"At just eight hours from Manchester airport, the Big Apple isn't too far for a long city break"

 

Tallinn, Estonia: Art with heart

Tallinn steals the spotlight this year as the 2011 European Capital of Culture. The cultural programme over Easter includes the Jazzkaar jazz festival, plus two weeks of theatre and dance as part of Tallinn Party Weeks. Travelling to the Estonian capital is now even easier with new easyJet flights from Liverpool, and the recent introduction of the euro as the official currency.

Base yourself at the cosy Three Sisters Hotel, a historic property with contemporary touches, and grab a Tallinn Card for entrance to most museums and attractions, plus free local transport.


To soak up the cultural vibe, the Kumu Art Museum is Estonia's largest art museum, while the Song Festival Grounds is home to the Estonian Singing Revolution.

After dark, catch a show at the avant-garde Von Krahl Theatre, then head for dinner at Restaurant Ö, one of the new breed of chic eateries, followed by a late-night brandy at La Casa del Habano, a cool cigar lounge just off the main square. You'll be a Tallinn convert in no time at all.

Info: tallinn2011.ee/eng

Antwerp, Belgium: Fashion Flanders-style

The fashion-conscious Flanders city has been the subject of a major urban regeneration project over recent years. The first phase is now nearly complete, with the opening of the modernist Museum aan de Stroom (MAS - pictured, right) as the cornerstone of the new Het Eilandje, aka Small Island, district. Events leading up to the grand opening coincide conveniently with the Easter holidays in 2011.

Fly CityJet from Manchester to Antwerp and stay at the newly expanded boutique-chic Hotel Julien for funky rooms and a great location in the Old Town. It's just a short stroll from there to local designer Dries Van Noten's flagship shop at Nationalestraat and a whizz around the ModeMuseum to see what we'll all be wearing next season. If you're taking the kids, a visit to the city aquarium, Aquatopia, is also a must.

Start a night out with a visit to Brasserie Appelmans and check out the Absinthe Bar. But go easy. Dinner awaits at Graanmarkt 13 with its high-fashion vibe upstairs and candlelit eatery downstairs. It's so Antwerp.

Info: visit.antwerpen.be

New York, USA: An Apple for Easter

New York's annual Easter Parade is a rare family-friendly treat in downtown Manhattan - and at just eight hours from Manchester airport, the Big Apple isn't too far for a long city break. The parade of Easter bonnets and outfits takes over Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday from 49th to 57th Streets. Central Park also hosts an Eggstravaganza for families with egg-hunting and face-painting.

Elsewhere, chocolate shops around the city produce unique confectionery for the day; try MarieBelle's for artistic chocs in SoHo, or Black Hound for handmade goodies in the East Village.

Downtown hotels book out fast, but The James, a new opening in SoHo, is still something of a hidden gem with a rooftop pool, lots of contemporary artworks, plus free wine and cheese at 6pm nightly.

It's worth checking which restaurants open over the public holiday, and which offer special Easter menus. A reliable option is Norma's at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, which serves a gut-busting breakfast each weekend until 3pm. Elsewhere, the Sparks Steak House on East 46th Street is likely to transport you straight into a scene from The Godfather...

Info: iloveny.com

Sliema, Malta: Maltese marvels

If you like the idea of escaping to a slower pace of life - but one with sunshine and beaches aplenty - hop on a short flight from Liverpool to the tiny island of Malta. Steeped in wartime history, Malta is a melting pot of cultures and traditions, ripe for exploration.

The George Hotel sits in Paceville, Sliema's night-time hot spot, but this does nothing to diminish the boutique hotel's brand new charms. A rooftop pool, complete with bar and sun loungers, boasts views of the nearby ocean, and rooms are plush, spacious and comfortable - the perfect base for exploring this charming island.

Venturing out of Sliema, head around the coast to Valletta, Malta's capital city, to discover the wonders of Maltese architecture at St John's Co-Cathedral. Further inland, a must-see is Mdina, the island's medieval walled town. After ambling through the extraordinarily picturesque streets, you can sample a delicious traditional platter of breads and dips for lunch, complete with Maltese wine.

Back in Sliema, Terrazza on the waterfront is a top choice for dinner, where everything is cooked fresh to order and the calamari is some of the best you'll taste anywhere in the Med.

Info: visitmalta.com

Rome, Italy: Pomp and ceremony

For obvious reasons, Rome is a big draw at Easter time. Less than three hours from Manchester, the city is steeped with religious significance and a plethora of historic sites that are recognisable the world over. Although it's busy, there's also something to be said for seeing the city at this time of year, when pomp and revelry are top of the agenda.

The Romanico Palace Hotel is a great base from which to explore, and it's fit to burst with all the grandeur you'd expect - chintzy interiors, marble bathrooms and a rooftop breakfast area from which you can survey the city's sights. 

There are certain must-sees here and top of the bill is the legendary Colosseum. It's well worth joining a tour with one of the many vendors outside to get a real glimpse into the past life of this incredible structure. Also on the agenda is the Vatican City and Museum: try getting there early to beat the mammoth queues. While you're there, those with a head for heights should head to the top of the dome of St Peter's Basilica. It's quite a climb, but promises unrivalled views of the city to those who make it to the top.

Hungry? There's no shortage of fantastic fare being cooked all over Rome. Try the pappardelle pasta with porcini mushrooms that appears on most menus - divine Italian cooking at its simplest.

Info: italiantourism.com

Easter treats closer to home

The Peter Rabbit Easter Egg Hunt, Cumbria

One of the biggest annual egg events in northern England, the mischievous rabbit hides 100 hand-painted, ceramic eggs around Cumbria for visitors to find. Each one is a limited-edition collector's item, and there are additional prizes with some eggs.

Info: golakes.co.uk/peterrabbit
Go by train: Windermere. 10-min walk

Crook Hall and Gardens, Durham

The impressive medieval hall set in four acres of flower-strewn gardens is home to an annual Easter festival of egg hunts and traditional Easter games. The Easter Bunny even makes a rare appearance! Here's a clue for egg-hunters: try looking in the maze.

Info: crookhallgardens.co.uk

Go by train: Durham. 15-min walk

Liverpool Boat Show, Liverpool

For a family day out during the holidays, Liverpool's UNESCO-listed waterfront plays host to the city's inaugural Boat Show. The event includes a sea shanty festival, a sailing regatta and watersports demonstrations. You can even have a go yourself, if you're game.

INFO: liverpoolboatshow.com

Go by train: Liverpool. 15-min walk

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