The Best Destinations for European City-Breaks

Editor’s note: Just last night, my friend Mickey and I were talking about our travel tastes. While she loves exotic, I prefer a weekend of city life – museums, hip coffee houses and pounding the pavement. Living in Seville, I have the chance to take city breaks every weekend, thanks to no work Fridays and tons of destinations under two or three hours away. Fall is a great time to travel because of the lower cost to fly and stay, and it’s ideal to come to Seville now. Where’s your favorite city break?

A city-break offers the ideal opportunity to glean a glimpse of local life. Indulge in your destination, its culture, history and heritage and enjoy iconic tourist attractions with a one-stop weekend away. Europe boasts a wealth of dream city destinations, just a short flight from UK shores.

With something to offer everyone, European city-breaks promise a weekend away packed with entertainment and enjoyment. With relatively reasonable flights to an array of European destinations, get set to start exploring.

Immerse yourself in Italy’s capital

From culture vultures and art enthusiasts to fans of fine dining and superlative shopaholics, Rome has something to astound every visitor. Steeped in history, Rome is a city of culture with iconic attractions at every corner. From the Vatican to the Colosseum, prestigious landmarks prevail. So much so that the entire old city centre is celebrated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Help make your holiday money go further. Find affordable flights here and make your selection from a variety of convenient departure points. Soak up the cafe culture or hit the shops with your savings.

Romantic Rome offers some of the most iconic historical and cultural experiences in the world so enjoy the majesty of this Italian jewel with an unforgettable weekend away.

More: Where to eat in Florence and Bologna.

Discover Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a Croatian coastal delight, steeped in history – and one which is becoming increasingly popular. This walled city is home to Baroque buildings and medieval fortifications and overlooks the sparkling Adriatic Sea so it’s hardly surprising that Croatia’s tourism numbers were up to 6.6 million for January-July 2013!

Beautiful beaches and astounding architecture vie for attention and combine to create a varied choice for a spectacular city break. With everything on offer from superlative seafood to adventure sport facilities, visitors will want more than a weekend away to enjoy this fantastic destination fully!

More: read about walking the Dubrovnik City Walls and chowing down on spicy cevapi.

Soak up some Spanish culture

Barcelona remains a popular destination, combining heritage and history with contemporary and cosmopolitan city life. The historic quarters of the city intrigue with a network of narrow streets and the tree-lined, pedestrian street, La Ramblas proves ever popular as a destination.

The Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell showcase some of Spain’s finest feats of architecture. Several of Gaudi’s monuments are classed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and sit comfortably alongside Barcelona’s bustling modern districts and beautiful coastal location.

Plus, there are some pretty sweet hotels and apartment rentals to stay in while in the Ciudad Condal.

Read more: Barcelona’s whimsical Parc Guell, visiting the Sagrada Familia or Day Trips from Barcelona.

Where are you headed on your next trip? Or, since it’s a long weekend in Spain, where are you now?

My Travel Round Up from the First Six Months of 2013

My parents, upon my high school graduation (10 years ago…thank you, Atlantic Ocean, for existing and putting distance between me and my fellow Tigers just this once!) gave me a heartfelt speech about how I was always the child who never learned how to walk. I went from spitting up on myself to running, just like I went from college to globetrotter four years later.

There was no better way to start my year than ringing in 2013 with my familia and cousin Christyn in Puerta del Sol. The first six months of the year have been busy (but the good kind), fruitful and happy. I’ve been able to sneak in some travel, my 30th country and finish a master’s in the process.

January

After a trip to Barcelona with my parents and taking various day trips around Catalonia, I returned to work absolutely pooped and with zero ganas to move forward. The chilly weather and the extra responsibility of becoming a training Director of Studies was a lot of work, but the great people at Almohalla 51, Myles and David, allowed Hayley and I to come stay with them at their newly-opened boutique hotel in Archidona.

I also looked forward to having the Novio home from his duty abroad. As a late anniversary present, I took him to eat our way through Florence and Bologna. In between bites, we checked out the sites along the Arno, drank copious amounts of espresso and Moretti beer and befriended a Venetian named Peppino. Buona manggia, sí señor!

February

February was quiet, though Angela and Ryan of Jets Like Taxis joined me on a colorful trip to Cordoba. I chalk it up to being a short month.

March

As the trimester wound down, I began to get geared up for my Semana Santa trip to Dubrovnik and Montenegro. Hayley, my Spanish media naranja, and I walked the impressive city walls in Dubrovnik while refueling on cevapi, a spiced sausage sandwich and drinking in the views and local beers at Buza Bar (despite its obnoxious advertising).

After a few days in the Pearl of the Adriatic, we took a bus across the border to Montenegro, which was my 30th country. While  the weather wasn’t stellar, we were charmed by Europe’s youngest country. The friendly people, the free wi-fi and the views of our roadtrip around the Bay of Kotor made for a rejuvenating week.

