British Airways has just launched its discounted "daytripper fares" for travelers flying from London to a handful of European cities. The catch? (Or, perhaps the benefit?) You have to return to London in the same day. Round-trip tickets, including all taxes and fees, will cost £79 (about $130) to Dublin and Geneva, £89 (about $149) for Edinburgh and Rome and £99 (about $165) for Vienna and Munich. You can only travel with carry-on luggage from London's Heathrow airport, and only on Saturdays or Sundays.
These fares are tailor-made for travelers who want to cram in a second destination with their London trip -- a fairly common strategy, especially considering how easy it is to get to Paris, Scotland, or other parts of England by rail. Flying expands your options even more.
Of course, taking into account check-in, transfers, and flight time, this doesn't leave you much time to enjoy that second destination. But if you really have the urge to pop across the Channel (or Irish Sea) for a few hours, here are some suggestions for quick, interesting itineraries you can accomplish in a day.
Most everyone who has been to Rome has seen the Sistine Chapel, but the Sant'Ignacio Church, between between Via del Corso and the Pantheon, is home to another stunning ceiling. Andrea Pozzo, a Jesuit Brother, painted the grand frescoes celebrating Saint Ignatius. The fresco depicts Ignatius being welcomed into paradise by Christ and the Virgin Mary in a trompe l’oeil that creates the illusion of looking up at the sky through open colonnades.
Admittedly when you think of Edinburgh, beaches don't immediately come to mind, but travel three miles east of the city to Portobello on a sunny day and you'll find plenty of locals sunbathing and swimming. The promenade that runs along the beach is lined with cafes and ice cream parlors and has a charmingly faded ambiance. Have a bite at the beach-side Beach House Café or, for some of the tastiest fish n' chips you'll ever eat , don't miss the Golden Bite on the High Street. To get to Portobello from Princes Street, catch a number 15 or 26 bus.
Rather than rushing around Dublin, you can take a 15-minute taxi or 30-minute Dublin Bus (route 102) from the airport to the coastal town of Malahide for a stroll along the sea and a visit to the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland. Malahide Castle (entrance $17) was both a fortress and a private home for nearly 800 years and has a large collection of portraits featuring generations of the Talbot family. The castle is set on a 250-acre park and visitors can ramble through the stunning walled Talbot Botanical Gardens, behind the castle, with its 5,000 different varieties of plants.
Yes, there's the Old Town, Lake Geneva, and the United Nations, but you can also hop on a bicycle to head into less explored areas. The city has almost 50 miles of dedicated bicycle lanes. From May through the end of October, you can borrow a city bike for up to four hours for free from Geneve Roule. Check pick-up locations and conditions at their website.
If you get the earliest Saturday flight out of Heathrow (7:50 a.m.), you can join the local Viennese at one of the city's most eclectic markets, the Naschmarkt. From Monday-Saturday, the market sells everything from buckets of tulips to bread and cheese, plus a large selection of Austrian delicatessen items, including champagne sauerkraut and pickles. The flea market is only open on Saturdays and most of the best finds are snapped up early in the morning. Even so, it's a lovely place to stroll and to stop for coffee or a snack at Tewa or Café Drechsler.
With one-and-a-half square miles of parkland, you can spend much of your day in the Englischer Garten. Stroll along the wooded paths, take tea at the Japanese tea house, and paddle a boat along the man-made Eisbach river. You can have a drink in the 7,000-person capacity beer garden at the 82-foot-high gold-leaf trimmed wooden Chinese Tower, or head to the lakeside Seehaus for dinner.