Beat the winter blues with an alternative city break: image credit
Summer might be too many flips of the calendar away to start daydreaming about lazy days on the beach, so why not bridge that gap and banish the winter blues with a city break to an oft-ignored European city? Here we look at some of the best metropolitan destinations that many overlook.
It’s the gastro capital of France, so why its profile has failed to reach the towering heights afforded to Paris by Brit travellers is a little hard to fathom. However, that’s just more reason to swerve the herd and head to France’s second city for some fine eating. The city has also just opened its all-new Rives de Saône; a bold riverside promenade on the Saône. What to do: Simply enjoy a walk round the city’s higgledy-piggledy cobbled street and look for the ‘traboule’ or tunnelled passageways that criss-cross the metropolis through its ancient buildings. The tunnels were employed to great effect during the war as the local resistance used them to evade the Gestapo – headed by Klaus Barbie, the notorious Butcher of Lyon. There are more than 300 of these tunnels to help you speed round the city – but most lie behind anonymous doors so you’ll need a map from the local tourist office to find them. Where to eat: Take look where TripAdvisor reviewers have recommended in the city of Lyon. Find their best restaurants here Winter weather: Lyon has a ‘marine’ climate with mild temperatures but rain all year round. However, its winter season from December to February brings max temps of around 7-degrees Celsius and the lowest rainfall of any season. Where to stay: Look for the usual suspects if you want a hotel, but use AirBnB to find something cheaper and more interesting. Stay with AirBnB in Lyon here
City-breakers looking for a luxurious sojourn from the British winter at prices that might seem decidedly budget, should place Moscow at the top of their shortlist. Along with the iconic sights of Red Square, the Kremlin and Lenin’s tomb, Moscow is one of Europe’s most vibrant cities with a 24-hour community of nightclubs, bars and shopping centres to serve its 10 million fun-hungry residents. T-rouble in Russia: With the value of the rouble plummeting over the past year, Brits now get around 50% more of the currency for their pound. Air fares are also flying low, with easyJet offering return flights in February and March for just £53. However, city-breakers will need to spend cash and time getting a visa. Along with flights, five-star hotels that usually cost £300 a night are slashing their prices – with a room in the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya available for around £50 in February. Where to eat: Take look at restaurants in Moscow that have been recommended by TripAdvisor reviewers. Find them here Winter weather: The cold war might have warmed a little, but winter in Moscow is still as chilly as ever, with average lows of -9°C and highs of just -3°C. However, fans of snow-covered streets should be in for a treat. Where to stay: Take advantage of the tumbling cost of living and book one of those £50-a-night rooms in the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya. Book your room here. Don’t forget your visa: You’ll need to obtain a visa before you go. These cost £27.60, can be time-consuming and complicated to obtain – so leave plenty of time. Apply for your visa here ru.vfsglobal.co.uk
Step from the norm and head for the enchanting streets of Vienna, where city-breakers can immerse themselves in the city’s musical and cultural cool. If a sophisticated sojourn is topping your agenda, Vienna is the destination for you. Stroll the atmospheric streets, sample the popular café culture and watch a day in this fascinating city evolve before your eyes. What to do: Along with the bars, galleries, shops and atmospheric street markets, there is ‘the music’. Savvy travellers can gain entrance to the city’s 19th-Century concert halls for a fraction of the usual price – which can approach £200 – by arriving at the chosen venue 90 minutes prior to the show and securing one of the standing-only tickets for €3.00-€4.00 – that’s around £2.30. Where to eat: Take a loot at at restaurants recommended by TripAdvisor reviewers in the city of Vienna. Find their best restaurants here Winter weather: Winter in Vienna runs from December until March with January the coldest. Temperatures can fall to as low as -3°C, with the cold compounded by snow and strong winds. Where to stay: Look for the usual suspects if you want a hotel, but use AirBnB to find something cheaper and more interesting. Stay with AirBnB in Vienna here
It’s one of the oldest cities in Europe and an undiscovered haven of city-break cool. From its Gothic and Renaissance-style architecture to the spectacular Wawel Royal Castle, take a stroll through the café-lined cobbled streets for the perfect break away from less imaginative counterparts. What to do: Along with the welcoming side of Krakow, a visit to the Auschwitz Nazi death camps should be part of any trip. Just 30 miles west of the city, the site has been preserved as a monument and memorial to the horrors that went before. A profoundly sobering and moving experience for all who pass its gates. Where to eat: Take a look at restaurants in Krakow that have been recommended by TripAdvisor reviewers. Find them here Winter weather: January and February bring Krakow an average temperature of -1°C, a high of 2°C and a low of -3°C. Where to stay: Look for the usual suspects if you want a hotel, but use AirBnB to find something cheaper and more interesting. Stay with AirBnB in Krakow here
Beat the boredom of familiarity with a city break to Bologna. Boasting stunning medieval architecture, sophisticated boutiques and the honour of being the birthplace of bolognese, what’s not to like about the capital city of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Pay a visit and discover what this signature Italian dish really should taste like. What to do: Few people know of them, but Bologna is built above a network of underground canals originating from the 12th and 13th centuries. Explore this fascinating subterranean world with an urban rafting experience for a truly unique view of the city. Find out more information here
If underground exploration is your thing, then Bologna has plenty more history to explore below its streets. Head here for more info Where to eat: Take look at restaurants in Bologna that have been recommended by TripAdvisor reviewers. Find them here Winter weather: The coldest month is January at 3°C (37°F). The wettest month is April with an average of 70mm of rain. Where to stay: Look for the usual suspects for hotels, but use AirBnB to find something cheaper and more interesting. Stay with AirBnB in Bologna here
Save some city break cash…
Save cash on hire cars and a whole lot more
Post-Christmas is always a little tight for finanances, so follow our tips to help cut costs on your winter-blues-busting city break.
Airport parking: Neglecting to book your parking before you travel can result in paying £75.00 for your three-day trip if you have to use a short-stay car park. However, planning ahead and booking the same duration with APH at Gatwick, for example, will cost just £20.60. Book your parking here to keep the savings coming.
Hire car: If you need to hire a car, you might want to follow our guide to avoiding hidden extras that can sting you for £100s. Find our guide here.
Holiday money: Don’t forget to sort your currency well in advance of travelling. Ordering it online through operators such as Travelex can save you up to 6% on walk-up rates.
Packing: Don’t pay hefty charges for suitcases on budget airlines. Remember, you’re just going away for a few days. Pack realistically and you should be able to fit all you need in your hand luggage. More savings.
Consider an airport lounge: Are we crazy? No, arriving early for a flight can cost you untold amounts of cash spent on snacks, drinks. meals and entertainment – whereas booking into a lounge – which can cost from as little as £16.00 – gives you all this stuff for free. You also get a stress-free start to your trip. Read our guide to the art of lounging at Gatwick Airport.