Split Sundowners

A Dalmatian cultural hub for near two millenia, Split is popular the world over. From classical courtyards to hipster hangouts, here’s my pick of where to head when the sun goes down – summed up in 3 words a spot.

Ghetto Club & Art Academy

Chill – Funk – Hipster

BEPA

Dalmatian Platter #BEPA

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Aesthetic – Location – Pairing

Sanctuary Bar

1st craft cocktail bar in Split, Croatia #backbarporn

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Cheap – Cramped – Smoky

Zlatna Ribica

Seafood – Seafood – Seafood

Noor Bar

🍹🍹🍹 #cocktails #bar #splitcroatia #summeriscoming @noorbarsplit

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Compact – Elegant – Original

Perivoj

Amazing spot for dinner if your in #split, in an old mansions courtyard. #perivoj

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Cosy – Al Fresco – Hidden

 

If you’re heading to Split this summer – enjoy !

Exploring Skrunda – 1 – abandoned Soviet secret city

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991 and the end of the Cold War,  skeletal relics from the era of mutally assured apocalyptic nuclear destruction lurk throughout the former USSR.

The Skrunda-1 Radar installation – Credit: Latvian History

A few hours drive out of the Latvian capital Riga, obscured deep in a forest of silver birch,  the secret Soviet military research facility of Skrunda-1 was a key component in the Evil Empire’s confrontation with the free world.

Big L #MygunsgoBOOMBOOMandyogunsgopowpow

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Known to Latvian locals simply as “Complex“, a series of early warning radar installations were constructed on the site from the 1950’s onwards. Aiming west, the last of these was the second tallest building in Latvia when it was demolished in 1995, a monumental 19 stories high. 

Summer strolls

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As a closed city all Soviet military and scientific personnel and families were restricted from leaving the site, with further restrictions on those who could enter.

The amenities for 5000 inhabitants were on site, including a nursery, theatre, gym and even nightclub, alongside uniform apartment blocks, soldiers barracks and prison cells.

Abandoned Soviet officers theatre

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Following the sites total abandonment in 1998, all materials of value were stripped and removed to Russia ,the Latvian government has yet to find a viable way to regenerate the concrete shells of the 60 buildings that remain.

Diverse

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After unsuccessful auctioning to private investors, the property has passed from the Latvian military to the local Skrunda municipality who charge a 4 entry fee.

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Former occupants

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Gym + rotten wooden floor

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CSKA MOSCOW

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Combat

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Exercises

 

 

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Cells

Abandoned Soviet Prison Yard

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Entering Skrunda

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Shabby Chic

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Pastel Tones

 

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Inside the barracks

Cathching rays on top of an abandoned Soviet barracks in #latvia #legitroofaintgonnabreak

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Abandoned Soviet nursery

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Creepy murals

 

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Shops

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Nature returning

 

 

Moral Crusaders, Police Raids and Freedom: why the party is not over in Vilnius

With some of the strictest alcohol laws in Europe coming into force at the start of 2018 and indiscriminate raids by balaclava clad armed police that are happy to call a couple of joints a great success – what does the future hold for a city defined by its homegrown aesthetic and sound ?

Freedom – social, political and economic –  is a theme that permeates native businesses and organisations.  From the libertatrian BBQ joint Keulė Rūkė, who gained international noteriety last summer, to the LFMI (Lithuanian Free Market Institute), ranked as one of the premier think tanks independant of government in the world.

The antiquated policies of the new Lithuanian Government, led by the Peasants and Greens, comes as a stark contrast to the perception of a progressive Post-Soviet Vilnius.

“Have you ever seen a child in national dress, dancing in clogs, singing folk songs who is high on drugs? No!”

Historically moral crusaders, like the above quoted leader of the Union of Peasants and Greens,Ramunas Karbauskis, use moral panic over a perceived alien threat to legitamise repressive policies.

Think Reagan stepping up the war on drugs in 1984 and the resulting expansion of the American prison-industrial complex, currently incarcarating over 2 million people – 22% of the worlds prisoners.

the party is over 😭 #keuleruke #karbauskis #streetart #thepartyisover

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“The party is over”-  recent streetart depicting the politicans who have campagined for extremely socially conservative laws as a troika of terrorists killing culture.

