City breaks are ideal for a spontaneous getaway
City breaks are expected be the most popular getaway for Irish holidaymakers this year according to a recent survey of travel agents. Short stays in cities around the world made the number one spot, followed by beach (sun) and walking holidays. City breaks are great for those with only a few days off. They can offer a change of scenery without breaking the bank whatever time of year you choose to book. Budget airlines and online travel companies are offering some terrific deals for 2016.
How to save on flights
Budget airlines like Ryanair and Aer Lingus offer flights from various Irish airports all-year-round to Europe. Also check out www.skyscanner.ie which checks all airlines for you. If you are willing to fly with one stop, airlines like Lufhtansa offer great deals to places like Nice and Florence as well as great fares on their direct flights to Frankfurt and Munich. They also fly direct to Geneva and Zurich with Swiss. Book around three-months ahead for the best prices and seats. If possible, opt for a mid-week city break when fares are slightly less. Last minute can also be a smart move, but always use a comparison website to compare deals.
How to save on local travel
Avoid expensive taxi rides and go for tourist walks or public transport – you’ll see more sights, and save money in the process.If you’re travelling around by train or metro, book in advance and check out the all inclusive city cards which provide unlimited public transport and in many cases free entry to museums and hosts of attractions. The Copenhagen card for example is one of the best on offer. http://www.copenhagencard.com/ Trainline Europe claims it can save you up to 53% if booked early. http://www.thetrainline-europe.com/
Also check out Sandemans free tours which offer free sightseeing tours in over 18 cities worldwide, including Dublin. These are a great way to get an introduction to a city and are run by eager students who work on tips. http://www.neweuropetours.eu/
SUPERBREAK ARRIVES IN IRELAND
Holidaymakers travelling through Dublin Airport were greeted by Miss Ireland, Sacha Livingstone, as she officially welcomed the arrival of a brand new holiday company to the Irish market. Short break specialist, SuperBreak, has announced the launch of its Ireland offering, providing local travellers with a choice of city, coast and country package getaways at great prices. Offering a great range of destinations in Ireland, Britain, Europe and beyond, SuperBreak has more than 30 years’ experience in creating the perfect short break. It specialises in creating flexible holidays combining a huge selection of travel and hotels plus sightseeing and entertainment extras. Jacquie Fisher at SuperBreak said: “We are delighted to be launching a dedicated service for our customers in Ireland and adding a new flexible short break package option to the market for local holidaymakers. With a large and growing selection of holidays in Ireland, the portfolio also includes fantastic choice in Britain, Europe and beyond including popular city, beach and country destinations. We aim to provide the best prices possible with the benefit and ease of a one-stop booking, with the option to add tours and various travel options to best suit you.”
Here are 10 great suggestions for the top destinations in Europe for a city break.
Set against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, this pretty sun-kissed city lives in a time capsule of manners and traditions. Just check out the century-old wooden trams and iron funiculars that still lurch and rumble their way among the seven steep hills over which this city lies. Or witness the best of this bygone heritage by wandering through the Baixa district, where age-old herbalists, haberdashers and tailors rub shoulders in the baroque streets of the ornate city centre. Walk up one of Lisbon’s loftiest hills to the Moorish Alfama neighbourhood, where sunset-amber walls and dusty lanes orbit the Arabic-cum-medieval castle that looms, omnipresent, over the terracotta rooftops of the city below. At the imperial Belém waterfront, Portugal’s “Age of Discoveries” is celebrated in the form of a lavish monastery and dazzling river-facing statues, built with the coin of one of the most ostentatious colonial empires in history.
Venice never loses its capacity to enchant. Summer brings some of the most daunting crowds, but there’s a reason why they come: the sheer loveliness of an exquisite city that seems miraculously built on water. Venice’s churches and museums offer antique glories aplenty, but there is also a vibrant contemporary art scene, even away from the Art Biennale. Venice is a unique, magical place 365 days a year. But much of the time you’ll be sharing that magic with thousands of other visitors.
