Going flight-free in 2020? Try these cool Euro breaks minus the carbon footprint

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  • From the foodie scene in Lyon to wellness wins in Turin, here’s Marie Claire's edit of Europe’s hottest hangouts all with no-fly adventure guaranteed

    Lyon for foodie fans  

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    A city seemingly made for adventurous gourmands, this French culinary capital boasts more restaurants per square mile than anywhere else on earth. From Michelin-star must-tries (book Paul Bocuse’s Auberge du Pont de Collonges, La Rotonde, and La Mère Brazier) to traditional Lyonnais bouchons’ (recommended: L’Ébaucheand Le Garet), food fans should plan to pack elastic waistbands only. But beyond the feasting, Lyon serves up some pretty tasty cultural highlights, too. Take a roof-top tour of the basilica Notre-Damede Fourvière for picturesque views across the Rhône valley, then hit the vibrant just-sprung arts quarter in La Croix-Rousse for eclectic homewares.

    Estimated journey time: From 5 hours

    How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Lillie Europe, then a train from Lille Europe to Lyon Part Dieu

    Where to stay: Okko Hotel Lyon Lafayette

    Antwerp for architecture addicts

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    With boutique-studded streets, baroque masterpieces and medieval palazzos cradled by a labyrinth of cobbled lanes, Antwerp is a vibrant pint-sized port city brimming with fairy tale charm. Museum buffs can make their way to MoMu for fashion-focus exhibits or explore Rubens House for original Flemish portraits by Antwerp-born artist Pieter Paul Rubens. Our tip? Keep the pace casual and soak up the city’s rich coffee culture at Buchbar and Kolonel at regular intervals.

    Estimated journey time: 3 hours

    How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels, then change for Antwerp

    Where to stay: Hotel Indigo Antwerp

    Isles of Scilly for nature lovers

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    This dreamy archipelago off the coast of Cornwall may rest less than 30 miles from Land’s End, but it feels a world away from grey and grim Brexit Britain. Its whitewashed sands and emerald coves have earned it the moniker ‘Caribbean of the UK’ and we’re inclined to agree. Stroll the heathlands of Tresco, sail to Bryher, and snorkel with seals in the turquoise waters that fringe St Martin’s before stopping for a salty fish supper at Seven Stones inn for views that stretch beyond the bay’s lighthouse.

    Estimated journey time: 3 hours

    How to get there: Sail the Scillonian Ferry from Penzance to St Mary’s, then take a short boat transfer to Bryher

    Where to stay: Hell Bay Hotel

    Rotterdam for hot hipsters

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    Having reinvented itself as a sassy European design destination, Rotterdam is hot on the heels of its northern neighbour Amsterdam for stylish city breakers. Cutting edge architecture and futuristic flair has become intrinsic to this Netherlands metropolis and, from the ashes of post-war industrialism (Rotterdam was all but flattened during WWII), a cool coterie of craft-beer breweries, sleek boutiques and creative studios now stand. Stop at Katendrecht, the red-light-district-turned-foodie-Mecca; Groos, a hipster design store; and Vessel 11 for sun-deck cocktails and dancing till dawn. Word of warning: dubbed the Dutch Brooklyn, you’d be wise to book your break now and avoid the Insta crowds later.

    Estimated journey time: 3.5 hours

    How to get there: Take the Eurostar direct from London St Pancras to Rotterdam

    Where to stay: Mainport Hotel

     Val Thorens for thrill seekers

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    Whether you head here for winter’s crisp carpets of fresh snow, or the French Alps’ lush green mountain trails, this popular resort in Les Trois Vallées offers up scenic slopes for those seeking an active break. Swish your way down 600km of soft white powder for a jet-set skiing holiday to remember, or take a hike, bike or buggy ride along hill-hugging paths in high summer to discover the perfect picnic spot (fondue kit, obligatory). Either way, you’ll be back and raring for another adventure next year.

    Estimated journey time: 7.5 hours

    How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Moûtiers, then a 50-minute taxi or bus ride

    Where to stay: Altapura Hotel

    Dublin for the craic crowd

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    When it comes to live music, buzzy bars and a dynamic pub culture, nowhere quite matches the Irish capital. Synonymous with high-spirited nights out and even better beer, you can be in the beating heart of the action in about three hours thanks to direct ferry routes from Holyhead. Dock before brunch and head straight to Dublin 8 for Fumbally’s famous eggs with Middle Eastern heat. Refuelled, check out Cow’s Lane Designer Market in Temple Bar for the latest labels; browse the National Gallery and Francis Bacon Studio for your art-scene fix; then grab a booth in Brazen Head – Ireland’s oldest pub for a hearty Irish stew and traditional Celtic ballads and banter.

    Estimated journey time: 3.5 hours

    How to get there: Sail direct from Holyhead to Dublin with Stena Line or Irish Ferries

    Where to stay: The Dean

    Turin for the spa set 

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    Fringed by the Alps and rich in aristocratic grandeur, this charming Italian city is the epitome of slow travel – a fact further evidenced by the 8-hour rail journey from London. But for those desperate to unwind, fear not: now you can combine scenic riverside strolls with a luxurious spa break thanks to the Turin Palace Hotel – an elegant property set in the centre of ‘Italys Paris’. Delivering the perfect blend of baroque architecture (head to the historic Piazza San Carlo square) and modern wellness wins (the hotel’s treatment menu includes harmonic, essential oil-based massages and Hydra Plus facials), off-the-radar Turin will feel like a breathe of fresh air as soon as you plant your feet on the platform.  

    Estimated journey time: From 8 hours

    How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, change to Paris Gare de Lyon, then take the TGV to Torino (Turin)

    Where to stay: Turin Palace Hotel

    Champagne for drink connoisseurs

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    Renowned for its superior sparkling magnums and vineyard-linedvistas, the Champagne region northeast of Paris is a classy weekend hop for the fizz aficionado. Mix tastings at big-name houses (hello, Moët & Chandon, Perrier-Jouët and Pol Roger) on the iconic Avenue de Champagne with appointments at smaller, independent producers (Leclerc Briant is exceptional) to get a real flavour of the grape-to-glass journey. Also: end the trip on a high (literally) with a Ballon Captif flight over Epernay – where panoramic views, a morning quaff of bubbles, and your very own ‘Champagne supernova in the sky’ moment come as standard.

    Where to stay: Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa

    Estimated journey time: 5 hours

    How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, then make the 10-minute walk to Paris Gare de l’Est to catch the TGV to Champagne-Ardenne

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