Feature: Top 10 city breaks

14 October 2011 13:43

Shop till you drop, dine in fine restaurants and explore cultural sites. A city break could offer it all. From European capitals to combined beach and city breaks, there is something for everyone to enjoy during a short break to the city.

For everyone who has always dreamed of jetting off to explore some of the greatest cities in the world for a mid-week or weekend break, here’s your chance. And with Lonely Planet’s recent survey showing that many Brits waste their precious days off, we at aspireholidays.co.uk want to show you how you can make the most of your break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Our top 10 city breaks will have you enjoy your holiday to the fullest.

Frankfurt, Germany
We know. It most likely doesn’t feature high on many lists of dream city breaks but a new high-speed rail link could mean Frankfurt is only five hours away from London in a the near future. Germany’s fifth-largest city is also the country’s business and finance hub. And while the planned high-speed rail link is aimed at business travels, there is plenty to do for leisure tourists to do in Frankfurt.

Why not swap New York for Frankfurt? With a spectacular collection of skyscrapers, the city is occasionally nicknamed Mainhattan, because of the river Main which runs through the city. The 200-metre platform on the Main Tower offers great views of the surrounding area. The city might not be a shopping hotspot but for history lovers there are plenty of sightseeing opportunities.

Algiers, Algeria
Few travellers visit Algeria these days but the country’s capital – famous for its brilliant light – has a beauty that belies its recent violent history. If you want a city break off the beaten track, this could be the holiday you should book for your next short break.

Only three hours from London and almost unvisited by travellers, Algeria has a beautiful coastline, a luminous hinterland of mountains vast and deserts idle, and one of the most alluring capital cities in the world. Algiers is lined by the beautiful seafront where there are lovely spaces in which to meet the locals. And there is plenty of attractions to see and loads of shopping to do. Make sure you bring an empty bag.

Istanbul, Turkey
As the Culture Capital of Europe, Istanbul offers everything you could ever want from an inspiring and historically rewarding cityscape. The city even looks the part. In all European travel there is no spectacle more tremendous than the sight of Istanbul massed beside the sea. History, culture, jumbled houses, docks, crazy traffic and beautiful bridges make this city an easy choice for our top 10.

Technically it is, of course, only debatable European at all. It is the chief city of Turkey and it is as monumentally a western gateway as it is an eastern portal of Europe. Easy access from the UK, a wealth of sightseeing opportunities and enough history to last you a lifetime, Istanbul is the ideal destination for a short, or long, city break this autumn.

Copenhagen, Denmark
Emulating New York’s Meatpacking District, Kødbyen, or ‘Meat City’, is now the hippest area in the Copenhagen. If it is Scandinavian partying you are after, this is the place you need to be. The influx of bars, galleries, clubs and restaurants has made this part of town a must when visiting the Danish capital.

As well as being the funkiest party district in town, Kødbyen has also become the city’s new restaurant hotspot with several recent openings. This is a city break option for those who want a good time. But remember to bring plenty of cash: Copenhagen isn’t cheap!

Edinburgh, Scotland
Staying on home turf, Edinburgh is a great option for a short city break during October half-term. No long air journeys, trips to and from the airport, security checks or strict baggage requirements, taking the car to Edinburgh is the perfect short break for the whole family.

And there is plenty to see and do as well. The Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh is at the heart of the celebration of stories, writers and storytellers. With live storytelling, meet-the-storyteller events, themed and tailor-made storytelling, half-term will not be boring.

Barcelona, Spain
If you are still trying to hold on to the last bit of summer, a trip to Barcelona could offer you the perfect combination of beach and city. Named the best beach city in the world by National Geographic, Barcelona contains seven sandy retreats, which make up 2.8 miles of beautiful coastline. San Sebastia and Barceloneta beaches are the largest and the most visited in the city. The other five beaches, Nova Icaria, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella and Llevant, were created for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

Adding to the city’s status as a popular city break destination, the ‘World Best Beaches’ documentary from 2005 named Barceloneta the world’s best urban and the third best beach in the world. Travelling to Barcelona to enjoy a beach holiday offers a great mix of sun lounging and city experiences.

New York, USA
Looking for city breaks outside of Europe, New York is an all-time favourite. Remaining popular with a wide selection of holidaymakers, the city attracts everyone from shopaholics to culture lovers. It is no mystery that ‘the city that never sleeps’ has its core visitors. But what do you do when you have strolled the streets of Manhattan, overstretched your arms after carrying your shopping bags and had one too many in the late night whisky joints? We suggest you try out rock climbing. Yes, we said it, rock climbing!

One way to meet locals and literally get to grips with Central Park is to join in a bouldering session on Umpire Rock, or as it’s known to climbers, Rat Rock, just west of the park’s Heckscher Playground. As a well-known meeting place for the city’s rock-climbing crowd, you can just turn up and join in. So, remember your sportswear next time you venture to the Big Apple.

Paris, France
Okay, since we have already revealed one hot short break favourite why not reveal another one: Paris. Said to be the most romantic city in the world, the French capital is a great destination for couples looking to spend the days strolling the streets of the atmospheric Latin Quarter and the nights sailing down a moonlit Seine.

But there is a different way of exploring Paris; by Vespa. Driving in Paris is famously difficult, but on a Vespa you can nip down the back streets of Montmartre, weave through the traffic of Champs- Élysées or simply get to your hotel a little faster. If you want to see the city ‘like a local’, this is the way to go.

Reykjavik, Iceland
It might not be the first place you think of when planning your next city break, but Reykjavik is much more than initially meets the eye. The city boasts countless attractions as a city-break destination. A vibrant culture, energetic nightlife and awe-inspiring scenery make this an ideal short break option – with a difference!

And it is great value too. With the Icelandic economy having gone through the worst recession the country had seen for decades, the pound now buys a lot more Icelandic kronur than it did before the economic crisis. Previously seen an expensive getaway option, the city is now a much cheaper option for a weekend getaway in northern Europe. And with sales tax refunds available to EU shoppers, you’ll save a bundle on your Christmas shopping.

Moscow, Russia
Moscow has long had a reputation as the world’s most expensive capital for visitors. And with surveys showing that hotel rooms in the Russian capital cost more than anywhere else, you need to be a canny traveller to bag a bargain.

But it’s all worth it. Moscow is a spectacular city to visit during the autumn. The colours, lights and golden domes leave visitors with a special feeling that is not found anywhere else in the world. And there is no getting away from it: Red Square remains the essential starting point for seeing Moscow. After this first stop, St Basil’s sweet-shop spires, the menacing Lenin mausoleum and the GUM shopping centre should all be on your ‘must-see list’ when visiting the city.

Autumn is traditionally the time when British holidaymakers pack up their suitcases and jet off on a city break. Whether to do some early Christmas shopping or to make the summer feeling last a bit longer, city breaks remain a popular mode of holidaying. And clever city breaks don’t have to bust the budget. Now all you have to do is decide where you are going on your next city break.


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