If you are looking for a romantic city break with a difference this summer, look no further than the Dutch city of Groningen.
With its eclectic mix of modern and gothic architecture, miles of scenic canals and abundance of cafes and restaurants, it’s a little- known gem.
Flights are now scheduled from Southend Airport once a day and take about an hour.
Arriving at Groningen Airport is like taking a step back to the golden age of air travel.
Just metres from the airstand, there is an outdoor terrace where passengers, families and plane spotters enjoy cold pints of local beer while watching the planes take off and land.
You are bustled off the plane with typicial Dutch efficiency and are through passport and baggage claim at the tiny Fifties airport in about 15 minutes.
The ride into town takes us a further quarter of an hour by cab and there are regular buses from the airport.
After a morning of travelling it’s probably time to refuel.
For a spot of people-watching and traditional Groningen fare do as the locals do and head to Flinders Cafe in Noorderplantsoen, Kruissingel.
A pretty cafe housed in a huge conservatory deep in Noorderplantsoen Park, it offers a selection of salads and sandwiches made with local produce, along with dutch Croquetes which are well worth a go.
In terms of finding a place to sleep, Groningen offers accommodation to suit all budgets.
At the upper end of the market is the stunning Prinsenhof Hotel.
Dating back to the 15th century, the Prinsenhof has been a monastery, a church, a military hospital, a military barracks and a radio and TV station.
Stripped back walls, stained glass windows and tonnes of original antiques sit beautifully alongside top of the range mod cons making it the perfect romantic escape.
Many of the bedrooms are split level with a luxurious bathroom jam-packed with designer products on a mezzanine above the sleeping area.
Wandering in to town for the evening Groningen has bustling yet laid-back night life.
Situated about two hours from Amsterdam, Gronignen is one of Holland’s university towns, which has resulted in a real mix of venues, from relaxed cocktail bars, to traditional Dutch pubs to basement nightclubs.
Finding somewhere to eat is not difficult, with a number of restaurants clustered around Grote Markt.
Feithuis in Martinikerkhof 10, offers a wide selection of fish and meat dishes made with local and regional produce.
In terms of things to do, the Infoversum 3D dome theatre is definitely worth a visit.
It offers 3D films in Dutch and English and this summer’s offering, To Space and Back, is followed by a talk by an astronomer, guiding you through the constellations in the night sky.
The Groninger Museum is also worth a few hours. It has a variety of exhibitions from antiquities and art to more quirky post modern art and exhibitions by Dutch fasion designers.
For information go to www.groningermuseum.nl www.holland.com or www.southendairport.com