Paris is one of the world’s most beautiful cities (with its golden stone facades and famous monuments), and a vibrant, densely packed collection of villages. Behind the grandiose palaces and boulevards, you can discover intimate courtyards and gardens; behind historic façades are craft workshops and eminent research institutions. Perhaps the true clue to Paris’s appeal is that despite being one of the most visited cities in the world it is also intensely lived-in. With its flats, playgrounds, food markets and cafés, there is no empty heart in the centre; and you, too, can play at being a Parisian.
Rome’s mild Mediterranean climate is a persuasive draw for visitors from the cool north, but the main draw will always be the pulsating energy of a place which lives life as a form of theatre. There are great neighbourhood trattorias, quirky shops and a buzzing aperitivo scene. The challenge is deciding what not to do: there are so many churches, archaeological sites, piazzas and paintings to see that a lifetime is hardly enough.
Amsterdam has the buzz of a metropolis, with few big-city drawbacks. It’s small enough to walk or cycle almost anywhere you want, yet is rarely dull. Dinky gabled buildings, pretty bridges and quiet canals give it village-like charm, yet you’ll also find top-ranking art museums and one of the best orchestras in the world. Most of all, Amsterdam combines its glittering past with a wry, rough, rebellious contemporary edginess. Popular songs have it that spring’s the time to come tulip-plucking, but really any season in Amsterdam has its allure.
Florence is one of Europe’s great art cities. Giotto’s frescoes, Michelangelo’s David, canvases by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and a host of other greats in the Uffizi Gallery… there’s so much exquisite art and architecture, it’s difficult to know where to start. Florence is also a living city with a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, and a lively cultural movida that goes beyond old masters to embrace opera, classical music and contemporary art. Handsome, historic, full of quirky shops and quality crafts, and close to the vine-covered hills of Chianti.
Barcelona is a patchwork of architectural styles displays dark, Gothic façades next to the harlequin buildings of the Modernistas and the skyline-piercing constructions of Jean Nouvel or Herzog and de Meuron, and a day spent admiring them can be topped off with a sundowner on one of the city’s seven beaches before dinner at any number of Michelin-starred gastronomic temples or humble, family-run tapas bars. Barcelona has a relaxed pace, months of endless sunshine, unbeatable food – with the cultural and design clout of almost any city in the cold north.
In summer, the city’s residents take full advantage of the decent weather to hit the streets, rivers and lakes and partake in endless events across the city. Since the fall of its world-renowned Wall, Berlin has busied itself with becoming one of the most stimulating creative and cultural centres in Europe. These days it’s a city of many faces, known equally as a hedonistic hub, a magnet for history buffs and, increasingly, as a destination for families thanks to a wealth of green spaces that includes the sprawling Tiergarten, the Sunday flea market at Mauerpark and the Volkspark Friedrichshain.
Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most magnificent walled cities. Now a Unesco world heritage site and Croatia’s most up-market destination, it was once the capital of the wealthy sea-faring Republic of Ragusa (1358-1808). Today, visitors come to Dubrovnik for leisure, not to trade. The main draw is the charming pedestrian-only old town, packed with aristocratic palazzi and elegant Baroque churches, contained within sturdy medieval fortifications. Add to this the beaches, pristine sea, informal eateries serving top-notch seafood, chic five-star hotels and adventure sports facilities, and your holiday is made. Visit – www.croatia.ie
Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities. Superbly situated either side of the blue ribbon of the Bosphorus Strait separating Europe from Asia it is, unlike any other city in the world, split between two continents. The old quarter, with its oriental-fantasy skyline of domes and minarets, and its narrow cobbled streets lined with quaint old wooden houses, lies on a tapering peninsula pointing gravely across the straits to Asia. To the south, the blue waters of the Sea of Marmara glitter invitingly. North, across the graceful curve of the Golden Horn, flicker the bright lights of the pulsating entertainment quarter of Beyoğlu.
People pour in from across the world to visit, work or live in London. Colossal infrastructure projects such as Crossrail, King’s Cross-St Pancras and the Embassy Quarter and Battersea Power Station projects south of the river, are transforming the skyline. The range of restaurants, bars, theatres, sports, pop-ups, performance art and large-scale events is astounding. Right here, right now, London is somewhere you have to be.
For the best city breaks in more than 130 destinations worldwide check out these sites –