Grab your best pal and check out the coolest breaks on the planet – from party hotspots to pampering havens…
Best for: Star-spotting
Miami’s South Beach
Why? Think Baywatch with a 1930s backdrop. South Beach (SoBe to its fans) is a delicious and dazzling celebrity-studded playground where you can seek out the rich and famous. The Skybar at the Shore Club is an oasis of A-list fabulousness (regulars include Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss and Beyoncé) while Ocean Drive is perfect for sharing sand space with the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Cameron Diaz. Sashay through the pure white lobby at the famous Delano – this Ian Schrager-designed party palace is the hangout of choice for Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lopez. Other options for guaranteed celebrity encounters include the new Soho Beach House Miami and the changing rooms at Bal Harbour Shops on Collins Avenue. Don’t miss: Refuel on Eggs Florentine at News Café on Ocean Drive. This South Beach institution is a see-and-be-seen bolthole for Hollywood stars.
Getting there: British Airways offers return flights from £378, including taxes. Thomas Cook Signature has seven nights at boutique four-star plus, The Betsy South Beach, on a room-only basis from £1,090 per person.
Best for: Retail therapy
Why? One minute you’re going gaga over Gaudi, the next you’re window shopping in designer-dense streets paying homage to funky fashion. The achingly fashionable Catalonian capital lures label-loving senoritas, especially at La Roca Village, a huge retail outlet designed to resemble an 18th century Catalan market town. Located just a 40-minute drive north-east of the city, this cut-price treasure trove offers up to 60% reductions on more than 100 designer brands, including Burberry, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Ray-Ban, Polo, Ralph Lauren, Versace and Swarovski. Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-9pm; closed on Sundays.
Don’t miss: For one-off designer and retro boutiques, explore the streets Calle Portal de L´Angel and Calle Avinyo around the Gothic Quarter. La Boqueria on La Rambla is one of the best food markets in the world.
Why? About as exotic a destination as you could find within four hours’ flying time from the UK, Marrakech is simply spellbinding. Everything about this imperial city oozes with wow factor; from the dusky pink-walled Medina (the old city) to the infamous souks where you can haggle your heart out over jewellery, lamps, rugs, brassware and kaftans. Visit the Ali Ben Youseef Medersa for its stunning interiors, marvel at the spectacular painted ceiling of the 11th-century Koutoubia Mosque and relax in Jardin Majorelle, the beautiful botanical garden which was owned by long-time Marrakech resident and fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent.
Don’t miss: Brave the Djemaa el Fna at night. This open square in the heart of the old town sizzles with artisans, sword jugglers, musicians, belly dancers and a maelstrom of snake charmers, as well as vendors with their carts of barbecued food.
Getting there: EasyJet has return flights from £74.98, including taxes. Thomson offers seven nights at the new 4-star resort, ClubHotel Riu Tikida Palmeraie, from £434 per person on a room-only basis.
Why? For creativity, culture and a burgeoning boutique hotel trend, Dublin’s fair city exudes vibrancy and va-va-voom. Check out the countless watering holes around Temple Bar (where nursing a pint of Guinness is obligatory!), before maxing out your credit card on Grafton Street, home to posh department store, Brown Thomas. Brimming with designer-led accommodation, there is no shortage of boutique chic appeal; from the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, with its fab roof-top terrace and seventh-floor bar, to the rocking Clarence Hotel, co-owned by U2’s Bono and The Edge. Other cool contenders include 21-room gem Number 31 and the sumptuous John Rocha-designed Morrison Hotel.
Don’t miss: The Hampton Hotel a four-star crash pad in Donnybrook, fusing period glamour with gorgeous furnishings and modern architectural twists. Rooms from £86 per night.
Getting there: Ryanair has deals from around £30, subject to availability. Cresta Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B at the perfectly positioned four-star Radisson BLU Royal Hotel from £549 per person.
Why? Renowned for its spas, stroganoff and sophistication, the Hungarian capital is a tale of two cities split by the River Danube – conservative Buda and buzzing Pest. Famed as an international spa city since the 1930s, Budapest boasts more thermal medicinal hot springs than anywhere else on the planet. For a fab beauty boost, Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget is a four-star retreat where the spa contains mineral-rich thermal water pumped from deep beneath its location on Margaret Island. If you can’t face plunging into stinking sulphuric waters, take your pick from three thermal pools, separate-sex saunas, a steam room, spa bath, outdoor pool and relaxing salt cave.
