10 best travel experiences in Europe – from £ 200

Porto/Oporto has a charming Old World, but hip bars and pavement restaurants crowd the riverside these days. There are world class concerts at the Casa de Musica and major art exhibitions along Rua de Miguel Bombarda. Cobbled streets and beautifully tiled churches, and a fantastic café culture-and killer pastries from emblematic outlets like custard-tart specialist Manteigaria-make the city’s flâneur a favorite.

The food is delicious, from Porto-style tripe, with beans and veg, to caldos and cozidos (soups and stews), to cod in every way imaginable. You can really eat delicious at little cost, and there are many delicious petiscos (small plates) available at the bars. Two classic snacks – the cachorrinho (sausage with spicy sauce and thin crusty bread) and francesinha (a sandwich of wet -cured ham, linguiça, chipolata or steak, with cheese and drowned in the sauce) – are delicious along with cold beer.

At Porto São Bento’s beautiful azulejo-walled station, you can catch the small train that falls on the right bank of the Douro to Pocinho, 120 miles away (3.5 hours, return ticket around € 30; book in cp.pt). Boats also flow on the waterway, not just luxury cruise liners; there are trips from a few hours to an entire day, or you can cross the river to Gaia, famous for its wine lodges and Blue Flag beaches.

The family names of Croft, Cockburn, Graham and Taylor suggest a long Anglo-Portuguese story of port wine making, but in the Douro there are many young local winemakers who challenge the traditions with the highest red ratings. and white wine.

Top tip

Take one of the city’s ancient trams, which still have original wooden -paneled carriages and serve three routes; Line 1 is the most popular, running from the center of the old town in Ribeira outward along the Douro River to the outside of the beach-fronted district of Foz.

Kelan leaves

Shoulder seasons are beautiful, like early summer. Porto is solid on the weekend-break no-frills map, but not as rammed as Lisbon.

Do it alone

Fly from Birmingham, Liverpool, London or Manchester to Porto; Ryanair has flights from £ 56 in the fall. Stay at Pur Oporto Boutique Hotel; five nights for £ 534 for double in early September via booking.com. Visit the Calem (00 351 916 113 451; tour.calem.pt) port wine lodge for a guided tour in English and three samples (€ 17); drop by CV Kopke, too; it’s the oldest port wine company in the city (founded in 1638), and while they’re not touring, the staff is happy to chat with you about their beautiful vintages and you can sip Colheita, the signature tawny port. Take a one-day train and boat excursion to Pocinho, with a lunch ride, booked at Cruzeiros Douro (00 351 226 191 090; cruzeiros-douro.pt) for € 108/£ 93 (Sunday, May to mid-October)

Perfect package

Inntravel (01653 617001; inntravel.co.uk) has four -day breaks in Porto, Chanceleiros and Pinhão, with train rides, guided winery visits, and short walks, from £ 745. Includes breakfast and two dinners, but not flights.

Fascinating in Istanbul from £ 400

Turkey’s largest city is the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires and, whether your passion is food, nightlife, fashion, design, history or architecture, it is a fascinating meeting place of European and Middle Eastern cultural mores and traditions.

What you insist on a visit depends on whether it’s your first time or your umpteenth, but even if it’s hard to impress old hands are willing to give a visual homage at least to the Hagia Sophia-a church turned mosque, which was later turned into a museum-and nearby Blue Mosque, with its dazzling Iznik tiled interior. Nearby is the Basilica Cistern, built by Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century to store up to 80,000m3 of water and flow it into nearby palaces.

The courtyards and pavilions of the Topkapı Palace complex, at the tip of Istanbul’s peninsula, will be filled one afternoon. The museums contain treasures including the Topkapı Dagger and a hair from the head of the Prophet Mohammed. Adjacent is Gülhane Park, one of the city’s largest and most beautiful parks – busy on weekends but still a haven from the throbbing city.