This year, travel is all about short flights and longer trips. Because not only will we want to avoid long plane journeys – thanks again, Covid – but the climate crisis means we’re all more conscious about minimising that all-important carbon footprint. Fortuitously, with dozens of options within 180 minutes, we’re not short of options. Here are nine nearby destinations.
Copenhagen, 2hrs 10 mins
Delicious pastries aside, the Danish capital is known for its environmental cred. That’s come a long way in the past couple of years, even if its aim to be a carbon-neutral capital by 2025 has now shifted to 2030.
A 15-minute cycle ride north of the centre (cycling is the main mode of transport here) is the newly opened area of Nordhavn, which replaces a former industrial area and port. The aim here is to be a model "smart city" of the future, using the latest technology and visionary thinking to make the area socially, environmentally and financially sustainable. The residential areas are yet to be built, but the central heart of it is open for visitors. You'll notice its long-term thinking in the rooftop play and fitness area that's open to the public, the harbour bathing area with a spacious boardwalk to while away a day, and the many sustainably minded restaurants in the area. Try Hija de Sanchez, the latest outpost from the former Noma chef Rosia Sanchez, or Letz Sushi, the Scandinavian sushi chain with a high bar for sustainable fishing.
Fly with: Norwegian, SAS, Ryanair
Madrid, 2hrs 30 mins
No matter how many prints are made of famous paintings, there's nothing quite like seeing one in the flesh, where each brush stroke is at its most impactful. It's here, specifically at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, that you'll find Guernica, Picasso's gigantic and profound masterpiece that depicts the suffering in the Spanish Civil War – you'd have a heart of stone not to be moved by its harrowing message.
Museo del Prado holds a treasure trove too – the imposing Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary by Raphael, the moody David and Goliath by Caravaggio and the triptych of Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights are among the draws.
Fly with: Iberia, Ryanair, Aer Lingus
Bologna, 2hrs 25 mins
More rustic than the bigger cities of Italy but holding its own when it comes to its culinary offerings, Bologna is a foodie's delight, so much so that it's earned the dubious nickname of La Grassa, meaning "the fat one".
Of course, the pasta dish that makes this city world famous is a must-try, although the authentic version is more of a ragú and it’s sacrilege to serve it with spaghetti. Tortellini and lasagne are also famous here, and you’ll definitely want to order a deli plate or two, with their above-average standard for cured meats and cheese.
There are fine dining restaurants around every porticoed corner, but our advice? Dive into the cheap eats, made with love and the freshest ingredients you can buy. Try the pizzas at Certo, the gelato in Gelateria Gianni, or go for lunch at I Matti Della Polenta, which unsurprisingly specialises in polenta.
For a change of scenery, the foodie towns of Modena (the home of balsamic vinegar), Reggio-Emilia (which gives us Parmigiano Reggiano) and Parma (we'll let you guess that one), are an easy train ride away and worth a day trip or overnighter. Warning: you may have to be rolled home afterwards.
Fly with: Iberia, Ryanair, Aer Lingus
Helsinki, 3 hrs
The Finnish capital may be the furthest Scandinavian city on the map, but it's worth going the extra mile for. It's the jumping off point to go island-hopping – more than 330 islands lie just beyond Helsinki's harbours, including the well-serviced Unesco Heritage Site of Suomenlinna. Its hour-long guided tour is worth the €11, as it puts the fortress island in its historical context while pointing out highlights around it.
Also while at the harbour, long-time and newfound wild swimmers can bathe in its waters at Allas Sea Pool, though there’s another just-about-warm outdoor pool for the less hardy. To complete the revitalising experience, warm up in its Finnish sauna – a must while in the world capital of saunas.
Alternatively, stay on terra firma to make the most of Helsinki's attractions like Helsinki Cathedral, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Temppeliaukion Church, built in an excavated rock in an otherwise quiet residential estate – one of those things you need to see to believe. There's also Helsinki's celebrated design element – a whole district is dedicated to shops and headquarters with a world-leading vision in interiors, gifts and clothes.