Karbauskis has spearhead comedic alcohol controls that are due to come into effect next January, restricting sales past 8PM and baring everyone under 20 from drinking and even touching alcohol. Far worse, police have unsucessfully raided various bars and clubs searching for illegal drugs, even bringing their own press photographers.

Arguably the role of the police is to protect you from others, but when law enforcement is attempting to protect you from yourself by restricting behaviour, they become the state’s moral enforcers.

Writing for VICE, Max Daly observes – 

“Unfortunately it’s not just the muddled alcohol clampdown that young Lithuanians who like a party have to contend with. It’s a crack troupe of anti-drug cops who are under the impression they are battling a drug peddling alien horde.”

A black and white, binary perception of the world – Good vs Evil, Light vs Dark  – is funadmentally flawed, as without one the significance of the other disappears. Arguably in a city with a recent history of breaking free from a respressive empire like Vilnius, any perception of a new police state results in instant condemnation, delegitamising the moral crusaders and thier moral enforcers.

Early 2016 in Ukraine, a successful legal defence by Kievan cultural center Closer over drug trafficking charges, street protests and a social media campaign broke down the moral and legal legitamcy of drug raids targetting the club.

If such a result can be achieved in crisis struck Kiev, it looks promising for the future of Vilnius nightlife.

 

Vilnius night mayor and counciller, relocated Londoner Mark Adam Harold, who’s playing a key role in organising legal redress for the police raids suggests –

“Most likely it’s a new political entity full of people who don’t know shit about harm reduction, who are just doing their honest best to combat a problem they don’t understand. They seem to be very bemused that not everybody is congratulating them about their upgraded war on drugs.”

The clumsy approach of a few politicans reacting to a relatively non-existent drug problem and an alcohol problem arguably endemic to economically deprived rural areas, is less of a step towards freedom and closer to repression. Unfortunately, there’s no doubt the new regime reinforces old negative sterotypes of Lithuaina many have worked hard to erode.

Keep Vilnius open, the party is not over.

 

 

 

 

Barcelona’s Best Bar?

It’s March, it’s still bare cold and the weather couldn’t be further from the heavy heat of the Catalan Capital in mid-summer . If you’re heading there this year check out 33|45, a 10-minute walk from La Rambla, in the heart of the diverse El Raval Barrio and my favourite my bar in the city.

No need for words, here’s a compilation I feel represents Barça’s best bar’s vibe throughout the hours.

 

Tornar a casa 🖤

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When your bartender takes you and your 'with extra olives' seriously 🍸

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33/45. Raval. Bcn. 28/11/15.

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Vermutejant al #3345village #vilassardemar #tapes #vermut #diumenge #sunday #beach #tapas

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Moderneig #barcelona #3345

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#Sunday #nightcap

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#havefun with Lau @lau_aguilarc #3345 #raval #barcelona

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Esto es un no parar #lamerce2016 #3345bar

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🍻 #goodtimes #bcn 🇪🇸

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@alba.feito y #technoylamateriablanda #3345bargallery #inauguration #3345bar

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Good Vibes, Feeling Wine. 🥂

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Getting drinks at a very awesome vintage bar 🍸#3345 #barcelona #elraval #bar

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#myfavouriteplace in #barcelona 🍷 #3345 #elraval #raval #igersbarcelona #barcelonagram #ig_barcelona

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Donde està el baño? #3345 #barna #barcelona #graffiti

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Night is a trap.

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If you’ve got somewhere else in mind as Barça’s best, give me a shout !

 

Inside Kiev’s Post-Revolution Wave of Underground Techno Raves

Heading east from Berlin, last summer I undertook a pilgrimage to Eastern Europe’s newly christened Techno Mecca. Deep amongst Kiev’s concrete forest of Soviet brutalism, a raw homegrown rave scene is putting down roots, thriving in a city that’s witnessed two separate revolutions in under ten years.

Flying out #Ukraine

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For the countless Kievan youth born in the post-Soviet 90’s, the thundering techno can offer a weekend of absolution and escapism, insulating them from the crisis and conflict that’s ripped Europe’s largest country apart since the recent 2014 revolution. My last few days in the sprawling Ukrainian capital fell over a weekend and it rapidly became a rush to take advantage of the collapsed currency and a weekend full of raves before my uni term began.

