The ABCs of a May Bank Holiday getaway
December does pretty well with Christmas and April does its best with Easter, but May is top of the class for train trips in Europe.
For starters, you’ve got two UK bank holidays so can have a weekend away without eating into your annual leave. Nice. Temperatures across Europe are reliably in the 20s. Bosh! Thirdly, it’s not peak season yet so you can find a spot on the beach, a seat at a cafe and some space in the galleries.
There’s so much choice. If you already know where you want to go, excellent! Still here? Okay. Let’s make things a little simpler for you: A, B or C?
A is for Amsterdam
Canals, cafés, special cafés, Van Gogh, and more bikes than people. By train, it’s a cinch – a few hours to Brussels (stop off for a quick moules et frites lunch) then another three hours to Amsterdam. It’s worth it for the views from your seat alone! Add to that no commuting to the airport, ample legroom and, hello, did you forget about lunch in Brussels?
If you’re going early May, you can join in the festivities of Remembrance Day (4th) and Liberation Day (5th). There’s the Freedom Feast (Vrijheidsmaaltijd – points to pronunciation!), where hundreds of eateries across the capital will be celebrating with offers and foodie delights – you might even find yourself invited to a street party if you smile sweetly enough. And it all finishes off with the Amstel Concert, where you can stand riverside and enjoy a free classical extravaganza as the stage floats on the Amstel itself.
From 19 May, ARTZUID is in town, which means the Zuid district is decorated with modern art sculptures. If there’s a large group of you, and you’re really into your art, you can book your own private tour. Otherwise, the unmissable bit is in Museum square (as above, where the big ‘I amsterdam’ sign is).
Oh. And, did I mention double-decker trains?!
B is for Brussels
If you’ve not done Brussels before, we forgive you. But it’s time to rectify that. It’s as easy to get to as Paris… One train from London. Three hours. That’s it!
And it’s gorgeous!
And it’s the perfect party time. The Belgian Pride Festival runs from 3-21 May and will be a joyous celebration of love, LGBTQ+, beer and bears. The theme this year is Crossing Borders, and will broach the theme of migration and asylum.
Be there on 20 May for the march and the biggest party of all. Paint yourself fabulous, buy your rainbow flags there and meet a load of new friends. Okay, I’m jealous writing this. I’ll see you there!
C is for Cannes
Time to don your biggest, raunchiest shades and head to Cannes!
Want to spend May working on a base tan with Sofia Coppola and Jake Gyllenhaal? Well, 17-28 May is the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival and they’ll be there.
Industry buzz is around the first Netflix movie at the festival and a showing of a TV programme. Not just any show – the new Twin Peaks. Oh. My. Coffee.
Real talk for a minute. Accommodation is going to be… not cheap. And it’s going to be a little busy. Security is unlikely to let you into that exclusive A-List only after-party. Yes, even if you know Kevin Bacon. But but but, the beach is marvellous, the sun is shining (probably) and there are free screenings on the alfresco beach cinema every night.
You can avoid the pricey hotel fee by staying up partying all night, or popping on the train to any other resorts on the French Riviera.
Art heads, come for Saturday 20 May when it’s the Long Night of Museums. All the galleries are open late, and you might brush shoulders with an A-Lister in big sunnies.
And if none of those three take your fancy, there’s always everywhere else. Happy travelling!