Fly with: Finnair
Menorca, 2hrs 35 mins
Menorca is arguably the quietest and least developed of the Balearic islands, so while it’s previously been overshadowed by its more amenity-filled neighbours like Ibiza and Mallorca, perhaps a bit of sun and simplicity is what we need right now.
Expect a languid pace of life under a penetrating blue sky – a tonic for working-from-homers who can never quite escape the clock. The honest farm-to-fork cooking, and bear in mind that outside of the big cities of Mahon and Ciutadella, the farm is likely to be across the road, is ideal nourishment for getting us back in touch with nature. And while Menorcan wines have no presence on the world stage, you'll find that's to do with its limited quantity rather than quality. And the beaches. The beaches!
It all adds up to a break that frees us from the pressures of modern life, and isn't that what's needed from a holiday sometimes?
Fly with: Ryanair
Venice, 2hrs 45 mins
Quick, while no one’s going. This break in travel has seen some long-term initiatives come to pass to combat the overtourism found on the Floating City, such as banning large cruise ships from docking at its shore, and, since the start of the year, charging day trippers a city tax of €3-€10. But it’s still expected to return to its wheelie-bag and selfie-stick heavy destination by 2024, so make the most of this opportunity to visit while it’s not overrun with tourists.
It's a rare chance to see its cobbled maze of squares, bridges and canals – between which the rustic Venetian-Gothic buildings dominate – in relative peace. As an added temptation, the 59th Biennale Arte runs from April 23rd to November 27th, 2022.
Fly with: Ryanair, Aer Lingus
Lisbon, 2hrs 45mins
There's no shortage of things to see in the Portuguese capital, starting with big hitters like the Castelo de Saint Jorge and the rattling Tram 28, but how about combining it with a few days being resolutely unproductive on one of its nearby beaches.
The nearest spot is Praia de Caxias, a 15-minute train ride away, but the locals' hangout is Praia de Carcavelos, 15 minutes further on in the train, with crusted-honey sand, enough waves to surf, and a bountiful choice of cafes and restaurants. Further on, there's a small beach at Estoril (made famous as a filming location for On Her Majesty's Secret Service) but if you're out that way, Cascais is your best bet if you prefer the amenities of a holiday town and don't mind the crowds that come with it.
Fly with: Tap Air Portugal, Ryanair, Aer Lingus
London, 1hr 10mins-1hr 35 mins
Shopping has always been a great excuse to take a trip to London, but never more than when supply and shipping issues are wreaking havoc on our spending plans. The dissolution of high street stores has impacted England's capital, most notably in the now-Topshop-less Oxford Street, but old reliables like Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and John Lewis stand firm.
There's also a whole new area to explore in Coal Drops Yard. Located behind Kings Cross station, this revitalised district is brimful of luxury shops, like clothing store Wolf & Badger, record and book store Honest Jon's and concept store S120. You can take a load off at one of its premium restaurants – like Plaza Pastor for quality Mexican, Barrafina (the fourth location for the Michelin-starred tapas joint) or the doughnut shop Longboys, from Graham Hornigold, a former pastry chef for the Hakkasan group.
In the evenings, capitalise on the West End's reputation by taking in a theatre show – Amélie the Musical, Frozen, Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical, Moulin Rouge and Back to the Future: The Musical are among the new offerings on or near The Strand.
Fly with: Ryanair, Aer Lingus, British Airways
Nice, 2hrs 30 mins
If budget allows, grab your Ray Bans and Gucci bags and splash the cash in Nice. Especially alluring after a reined-in couple of years, Nice offers the chance to do glitz and glamour in its spiritual home, with fresh Gallic cuisine plus ritzy bars and clubs.
During the day, pop your head into one of its many notable museums, galleries or gardens, or, depending on the night before, catch a few rays on its glorious sun-drenched beaches. There's also the option of visiting nearby Monaco or Eze, also on the French Riviera, but you'd be forgiven for staying put and indulging on this trip.
Fly with: Iberia, Ryanair, Aer Lingus