Two European Cities to Visit This Winter

Two European Cities to Visit This Winter

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"Summer" and "Europe" always seem like a natural fit, but locals will tell you that to experience their city the way it really is, you have to visit in winter. The tourist crowds are mostly gone, the towns become especially festive and you can book a table at the restaurants that you actually want to go to. 

Our recommendation: hit up one of our favourite southern European cities, where the temperatures are still warm enough to leave your heavy coat at home and you still have the ability to walk everywhere...

LISBON

WHERE TO STAY:

TOP OF THE RANGE, STILL REASONABLE: Casa do Principe

Some guests check into this B&B and stay for months. No surprise: the nine rooms are palatial, with floor-to-ceiling windows and period features, but sweetly homely. And its location, in well-to-do Principe Real, is central but tranquil. 

Rooms are as glorious and decorative as Wedgwood pottery, some overlooking the palms of the botanical garden, filled with birdsong and sunlight. The property has been restored as a labour of love, and it’s a top find at a very reasonable rate. 

  • Double rooms from £90 including breakfast.

ON A BUDGET: Independente Hostel and Suites

Take a palatial Lisbon building, all grand staircase, arches and columns; knock out the stuffiness; add style, life and humour; and you get the Independente. The former Swiss Embassy makes a light and spacious hostel, with triple-storey bunks in airy rooms with wedding-cake ceilings. 

Suites in the adjoining property conserve the grandeur and spirit of place but in a fun way, and are full of desirable retro furniture, and lots of original art. All this, plus the fine Decadente bar and Insolito restaurant, plus a great location opposite the gardens of Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara.

  • Suites from £70 including breakfast, whilst a dorm bed costs just £17 p/night.

WHAT NOT TO MISS:

CASA INDEPENDENTE 

Three stops on the metro north from Baixa-Chiado, the neighbourhood of Intendente isn’t an outpost, but it’s a different Lisbon that you should most definitely experience. Casa Independente, which occupies an old, slightly ramshackle house on the main square, is a veritable underground institution, offering a mix of live music and DJ sets, and a sense of community spirit.  

Visit during the day to drink on the cafe terrace, and to check out the signs of new life around Largo Intendente, including cafes, secondhand book and vinyl stalls. 

FEIRA DE LADRA 

Lisbon’s most famous flea market - every Tuesday and Saturday, from 7am to 6pm,  you'll find hundreds of stalls selling literally, everything. Vintage lovers and non, will love to seek out weird souvenirs, but pay attention to your belongings whilst walking around - it's not called the Thieves Market for nothing.

The best way to get to the market is combining it with the ride on tram 28, and getting off at Arco de São Vicente.

MADRID

WHERE TO STAY:

TOP OF THE RANGE, STILL REASONABLE: The Hat

With its minimalistic chic and retro objets d'art, The Hat is one of Madrid's first hip hostels. These are impressive digs for budget-conscious travellers who don't want to slum it. Bunks are bright and spacious, double rooms are available and the fetching rooftop bar overlooks red-tiled roofs and Habsburg turrents.

  • Double rooms from £54 and bunks from £16 p/night.

ON A BUDGET: Bastardo Hotel

The Bastardo occupies a new four-storey building. Cartoon-like portraits and neon signs adorn the floor-to-ceiling windows of the industrial-style lobby, on the ground floor with the restaurant at one end and the bar at the other - it's Instagram and hashtag heaven. 

With bold design, a buzz and rooms and dorms to suit all, this is a happy hybrid of hotel and hostel – in a great location for shopping and nightlife too. 

  • Bunks from £12 p/night.

WHAT NOT TO MISS:

MALASNA

Malasaña is the district of choice in Madrid - offering up an eclectic mix of cluttered cafes, offbeat bars and boutique shops, it's the perfect area for those seeking to escape the McDonald's and Starbucks chains of the city centre.

Whilst the area might not be picture perfect - graffiti adorns many of Malasaña's walls and shutters - it's cobbled streets exude a quirky charm which is unforgettable.

ARE YOU UP FOR TRAVELLING THIS WINTER?

READ MORE ON GYMSHARK CENTRAL

 

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