Europe is always a good idea for a city break. If you are planning a holiday to one of the many wonderful European cities you have to read this blog. Our travel experts have put together a guide to their top five cities for a break in Europe including fantastic ideas for things to do.
1. Paris, France
The ‘City of Light’ is one of Europe’s most iconic cities and a firm favourite for a city break. Paris offers breathtaking romantic settings, there’s a je ne sais quoi in every corner that will make you fall in love with this city.
The list of Paris’ main sights is extensive, so we’ve tried to narrow it down to our favourites. The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are Paris' most iconic attractions, other famous draws also include the Notre-Dame, a medieval Catholic cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most iconic French monuments. This stands at the western end of the city’s main avenue, the Champs-Élysées. This area is great for hours of exclusive shopping, but if you do need a break then join in the French lifestyle by enjoying a hot chocolate or a crêpe in one of the charming French bakeries.
For those who like art, the Musée d'Orsay is a great alternative to the Louvre museum and a fantastic option to admire real art masterpieces. If you prefer history, the Musée de l'Armée gives you an insight into French history and the Sacré-Coeur is a highly regarded landmark that symbolises the battle between the conservative Catholic old guard and the republican radicals. The Panthéon is also a significant landmark to be added to your list, where names such as Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Voltaire are buried.
2. Porto, Portugal
Porto is a charming city in the north of Portugal, often mentioned by visitors as one of the friendliest and cheapest places to escape to in Europe. The increase of low-cost flights and its short distance from the UK (only two-hours flight) have contributed to the rise in tourism to this city.
From remarkable architecture, traditional streets with colourfully painted houses, to a wide variety of restaurants that offer traditional Portuguese food, you’ll have plenty to do on your break to this incredible European city.
When it comes to landmarks, the Roman-Catholic cathedral Sé Catédral, Palacio da Bolsa, Serralves museum and the St Bento Train Station are all must-sees. Take a photo by the magnificent Dom Luís bridge, explore the narrow and cobbled streets of the traditional Ribeira district, and enjoy a wine tour on the Caves Ferreira or Caves Croft, located on the Douro River.
If you prefer, stroll around the many shops of Avenida dos Aliados and Sta Catarina, or explore Porto by night, this city is well known for its many bars and restaurants, especially in the Arcadas.
Portugal is sure to be a great destination for foodies, and Porto is well known for authentic food experiences. You must try a Francesinha (a sandwich with cured ham, sausage and steak covered in melted cheese with hot tomato and beer sauce) or, perhaps the national dish of fresh sardines at Mercado do Bolhão, a local food market.
3. Venice, Italy
Fall in love with Venice, the perfect destination for a romantic break in Europe. The ancient palaces, churches and magnificent mix of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture, along with beautiful bridges crossing over the canals make this Italian city simply jaw-dropping.
There are plenty of things to see and do in this enchanting city. Take a gondola ride along the Grand Canal; immerse yourself in Venice’s art scene and head to the Gallerie dell’ Accademia; stroll around the Piazza San Marco, Venice’s central square, and, while you are there, take the opportunity to climb up the bell tower to enjoy stunning views across the city. You won’t want to miss a visit to the renowned Rialto Bridge or to Doge’s Palace, which was the seat of the government of Venice for centuries. A tour not to be missed is also a visit to Murano and Burano islands, just outside Venice. Discover the traditional craft hand-blown glass in Murano, and the picturesque coloured houses and its centuries old tradition of lace-making at Burano.
Venice is particularly interesting during Carnevale. During this event locals and visitors dress up with costumes and wear masks enjoying festivities that last for around two weeks.
4. Bruges, Belgium
The Flemish Region of Belgium, Bruges is renowned for its medieval architecture and good-quality craft beer. Only a three-hour train journey from London via Brussels makes this city a favourite for a short break in Europe.
While the city is relatively small, you are spoiled for choice for things to do. Explore the historical edifices and marvel at ornate houses lining intricate canals onboard one of the many boat tours on offer, visit world-class art museums such as the Museum-Gallery Xpo Dalí, or simply take a stroll along the characteristic cobblestone streets.
The Markt is the main touristic centre, a delightfully picturesque square surrounded by the main landmarks including the central tower, the Provincial Palace and the Historium. Rose Hat Quay boasts ancient houses and is the most photographed corner in the city. A walk along the canals makes you feel like you have been transported to an enchanting medieval picture-perfect scene. Mix with the locals in one of the many lively pubs, and try the Flemish specialty, Mussels accompanied with some fries and Belgian beer. For those who have a sweeter tooth, there are many chocolate shops and places where you can enjoy eating delicious waffles.
Flemish is the resident’s firsts language, but French and English are spoken almost everywhere, so you won’t struggle to get around.
5. Vienna, Austria
Vienna is home to one of Europe’s most vibrant music scenes packed with a beautiful set of grandiose buildings sitting on the Danube river.
While fascinating grandiose buildings and palaces can be found in the city centre, it’s the diversity of Vienna that make it such an exciting city – enjoy the captivating contrast between stunning Baroque architecture and Gothic edifices main landmarks including the Innere Stadt (Old Town) and the Hofburg, which used to be the official residence of previous Austrian rulers. Also, worth visiting is the Schönbrunn palace, the Gothic St. Stephen's Cathedral, and the imperial palace Belvedere, which is one of the world’s finest baroque palaces.
For the music fans, Vienna has an exceptional musical heritage and concert venues are plentiful around the city. Take the opportunity to experience a live orchestral concert at the Staatsoper, one of the world’s most popular opera houses, where Beethoven performed the famous Fidelio.
Leopoldstadt area is great for restaurants and characteristic Viennese coffee shops where you can try delicious Viennese cakes and pastries. Visit Vienna’s cultural hub at the Museum Quarter and the traditional street markets, particularly the Naschmarkt, which is the oldest market area in Vienna.
We personally recommend that you visit Vienna during winter time, just before Christmas as there are many Christmas markets and the city becomes especially enchanting with the illumination.
Contact our travel specialists today if you’d like more information on how to book a holiday to any of the cities mentioned on this blog.
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