I often get asked about Europe and why I haven’t written much about my own continent for a while. The real answer is that all my travels in Europe were 2003 – 2009. In the last 4 years I’ve had less than 2 weeks travelling in Europe! This makes it my LEAST travelled continent in the last 4 years, but before that I toured the hell out of it, often doing short trips for football matches as well as doing the whole “inter-railing thing” before. So I thought it would be a good idea to reflect and pick a Top 5, focusing on what 5 European cities would be good for a short city break. Co-operative Travel have a load of decent options if you are looking for a cheap city break and my top 5 European cities all featured strongly which is great! Yes, I know it’s another list, but here are my top 5, which I urge you all to tick off!! Especially Belfast 😉
The best thing about travelling to cities is that they are EASY to get to – just a quick flight and you’re there. Yes I know I go off the beaten track a lot to towns and islands that are virtually unreachable, but sometimes you just want a weekend or a short city break to escape your mundane day jobs. These are in no particular order by the way…
1. Paris, France
Despite having a global reputation for oozing sophistication, class, style and wealth, a city break to Paris need not cost as much as you might think. Seriously! I’ve backpacked my way through Paris twice ticking off the usual sights and I still see it as a place I’d like to go to again, as it’s a decent hub. Plus thanks to my education I speak a wee bit of French so I can get by. I’ll write more about money savers in big cities like Paris at some point.
With great food being served in abundance, art galleries on every corner and world-famous sites around every turn, discovering everything Paris has to offer in a weekend won’t be easy, but you can bung a lot in believe me!
2. Belfast, Northern Ireland
Ah good old Belfast! The thriving hub of the Northern Irish economy incites unusual and unexpected love affairs. Rarely does a tourist come away from Belfast feeling like they haven’t been culture struck. The city is steeped in history and has enjoyed a tourism boom the last 15 years.
There’s the spanking new Titanic Centre, Victoria Square for 360 degrees views, Stormont Parliament, the City Hall, the Crown Bar, the Peace Line, the Falls and Shankill, Cavehill (great views) and a whole load more in what is a very very under-rated city. Take your wandering heart there and you’ll love it.
As Northern Ireland’s capital, I just miss everything about the place. The food, the bars, the people, the sights, the local shops, the lifestyle and yes… Glentoran FC my football team. Every visit I’ve had to Europe in the past 4 years has included a trip to Belfast. I have more posts on Belfast scattered around my blog, here’s a couple of my favourite Belfast posts:
3. Budapest, Hungary
An odd choice perhaps, but an underestimated city. It’s a great city to relax in for a quick break. Spend your days admiring the river, the parliament and heading for a view of the city. Other random stuff I did there was visit some Baths (popular in Hungary), visit the Labyrinth (an underground cave complex), check out the football stadium and try some excellent Hungarian wine and goulasch at night in the Old Town. Complete with live violins…
Great city for a short break, and cheaper than the big boys like Rome, London and yes Paris.
4. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
When it comes to going on a cheap city break, Amsterdam rarely fails to make it onto the shortlist, but that’s no reason for it to make my list easily…I miss Amsterdam immensely because I have only been there once and it was 20 years ago!!! So I am overdue a visit. I loved it and have no idea why it has taken me so long to book another trip back. I loved the typical streets, the bicycles, the art and the whole Dutch culture…clogs, cheese, delft etc.
Despite not being the most knowledgeable traveller on Amsterdam, I couldn’t leave it off my list and I’m gagging to get back and see it as an adult.
5. London, England
I lived in London, I worked in London and I still have a place in my heart for London. Realistically it’s never going to be an off the beaten track city so I’m putting it on my top 5 for definite short city breaks. I miss London pub crawls, the tube, the free newspapers, the random people you meet in bars and the whole lifestyle of the cosmopolitan English capital. For sure I will return someday…it’s where I earned the money to afford my first proper round the world trip so I owe something to it.
OK so there were some “also rans” in this series, so here’s the extra 5 which would have made it in if I did a top 10…
6. Berlin, Germany
7. Reykjavik, Iceland
8. Ljubljana, Slovenia
9. Stockholm, Sweden
10. Warsaw, Poland
OK and a few videos of my recent trips to a few of these top 5 European cities…
Going into the Ice Bar in London:
Victoria Square Shopping Centre, Belfast:
Titanic Dry Dock, Belfast:
Castle Hill in Budapest, Hungary:
The day I randomly ended up on the Paris – Marseille train: