and a real sense that you’re off the sightseeing conveyor belt that can be a bit much in Barca, makes it feel like a real lived-in city, where you fit in almost immediately.
esmadrid.com is a comprehensive and fun information website with a good emphasis on nightlife

Patti Smith claims Manhattan is over, and the increasing gentrification of Chelsea, the Meatpacking District and the Village, over-priced and tiny hotel rooms, and the generic feel of department stores sadly feels as such. Williamsburg, Dumbo and Bushwick might still draw sniggering at self-aware hipsters, but its affordable Air BnBs and apartment rentals, a less homogenised shopping scene and great bars and small restaurants win.
Fly to LaGuardia from Dublin from around €500 return

Just 20 minutes on the train from Gatwick lands you in Brighton away from the coldness and hectic vibe of London. Brighton has great independent shops, from records to clothes to books, and you can have some old school fun along the pier, or enjoy the casual and fun bar and club scene. There’s also great affordable eating, at Jamie Oliver’s Recipease and Dermot O’Leary’s Fishy Fishy.
You can fly to Gatwick on Aer Lingus and Ryanair, with a return train ticket costing around €16 pre-booked

Kreutzberg’s unique boutiques and jumble of flea markets at MauerPark offer an alternative shopping break that’s cheap and different. It’s also incredibly refreshing to be able to hit up tiny cool bars without getting dressed up to the nines. The city also hosts some of the best free walking tours in Europe. 
Trawl airbnb.com for big apartments with cheap rates

If you’re looking for a French break without hitting up Paris, then Carcassonne offers scenic and architectural beauty, great food and a feeling of going back in time. There’s an excellent selection of accommodation and a local airport serviced by Ryanair. Great regional wines and moreish cassoulet will fill your bellies. Just stay away during the packed summer season.

One of the most picturesque towns in Ireland manages to avoid the Hen and Stag manic feel of Kilkenny or Galway, but still has enough life in it to sustain a weekend of great nights out, decent seafood - especially oysters, and the opportunity for hiking and fresh air to blow away the cobwebs.
See carlingfordaccomodation.com for holiday packages and self-catering

While Amsterdam at its busiest can be plagued by stoned American students and Stag parties, it has an incredible amount to offer for a weekend away, and you can choose whatever pace you want; exploring its fantastic art galleries, or spending hours cycling by the canals, stopping off at flower and chocolate markets, and traditional cafe bars.
Keep an eye on timeout.com/amsterdam for upcoming exhibitions and gigs

It’s a bit of a schlep to Santorini, but it’s arguably one of the most beautiful Greek islands, especially if you’ve an extra few quid to book into one of its several gorgeous boutique hotels which all seem to come with stunning pools and delicious olives on tap. Its iconic brilliant white buildings and smattering of blue-domed churches make it a perfect place to chill and rant about smug honeymooning couples.
santorini.net has information on accommodation options and places to visit

Carton House near Maynooth has consistently decent offers for spa breaks in a hotel that’s convenient to get to for anyone living in Leinster. If you want to put your feet up and feel pampered all weekend, then this is the place. Plus, if shopping is your thing, the bargain-laden Kildare Village is a short jaunt away. Amongst all the competitive Celtic Tiger legacy hotels, Carton House is one that really delivers.
See cartonhouse.com for special offers and spa packages

Amazing cocktail bars, shopping that’s pretty much as good as Milan although perhaps not as comprehensive, and porticoed streets so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the rain, make Bologna a great city to explore – despite the fact that it remains slightly under-visited by non-Italian Europeans. It’s also the food capital of Italy and has a large student population adding to its vibrancy.
Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly direct from Dublin to Bologna from March 30th to the end of October. Outside of those dates you’ll have to take a connecting flight

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