The brainchild of Berlin-based Art Director Christian Schneider and Editor-in-Chief Dirk Mönkemöller from Cologne, The Weekender – independently produced twice a year – is not a classic travel magazine. As Dirk puts it, “The Weekender is what we love to do the most, and our readers can hopefully feel this passion. We love to travel and tell great stories. No more, no less.”
True to their name, the idea of a spontaneous trip is crucial to how they approach their stories. The Weekender communicates a lot of its ideas visually, while eschewing traditional travel photography. “Our secret formula is to give the photographers all the freedom they need. The design and layout gives their visual language a lot of space without constraint and manipulation.”
Dirk and Christian see the short getaway close-to-home as a growing trend. “No flights, no hectic connections, no extra bling.” When asked about the factors driving current trends towards excursions and shorter vacations, Christian is philosophical: “Traveling has become an extension of everyday life. People don’t plan special vacations anymore. They spontaneously hop to another city now and then, which is affordable due to cheap flight prices.” He also recognizes the downsides of fast travel. “But the trend has a bit of an underbelly: more and more cityscapes equal each other nowadays.” In The Weekender’s methods, he sees a solution. “That is where we jump in. Our goal is to find the most charming and unusual places in the world.”
If The Weekender had a travel manifesto, it might be this: “Everything should fit into a rucksack or weekender bag. If you need anything special, you can find it at a local store or market. Only books are essential – it’s always nice to have a good read when you are on the road.” When asked how technology is affecting people’s travel and destination choices, Christian couldn’t be clearer: “If you want to go on a short trip, you just book it on your smartphone within seconds. Travel agencies are obsolete – even a travel guide isn’t necessary if you can find all the good spots on social media. With our magazine, we try to show more thoughtful, slowed-down, and sustainable ways of traveling.”
This has led The Weekender to take unique approaches to destinations both nearby – from a ski spot in Sauerland to a tranquil wooded beach retreat at the Baltic Sea – and farther afield – think a California vintage bookshop housed in a former horse stable or a pair of wood-craftsmen in Bogotá.
Closer to Dirk’s hometown of Cologne, is the Sauerland: “It is very picturesque, offering little hills, long hiking trails, and several skiing posts. Many Dutch guests come here to enjoy a short time out in the mountains.” Dirk recalls one lodge in Sauerland where breakfast was placed on the front porch of the house. “You wake up, walk the dog, and then prepare breakfast. What a good start to the day!”
According to the creative team, the perfect weekender trip is also a marriage of new discoveries, with a little bit of adventure, and a lot of relaxation. “Cities can be more demanding. We always have a slight panic that we’re missing something that we should see. That doesn’t happen during nature trips. The biggest challenge in rural places is finding decent food and a place to stay.” Nestled in a sleepy region of Portugal, in the old town of Lagos, is Casa Mãe, a favorite that keeps them coming back. “We enjoy every stay thanks to its relaxed atmosphere. We fell in love with it right away.”
The experience of creating the magazine has transformed their own ideas about travel for the better. “We produce a lot of stories ourselves. It inspires us to travel more and keep our eyes open when we go to new places.” For them, the key benefits of a local mini-break is “being flexible with your plans and with your time.” One such place is not too far from Christian’s hometown of Berlin: New Haus is a coastal beach retreat near the popular Fischland-Darß-Zingst, a forested peninsula jutting into the Baltic Sea, and “a place of tranquility” for Christian.
Another emerging destination profiled by The Weekender is the French town of Arles, which is getting more popular with travelers due in part to its renowned annual photography festival, The Rencontres d’Arles, and transformation into an arts retreat. Meanwhile, Tuscany is the latest Italian destination people are opting for as an alternative to typical choices like Rome, Venice, or Florence. “You can go truffle hunting. It’s very unique, relaxed, and a good chance to discover a soon-to-be-famous artist – well, sometimes they already are famous.”
When they started out, Dirk and Christian had no clue who The Weekender’s readership would be, but over time, they’ve found a group of fellow travelers seeking new perspectives and different destinations in secondary cities or excursions not so far from home. There is a growing yearning for spontaneous, relaxed travel that encourages small discoveries and only requires an ever-ready overnight bag, which is really how the weekend should be. Isn’t unplugging, relaxing, and getting out of your head what weekends were originally meant for anyway?