In this blog I want to give you the all time top 5 city break destinations in Europe. While most of my readers are from Europe’, you would probably have ‘been there done that’, but isn’t it the best to have a city break in a place where you already know how the underground works, you can skip the touristy spots because you’ve been there, and tourist will ask you for directions because you walk around so confidently?! So consider – again – the following locations:
London – ever tried to get tickets for Wimbledon? There is a ballot each year and as a foreigner you are invited to give it a try, check the Wimbledon website for the appropriate forms. And when you have been picked as one of the lucky ones, it is a good excuse to tack on that extra day to explore the lesser known areas in London (because obviously you have been in London!). Try Dalston and visit their street feast festival, or Bermondsey and the white cube gallery for free cultural entertainment. It will give you the best mix of enjoying your sports, and exploring parts of a city you might not have been yet. *btw when you have not been picked to attend Wimbledon in the ballot, book your flight capturing a weekday during the first week, line up in the morning and you will for sure be able to get in.
Paris – Our knees melt hearing the French speak so we just can’t get enough of this romantic city. Try out your ‘Merci’ and ‘Je voudrais un café s’íl vous plait’ and you will steal their hearts. Instead of the more touristy areas to stay, visit the neighbourhood South of Pigalle (SoPi) or the area just beyond Place de la Republique at Le Carreau 2. SoPi is known for being the area were quirky new bars and restaurants pop-up. Alight at the Pigalle metro station and instead of walking up towards Montmartre and the Sacré-Coeur, hipster Parisians – the self-styled BoBo (bourgeois bohemians) – head in the opposite direction, to South Pigalle, the latest trendsetting neighbourhood in the City of Light. Roam around in the afternoon, and make your plan for the evening. When choosing for Place de la Republique and Le Carreau 2 there are small busy bars and restaurant, and a bigger cultural center where you will definitely find something to your liking during your weekend stay.
Istanbul – Istanbul is the number 3 destination city in Europe with 13 million visitors (London almost 19 million, Paris 16 million and Barcelona and Amsterdam both around 6.5 million). The Fener-Balat quarter, once the little Greece of Istanbul, is now one of the city’s trendy design districts and regaining the international feel of its past. And if you combine this with the must see Mosques and Palaces, you will be having a great city break like no other.
Amsterdam – the Dutch aren’t the ones overtly splashing around the love of their country, but when there is a good reason, they go berserk and you will have the best experience. There is one day each year that you will be guaranteed to experience this for sure, which is King’s Day on April 27th. As The Netherlands is a monarchy the King’s birthday is used to celebrate this. Everybody has a day off and will dress up in orange (the color of the Royal family). Each city will have its bigger or smaller second-hand market, live bands throughout the day, and other festivities on the street. In Amsterdam you will have a big party, starting the evening before and continuing the day of the 27th. The only other event during which the Dutch will show the love of their country is during European or World Champion football tournaments when everybody turns into the biggest fans. Again dress up in orange, find a local pub, shout and yell at the appropriate times and you will make friends for life overnight.
Barcelona – a big city and having your cocktail with your feet in the sand while enjoying the sea view? There is not any city in this top 5 that can offer that. The question is of course whether you ever had the chance of making your Barcelona city trip also a beach break? Go explore the city in the morning, have a Spanish lunch around 2pm (as they do), and join the Spanish on the beach around 4pm to digest the tapas that you have consumed. Doing this for three days in a row in a long weekend will give you the exciting vibe from a city, but probably also the chill from a beach break. Definitely worth a try.