Another weekend begins in Kiev #todayirealisedimamassivepieceofwhitetrash

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A 15 minute, £1 uber ride away from central Maidan Square there’s an abandoned checkpoint in the Tatarka hills, barring entry to a small crumbling industrial complex in the midst of a wooded dell. Head through the checkpoint and into the factories you sense the vibrations of a serious sound system, deep in the belly of one of the surrounding delipidated buildings.

All you need is #mezzanine ✖️

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Here you’ll find the home of underground Techno club and centre of contemporary culture Closer, but also up in the loft –  Mezzanine. At the top of the graffiti scrawled staircase, its decaying post-industrial location fuses with a subdued, wooden barn reminiscent aesthetic, complemented by the strictly minimal selection of sounds. It’s the place to level out, have a few drinks and get your head right before heading downstairs.

Однако!

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In contrast Closer is known for its raves that stretch from midnight Friday into hazy Monday afternoons. There’s plenty to explore; from the memorizing lights and natives competing to be Neukölln’s next top model in the main space, to the deep lit chill rooms and outside the sprawling, multilevel wooden veranda set amongst the Tatarka hills. At one point, in true Kievan style, a climb on to the spine of the crumbling factory’s sheet metal roof became a legit spot to take in the morning air.

#prosumer

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Permanently settling in 2014 following nomadic roots,  Closer has survived recent court battles with the local authorities, continuing to operate and thrive under the ethos of “bringing people closer with music”.  After ending up there a few times, you observe that the place really starts to create a distinct vibe and come into its own about 5/6 in the morning . It’s no surprise that the Friday to Monday, any hour techno produces its own resonating gravitational pull, attracting those that consider no sleep and endless after parties a perfectly reasonable weekend pursuit. Sleeping is cheating.

morning love

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“During the revolution of 2013-14 all our nightlife stopped, and I realised I miss good parties,” says DJ,  promoter and Cxema founder Slava Lepsheev. “I also saw that this whole new amazing generation emerged, and they have nowhere to go.”

Since Cxema (pronounced Skhema) emerged in 2014, it rapidly gained a reputation beyond Kiev. Translating as scheme or gamble, the night is the result of communication and collaboration amongst a range of creative young Kievans, including architects, designers, artists and art critics.

#cxema #latespaces

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These various cultural mediums are linked together under guiding mutual preferences for: “spacious dance floors, best local musicians and DJs, quality sound”,  rather than commercial profitability. This allows Cxema to retain its raw and authentic vibe, even after featuring in the likes of VICE and it’s fashion and music subsidiaries i-D + THUMP, it’s non-commercial approach and focus on providing a unique space of fresh freedoms mean Cxema is still an underground night.

C-X-E-M-A

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For Kievan locals born in the 90’s growing up to the sounds of techno, there’s a soaring demand for massive events amongst this Post-Soviet generation, with Cxema carving its own niche in the vacuous nightlife void that’s stalked Kiev following the revolution.

Надо было не снимать очки #схема #cxema

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There’s no shortage of locations in post-industrial Kiev vying to host raves capable of meeting this demand. Cxema is held roughly every 6 weeks, keeping it fresh by switching to whatever semi-legit location’s available, bouncing from office blocks, to garages, factories and old cinemas. This is necessary to avoid being shut down, with Closer recently under threat of closure following a series of police raids. Due considerably to the high levels of moral panic raves generate amongst the staunchly conservative elements of Ukrainian society.

Latest content – Exploring contemporary Kiev #latespaces

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Saturday night I donned my €1 Adidas jacket and headed over to the skeletal arch of the Podilskyi Metro Bridge,  construction began the same year I was born and it remains incomplete. This has to be the most dramatic of Cxema’s locations, a grimy, graffiti scrawled skatepark wedged deep under a motorway overpass. Once over the half pipe, the cavernous space becomes a kaleidoscopic whirl of wavey 90’s sportswear, an ocean that continues rhythmically heaving long after the suns risen and torched the serene waters of the oozing Dneiper outside.

