It's a golden autumn for city breaks

·3-min read
Arc De Triomphe in Paris is covered in silver-blue fabric as a tribute to the late artist Christo - YOAN VALAT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Arc De Triomphe in Paris is covered in silver-blue fabric as a tribute to the late artist Christo - YOAN VALAT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The news this week that Holland is reopening to tourists from the UK next week (ie from September 23) means that the last pieces in the city break jigsaw have fallen into place. Now that autumn is here and travel is running relatively smoothly once more, we can look across the Channel to the astonishing wealth and variety of European capitals and provincial cities and take our pick. Whether we like art, food, fashion or simply enjoy Continental cafe life we are spoilt for choice.

Quite why Holland held out so long against us isn’t really clear, but the re-opening is especially welcome news. As local resident, Rodney Bolt, points out, Amsterdam – which has in recent years been nearly choked with tourists in the autumn season – is now largely free of crowds. Its great museums – including the ever-popular Van Gogh Museum – are queue-free and its canalside pavements clear.

I’m hoping to get over there soon, both because I want to try the Eurostar link (somehow travelling by train is more relaxing in the current climate) but also because a new exhibition of astonishingly brilliant Renaissance portraits, Remember Me, is about to open at the Rijksmuseum ( Holland is not all about Amsterdam of course. There are many more historic Dutch towns which you might add to your wish list for a trip this autumn. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed Leiden and Delft in particular. And The Hague is a long standing favourite.

So far this month, I’ve already managed a quick three night hop over to France, where – as I mentioned the other week –Versailles was bathed in September sunshine and the gardens and palace are seeing only about a quarter of the usual number of visitors. Stopping overnight in Paris en-route, the city was just getting back into gear after the summer shutdown, the fashion and design shows were starting up and it really did feel that life was beginning to return to normal – though, as in Amsterdam, London and most of the rest of Europe, without the tourist crush.

I stayed near the Arc de Triomphe and could see the preparations for the big event in Paris this autumn – the complete wrapping of the 50m high arch in 25,000 sq m of plastic sheeting. The Bulgarian artist Christo – who is famous for such installations – first envisaged the project in the 1960s. He died last May, but the wrapping is going ahead in his memory. I saw only parts of it starting to be covered, but already it was a remarkable sight. It should be completed this weekend and remain in place until October 3.

I’ve harped on about cities in the north. But you might be more tempted by the thought of some warmer southern sunshine. Why hesitate? Air fares and hotel prices are still looking very competitive. A return to Rome with Ryanair for the first weekend of October? I found one at £41. Three nights in a highly-rated, centrally-located three-star hotel? There was plenty of choice in Rome for those dates at under £400 for two on

In short, to me this looks like a golden autumn for city breaks and we should grab our chances while we can. Who knows what the future may hold, but we can be certain of one thing: prices are unlikely to stay this low for very much longer.

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