Travel: The great Summer escape

In need of a vitamin D fix, Sarah Marshall recommends the best summer weekend breaks in Europe.

Vincentine Coast in Portugal
Vincentine Coast in Portugal

Best for... scenic surrounds

:: Lausanne, Switzerland

Every night, on the hours between 10pm and 2am, a town crier can be heard calling the time and confirming ‘all is well’ from the steps of Lausanne’s gothic cathedral. It’s a tradition that’s lasted since 1405, and is unique in modern day Europe.

It’s true, the Swiss are sticklers for order and efficiency, only these days they tend to prefer more expensive time pieces by the likes of Rolex or Breitling.

In reality though, there’s little need for clock-watching in this lively university city overlooking Lake Geneva.

During the summer, concerts and parades fill the streets, with activities stretching from day to night. Young people gather in the parks surrounding fine art museum Foundation d’Hermitage, or sunbathe on the grassy banks of one of the largest lakes in Western Europe.

In the evenings, the busy bars and clubs of the trendy Flon district are charged with energy.

There are numerous sights to discover, including the Olympic Museum which contains more than 10,000 pieces of sports memorabilia, but it’s the city’s natural beauty that really captures imagination. Framed by craggy Alpine ranges, which disappear into a haze, Lake Geneva is as blue as the cloudless sky.

Travelling by paddlewheel steamers across the water, it’s possible to visit the south-facing terraces of the Unesco-protected Lavaux vineyards, used by Benedictine monks in the 11th century.

To sample wines, stop at the Domaine du Daley (visit by appointment), where 20 Grand Crus are produced.

Fashion designer Coco Chanel lived out the final years of her life in Lausanne, and her body rests at the Bois de Vaux cemetery. A woman of fine taste, it’s easy to see why she felt so at home here.

Sarah Marshall

:: For more information, visit www.lausanne-tourisme.ch/en

Best for... a romantic hideaway

:: Barcelo Formentor, Mallorca, Spain

Shrouded by Mediterranean forest in the very northern tip of Mallorca, it’s little wonder Winston Churchill sought solace in this five-star hotel. The rumblings of World War II would have seemed a world away as he sat puffing on a cigar and looking out across the beautiful bay.

He’s not the only famous face who’s graced this luxurious hideaway. Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier even chose the hotel as their honeymoon destination, and their suite, one of the 122 rooms that have either a sea or mountain view, is named in the actress’s honour.

A 50-minute drive from Palma airport, along the eye-poppingly high and winding roads of Cap de Formentor, the hotel’s remote location is one of its main draws.

Flanked by palm trees and manicured gardens, the low-rise building, which opened in 1929, oozes old-school glamour. Days can be spent by the pool, on the beach, or sampling excellent seafood in a selection of eateries, some located on the seafront.

Afterwards, take a stool at the small bar that opens out onto a patio, and rest cocktail glasses on the original green and white tiles that lie protected beneath glass.

Finish off an evening with a game of billiards on the table often used by Churchill, before contentedly retiring at a respectable hour.

It may not be a place to embark on a raucous night out, but if you’re looking for a romantic and peaceful short-haul retreat, you’d be hard pushed to find somewhere as stylish, or as steeped in history.

Susan Griffin

:: Doubles from £170 per night with breakfast (www.barcelo.com). Monarch fly to Mallorca from £85.50 return (www.monarch.co.uk).

Best for... families

:: Martinhal Beach Resort, Portugal

It’s hard to find a holiday that’s as relaxing for the parents as it is for the kids, but Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel might just have got it right.

Kids’ clubs, swimming pools, sports facilities, spa, play areas and great restaurants - so far, so Centre Parcs. But add a beach that’s a hop, skip and a jump away and the climate of the Western Algarve, and suddenly this luxury family resort seems ever-tempting.

And the food really shouldn’t be overlooked. Families generally have to put up with all-inclusive-style, bog standard buffets, but at Martinhal, all the restaurants are family friendly and offer a choice of Italian, Portuguese (which is delicious) and fine dining. And when the little ones have finished munching, they can skip over to the supervised play corner while Mum and Dad sit back and enjoy a meal and couple of glasses of wine in peace. Or for those who find dining out with children a bit much, there’s always the self-catering option.

There’s a wide choice of places to stay, from hotel rooms and suites to houses and villas, with or without their own private pools.

Everything in the resort looks and feels as fresh as it is, having only opened a few years ago, and is all within walking distance. It’s also worth a quick jaunt into the local town of Sagres for a spot of dolphin watching. And even if Flipper fails to show up, the speedy zip through the ocean is great fun for all the family.

Claire Spreadbury

:: Seven nights B&B from £3,145 per family including international flights & transfers. Book through Bailey Robinson (01488 689 700; www.baileyrobinson.com).

Best for... sights

:: Regina Hotel Baglioni, Rome, Italy

A night at the splendid Regina Hotel Baglioni, in Rome’s ultra cool Via Veneto, is something special.

Built between 1892 and 1894, the extravagant former home of Queen Margherita of Savoy offers five-star luxury all the way.The sumptuously decorated rooms are vast, while some suites have private terraces with Jacuzzis.

Breakfast is a sophisticated affair served in an ornate cafe with a fabulous mantelpiece, large Murano glass chandelier and grand oil paintings. It’s the ideal preparation for a spot of sightseeing.

Via Veneto is ideally placed for many of Rome’s best known attractions with the Villa Borghese Gardens, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Opera House all within a 10-minute walk. World-class shopping at the Piazza di Spagna or the Via Condotti is also close by, though - depending on your budget - you may need a lift back with your bags.

The hotel is home to the Brunello Lounge & Restaurant, but if you fancy venturing further afield, try the Aroma rooftop restaurant at the Palazzo Manfredi hotel (www.hotelpalazzomanfredi.it). Its ‘wow factor’ location, overlooking the magnificent Colosseum, is good enough reason to visit, but the food is sensational too.

The seven-course tasting menu is described by chef Giuseppe Di Iorio as “taking you on a journey through his unique vision of Italian cuisine to both stimulate and satisfy your senses”. At 195 euros (£150) a head, it’s certainly not cheap, but it’s a truly memorable experience.

Stephen White

:: Doubles from £238 per night with breakfast (www.baglionihotels.com). EasyJet fly to Rome from £55 return (www.easyjet.com).