Back at #cxema with these cool kids @alexandraromanyk @andiefine

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Late in the morning when the Cxema crowds begin to disperse, many casually dismiss sleep and instead another after party at Closer entices those with the stamina to see Sunday through. Bearing in mind a Monday afternoon flight, I beat a lunchtime retreat from the Techno, seeking to regain some basic motor skills before my Sunday night motive – Keller Bar. Not far from Closer, it’s a tight, moody locale, with a capacity that can’t reach more than 150 people.

Боже, храни эту странную дискотеку 🙏🏻

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Arriving in such an out-of-the-way, intimate space as a bunch of gringo tourist on a Sunday night, you get the vibe you’ve crashed a private party. Later after a few conversations opened by Cxema chat and where to find other raves in Kiev, what I had first put down as cold stares turned out to be stern stoic facial experssions masking severe sleep deprivation, many had been on the sesh since Friday … but Sunday exposed the true techno zombies.

Eugene Berchy #kllrbr #kellerbarkyiv #sunday #келлербаргодзадва

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The perfect place to level out after a long weekend, the night was still gaining momentum when suddenly the music shutdown around 2 and everyone piled onto the terrace outside. I was left lost when fireworks started to illuminate the nights sky above me, till it was explained that it was a special night, someones birthday. Despite uni term and lectures looming just over the horizon, when the sound system roared back into life I half deluded myself into believing I could commit till close without severe repercussions for the London flight.

Last meal in Ukraine before getting in the plane to London

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In the end I was rewarded, having left before dawn I still had time for one last gourmet meal, gorging on Georgian food and wine before contemplating my frayed nerves on that final flight home.

Wrocław: Poland’s Hipster Heartland

The largest city in Western Poland, 2016’s European Capital of Culture Wrocław (VRAHTS-wahv) is a struggle to pronounce without sounding like a Polski toddler slurring their first syllables and has recently been labelled the”heartland of Poland’s hipster revolution“.

Whilst this may sound like a dubious accolade, immediately conjuring images of middle-class suburbanites trying to recreate the American dream out of an ex-council flat in Hounslow … in the context of provincial Poland you get a city center flowing with a fresh and eclectic range of independent businesses.

Chowmein

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Wrocław’s diverse cultural history is reflected in the Old Town’s architectural composition, with the visible legacies of the communist-era towering alongside the restored pre-war gabled Germanic buildings. In this iconic district it’s a struggle to walk down the street without being drawn in like a degenerate, salivating moth by the allure of some seriously peng fusion food or locally brewed beer.

Prewar restored

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Provincial Poland in January isn’t exactly a trip to the Bahamas and the cold really clamps down as soon as the sun sets, here’s my selection of where to keep warm after dark on a winter weekend.

Przedwojenna Bistro

Как в старые добрые… 😋☺️🙌🏼#przedwojenna#wrocław#wroclove

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Spread over three nostalgia strewn floors, less than 100m from the main square and open 24/7, Przedwojenna’s vibe sways somewhere between an inter-war continental bistro and a BYOB student restaurant. Beer and Soplica shots a morally corrupting 4zl and it’s an extravagant 8zl for dense plates of local food, visual depictions of the menu and prices painted on the walls framing the bar. With such humblingly hospitable prices, by early evening it’s crammed with a crowd mainly composed of local Polski’s, alongside a handful of deviant Erasmus students and gringo tourists

4Hops

Focusing on craft beer and mexican fusion food, it was a good day when I realised this place was a couple of minutes walk from where I was staying. There’s always a range of at least 16 craft beers available on tap, both local brews and international. Despite the spacious interior, any chance of finding a seat after dark on the weekend is laughable, as it appears the good citizens of Wrocław like nothing more than to drown themselves in craft beer, with a chicken and pomegranate taco thrust into each hand.
A thoroughly agreeable city.

Das Lokal

#slap #night #friends #daslokal #wroclaw #red #lights

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Over the river from the Old Town, this seriously sexy little basement club has some innovative lighting that’ll happily hold you hostage long past the dawn chorus breaks in the disconnect street outside. You get the feel the place was formed for Techno, but there’s the odd DnB night as well. With opaque event names like K-Hole Trax’s there’s no suppression of intentions, though most people are kicking it on the 8 zl pints than anything synthesised.

