Flexible working is certainly one of the most popular reasons people decide to take up contracting on a full-time basis. However, do contractors really take advantage of the opportunities available to them? If you’re a contractor, you owe it to yourself to get away for a long weekend and have some fun!
You probably decided to become a contractor for a combination of reasons, but which one was the most inspiring? Maybe you wanted the opportunity to earn more money. Maybe you decided you wanted to become your own boss and work independently, away from the infuriating office politics. Or perhaps you wanted more flexible working hours, allowing you more time with your friends and family.
When you sign your next contract, why not treat yourself and push for a start date that falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday? Or have you considered working 4 days a week instead of 5? This way, you can take advantage of a long weekend and travel to some of the most beautiful cities in Europe - it’s a cinch! Here are five suggestions for a perfect getaway, combining culture, value and exceptional cuisine.
Barcelona is full of attractive places to visit - perhaps too many for a long weekend! There is an array of fascinating architecture on display, from the Gothic Quarter to La Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's cathedral masterpiece. There are hundreds of exciting streets, bustling with life and culture (check out Las Ramblas). There is no shortage of cosy eateries scattered throughout the city if you fancy some authentic tapas or paella.
Recommended: Barcelona Football Club is home to some of the greatest players of all time, most notably Lionel Messi. The team plays at the Camp Nou – a colossal stadium that is a worthy home for the football giants. Take a tour of the 99,000+ seater stadium and be blown away by the staggering size and history on show in the official club museum.
By road, Bruges is only 176 miles from central London and it is extremely easy to access by road, train and air. Bruges is home to some stunning architecture, exhilarating cobbled streets, intimate canals and atmospheric restaurants and bars. Visit the famous ‘Church of Our Lady’, the second largest brickwork tower in the world. Dating as far back as the 13th century, the church is home to some magnificent and rare artwork by Michelangelo.
Belgium is renowned for its beer, so it would be rude of you not to try a local brew. Be careful though – the beers are famous for being strong.
Recommended: Whilst not particularly local sounding, ‘Ribs n’ Beer’ serves food that is quite simply out of this world. Enjoy slow-cooked ribs with a variety of unique and delicious sauces (chocolate and beer is a speciality). There is no shortage of local beverages on the menu to add to the tastiness of your meal.
Budapest is home to 118 springs and boreholes, making it the perfect place to have a bath (not in your hotel, but in the Rudas Spa, a 16th century pool with Ottoman architecture). There is a variety of Roman ruins sprinkled throughout the city, oozing with enthralling history. Heroes’ Square, one of the most popular attractions in Budapest, is home to a series of statues created to pay tribute to some of Hungary's most popular leaders. Make sure you take your walking shoes with you so you can thoroughly explore both sides of the River Danube. For those who don’t want to do everything by foot, there is an old, efficient and quirky tram system, as well as regular buses and cheap taxis. Don’t forget to treat yourself to an authentic Hungarian Goulash (a delicious local stew).
Recommended: Take a walk up Castle Hill to visit the Buda Castle that has been charmingly rebuilt having been reduced to rubble in World War II. When you reach the top, the view of Budapest will leave you speechless, and having climbed the steep hill will leave you with a real sense of achievement.
If you love heat, the Mediterranean weather in Lisbon will suit you impeccably. Whilst lacking an obvious city centre, Praca do Comercio Square and Rossio Square are in the heart of the city and are perfect to base yourself nearby. If you get an opportunity, don't forget to visit the Gulbenkian – an immense cultural museum located in the middle of spectacular gardens.
If you wish to witness a gorgeous view of Lisbon, a trip to the castle is a must. Whilst up a steep hill, the walk is exciting. If you would prefer to take advantage of public transport, hop on the number 28 tram – you won’t be disappointed by the ride (it winds between the colourful, narrow streets).
Recommended: ‘Grapes and Bites’ is a must-visit tapas and wine bar. You will undoubtedly be left scratching your head because of the hundreds of wines and ports to choose from. But don’t worry - the customer service is exceptional and you will be well looked after.
Doing the city of Rome justice in just two paragraphs is literally impossible, but let’s give it a go. The city is like no other – brimming with history, striking landmarks, sumptuous treats and passionate locals. The city's history spans over two and half centuries and you will always be within a stone’s throw of some Roman ruins.
You simply cannot leave the city without taking the mesmerising walk up the Via Della Conciliazione to St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City. Please don’t pass through St. Peter’s Square without taking a look inside St. Peter’s Basilica. You will witness some of the most “jaw-droppingly” beautiful artwork in existence. You also can’t afford to miss the Colosseum, Forum Romanum, Castel Sant'Angelo and one of the many pizzerias. Your first trip to Rome is guaranteed not to be your last.
Recommended: The Colosseum is one of the most recognisable landmarks on the planet. Whilst the amphitheatre looks stunning in a photograph, visiting the site and seeing it with your own eyes will literally take your breath away.
Photograph: Rossio Square, Lisbon
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