21 Dec The Best City Breaks in Europe
You might be someone who already lives in a city and if so, you might think that going abroad on holiday involves visiting paradisiac beaches, rural spaces and exotic places. A new trend that started with the advent of low-cost airlines has seen more and more visitors explore cities, as opposed to villages and rural areas, and tourism to urban destinations has as a result grown since the start of the millennium.
Whilst the idea of navigating crowds, walking through busy streets and being surrounded by traffic might not be your preferred one when going on vacation, especially if you already hail from a big place, city tourism is a fascinating way of discovering new cultures and ways of living. Here we list the best city breaks in Europe.
The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona has sadly been in the news quite often recently due to a terrorist attack the city suffered in the summer as well as its controversial independence referendum and the incarceration by the Spanish regime of the Catalonian autonomous government that followed. With a population of around 1.6 million, Barcelona is nonetheless a vibrant city and the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea. It gained international recognition due to the Olympic Games the city hosted in 1992 and it has been a popular tourist destination ever since. Its attractive Mediterranean climate means the region boasts mild and humid winters and hot and dry summers, with temperatures in August reaching as high as 30 degrees Celsius. Visit La Sagrada Familia, the city’s most famous building and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, designed by Antoni Gaudi. Head to Barceloneta for a bit of sun along the coast on this 422 metre-long beach. Top your visit off with a meal in one of the city’s more than 20 Michelin star restaurants.
The capital of and largest city in Ireland, Dublin is a former viking settlement that these days have a busy nightlife and has throughout the years become a famous tourist destination. The 17th century saw Dublin become increasingly developed due to the number of European migrants the city welcomed. Known for its variable weather, rain and spells of the sun can dominate the city any given day, the former being followed by the latter and vice versa in the space of just a few hours. Bad weather cannot, however, dissuade an Irishman or woman from visiting a pub and having a good pint of Guinness. Visit St Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest church in Ireland, and head to Dublin Castle for some of the city’s most ancient views. Ireland’s national theatre, the Abbey Theatre, is also worth a visit if you are keen to see what the nation’s productions are able to offer. If you are after a unique shopping experience, visit the beautiful pedestrianised Grafton Street and indulge in the luxury shopping the city has to offer. Make sure you don’t leave the Irish capital without having ventured into Temple Bar. The area offers the city’s best alternative shopping and it is also home to some of Dublin’s best pubs and bars.
With nearly three million residents, Rome certainly was not built in a day. This ancient city’s history spans 28 centuries and the place has been inhabited by Latins, Etruscans and Sabines. The city’s historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Colosseum is a popular tourist destination around the world, visited by millions of tourists every year. With temperatures in August reaching over 30 degrees Celsius, it is easy to see why someone from a mild country might choose to visit the Italian capital in the cooler months of spring or even autumn. Its beautifully picturesque city centre is easily navigable on foot. Visit the Pantheon before this ceases to be free early next year and marvel this well preserved construction from 125AD. If you are into Michelangelo and the art of some of his peers from the same period, a visit to the Vatican is a must. Buy tickets for this and the Sistine Chapel in advance in order to avoid queues and ensure you can visit on the day you intended to. No trip to Italy is complete without having sampled the country’s famous pizza. The Monteverde Vecchio neighbourhood boasts many trattorias at affordable prices.
Not the obvious city break at first, but as you venture into this alternative German city’s streets, you will see why Cologne is a destination like no other. Situated on the River Rhine, Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany. One of the most liberal cities in the country, its most famous attraction is the Cologne Carnival, which takes place in November and on which thousands of people take to the streets to watch a spectacular parade navigate its way through the city. The most visited tourist destination all year round, however, is its cathedral, the Kölner Dom, which is also the first thing you see as soon as you exit the main train station. This is a gothic church that, as is the case in this style of architecture, has a plan in the shape of a Latin cross. Visit the High Altar, which is one of the main attractions of the cathedral. Cologne also has an interesting food scene, with some of its restaurants being traditionally German and many of them offering foreign cuisine. There are plenty of Middle Eastern and Asian places to choose from, for example.
City breaks don’t have to be predictable and filled with museum visits and time spent wondering around not really knowing what to do. The above destinations will offer you a breath of fresh air from your day-to-day routine and will reintroduce you to city travel. Whether you feel like exploring the buzzing streets of Barcelona, catching up with the locals in a pub in Dublin, sampling some pasta in Rome or standing before one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Cologne, your city breaks will never be the same again after having travelled to either of the above places. Safe travels!