Play Hard

9 European city breaks you can enjoy for just £38…

Thanks to DFDS ferries, some of the best European cities to visit have just entered our price point.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 01.02.2023


If you’re anything like us, 2023 is going to be your year for adventure.

For broadening your horizons, learning new skills, meeting new people and reclaiming a new lease of life after what feels like a prolonged hangover from the pandemic.

And DFDS are going to help you do it.

They’re offering 20% discount on all bookings made before 28th February for travel the rest of this year. Better still, only 15% has to be paid at the point of purchase.

So, from as little as £38pp, you could secure crossing on the DFDS Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry with your car, ready to explore all that Europe has to offer.

With overnight sailings every day of the week, you choose when’s best in 2023 to set sail and enjoy all a DFDS ferry crossing provides.

Better still, you choose your destination. After all, Amsterdam doesn’t have to be the end of the road, (well, sea). Take your car, caravan, motorhome, motorbike or bicycle and, from Amsterdam port, fulfil your wanderlust with any number of European city breaks. You can drive to cities like Rotterdam and The Hague in an hour, while European capitals Berlin, Brussels and Paris are all just a day’s car journey away.

Don’t worry that something unavoidable may come up in the meantime – DFDS’ Travel Guarantee means you can re-book your trip for free anytime before 30th September. 

Offering ultimate affordability, flexibility and adventure, the DFDS early booking deal really is a no-brainer.

See you on board?



As you dock in IJmuiden, expect serenity and adventure away from the chaos of Amsterdam.

Lovers of water sports will find everything from kitesurfing and paddleboarding to blo-karting here, (think go-karting along the sand, with a sail). Those looking to lie on the beach with a good book won’t be disappointed either.

What to see: The 19th century Fort IJmuiden holds UNESCO World Heritage status. History buffs can also visit a former WW2 German bunker.

What to do: Aside from beach day after beach day, take a trip to the nearby town of Beverwijk and explore the largest covered market in Europe.

Eat: Seafood is the name of the game here, and none do it better than the Michelin-starred Puur Zee. It’s pricey, but worth it.

Drink: Makai is right on the beach front and oozes that laidback, surfer vibe. Sink one of their craft beers as you watch the sunset over the water.

Stay: Sleep tiny house style at Basecamp Ijmuiden, which offers boutique, uber sustainable holiday homes and ultimate beachside vibes.


Driving time from IJmuiden port: 43 mins

Forget what you’ve heard about sex, clogs and cannabis – city breaks Amsterdam style are all about winding canals, colourful architecture and culture, culture, culture.

From famed foodie spots to underground bars, designer boutiques and vintage emporiums to live music, art galleries and cosy cafés, this romantic metropolis is bursting at its seams…

What to see: The magic of masterpieces Sunflowers and Irises up close in the Van Gogh Museum.

What to do: Go on a canal cruise that doubles up as an unlimited wine and cheese tasting tour.

Eat: Hap-Hmm has been dishing out traditional Dutch cuisine since 1935 and has the thriving customer base (and trophy cabinet) to prove it.

Drink: If it’s a quintessentially Dutch drinking experience you’re after, Brouwerij ‘t IJ is a tasting room in the base of Amsterdam’s largest windmill.

Stay: Hotel Not Hotel. This quirky joint makes every room feel like a work of art. So weird, it’s wonderful.


Driving time from IJmuiden port: 58 mins

The Dutch seat of government is known the world over for the grand mansions and embassies that line its streets.

Yet this palace-packed city is also crammed with culture, with world-famous artwork and shopping boutiques topping the bill of tourist attractions.

What to see: Scheveningen beach is the most popular stretch of sand in the Netherlands and is a hotspot for anyone looking to swim, surf, snack, stretch their legs and sun their skin.

What to do: Shop ‘til you drop in De Passage – the UNESCO-listed, 19th century arcade bursting with luxury boutiques, department stores and artisan producers.

Eat: Bloem is a cosy café framed by foliage and serving up the most tempting of sweet treats. Their High Tea offers a little of everything.

Drink: The only tiki bar in town sums up that quintessentially Dutch attitude to life: relaxed, fun and a little off-the-wall. Their rum-based cocktails will loosen you up.

Stay: Where else, but Hotel Des Indes. The Hague’s most historic hotel has played host to everyone from Tsar Nicholas II and Winston Churchill to Anna Pavlova.


Driving time from IJmuiden port: 1 hour 3 mins

As the largest port in the continent, and the second biggest city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is a bustling hive of activity – making it a popular choice for European city breaks.

Straddling the River Maas, the city is virtually split into two: with the traditional hub of power to the north and a cooler, more urban cultural scene in the south.

What to see: Museumpark. This tranquil, leafy enclave boasts all the heavyweight galleries and museums in the city.

What to do: Head to hip peninsula Katendrecht. Play a little pinball, eat at the Fenix Food Factory and watch the sunset from a sidewalk café on the waterfront.

Eat: Built as an observation tower in 1960, Euromast boasts a swanky eatery with the best views in town – 112 metres above ground.

Drink: Music lovers should hit up coffee joint, Kopi Soesoe. For something stronger, head to Café de Schouw and hangout with artists, poets and journalists.

Stay: Art deco dynamo Hotel New York is the pride of Rotterdam. What’s now a hub of cool, quirky nostalgia used to house those sailing west to the New World.


Driving time from IJmuiden port: 2 hours 40 mins

Yes, those hot Belgian waffles dripping in syrup and dusted with sugar are a major draw. But a Brussels city break is bursting with new discoveries to be made.

Art nouveau architecture gives way to quirky street murals; world-famous galleries rub shoulders with underground performance venues, and a bustling city opens out onto urban parks. The devil is in the differences here.

