Next weekend — May 11-13Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain: 18.00 pounds round trip

Fly Ryanair from London Stansted to Vitoria.

Exploration of Vitoria-Gasteiz should start in the oval-shaped medieval quarter, complete with enough museums, sites and architecturally interesting buildings to fill more than one weekend. Of particular interest is the Palacio of Escoriaza-Esquibel, considered the best-preserved Renaissance mansion in the city; it boasts an impressive square inner patio.

The Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria is an exquisite example of masterful efforts at restoration. Tours of the cathedral can be arranged in English by visiting Those taking the tour will be required to wear safety hats, which are provided.

Other churches of interest include the Church of San Pedro, with a polychrome Gothic portico; the Church of San Miguel, the oldest documented church in the city; and the Church of San Vicente, which offers tourists a chance to explore a hidden area under the church roof.

Also within the medieval quarter is the Natural History Museum. The museum includes sections on geology, botany and zoology.

For something a little different, visit the Fournier Playing Card Museum. According to the Vitoria-Gasteiz city Web site,, the museum contains the largest collection of playing cards in the world. With more than 20,000 exhibits, this museum may take some time to explore.

Next month — June 1-3Bern, Switzerland: 165.92 pounds round trip

Fly Darwin Airline from London City to Bern.

This peninsula city, tucked with its cobbled streets and alleyways, steep river banks and breathtaking views, leaves no doubt why this city has been added to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage list.

Start in the center of the old town at the Zeitglockenturm (clock tower), where, at four minutes before the hour, mechanical figures — a crowing cock, a parade of bears, Chronos with his hourglass and a dancing jester — are set in motion. Once daily the tower is opened to visitors for exploration of its workings or for a visit to the rooftop offering glorious views.

Heading East on Kramgasse from the Zeitglockenturm is No. 49, Albert Einstein House, home and workplace of the famous scientist and former employee of the Bern Patent Office. It is also along this street that many of the town’s more than 100 famous decorated fountains can be found.

Continuing along this route, tourists will find the remains of Nydegg Castle and steps leading down to the riverside. Here, on the eastern bank, are the Barengraben, or bear pits. Two large sunken dens house two Pyrenean brown bears. Visitors are encouraged to feed the bears using food provided.

Next to the pits and up a steep hill is the Rosengarten, or Rose Garden, home to 220 types of roses and many more beautiful flora. The park offers photograph-worthy views of the town.

For a more lively side of Bern, head to the west of Zeitglockenturm, to the bustling Marktgasse and heart of the shopping district. Visit the many specialty shops, restaurants and cafes that line the cobbled lanes. Here you also will find many more fountains, including one dedicated to Anna Seiler, founder of Bern’s first hospital.

— Heather Klinglesmith

Airfare prices include estimated taxes and are courtesy of the Web site Prices were verified as of Monday afternoon when Stripes UK went to press. Deals are not guaranteed to be available; restrictions may apply.

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