It’s got a good vibe and there’s an interestingly eclectic mob fracturing and weaving round the different spaces. Das Lokal’s homegrown resident’s have a solid reputation and can regularly be found in Berlin, the club is also frequently host to international names, night’s to look out for include SLAP and the aforementioned K-Hole Trax’s.

Karavan

Current study spot #neverendingstory

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Chilled and steady music keeping apace to the bars aesthetic means Karavan is a great spot to enjoy some slow drinks, before exploring some of the city’s late night offerings. There’s further visual stimulation projected onto a far wall for those settling in and a healthily ranged menu to fill any gaps in your appetite. With its slower vibe Karavan is favoured by an older crowd, you don’t expect trays of shots to fly round or spontaneous table top dancing.

AleBrowar Wrocław

Polecam serdecznie 😁

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Next door to Karavan, Alebrowar is a Polish craft beer chain pub and you can find one in major cities. I rate their Wrocław branch, you can’t go wrong with a decent selection of beer and the presentation of their taps is what ties the place together, forming the focal point behind the bar. There’s plenty of spots to cotch, with sofas and armchairs throughout the place. Again like Karavan the punters are a bit older, with the atmosphere imbued with their sensibilities.

Doctor’s Bar

Big shout for the complimentary drink Doctor’s Bar ! I’d just slogged it up the church tower of St Elizabeth’s next door and was in dire need of refreshment, when after settling in here I was offered the opportunity to sample their drinks menu as they had opened the bar for its first day 10 minutes before. Just off the main square in the Old Town, it’s got a fresh, spacious aesthetic and when I headed back later on the Friday night it was rammed … though that’s to be expected on an opening night. Best of luck to Wrocław‘s newest bar !

Here’s a sample of some of the sounds you’ll find in Wrocław over a winter weekend

Wroclaw in the afternoon

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Making The Most of those Juicy January Flights

Officially the most depressing time of year, those in a flexible situation have the option to travel all over Europe for a fraction of the price you’d find yourself subjected to for the rest of the year. With all airlines dropping their prices to fill seats, you can find some incredible last-minute deals.

Escaping the bitter English January

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In January last year I was based out of London and with a £100 flight budget I had the opportunity to spend my Friday night in Athenian Techno basement club Senza , the next night Techno again till midday Sunday in Berlin’s Chalet and be in Madrid for the Spanish capital’s student night Fucking Monday the day after … overall that was 3 key European capitals, 4 flights and over 4,500 miles in less than a week. If I’d gone for a similar style of multi-city trip any other time of the year there’s no doubt flight expenses would have at least doubled.

Some flights are more scenic than others #LondontoAthens #somewhereoverthebalkans

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London is definitely the best city to find some juicy last-minute departures, but you’d be surprised which other cities have regular flight connections whose prices are slashed for the January off-season. To make the most of these flight deals have a trawl through flight search engine sites like Momondo and Sky-Scanner. With the ability to search all departures from a city, you can link up a multi-city itinerary based off the best deals and keep it tailored to your own taste in destination and budget. Also when using these sites keep a check on the cookie situation … sometimes the live pricing can cause a surge and drive up prices horrendously.

All over Europe the affordable January prices extend beyond airfares and you can find enticing accommodation deals that fit any budget. Visiting a city out of season can also provide you with a whole new perspective on the city and its nightlife. For example in Athens the locals that work out on the islands during the summer all return home for the winter, so clubs and bars that are full of tourists during the long summer months are filled with hedonistic young Athenians in the depth of winter.

The more environmentally conscious can keep tabs on their carbon footprint by reducing their air miles and go for the straight up single destination city-break. Those hectic major European destinations that are rammed the rest of the year regain their charm in the off-season, creating a fresh and authentic experience. Overall flights for under a tenner can’t be beaten and whilst Luxembourg might not be the home of the sesh, you’d still consider flying there for 7 quid. Imagine going somewhere decent for that price.

Juicy January flight deals out of London

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Happy New Year people, best of luck in everything you set out to accomplish in 2017 !