Your last-minute weekend is ready: Istanbul, London or Finland?
Even though temperatures are dropping, the desire to discover new places is still there. And autumn is the best season to do so: summer has come and gone, but the stress of the holiday season is yet to arrive. That’s why it’s the perfect time for a low-cost weekend to discover the best European cities and other charming corners of the old continent.
Just as there are geeks and geeks, there are also weekends and weekends: how do you come up with yours? Do you usually go hunting for last-minute deals, or do you go for an all-out shopping trip, perhaps in the markets of the European capitals? Or maybe you prefer to get away from day-to-day stress and immerse yourself in nature?
Today we have put together some tips for a European weekend with bells on, all depending on the type of weekender you are.
Last-minute trip? Here’s how!
If you haven’t come up with any destination in particular (and ideally you can even be a little flexible with dates), your weekend in a European capital can be particularly good value for money. How can you do it? You could start off with some travel price comparison sites.
Skyscanner, for example, lets you enter “Anywhere” as a destination (seriously) … And a little serendipity won’t hurt.
If, on the other hand, you already have clear ideas, you could compare prices for various methods of transport. Because trains and planes are not always the cheapest means of travel – if time is not an issue in particular, coaches can also be a good alternative and are surprisingly cheap – sites like GoEuro and Wanderio will show you the methods of transport for your low-cost trips in the blink of an eye, along with the travel times.
Another possibility which has gained interest in the last few years is “carpooling” sites, platforms such as BlaBlaCar where a driver makes available a certain number of places in their car available in exchange for a small contribution towards petrol money and road tolls. As well as the savings on transport, it is an excellent way to meet new people and offset the boredom of a long-distance trip.
Cities to explore: the scents and flavours of Istanbul
Are you constantly in search of charm? Old-world Europe can offer new sights, sounds and emotions just a few hours’ flight from your home.
Take Istanbul, for example – the city where East meets West, two different worlds mixing in an exultation of colours and perfumes.
Image by Eric Haglund
When you set off for a weekend you have limited time at your disposal, and to enjoy it in a stress-free manner you have to make some choices. Rather than shutting yourself inside a museum, maybe it would be better to experience the sensory stimuli that a kaleidoscopic city such as Istanbul has to offer.
You must, of course, wonder at the twenty thousand turquoise tiles of the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii): the domes and enormous spaces of one of the world’s most beautiful mosques will leave you open-mouthed in wonder.
Just a short distance away, Hagia Sophia is just as jaw-dropping, with its golden mosaics which even inspired those of Saint Mark’s in Venice.
Image by Moyan Brenn
But the best thing about Istanbul is the scents and colours: The Egyptian Bazaar is the largest spice market in the city, looking over the incredible panorama of the Golden Horn. Built in 1660, it still serves as a crossroads for those selling flavours, sweets and roots – and where it is possible to try goods before purchasing them. Try as many samples as possible and let the inebriating mixture of saffron, cinnamon, tamarind, paprika and ginger carry you away.
Before you leave, make sure you have tried such local specialties as Tavuk Göğsü: a sweet chicken pudding (yes, you read that right) prepared by mincing the meat and then boiling it together with milk, sugar, vanilla, corn flour and rice flour.
Or else you can try the typical dishes prepared by the fishmongers near the Galata Bridge using the catch of the day. Finally, wash it down with a cup of çai, Turkey’s traditional tea.
For a weekend like this you need the bare minimum of planning, especially if you set off with hand luggage only. That is how many people do it these days, in order to avoid wasting time at check-in and allowing them to begin their holiday as soon as they land. The Volo 39L “cabin luggage” sized trolley suitcase was designed specifically for smart travellers, allowing you to skip baggage reclaim and dive straight into the metropolis.
And since we are sure you will take part in a photographic marathon on Instagram while in Istanbul, in order to immortalise all the sights and sounds of the city, you can ensure your smartphone or tablet is topped up with juice at all times by keeping a power bank within reach. And don’t forget to share your best shots with us using the hashtag #TucanoLife.
London’s “Hidden” Shopping
Raise your hand if you’ve ever indulged in an extreme shopping session during an escape to a European capital. Sure, some cities in particular are synonymous with high fashion and exclusive boutiques, but most of the time there are also unexpected gems hidden from view. Take London, for example.
Image via Designers/Makers
Of course there is always Harrods of Knightsbridge, but the streets of the British capital hide a plethora of markets to suit absolutely any taste – whether you are a shopaholic or not.
For example, the Designers/Makers Market is a must for anyone passionate about craft-made and designer objects produced by London’s lively designers and makers scene. Renamed The London Artisan, it is held every Sunday at the Old Truman Brewery near Shoreditch High Street station.
Further out from the centre, in the other direction this time, the quiet streets near Kew Gardens play host to the Kew Village Market once a month, where you can find just about everything: from arts and crafts to sweets, by way of cheese and flowers. Run by the locals, the market aims to raise funds for charity.
If you prefer to browse antiques and bargains, on the other hand, you need to head north – towards Islington – where the Camden Passage Market is at its best on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, with an innumerable number of stalls. Alongside the more unusual objects, you will also find pubs and coffee shops to suit all tastes.
Image by Marc Cluet
And when hunger comes calling, you can choose from genuine products sold directly by the producers at Broadway Market in Hackney in the East End, or the Marylebone Farmers Market, just a short walk from Soho and Regent’s Park.
When the shopping gets serious, we can give you a hand with the Compatto range of folding shopping bags.
In particular, the Compatto Pack backpack and Compatto Shopper tote bag take up minimal space when closed, but when your purchases start to pile up you can open them in an instant to take advantage of all the space you need. And seeing as you will be in the UK, don’t forget a travel adaptor like Cylinder to recharge all your devices.
The Spectacular Colours of a Finnish Autumn
Autumn is also the most colourful season. Before the cold of winter sets in for good, you can admire an infinite range of colours by heading off to Finland. This particular time of year even has a special name there: the locals call it “ruska”, and it is the perfect time to get in touch with nature.
Image by Maria Morri
You could, for example, rent a wooden bungalow in Lapland and take in one of the many dedicated “leaf watching” trails (yes, watching!), or else hire a bike and explore the far north on two wheels (as we previously suggested before summer). Finland has 72 national cycle routes, including the Archipelago Trail which is one of the most beautiful.
Image by Heather Sunderland
If you don’t want to head too far from the capital, on the other hand, just sixty or so miles from Helsinki you will find the Nuuksio Natural Park in which to surround yourself with colour.
In order to best enjoy a weekend like this immersed in nature, the right accessories are crucial: we recommend the Tu Pack backpack (now on offer!), in waxed technical fabric to keep out the autumn moisture, and the Essential case to mount directly on your bike.
Or if you prefer to go on foot, the universal Sporty Kiss 2 waistband is perfect to keep your smartphone, keys, money, accessories and other objects within reach at all times.
And if you are an avid GoPro and action cam user, after we inspired you (hopefully!) last week with the best videos shot with this equipment, you can document your adventures in Finland by keeping all your equipment to hand in a case which is ready for anything you can throw at it, such as Armadillo or Scudo.
Now it’s up to you: you just have to decide which corner of Europe to set off for on Friday evening ;)
Cover images by Moyan Brenn