"Split combines buzzing beaches, Roman ruins and
a vibrant nightlife."
Barcelona is a city unparalleled in its verve and energy. It's a place that encompasses what life is all about: art, long lunches, late nights, exceptional food and football…
A vanguard of architecture and style since the 1800s, Barcelona's centre boasts one of the greatest concentrations of Gothic architecture in Europe. It's also home to surrealist artist Antoni Gaudí's most spectacular pieces, none more so than the Sagrada Família church. It's a must-see for visitors.
If there's one thing Barcelona does even better than art, it's food. The city is brimming with fresh seafood in the Barceloneta and Port Olímpic areas, and to-die-for tapas restaurants in the city's Barri Gòtic (old town). Be sure to spend an evening or two dashing between bars, ordering some pinchos here and a plate of croquetas there.
For a trip outside the city, take your pick from a morning at the beach, a mosey around Camp Nou - home to Barcelona FC - or a leisurely stroll on Montjuïc hill, which overlooks the harbour and is oft described as Barcelona's Central Park.
Get there: Take the train to Manchester or Liverpool airport. Monarch and Jet2 fly from Manchester; easyJet and Ryanair from Liverpool, both in around 2.5 hours
Stay: Hotel Roger De Lluria is ideally located for a siesta
The Côte d'Azur's cosmopolitan capital, Nice, offers much more than its glittering celebrity reputation belies. Art aficionados and archaeology buffs alike flock here for the must-see museums and Roman baths, while others bask in the sun on the Promenade des Anglais, supping cocktails and gazing at the azure sea.
Tearing yourself away from one of the city's 30 magnificent beaches (although be warned, many are pebbled) offers many rewards. Spend your days people-watching over a coffee in the heart of the romantic Old Town; leisurely take in the city's Baroque architecture or linger over the sights and scents of the colourful flower and food markets. Trawl the flea markets for antiques or flex your credit card in some of the city's more up-market shops. After all, what's a trip to Nice without a little retail therapy?
No matter what your taste - or budget - Nice caters perfectly for the gastronomes among us, from quintessential Niçois dishes to Michelin-starred cuisine. Dine alfresco with the locals and enjoy the city's buzzing music scene at the same time.
Get there: Take the train to Manchester or Liverpool airport. easyJet fly from Liverpool and Jet2 from Manchester in just over 2 hours
Stay: Enjoy a touch of luxury at Hotel Le Palais de la Méditerranée
Croatia's second-largest city, Split, combines buzzing beaches, Roman ruins and
a vibrant nightlife. More exciting than relaxing, there's no shortage of things to do. Spend your days sprawled on one of the city's many beaches or discovering the atmospheric Old Town, home to the remarkable Diocletian's Palace. This majestic Roman cathedral has been transformed into a warren of houses, shops and churches. The harbour is lined with bars and cafés where, with the coastal mountains set against the blue Adriatic, you couldn't ask for a better view. Feast on ocean-fresh fish, prut (Dalmatian cured ham), pasta or risotto - all Croatian staples.
Head to the Diocletian's marble alleys, where the best bars are tucked away, or sip on cocktails on the ritzy palm-tree lined Riva promenade. Be prepared for a late one - with a plethora of clubs, the people of Split know how to party. When it's time to recover, head 10 minutes west to the heights of Marjan peninsula. Hike, cycle or simply enjoy the panoramic view over Split and the surrounding islands.
Get there: Take the train to Manchester airport. Jet2 operates direct
flights from Manchester that take just under 3 hours
Stay: At the funky boutique Hotel Luxe