Don’t miss: To impress the savviest of beauty aficionados, check out the Margitsziget’s Beauty Pampering Programme, which includes a relaxing aromatic massage, a Cleopatra Bath with milk and honey, a Clarins facial treatment, eyebrow correction, mud-pack treatment, manicure and unlimited use of the spa facilities and fitness club.
Getting there: Thomas Cook offers a seven-night package to the four-star Danubius Health Spa Resort, Margitsziget, from £240 on a room-only basis, including flights from Luton with Easyjet. The price includes free use of the spa, but it is advisable to book treatments in advance. Offer ends 7 March 2011.
Why? Live the green dream in the most chilled-out stopover ever for eco-lovers. Located in Jukkasjärvi, 200km north of the Arctic Circle, the entirely degradable Icehotel® is made from the snow that drifts along the mighty Torne river. What started as a cylindrical-shaped igloo has become a world-famous hotel structure that utilises elements of the Arctic and draws on geothermal energy to provide electricity. Artfully rebuilt from snow and ice every winter, the hotel reopens this year on 10 December. For extra eco-enchantment, guests can snuggle up in a thermal sleeping bag on beds made from solid ice blocks and covered by reindeer skins. The interior temperature is between -5°C and -8°C – pretty warm compared to outside temperatures of around -37°C. Extra must-do activities include searching for the Northern Lights by snowmobile through Arctic forests, dog sledding, or sharing a traditional meal in a ‘Lavvo’ tent with the local Sami people.
Don’t miss: Sip ice-cold vodka at the hotel’s supercool Absolut Ice Bar. Everything from the bar itself to the tumblers and shot glasses is made from crystal clear river ice.
Getting there: Simply Sweden offers a five-night package at Icehotel® from £1,475 per person, including a ‘cold’ night at Icehotel®, a night exploring the wilderness and three nights in ‘warm’ accommodation.
Why? Argentina’s hedonistic, hip-shaking capital is an eternally sexy hotspot where Porteños (as the locals are known) love to party until the early hours. Dust off your dancing shoes and embrace the passion of the tango – Esquina Carlos Gardel on Carlos Gardel 3200 offers flawless dancing and slinky body-squishing cheek-to-cheek action. Another great place to perfect the art is the Dandi Royal – a dance school, performance centre and boutique hotel. For cool watering holes try Ocho7Ocho (Thames 878, Villa Crespo), Congo (Honduras 5329, Palermo Hollywood) and the swanky new Belushi Martini Bar at Honduras 5333 in Palermo Viejo. For all-night clubbing, Cocoliche at Rivadavia 878, Area Microcentro pumps house music all night long, whilst La Cigale (25 de Mayo 722, Microcentro) has four happy hours (from 6-10pm).
Don’t miss: Niceto at Niceto Vega 5510 in Palermo Viejo is a sure-fire clubbing hit offering a packed weekend roster that mixes club nights, live dancehall and indie rock.
Why? Forget ‘fat farm’ quips. This ‘luxury weight-loss boutique’ is spot-on for diet devotees on a detox and weight-loss drive. Following the huge success of its holistic Devon camp, NuBeginnings has just opened a brand new retreat in the Loire Valley, a world of châteaux, postcard-perfect countryside and world-class vineyards. But this is no ordinary bootcamp. Chateau Milly is all about luxury; from its chic designer-led bedrooms to its almost 40 acres of private grounds. The posh pampering regime includes a combination of exercise – Nordic walking, yoga, and gym work with a personal trainer – as well as hypnotherapy and psychotherapy sessions to reinforce weight-loss, while the full concierge service caters to your each and every whim.
Don’t miss: The cuisine is divine.
A typical menu includes cep and white truffle oil omelette for breakfast and smoked haddock, cod and crayfish bouillabaisse with butter beans for supper.
Getting there: A week’s stay at NuBeginnings France costs from £2,495 per person, to include accommodation and daily French cuisine. Programmes last from one to four weeks. Book flights separately; Ryanair has return flights from around £100.