City breaks are the perfect way to escape the daily routine and to indulge in your favourite activities, whether they involve shopping, eating out, clubbing, or visiting museums and art galleries. From north to south and from east to west, Europe is packed with fascinating cities offering a vibrant nightlife, excellent food, great value accommodation, and plenty of opportunities to shop for great bargains. Here's the lowdown on the best city break destinations for UK travellers.
Barcelona City Breaks
A city break in Barcelona is perfect for culture vultures and shoppers. This cosmopolitan Spanish city is well connected to pretty much every UK airport and cheap flights are easy to find year round. To top it up, Barcelona enjoys a balmy weather and over 2,500 hours of sunshine every year. The city offers a varied range of attractions, which include Gaudi's elaborate architecture; world-class cultural venues like the Picasso Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Auditori, or the Liceu Theatre; exclusive boutiques and huge shopping centres; and an exciting entertainment scene, mainly around the waterfront and Poble Nou areas. The city's golden sand beaches are within walking distance of the city centre. Top events include the traditional Christmas market of Santa Llucia, Sant Jordi (a Catalan tradition that brings roses and books to virtually every major street), and the Merce, a five-day long festival held in September where you can enjoy live music, parades, and fireworks.
City Breaks to Venice
Venice is the ultimate destination for a romantic city break. The city's evocative beauty, unique setting on a lagoon, and absence of cars make it truly special. St Mark's Square, the Palazzo Ducale, and the Grand Canal are the best-rated attractions, but the best way of exploring the city is heading off with no fixed direction and allowing Venice to work its magic on you. Some insider tips apply: you can save money when visiting the city's canals by choosing the vaporetti or the even cheaper traghetti boats. For the best panoramic views, climb to the top of San Giorgio Maggiore's church, and to escape the crows, stop by the city's lesser-known islands, like Sant'Erasmo, San Michele, and Servolo. As for the weather, the winter months are rainy and chilly, but February offers visitors the chance to see the city's world-famous Carnival. The best time to visit is July-September, when rainfall is rare and visitors can enjoy up to 13 hours of sunshine a day.
Weekend Breaks to Budapest
Hungary's magnificent capital is the perfect destination for a budget city break. Budapest is known for offering some of the best value for money in terms of accommodation and you can easily find fantastic deals on luxury hotels that would cost twice as much in other cities. Budapest is packed with interesting sights and with elegant neo-gothic buildings, and the Danube River adds a romantic touch to the city's atmosphere. Things to see and do include visiting the Royal Palace and the Parliament, treating yourself to a thermal bath at the luxurious Art Noveau Gellert complex, enjoying a picnic at the lush City Park, attending a classical music concert at the stunning opera house, or going on an evening river cruise along the Danube. The spring and summer are the best times to visit, as the weather is mild and music festivals take over the city's events calendar.
A Short Break to Krakow
Poland's second largest city is fantastic weekend break destination known for offering endless opportunities for entertainment. Recently, the city has become very popular with those planning stag & hen weekends. Here you can sample the world-famous Polish vodkas at the Old Town's trendy bars, go on a pub crawl at the historic Kazimierz district, or dance until dawn at Krakow's top nightclubs. But the city is more than just a stag do destination. The Old Town is a designated UNESCO site dotted with medieval buildings and art galleries. Shopaholics will simply love Krakow, as there are dozens of weekend flea markets selling everything from antiques to vintage clothes and including jewellery, vinyl records, and collectibles. The Hala Targowa market is a paradise for bargain hunters and is also handy for those who want to check out the huge shopping centre known as Galeria Krakowska.
Cheap Breaks to Prague
Prague is one of Europe's most picturesque and charming capitals and is a popular destination for those interested in a cheap city break. Prague's cheap hotels, rich and varied cuisine, and wonderful cafe culture make this city the perfect place to spend a couple of days enjoying the finest pleasures in life. May and September are the best months to visit, as the winters are bitterly cold and the summers attract large crowds, as well as higher prices. Must-see attractions include the city's castle (one of the world's biggest and best preserved), the historic buildings of the Old Town, and the cobbled streets in the New Town. For something different, book yourself into a JazzBoat trip along the Vistula River and enjoy the best panoramic views while listening to live jazz, blues, and soul performances. Top events include the Beer Festival (held in May) and the open-air concerts during the Summer Nights festival, which takes place in June.