Montpellier, Mediterranean calm
As a charming city in the south of France, Montpellier lives to the pace of outdoor markets, terraces and the locals' chanting accent. Bright and friendly, this little piece of Occitania blows a soft wind on your skin, warmed up by prevailing sunny weather. A city of contrasts, it offers a totally unique heritage, a consequence of centuries of history, yet famous designers are about to give it an architectural upheaval. September is almost there, but time has little effect on the city, which historical heritage and natural settings please tourists looking for a relaxing break. Montpellier also fascinates culture lovers with medieval streets, the Fabre museum, opera house, and Saint Peter's Cathedral drenched in Mediterranean sun.
In order to spend the weekend, you'll have plenty of choice: either head for natural beaches and seaside resorts, or get away to blazing hillsides in the mountain region.
For a few hours of soft living in Copenhagen
You know that Copenhagen is the capital of what is deemed “happiest country” in the world. By staying there a few days, you'll understand why. Soothed by the “hygge” way of life, the city draws its essence from sweet, simple and genuine pleasures shared in a warm atmosphere. Like in the Nyhavn district and its restaurants facing the harbour, the multicoloured façades of Danish houses contrast with the sometimes dark and brooding skies.
What if you were to imitate locals? Ride on a bike, ride! Make a stop in front of Andersen's Little Mermaid, take a breath of fresh air in the park of the Rosenborg Castle, discover the secrets of the Carlsberg brewery and defy the laws of gravity at Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest theme park in Europe.
Finally, do not miss the narrow streets and colourful markets of the Christiana neighbourhood, a district entirely based on 1970s social utopia.
Being reborn in Madrid
At the centre of Spain, Madrid experienced a rebirth after a tumultuous 20th century. Civil war and Franco's regime left traces, but art and culture have now taken over. Such is documented by the three international-level museums that you'll find in the capital. There, you'll admire renowned works like Velásquez's Las Meninas at the Prado Museum, Picasso's Guernica at Reina Sofía and Cézanne's Portrait d'un paysan at the Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Take a walk in the city's large avenues to enjoy Spanish warmth, kindliness and specialities served in various restaurants: will you opt for a tortilla or Iberian ham?
At the end of the day, enjoy the general atmosphere on game nights, when the Real Madrid or the Atlético play at home. Do not hesitate and head to the stadium to really feel the Madrileños' fervour.
Milan, at the cutting edge of innovation
In Northern Italy, close to the Alps, Milan stands as the commercial centre of the boot shaped country. In turn Roman, Lombard, Spanish, French and Austrian, the city develops an incredibly rich heritage. Nowadays, magnificent ancient buildings rub shoulders with skyscrapers just as impressive. As a capital of fashion and design, the metropolis organises numerous fashion weeks and the Milan Furniture Fair. But that's not all! Thinking ahead, it pushes for innovative initiatives and is currently developing pioneering architectural projects.
Start the weekend with the unmissable visit to the Duomo, Milan's cathedral. Then head to the Santa-Maria-delle-Grazie church to see Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper (the artist and inventor spent many of his formative years in Milan). Discover the Prada Foundation and its architecture as impressive as the art at display. If you feel up to it, climb up the Unicredit tower, before ending the day at La Scala. A performance of Hansel and Gretel could very well tempt you!
Budapest, on the banks of the Danube River
The Pearl of the Danube unveils its charms under your feet for a long weekend into another time. With buildings of typically Hungarian architecture and lovely washed-out colours, the capital seems to have stopped a few decades ago.
In that respect, the first metro line of the continent – built in 1890 – is still being operated and runs underneath the Andrássy avenue. It's a real pleasure to use it. Art and culture have taken to the streets and museums and it is not unusual to hear classical or techno music coming through one's window. And treat yourself to a visit of the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre!
Last but surely not least: try the Széchenyi thermal bath. Reflecting on the Hungarian art of living, thermal baths are a Budapest institution. You'll revel in steam hot water that is actually capable of curing illnesses.
Dublin, through thick and thin
No, Dublin is not always under the weather. True, the latter can be capricious but the interest in the capital lies elsewhere: in its warm and welcoming soul. Located on the eastern shore of the country, Dublin is still full of Celtic reminders that actually make its charm to the eyes of the world. It was the cradle of artists like Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stocker. Nowadays, it is home to a large student population and constantly feeds on their festive mindset. It is actually on the youngest cities in Europe regarding age groups: 50% of the population is aged 25 or less.
During the day, take a walk around Temple Bar, animated with multiple art galleries. At night, take a seat in one of the countless pubs and order a famous Guinness beer (to drink in moderation!), brewed in the city since 1759 (you can visit the brewery!). Do no leave Ireland without visiting the nearby countryside: around the Glendalough lakes, Celtic legends come alive...
Endearing art of living in the centre of Amsterdam
The “Dutch Venice” is the ideal destination for whoever needs to recharge their batteries before going back to work. It will wrap you in a calm and serene atmosphere as you walk along. Amsterdam is perfect to visit by foot or on a bike. Note that locals themselves use that mode of transportation, riding like crazy between the city's canals. Cross bridges and admire houses of uncommon architecture. Make a detour by the Waterlooplein flea market and the flower market and ride along the banks of the Singel canal. Go back in time and visit Anne Frank's house or the famous beguinage house complex, former residence of pious widows looking for a haven of rest. Finally, take a break in one the famous brown cafes, known for their very characteristic features and atmosphere.
As far as culture goes, you'll enjoy an abundance of choice. Take the museum district for instance: Van Gogh Museum, Nemo Museum, Rijskmuseum and Stedelijk museum (dedicated to contemporary art) are only a few of them! The choice is yours!