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Europe's cheap flight secrets

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The cheap flights revolution has brought with it a number of benefits.

Alongside the benefits to local businesses and to Brits with holiday homes or families and friends abroad, it has of course meant that it's now just as easy and just as cheap for us to head for a long weekend in some sun-drenched Mediterranean port or a cultural break on the continent as it is to get on a train for a shopping trip in rainy Birmingham.

There is however one major downside to flying with any of the numerous budget airlines – aside from the environmental impact which we shall ignore here – and that is that so often you end up nowhere near your desired location.

Not only do your high holiday hopes quickly deflate as soon as you arrive at a provincial airfield in the middle of nowhere as opposed to the stunning architecture or glorious beach you were expecting, but this can often mean that a lengthy and costly bus journey is required before your break can begin in earnest.

However, for the optimistic and slightly adventurous traveller, such a money-saving policy – or scam – currently being adopted by airlines can provide the ideal chance to get off the well-beaten tourist trail and discover some of Europe's best kept secrets.

Take a cheap flight to the bustling port city of Hamburg and, if you go with a certain airline, you will end up at Lubeck, something which is only advertised in small print on the posters and website.

Now, while the majority of travellers will get off the plane and straight onto the over-priced bus for the hour-long trip to Germany's second city for a boozy weekend of Beatles and boats, I would much prefer to hop on the local bus into Lubeck itself.

Free from the tourist masses of many better-known destinations, nothing can magic away the stress of airport security and a cheap flight quite like strolling around this fascinating medieval city.

Within the walls and moat, Lubeck's Unesco World Heritage Site of a city centre boasts dozens of historic churches and museums, with its narrow alleyways, imposing Town Hall and cobbled squares acting as an inspiration for some of its most famous sons including Gunter Grass, Thomas Mann and Willy Brandt.

Though a weekend of visiting novelists' houses and relaxing with a beer and some of the legendary local marzipan down by the river may not compete with a night out on the Reeperbahn in terms of excitement, Lubeck boasts more culture and charm than cities ten times its size, with the added bonus that the flight back home departs from just a few miles down the road.

Such examples of the small-print destinations offering just as good value for money as their more-famous neighbours are numerous across the European cheap flights network.

Why not take in the virtually intact medieval centre of Girona, which has been shaped by its history as both a Roman and Arab trading centre, rather than following the crowds to Barcelona, or enjoy the seafood and markets of Santander instead of carrying on your journey to not-so-nearby Bilbao?

But perhaps the best thing about cheap travel is the spontaneity it allows the traveller.

After all, if a place doesn't take your fancy, it's incredibly easy to just check out and try your luck elsewhere, though I have yet to come across a travel insurance policy which covers a change of mind overseas.


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