Want a city break with more value and fewer people? Try Lille, Faro or Budapest in September

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From underrated Lille to Faro – where storks can be seen in huge rooftop nests: European city breaks that offer better value… and fewer people

  • Lille has been called the most underrated city in France, and it’s under 90 minutes from London by Eurostar
  • Faro is frequently overlooked as holidaymakers head to the Algarve’s coast, golf courses and tennis clubs
  • Hungary’s capital Budapest is only a two-and-a-half-hour flight from London yet feels ‘enticingly exotic’ 

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Every week, our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: stylish city breaks for September.

Lower temperatures, fewer people and better value make September ideal for a European city break. Here are three to consider.

Lille  

The collection at the central Palais des Beaux Arts in Lille is rated second only to the Louvre and boasts works by Rodin, Renoir, Rubens and Monet

The collection at the central Palais des Beaux Arts in Lille is rated second only to the Louvre and boasts works by Rodin, Renoir, Rubens and Monet

For a gallery with a difference head to Lille's La Piscine, a 1920s Art Deco swimming pool reinvented as a museum where water shimmers under glass floor panels

For a gallery with a difference head to Lille’s La Piscine, a 1920s Art Deco swimming pool reinvented as a museum where water shimmers under glass floor panels

Lille has been called the most underrated city in France, and it’s less than 90 minutes from London by direct Eurostar.

Art-lovers are spoiled for choice. The collection at the central Palais des Beaux Arts is rated second only to the Louvre and boasts works by Rodin, Renoir, Rubens and Monet. The nearby LaM museum features Picasso, Miro and Modigliani.

For a gallery with a difference head to La Piscine, a 1920s Art Deco swimming pool reinvented as a museum where water shimmers under glass floor panels.

Lille is famous for antiques shops, pop-up fashion stores and Europe’s biggest flea market on the first weekend in September. It’s a big student town, so it’s easy to find vibrant and good-value places to try the local ‘moules-frites’.

Weekend deal: Rail tickets and three nights at the Novotel Centre Grand Place cost from £327pp in September (eurostar.com).

Faro 

Walk into the old town in Faro through the grand Arco da Vila gateway, then look up to see (and often hear) storks in huge rooftop nests

Walk into the old town in Faro through the grand Arco da Vila gateway, then look up to see (and often hear) storks in huge rooftop nests 

The Carmo church in Faro hides a grisly secret: the walls and ceiling of its 'bone chapel' are covered in the skulls and skeletons of 1,000 monks

The Carmo church in Faro hides a grisly secret: the walls and ceiling of its ‘bone chapel’ are covered in the skulls and skeletons of 1,000 monks

Faro is frequently overlooked as holidaymakers head to the Algarve’s coast, golf courses and tennis clubs. But the small Portuguese city is perfect for weekend breaks.

Walk into the old town through the grand Arco da Vila gateway, then look up to see (and often hear) storks in huge rooftop nests. Pavement cafes fan out from Se Catedral, where you can climb the bell tower or sit beneath orange trees in the courtyard. The nearby Carmo church hides a grisly secret: the walls and ceiling of its ‘bone chapel’ are covered in the skulls and skeletons of 1,000 monks.

Long weekends should include a 30-minute boat trip to the desert-island beaches of Ria Formosa Natural Park. At night, try local codfish with fried potatoes and parsley, listen to a ‘fado’ concert or explore marble-paved streets in search of a late-night pastel de nata.

Weekend deal: Get Jet2 flights and three nights at Faro Boutique Hotel from £340pp (jet2holidays.com).

Budapest 

Budapest is only a two-and-a-half-hour flight from London yet feels enticingly exotic. Above is Chain Bridge, a great spot to watch the sun go down

Budapest is only a two-and-a-half-hour flight from London yet feels enticingly exotic. Above is Chain Bridge, a great spot to watch the sun go down

From the banks of the Danube, the honey-coloured stones of Hungary's grand parliament building turn orange, then pink as night falls

From the banks of the Danube, the honey-coloured stones of Hungary’s grand parliament building turn orange, then pink as night falls

Budapest is only a two-and-a-half-hour flight from London yet feels enticingly exotic. Start by exploring the fairytale towers and majestic imperial architecture of baroque, Unesco-protected Buda on one bank of the River Danube (racier Pest is on the other).

A funicular takes you up Buda Hill for great views from the turrets and terraces of Fisherman’s Bastion. Walk across the Chain Bridge in time for sunset.

From the banks of the Danube, the honey-coloured stones of Hungary’s grand parliament building turn orange, then pink as night falls.

Pest is packed with restaurants and ‘ruin bars’: bustling clubs set in once-derelict buildings. Enjoy a Sunday soak at the Szechenyi open-air thermal baths, where you really can see locals playing chess as they relax in the steaming waters.

Weekend deal: easyJet flights and three nights in Buda Castle Fashion Hotel from £391pp (easyjet.com).



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