With less crowds and lower prices, September is the perfect time to catch some last-minute sun and culture on a short-haul city break.
Best for architecture: Helsinki
The Baltic capital is chock full of Scandinavian charm with an exciting Russian twist. A mixture of neo-classical elegance and modern marvels, the architecture is spell-binding. Much of the architectural landscape has been influenced by one of Finland’s most famous sons, internationally acclaimed architect Alvar Aalto. Take a stroll along the waterfront to Lutheran Cathedral (Senate Square), then head to the Opera House. Clad in Finnish granite and imposing statues, Helsinki’s Rautatieasema train station is a city icon, as is the golden ‘onion’ dome of Uspenski Cathedral.
Best for foodies: San Sebastian
Make the most of the glorious climate on stunning La Concha beach, one of the most spectacular city beaches in the world, before heading to sample the Michelin starred cuisine. In fact, the city has 13 to its name. One restaurant to boast two of these is king of high-tech cuisine Mugaritz (Aldura Aldea 20). Try the potatoes powdered in clay and other wonders of “molecular gastromony” as chef Andoni Luis Aduriz experiments like a mad professor let loose in the kitchen. A trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without paying home to the father of modern Basque cooking, Juan Mari Arzak at his self-titled Arzak restaurant (Avenida Alcalde Jose Elosegui). Alternatively, head to one of the many tapas bars or fresh food markets for more rustic fare.
Best for clubbing: Belgrade
The Serbian capital might not be the most obvious party destination, but with a pumping underground house music scene the city is one of the most current clubbing hotspots in Europe. Head for the clubs underneath Kalemegdan Castle or hit trendy bar Manhattan (Palmoticeva 27) and ask where that night’s happening scene is. For pre-club festivities, one Belgrade institution is the Federal Association of Globe-Trotters in the basement at Despota Stefana 7/1, a quirky hangout that has live music on weekends.
Best for relaxation: Budapest
When it comes to relaxation and rejuvenation, the Hungarians are true masters of spa culture and the capital stays warm well into autumn. Majestically-tiled baths are found all over the city, with inviting warm waters to ease achy muscles and extremely affordable treatments so you can indulge in a plethora of pummelling and purification. The Gellert Baths and Spa (Kelenhegyi út 4), is a bargain at a mere €13 for full-day entry and €14 for a 30 minute massage. For the quintessential Budapest experience, join the locals as they swim and play chess amid steaming pools at the Szechenyi Medicinal Spa and Swimming Pool (Állatkerti körút).