> A look at cheap holiday destinations for UWE students.

Look at it this way; everyone is starting to get themselves worked up over a religious holiday that we celebrate in quite an unreligious way, the weather is terrible and by the time you’ve arrived home from a long day of lectures, it is already been dark for a couple of hours. 

Well, here is the harsh truth; the rest of Europe is a bit cold and gloomy right now too (even on the Costa Del Sol the donkeys are wearing their ear muffs).

There are plenty of places that are inexpensive to fly to from Bristol Airport, here is an unordered look at some of the great places you can visit this winter, whilst not blowing all of that hard earned student loan.  And, some more good news, just like when at home, you can always try to get a student discount wherever you go in Europe. 

Dublinflights from £19 return.  The capital of our westerly neighbour Ireland contains as much warmth, vibrancy and good spirit as the people who reside in it.  The Guinness factory provides an insight into how one of the world’s most popular drinks is made, and allows for a large tasting session at the end of a tour of the seven storey building, shaped liked a pint of the black stuff – get discounted entry with a valid student card at €11.  At the heart of historic Dublin lies Dublin castle.  Previously a Viking fortress, the castle stands overlooking the River Liffey, which runs through the heart of the city.  The impressive Croke Park stadium is a must for any sports fan, capable of holding over 82,000 fans. The stadium is renowned for its deafening crowds who come from all over the emerald isle to witness big curling or Gaelic football matches. Although in recent years the stadium has been opened to hosting ‘foreign’ competitions, such as rugby union and soccer.  Guided tours of the stadium last for one hour and cost €8.50 for students. 

Tenerife flights from £64 return.  Aptly titled ‘the island of the eternal spring’, the Canary Islands, a Spanish territory lying 50 kilometres off the west coast of Africa, is one of the few places in the EU where you can snooze away on a beach in the middle of December, with temperatures rarely dropping below 15 degrees during the day, or rising above 30.   For sports lovers, the possibilities of surf, kayak and especially windsurf are mouths watering. For those who prefer to relax their bodies then sculpt them, Fuerteventura boasts beautiful white beaches that in parts stretch for as far as the eye can see.  If you can avoid the hoards of red-faced Brits that have set up camp on the island, yet refuse to learn the language or integrate with the locals, there are plenty of great Spanish bars and restaurants, enclosed amongst the rows of white house, to get a taste of the Vida Española.

 Poznanflights from £36 return.  A city often overshadowed by Krakow in terms of touristic fame; the first capital of Poland is a city steeped in history.  An embodiment of its rich historical past is the castles; the Imperial Castle and the Royal Castle.  Poznan is often known as ‘the green city’, due to the fact that green spaces constitute about three-quarters of the city area. ‘The Citadel Park’ being one of the largest and most popular, with museums and performance areas open till late.  One of the most charming places in Poznan and a must-see is the Old Town Market Square.  Dating back to 1253, this commercial centre with its adjoining town hall is one of the main focal points of the city, and a great place to eat some hearty, traditional polish food.

 Venice return flights from £21.  ‘The Floating City’, is virtually unchanged from how it was over 600 years ago.  If you were going to surprise him or her with something a little different this Christmas, a romantic break in Venice would not be a bad surprise.  Despite being seemingly small, Venice in fact quite a large area, with a wide array of places to eat some Venetian cuisine, often hailed as amongst the best food in the world, along with astonishing architecture to marvel at, and romantic streets to stroll along arm-in-arm.  A great way to get around is jumping aboard the numerous ‘vaporettis’ that serve the city as boat taxis, though for a more romantic touch, take a gondola ride.  The city is full of picturesque churches and museums, which are just as fascinating once inside.  The Rialto market and bridge are a sight not to be missed, bustling with tourists though still retaining its romantic beauty.  There is a school of thought that says getting lost in Venice is a part of the city experience, and there are fewer places more picturesque in the world to get lost in. 

Faro return flights from £27.  The capital of the Algarve region, Faro is hugely over-populated with tourists who come for the sun and tacky discos, yet during the winter months, the town belongs once again to the locals, who are said to be amongst the friendliest in Europe, and though some may speak a little English, any attempts at Portuguese communication is appreciated immensely.  The whitewashed town offers plenty of sightseeing, with architecture of both colonial and Moorish origin.   The old town is a peaceful area that has been almost untouched by modern influence, the bars and cafes are thriving, but a calm, relaxed atmosphere is bestowed upon the city during the winter month.  A little trip out of town is a boat ride to Rio Formosa, a nature reserve that stretches along the tip of Portugal along to Spain. 

Winter is one of the best periods of the year to travel: the bustling crowds are much more easily avoided, a layer of snow often adds extra sparkle to a city landscape, and best of all for us students – it is cheaper than taking off in the summer. 

To search for cheap flights to any of these destinations, check out www.skyscanner.net, for youth hostels visit www.hostelworld.com.

Alec Herron