Head north for whisky and Nordic cuisine, or south for limoncello and spicy tajines.
Hit the Chichetti Trail in Venice
Venice is full of bacari (traditional bars) that serve up one of the city’s best-kept secrets, the tapas-like tradition of cicchetti. These appetizers — from spicy olives to calamari and artichoke hearts —are an after-work ritual for who head to a bacaro for a few plates with an ombra (a small glass of wine), gathering at the counters where the snacks are laid out or huddling around convivial tables. On Venice Urban Adventures’ Cicchetti of Venice tour, travellers join in their ‘giro d’ombra’ (bar crawl; forget all thoughts of the beery boozing of the British version), visiting five of the most atmospheric bacari in the city with a local guide.
Setting off from a quiet medieval square, the tour stops at historic inns and lively hole-in-the-wall bars, sampling cicchetti like polpette (meatballs) and marinated seafood on of polenta. This being Venice, it’s a little grander than your average city centre wand—also stopping off at the famous – Rialto market and taking a-traghetto (gondola ferry) across the Grand Canal.
After a Saturday outing, start your Sunday with an espresso in the café-lined piazza of Campo Santo Margherita before exploring more of the Rialto district, with its gourmet shops selling specialities like cured meats, truffles and wine, and the Pescaria, Venice’s 600-year-old fish market.
Arrive: EasyJet, Jet2 and Monarch fly to Venice from UK cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester.
Stay: A city house with a country feel, hidden in a walled garden of pomegranate, olive and magnolia trees, Oltre Il Giardino has palatial, antique-filled rooms.
Feast along Italy Amalfi’s Coast
Just like its landscapes, the food of southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast reaches dizzy heights — pizza, gelato and sweet limoncello liqueur are just a few of the culinary fortes of this sunny promontory. Based in the hills around Sorrento, Le Baccanti’s gourmet day tour takes in many of these greatest hits. It begins at an extra virgin olive oil factory with vertiginous views, before heading on to lemon groves for a limoncello tasting; a visit to a mozzarella producer; expert help in making your own pizza; and a gelateria for a crash course in Italy’s incomparable ice cream.
Arrive: BA, easyJet, Monarch and Thomson fly to Naples from the UK. Sorrento is around an hour’s drive away.
Stay: La Tonnarella has antique-filled rooms in a villa right on the coast.
Match pierogi with vodka in Warsaw
Poland’s lively capital makes a great place to discover two of the country’s beloved staples, pierogi and vodka. Start by mastering pierogi — crescent-shaped dumplings with a variety of fillings — on Eat Warsaw’s two-hour cooking class, where you’ll learn how to make them Russian-style (with potato and onions) or stuffed with pork, before a sweet finale that sees them filled with raspberries or strawberries. Stomach lined, spend the evening on Eat Warsaw’s vodka tour, which visits several bars chosen for their range of high quality Polish tipples and accompanying snacks.
Arrive: BA, LOT, Norwegian and Wizz Air fly to Warsaw Chopin airport, while Ryanair flies to the less central Modlin.
Stay: Castle Inn has artistically themed rooms in a townhouse in the old centre.
Rustle up a meal from a Paris market
With around 80 food markets, Paris offers an embarrassment of produce for anyone keen to cook up their own French feast — if they know how. On the evening cooking course run by Cook’n with Class, held in an intimate Montmartre kitchen, participants learn how to transform their edible array into a complete dinner, from starter to dessert. Would-be chefs begin at the Rue du Poteau street market, visiting its stalls and speciality shops with a professional chef to select the ingredients. Back at the school the group settles on a three-course menu to cook from scratch, under the guidance of the chef — a typical lesson might include the likes of sautéed scallops, duck breast with stewed cherries or financier cake with figs. Finally, everyone gathers round a table for a leisurely meal continental-style, with the requisite Gallic extras — abundant cheese and wine — plus a traditional aperitif.
Arrive: Eurostar serves Paris from London St Pancras; most flights from the UK land at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
Stay: Montmartre’s Hotel Amour features ultra-cool, individually themed rooms.
Get a taste for brewing in London
The average Londoner might not brew their own beer any more as they did in medieval times, but the city’s new raft of craft ales and microbreweries make it a great place to make your own DIY stash. Head to the gastronomic hotspot of Brixton for a half-day course at London Beer Lab, where wannabe brewers learn how to make 20 litres of their favourite all-grain beer, with a return session, ideally about six weeks later, to bottle their nicely fermented brew.
Complement it by seeing how the professionals do it on a tour of the state-of-the-art Meantime Brewery in Greenwich. Toast the weekend down the road at sister site the Old Brewery, a restaurant-brewery inside the Unesco-listed Royal Naval College’s old brewhouse. In a hall hung with bottles, diners have views of the brewing process as they tuck into a British menu.
Arrive: Brixton is a seven-minute tube journey from Victoria station, and North Greenwich nine minutes from London Bridge station.
Stay: Set in a storied Georgian townhouse in Bloomsbury, the Harlingford is full of historic features.