City breaks

Forget Amsterdam – spend a weekend in the Hague

I love Amsterdam. I go every year for the galleries, the opera, the beer, the genever, the rijsttaffel, the brown cafés and, well, the fun. I’ve had many a fine time there, sometimes with and sometimes without dear Mrs Ray. It’s a top place.  I was cut to the quick, then, on hearing recently that the good burghers of Amsterdam had asked any British tourists in search of a ‘messy night’ to stay away. Admittedly, this controversial campaign is aimed chiefly at 18- to 35-year-olds on stag parties, rather than senior railcard-holders like me. But any drunk and disorderly behaviour risks a hefty fine and a criminal record – and since

How to combine a ski holiday with a city break

There’s always part of me that dreads the start of a ski holiday. Not because of the skiing (I adore that), but because of the journey. As a child it meant 16 hours in the middle seat jammed between brother and sister as we argued over who felt most car-sick. Nowadays it means faffy transfers and days off eaten up by travel. This year, I decided to try something different: why not make the journey part of the holiday? Rather than undertaking a mammoth day’s travel, I would split it up with a break – a city break to be precise. Austria immediately sprang to mind. Excellent skiing – naturally –

In defence of Brussels, Europe’s most underrated city break

Strolling around the Belgian Comic Strip Center, admiring the elegant artwork of Hergé (creator of Tintin), I wonder for the umpteenth time why so many of my British friends are so disparaging about Brussels. It’s one of my favourite cities, but most Britons I know wouldn’t dream of planning a break here. They don’t know what they’re missing. I’ve been here countless times, yet on each visit I discover something new. It’s full of quirky shops and exquisite restaurants, and there are some excellent museums too. If your idea of fun (like mine) is nosing around art galleries and antique shops, with plenty of pitstops en route, you’ll have a

Why Antwerp should be your next city break

In a sleepy side street around the corner from Centraal Station, there’s a restaurant I return to whenever I’m in Antwerp. From the outside it doesn’t look like much – a perfunctory shopfront, more like a takeaway café – but inside it’s charming, like eating in someone’s home. Welcome to Hoffy’s, a cosy Yiddish enclave renowned for comforting, nourishing cuisine in the centre of this flamboyant, unruly city. For me, this kosher restaurant sums up the spirit of Antwerp, a cultural crossroads since the Middle Ages, a refuge for outsiders of every sort. It’s run by the Hoffman brothers, three big amiable men with long grey beards, and it was founded