Let’s be honest, most of us have spent at least part of January thinking about jetting off on holiday. There’s nothing quite like the post-Christmas blues to get you dreaming about your summer holiday plans. For the past few years when it’s come to planning a holiday, we’ve opted for city breaks over longer, long haul trips (although I am trying to convince my OH that next year is the year we should take the plunge and go long haul baby!)
We love city breaks. As I work in an office full time they’re ideal in terms of annual leave as we’ll often go over a weekend meaning I’ll only need to take off a couple of days either side and most places in Europe are year round destinations. Although some are naturally busier in the summer months (Spain and Italy I’m looking at you) you tend to find that most European cities are a great option no matter what time of year you want to visit.
City breaks are often considerably more budget friendly too and if you shop around on Skyscanner and Airbnb then you can often find yourself a cracking deal from most UK airports. So out of all the city breaks we’ve done over the past few years, where did we love most? Which are the ones we haven’t stopped talking about and would go back to in a heartbeat?
Stockholm was a bit of a wild card holiday when we went back in 2017. We wanted a city break but had no idea where we wanted to go, found cheap flights to Stockholm and just thought, why not? Two years later it’s still flying high as one of our favourites. Firstly, Stockholm is stunning, especially in the old town area, and you could wander around for hours just taking in the sights and architecture. Food is a key part of our holidays and the home of meatballs did not disappoint. Despite being in Sweden we stumbled upon a tiny German restaurant one night which Sam still claims is the best meal he’s ever eaten. We actually stayed just outside of the centre but, like most cities outside of the UK, the public transport system is epic meaning it was easy to get from A to B, even for a couple of map novices like us.
Top tip: you can’t go to Stockholm without visiting the ABBA museum. Even if you’re not a fan of the famous Swedes (although who isn’t?!) the museum is great fun with the chance to join in a holographic stage performance and record your very own ABBA song. All my Dancing Queen dreams came true.
Find me a person who doesn’t like Barcelona and I’ll hand over my life savings. I’ve literally never heard a bad word said about it and for good reason. The Spanish city has it all. Amazing architecture, unreal food, plenty to do and even a beach to boot. We visited in early September, which was the ideal time, still hot enough to bask in the sunshine without the heaving crowds that July and August must bring (it was still busy just a tiny bit more breathable!) There’s so much to do in Barcelona that you won’t even scratch the surface, the hop on-hop off bus is a great way to get your bearings and as tickets are valid for 48 hours it also doubles up as a great way to reach some of the attractions that are a little further afield (in particular some of Gaudi’s famous spots).
Top tip: enjoy dinner (and people watching) in Place Real. The cobbled square is just off Las Ramblas and is home to various restaurants serving up tapas, paella and sangria. We opted for tapas at ALEX twice on our trip as we loved it so much. Patatas Bravas and street entertainment...what more could you want?!
Florence is the most recent of our city breaks and boy was it worth the wait. I’d never been to Italy until last year when we decided to spend 7 days city hopping between Pisa, Bologna and Florence. Although we loved them all, Florence was the clear favourite. It’s everything you expect an Italian city to be; cute cobbled streets, rambling squares with an ice cream parlour on every corner, unreal architecture (the Duomo is the best looking building I’ve EVER seen!) The vibe in Florence was a mix of sophisticated and cool (although not temperature wise, we were there in a July heatwave and it was sweaty). We often found ourselves just wandering the streets, pistachio ice cream in hand, taking in our surroundings. There’s actually a whole other part to Florence over the river too so make sure you don’t miss out on that too!
Top tip: consider staying in an AirB&B instead of a hotel when in Florence. Whilst the super high end hotels are amazing, we struggled to find a mid-range option that didn’t look like it might come with a serious case of bed bugs thrown in. We opted for this one and if you ask me, it’s the best place to stay in Florence. About a 10 minute walk to the main square the interior was a vibe and I would have quite happily moved in...we even grew fond of the fact that the shower is oddly placed in the bedroom!