With the British summer well underway, and the weather as gloriously unpredictable as ever, millions of people are jetting off to sunny foreign beaches to relax and soak up the sun. But what if you’re looking for something a bit more stimulating than sand and salt water? The continental city break is an ideal alternative to the usual bucket and spade getaway, especially if you’ve already used most of your holiday allowance on Monday morning hangovers.
A 3-5 night city break in one of Europe’s great cities offers a rich blend of sophisticated shopping and dining, exciting nightlife, museums and art galleries and dramatic architecture, most of which you won’t find in the provincial towns of Great Britain. With a decent selection of low cost airlines (low cost provided you travel light) flying directly to dozens of European cities from local and regional airports, the European city break is a very accessible option for most travellers.
If you plan a long weekend away, city breaks tend to be more enjoyable towards the end of the week than at the start. Not only is the nightlife better on a Friday night, but the museums and attractions in many European cities often close on Mondays, making those that do stay open a potential sardine tin of culture seekers. However, at this time of year a good proportion of the Europeans depart their fancy cultural capitals for the Mediterranean beaches, where they can point and laugh at pasty Brits. This makes the summer a nice time to enjoy a heady mix of inner-city sun and air-conditioned shade without excessive hustle and bustle.
Another top tip from travel insiders is to look for flights to the older and typically smaller inner-city airports, as it reduces your connection time considerably in some city break destinations. Fortunately a lot of the cheap airlines are taxed out of the bigger airports anyway, so you end up going to the smaller alternatives whether you like it or not.
Booking hotels in European cities can be a bit of a minefield when you don’t know the city yourself, so take advantage of other people’s experience by reading the guest reviews on sites such as Expedia. Guest reviews give you an honest appraisal of the good and bad points of each hotel, but remember, one person’s palace is another’s pig sty, so take vastly differing opinions with a pinch of salt, and perhaps some tequila and lime to wash it down.