Looking for a short break or weekend getaway?
One of the great things about a short city break – whether you’re there for the first time or you know the city like the back of your hand – is the chance to explore the culture and history of the place you’re visiting.
So, whichever city you’re staying in, you’ll be sure to find plenty of attractions through which to discover the art, architecture, music, history and people of your chosen destination.
Fascinating museums and historical landmarks
Visit even the smallest of cities and you’re bound to find a museum; take a short break somewhere larger, like Paris or Rome, and you’ll come across hundreds. These are the archives of the city, the people and the country, and many of them are truly spectacular.
If you go to Paris, the Louvre is the ultimate must-see: home to the Mona Lisa, this imposing renaissance palace has been playfully updated by the addition of a space-aged glass pyramid front.
Visitors to Amsterdam will be moved by a tour of the Anne Frank Huis, where you can see the tiny hideout shared by Anne and her family. Possibly the world’s most historically important museum is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, home to the glorious artefacts from Tutankhamen’s tomb.
The finest galleries and art collections
Whatever type of art you enjoy, some of the most popular European cities ideal for short breaks offer a wide range of wonderful galleries where you can see many of the world’s most famous works or art.
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam houses Sunflowers and numerous other works by Holland’s most famous post-impressionist. To see Michelangelo’s David, take a trip to Florence and the Accademia Gallery, then visit the Uffizi, to see masterpieces by Leonardo, Botticelli and Tintoretto. In Barcelona the Picasso museum houses more than 3,000 of the great man’s works, while in St Petersburg the State Hermitage Museum houses one of the world’s greatest art collections spread over six historic buildings.
From New York to Budapest, every city has iconic architecture that forms a link between its past and the present day. From medieval cathedrals to rococo palaces to soaring glass-and-steel towers, a city is defined by its architecture.
In Florence you’ll stand back in awe at Brunelleschi’s gravity-defying Duomo that has dominated the city’s skyline for 600 years. Of all New York’s skyscrapers, the Art Deco Empire State Building is the most instantly recognisable – and the perfect place for spectacular views of the city.
Wining and dining on your short break
If Napoleon’s army marched on its stomach, then so, too, do tourists. There is no better way to get a feel for a city’s character than by spending time in its restaurants and bars. Try the local dishes, imbibe the traditional drinks and watch the world go by.
Brussels has a fantastic reputation for its mosselen met frites – mussels and chips – washed down with a famous Belgian beer and followed by waffles. In Madrid and Barcelona, café culture involves eating tapas, a multitude of small plates of local delicacies, often accompanies by a glass of sherry. Naples, naturally, is the home of pizza and they are truly irresistible here, while a trip to Munich must include at least one meal of bratwuest and sauerkraut, helped down by a giant stein of lager.
Paris has a culinary reputation second to none. From simple croque monsieur, the sophisticated French equivalent to cheese on toast, to the wonders of the city’s legion of Michelin-starred restaurants, you’ll never go hungry. Athens may also charm you with her cuisine – try souvlaki, kebabs, or spanakopita, a delicious spinach pie.
In northern Europe, beer reigns supreme as the drink of choice; think lager in Belgium and Germany, Guiness in Ireland. Further south, however, and you’ll be sampling the local wines: rioja in Valencia, chianti in Florence, beaujolais in Lyon…
Explore the many little shops and market stalls
Who doesn’t enjoy supplementing their holiday memories with some judicious – or maybe – extravagant – shopping? Paris, Milan, and New York are brilliant for fashion, from high-class designer boutiques to the shopping temples of modern department stores. Try Printemps or Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Macy’s or Bloomingdales in New York.
Plenty of cities have flea markets or bazaars to explore. The souks of Marrakech are crammed with treasures, if you have the patience to haggle for them, or venture into the exotic world of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaaar, with over 4,000 shops and stalls. But the ultimate shopping destination? Dubai, where you can buy gold and everything else under the sun.