February needn’t be a miserable month. Whether you’re in need of a romantic Valentine’s break with that special someone, a half-term trip for the family, or the thrills of carnival season, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in February.
Best for carnival
Barcelona and Sitges, Spain
For one week during February, Catalonia holds a series of colourful parades and unique traditions that celebrate the run-up to Lent. There is hardly a better place in the region in which to experience this than Sitges, with its flamboyant world-famous carnival. A small coastal town in Catalonia’s Costa Brava, Sitges is only a short train journey from Barcelona (35 minutes). One of the more intriguing ceremonies that make the town’s carnival worth seeing is El Entierro de la Sardina (Burial of the Sardine), which marks the end of carnival on Ash Wednesday. A satirical ceremony dating back to the 17th century, the burial simulates a funeral procession culminating with the burning of a giant papier-mâché sardine.
Basel‘s Fasnacht carnival lasts for exactly 72 hours, starting at 4:00 am on the Monday after Ash Wednesday and ending at 4:00 am on Thursday. 18,000 participants, dressed in colourful and outlandish costumes and masks (it is, in fact, considered inappropriate to identify yourself by removing your mask) march through the city playing music, making noise and throwing confetti, which allegedly originated in the city. There are brass bands, decorated floats, concerts, and Schnitzelbank singers who sing satirical verses about current events. Throughout Tuesday, the whole of the Münsterplatz, the square in front of the city’s cathedral, is lit up by decorated lanterns – it has been called the largest open-air art exhibition in the world.
Best for romance
This year, we’re looking closer to home for romantic breaks. You don’t need to spend a lavish weekend in Paris or Rome to find a lover’s paradise when you can head over to Winchester in Hampshire. It’s the perfect romantic English town, packed to the rafters with historic buildings and sights, all within a short walking distance of one another. One of the city’s highlights is the legendary round table of King Arthur, which has been housed in the Great Hall for over 700 years. For something a little different, you can head over to the Laverstoke Mill, 15 miles north of the city, the home of Bombay Sapphire’s gin distillery (pictured). Toast your love while admiring the handsome old Georgian mill – now fully restored and transformed by Thomas Heatherwick, the man behind London’s Olympic cauldron. Tours of the distillery are available from £15 per person, and include a free drink.
If you prefer the countryside, you could do worse than the Cotswolds, a truly inspiring area of natural beauty. With its famous honey-coloured stone villages that look as if they’ve been transplanted from another age and its rolling hills and meadows, it is simply perfect for a Valentine’s Day escape. With great opportunities for ambling down country lanes before going for lunch and a drink at a quiet pub, the Cotswolds is an ideal place to spend time alone with that special someone. According to hotels.com, the Cotswolds is the fourth most romantic place in Britain, but to us there’s nowhere better.
Best for half-term
York is one of the most beautiful cities in the United Kingdom, and the perfect place for a family day trip, a weekend break or even a longer stay. It’s a city steeped in history, as evidenced by the city walls that wind their way around the centre. A particular highlight for the kids is the Jorvik Viking Centre, an interactive guided journey through Viking-age York, a ride that takes you through a recreation of the city as it would have appeared a thousand years ago. Believers will tell you that this history has made York the most haunted city in England, and there are regular ghost tours that can take you on a spooky tour of its most eerie locations. Elsewhere, you’ll find the best tea and cake around at the world-famous Bettys tea rooms, and there are plenty of superb pubs – Yorkshire produces excellent beer – and restaurants to enjoy.
You can’t go wrong with London. Even if you’re familiar with the big smoke, there’s always plenty more to see and to do. For families, February is as good a time as any to visit the capital, with Chinese New Year celebrations – one of the very biggest outside Asia – opening the month. If you’re looking to keep the kids educated as well as entertained, then London has some of the finest museums in the world, including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, both featuring fascinating interactive exhibits. London also has a great tradition of family theatre; the West End is always home to some of our all-time favourite plays and musicals, from Disney’s Aladdin to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon. Even after all that, there’s no shortage of sights to enjoy, including the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe, the London Eye and much, much more.
Looking to travel on a different month?
Basler Fasnacht 2015 – Image by arianta via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Winter Arrives in England – Image by Nick Garrod via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
street entertainer covent garden – Image by Anthony Kelly via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
London Chinatown – Image by Alex Ridgway via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
miau – Image by Maria Alvarez via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Mask – Image by Lady_Elixir via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Cotswolds, UK – Image by Francisco Antunes (CC BY 2.0)