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Chase the sun

Rather than frazzle in the sun during July and August and do battle with the crowds, an autumn escape can prove all together more relaxing and enjoyable. Whether you’re looking for a sun-kissed weekend away or a bargain holiday, these late season city escapes promise beach weather with a bit of buzz.

CULTURE AND CLASS
Proving a city break doesn’t have to be a frenetic venture, the captivating fortified capital of Malta, Valletta, is rich in culture, music, art and history. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Valetta boasts warm temperatures and clear skies well into late autumn and with the island enjoying more than 300 days of sunshine every year, late season holidaymakers should be happy. Autumn is ideal for sightseeing around the historic capital but beaches are also just a stone’s throw away. The tiny city is a warren of boutiques, winding streets, hidden bars and sea-view restaurants. Lucky visitors holidaying in October can enjoy Birgufest, which takes place in the ancient city of Birgu across the harbour from Valetta. The highlight of the festival is ‘Birgu by Candlelight’, where the enclave is illuminated by thousands of candles. Catch a quick ferry over to the beguiling island of Gozo to swim in piercing blue coves and dine on fresh seafood straight from the grill as the sun sets. The iconic Phoenicia hotel flanks the main city gates and for pool-side harbour views, there is simply nowhere better. The grand dame of Malta hostelries, its new spa is set to open later this year.

ISLANDS AND FORTS
For those in search of city and sand, Dubrovnik’s Banje beach and the Old Town’s boutiques and bars await. Culture vultures can explore the walled city, its baroque buildings, churches, galleries and museums, while bars and terraces set along the ancient city wall make ideal spots for sundowners. With warm temperatures stretching well into October, Dubrovnik also retains a cool vibe and alfresco scene pretty much year round. For a little- known treat escape to the apothecary garden, located just inside the Pile gate behind the façade of the Franciscan monastery. Hop on a day trip boat to Lokrum islet – or hire your own boat and cruise to the plentiful neighbouring coves and bays. The Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik reopened earlier this year after a full refurbishment and boasts beautiful views over the medieval Old Town and the Adriatic. Originally opened as a hotel in 1897, its enviable location has attracted royalty – King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson drank tea and danced in the hotel gardens in the summer of 1936 – and has a prestigious roll call of guests including Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who wrote “Those who seek Earthly paradise should come and see Dubrovnik”. We couldn’t say it better ourselves.

SURF AND CITY
With its colourful townhouses, artsy districts, palaces, churches, and a blooming culinary scene, Lisbon’s box ticking prowess is a hats off affair. Cooking tours, artisan markets, fado workshops and wine tastings will keep visitors busy. And once you’ve sat licking your fingers after a plate of unfeasibly cheap and succulent grilled sardines, wandered along the waterfront – yes, it has a river as well – and flitted from gastronomic gem to cool, trendy cocktail bar, you’ve still got swathes of golden sandy beaches to enjoy just 20 minutes from the city. The beautiful beach resort of Cascais is a hotspot for hiking, cycling, surfing and outdoor adventures. There are breath-taking local mountain trails to the scenic Cabo da Roca – the westernmost point of mainland Europe, and you can hit the surf with a lesson at Guincho Beach or go rock-climbing the dramatic coastal cliffs of Boca do Inferno.

Valletta MaltaDubrovnik Cascais