What to see: Stroll through Brussels and you can’t miss the huge, comic book-style murals, with plenty of local hero Tintin. Download a map so you see them all.

What to do: If you only do one thing in Brussels, make it the Bozar. The city’s cultural centre is the place for art, live music, cinema and epic architecture.

Eat: In this city, you’re going to want to eat waffles. For the best around, head to Maison Dandoy – this family business have been baking in Brussels for 180 years.

Drink: Overlooked by tourists, the Chasseurs Ardennais Market is where fruit veg, cheese and deli stalls rub shoulders with mobile wine bars.

Stay: B&B Maison Flagey gives you the opportunity to stay in an authentic art nouveau mansion. A relaxed retreat just two miles from the heart of Brussels.


Driving time from IJmuiden port: 3 hours 10 mins

Cologne is a living architectural exhibition, with buildings from as far back as the ancient Roman times lying next to avant-garde museums and concert halls.

Centred around a towering Gothic cathedral, this is a cultural oasis at its best during the world-famous carnival celebrations, but with plenty to offer those looking for a European city break with a difference all year round.

What to see: Kölner Dom. Cologne’s cathedral is the biggest, single tourist attraction in Germany, with its two 157-metre-high towers.

What to do: Indulge at the Chocolate Museum and discover the 5,000-year history of everyone’s favourite sweet treat. (Psst – don’t miss the chocolate fountain).

Eat: The Michelin-starred Zur Tant has long been a hotspot for foodies, with gorgeous views over the Rhine.

Drink: Built like a scrapyard, techno/electro haunt Odonien is the cultural heartbeat of Cologne’s nightlife scene.

Stay: The Wasserturm Hotel Cologne was Europe’s highest water tower in the 19th century and is now a stylish, five-star retreat boasting a botanical rooftop terrace.


Driving time from IJmuiden port: 5 hours 4 mins

One of Germany’s most popular cities is the hub for the biggest Autobahn interchange, train station and airport in the country.

Not that Frankfurt’s lacking in culture because of it. You’ll find some of the largest music, book and car festivals in the world here, along with high-end shopping, medieval architecture and a veritable hive of activity day and night.

What to see: If music’s your thing, check out concert series Music Sneak – essentially a blind date of gigs, where acts are only revealed as they walk onstage.

What to do: Apfelwein is the name of the drinking game in Frankfurt – combine it with a tour of the city’s major sights on the weird and wonderful Ebbelwei-Express.

Eat: Discover the best of Frankfurt café culture on the upper Berge Straße. For arguably the best sushi in the city, head to Berger Streetfood.

Drink: Fans of gin should head to Logenhaus Bar – a historic villa brimming with vintage antiquities and some 80 varieties of the spirit.

Stay: The hotel. The myth. The legend. Roomers is a seductive sleeping spot termed ‘the epitome of burlesque elegance’ amid the Frankfurt metropolis.


Driving time from IJmuiden port: 5 hours 56 mins

It’s easy to see while so many l’amour the city of love. From Notre-Dame to the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower, it seems there’s another historical beauty at every turn on a Paris city break.

And that’s without mentioning the cosy cafés, galleries, boutique fashion houses and gastronomical gaieties which line the streets here, either.

What to see: For something different, the Latin Quarter’s arthouses cinemas still echo the glitz and glamour of the golden age on the silver screen.

What to do: Take a tour of the Centre Pompidou. Behind the scaffolding and piping lies one of the best collections of modern art in the world – from Picasso to Warhol.

Eat: Step back in time at Michelin-starred trattoria Racines and fulfil all your romantic Parisian dreams. Walk through the Passage des Panoramas to get there.

Drink: Perhaps the best-kept secret of the capital lies behind flaking posters and crumbling paint… Le Syndicat is legendary for killer cocktails and blazing hip-hop.

Stay: You’ll want to keep as much money in your pocket for exploring, which is why Mob Hotel is a quirky, affordable option. Urban flair combines with a great location.


Driving time from IJmuiden port: 7 hours 20 mins

Germany’s capital dates back to the 13th century and boasts a wealth of historical attractions.

But there’s more to this sprawling metropolis than its past – a city break to Berlin will uncover epic foodie fare, cultural festivals, parks and waterways and, of course, a world-famous night-time offering as Europe’s clubbing capital.

What to see: The East Side Gallery. What was once the Berlin Wall is now decorated with 101 iconic murals and is a popular spot for a beer by the river.

What to do: Head to Mauerpark on Sunday for the biggest flea market in Berlin. Make sure you don’t miss weekly outdoor singing session, Bearpit Karaoke, either.

Eat: If it’s authentic German cuisine you’re after, Kumpel & Keule offers modern creations based on traditional German butchery, plus homemade schnapps.

Drink: Glitter, furry walls and flashing Madonnas combine to deliciously tacky effect in Roses, an unrestrained dreamland for LGBTQ+ drinkers and dancers.

Stay: Thanks to its enviable location and decadent, Manhattan-townhouse vibe, Hotel Zoo Berlin is a winner for clubbers, couples and families alike.

Other stories by Becky Hardy

Your ultimate North East theatre guide to Christmas 2023

Becky Hardy
Northumberland stargazing spots

A beginner’s guide to Northumberland stargazing

Becky Hardy
Christmas light trails in the North East

7 Christmas light trails across the North East in 2023

Becky Hardy
Christmas events in the North East

11 of the North East’s best family Christmas events 2023

Becky Hardy
Fenwick Christmas Window 2023

Fenwick’s window through the ages

Becky Hardy
24 Doors of Desk Delights – £120.00 

8 of the best alternative advent calendars 2023

Becky Hardy