From Amsterdam to Puglia and Austria, we test the best European mini breaks

Find out all the details you’ll need from accommodation to where to explore and eat, we’ve done all the hard work for you.


THE PAD: At Don Totu, you’ll find an oasis of calm behind a nondescript street in the small, non-touristy town of San Cassiano in south Puglia.

With just six palatial rooms, ornate living areas, fruit-laden gardens and an outdoor pool, it feels like your own Italian abode, and you can raid the kitchen fridge for complimentary soft drinks and as much cake as your heart desires.

In the basement is an inviting hot tub, Turkish bath and fancy shower for rainy days, and they cook a damn fine omelette come breakfast.

EXPLORE: Join the locals at Grotta della Poesia – a pretty, natural pool in a cave 40 minutes’ drive away. Take a dip, then dry off on the rocks.

Or Torre dell’Orso is a gorgeous beach just a few minutes further on. Meanwhile, the walled city of Lecce, just 30 minutes from Don Totu, has a jaw-dropping cathedral, complete with crypt and real human bones on show.

Then spy fascinating 2,000-year-old ruins at Faggiano Museum, £4.35 entry (

REFUEL: An evening meal at nearby farmhouse Le Stanzie is an experience.

The numerous antipasti dishes alone could fill you up, but leave room for stews and pasta to follow in a gorgeously rustic setting with fresh produce hanging around you.

Five courses with house wine costs around £40 ( On your way to Lecce, stop at Fior Di Pane bakery in Maglie for fab pastries.

The cake of the region is pasticciotto, a crumbly custard-filled pie. In Lecce, our fave meal was at Duo, with delicious dishes like crab pasta and five-star service.

Mains start from £15 ( Or 400 Gradi has a staggering choice of pizzas, from £9, with cool, tropical-inspired decor.

BOOK IT: B&B at Don Totu costs from £185 a night ( Return flights from the UK to Bari start from £28.


THE PAD: The refurbed Park Plaza Victoria sits two minutes from Centraal station.

Expect spacious, sleek rooms, Elemis toiletries in the rain showers and cracking cocktails at Vic’s bar downstairs.

EXPLORE: Visit nearby quirky town Haarlem, 15 minutes on the metro, and the stunning 14th-century St Bavo Cathedral, £3.50 entry (

There’s a killer line-up of boutique shops on Kleine Houtstraat – Olivia & Kate sells beautiful dainty jewellery (

Back in the ‘Dam, get knee-deep in bargains at the monthly IJ-Hallen Flea Market, £4.40 entry.

Feeling fancy? Chateau is one of only two city wineries in Europe, and the tasting class, £18, is fab (

Book ahead for the A’Dam Lookout – Europe’s highest swing – which gets your heart racing with 360-degree views of the city, £15.45 (

REFUEL: Quirky vegan restaurant Café De Ceuvel sits on an abandoned ship wharf and is decorated with upcycled objects.

We loved the “blue cheese” and chickpea muffin with sweet potato fries, £6.60 ( Come dinner, the glam 5&33 does delicious cocktails, and the juicy 1.5kg steak, £66, is the perfect sharer for groups (

Thirsty? Lively canal bar Thijssen serves beer from the local Bird Brewery, £4.45 ( Soak it up with a signature Dam (beef and pork croquette), £1.80, from the hot vending machines at Febo (

BOOK IT: Doubles at Park Plaza Victoria cost from £134 ( Return flights from the UK to Amsterdam start from £40.


THE PAD: Nestled in the mountains, an hour’s drive from Salzburg, timber Holzhotel Forsthofalm comes complete with a beaut of a rooftop pool and spa (which uses home-made herbal oils), plus a sun-trap of a terrace right next to the slopes. The best rooms include saunas, and the bar with open log fire hosts a DJ on weekends and serves mean cocktails, from £11.

EXPLORE: During ski season it’s all about the snow, with 270km of runs on your doorstep. But in summer and autumn, the hills are still very much alive. There are hikes aplenty – a walk to the middle cable car station takes 40 minutes – and a lift pass that gets you to the top and back is included in your stay.

Explore the Sinne Park sensory garden, filled with interactive sculptures and an array of scented plants, or scare yourself silly on the 130kmh zip wire that runs across the valley, £54.

There are even world-class BMX trails if you’re a daredevil. Bike hire and a trail pass costs from £85 (

REFUEL: Up the mountain, dig into pizzas, £7, and home-made ice cream, £2, with a stunning view at cute Steinadler restaurant.

Then make the most of your hotel’s three-quarter board. Breakfast is a feast of continental delights and eggs made to order, and the well-stocked afternoon tea is basically a late lunch.

Then dig into the four-course dinner. The three complimentary cheese drawers are also dangerous…

BOOK IT: Double rooms at Forsthofalm cost from £220 ( Return flights from the UK to Salzburg start from £35.

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