April

April showers seemed to have brought Feria heat – we sweated right through our flamenco dresses, and I think my right bicep is now twice as large as its twin from all of that fan flicking. I even broke some of my own rules when it came to stalking around the Real!

Just the week before, I had gone up to Madrid (if only I had a euro for every maldito trip I’ve made to la Capital…) to visit my sister-in-law, Nathàlia, and pick up my new car, Pequeño Monty. Nath is Brasilian but did her degree in Alcalá de Henares, city of Miguel de Cervantes fame, so she showed me around her town known for its university and free tapas.

May

Luckily for this guiri, the usual May weather was nowhere to be found, so we got some respite from the heat. Meg and I drank rebujito at the Feria de Jerez, a lite version of Sevile’s famous fête where you don’t get trampled by horses, and we bounced between a Mexican-themed caseta and a biker bar. Toto, We’re not in Sevilla anymore. The following day, I continued the fiesta in the Novio’s village at their Romeria de San Diego, a booze-soaked picnic in the middle of the dehesa.

A week later, I attended my first blog trip to Calpe, a small fishing village that has capitalized on the tourism boom from nearby Benidorm. Despite the hotels popping up along the beach, Calpe is laid-back yet bursting with energy. We were treated to tons of water-related activities, including paddle surfing and betting on our lunch at the Lonja de Pescado.

June

During the first weekend of June, I had to make a trip to Madrid for mandatory camp meetings and Camino dealings. I met with Pablo, Fernando and Alex of Caser Expat Insurance, who are helping me make my Camino For the Kids a reality. I even got my feet checked out by the team at Podoactiva, the same people who outfit professional athletes with their shoes.

The Novio and I snuck in a day at the beach, and my mom came to stay for a week in the last sweltering week of June. I was extremely busy with my master’s and preparing for summer camp. Apart from showing her my favorite restaurants and rincones of Seville, we also made it to Jerez to see the horse show, to Doñana for a horse ride through Mazagón, and San Nicolás del Puerto, where she got to meet the Novio’s mother and ride their prized mare, Orgiva.

I am happy to say that I have very few travel plans at the moment for the second half of the year, save slinging tomatoes at the Tomatina with Kelly in August and Oktoberfest with my cousins in late September – I need a break after a year of turning my blog into a business, completing a master’s in a second language and starting a new job. Sunshine? Yes. Siesta? POR FAVOR. 

Don’t forget that I’ll be back at camp in July, and then walking close to 320km to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer patients back home on the Camino de Santiago. Please follow #CaminoFTK on twitter or instagram for more information. Sunshine and Siestas is also accepting guest posts during this time, so please send your stories and photos from Spain!

What were your travel highlights of the first six months of the year?

Bar Buza, Dubrovnik: COLD DRINKS WITH THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEWS!

It’s not everyday that the book you’re reading mentions that bar/coffeehouse/pub where you’re reading it at. The words screamed off the page: COLD DRINKS WITH THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEWS! My bottle of Ožujsko wasn’t that cold, but glancing out over the pristine Adriatic coastline and the plush electric green island of Lokrum and could coincide with at least one of those statements.

The word buza in local tongue quite literally means hole, and the place was advertised in our hostel as literally being a hole in the wall – a hole in the famous city walls, that is. The city center is extremely small – you can see everything in a day or so – so we figured a leisurely walk around the city center with cameras in tow would eventually lead us to one of the only bars that’s open in the off-season. Traipsing around the beautifullly restored fortifications, we quite literally ran into a wall – we could see the bar, but we couldn’t actually access it.

Wanting to check out the COLD DRINKS after walking around all afternoon and enjoy them with THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEWS, we wound our way up the streep staircases on the western side of the city. The bar was sparse, just some chipping and rusted handrails and some plastic chairs with rickety tables. Our beer came with plastic cups and cost a whopping 35 kuna, or about 5€, each.

The day was clear but beautiful for a late March day, so we pulled out our e-books and sipped our Ožujsko as slowly as possible. When the words of Beer in the Balkans, a tongue-in-cheek quest for cheap beer throughout the Ex-Yu, jumped out at me, I signaled the waitress for another round. Who can say no to a Croatian sunset and a warm beer?

Have you ever been to Buza Bar? Do you think it’s got the MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEWS IN THE WORLD? For more information and seasonal opening hours, check out the bar’s website

Photo Essay: Walking the Dubrovnik City Walls

“When the war began,” K says, looking at the map and spreading her open hand across it, “my father told us we’d be safer within the city walls. It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. No one would dare touch them.”

She looks down. “As you can see, there were many direct hits within the city center. The orange boxes are houses that were destroyed by the fires caused by the air raid.”

Our tour had been about history in Dubrovnik, and sadly, the Balkans conflict was a recent scar on a long, troubled past. The night before, we’d met Miran, a Mostar, Bosnia native whose life was turned upside down with the war: he spoke perfect andalú because he’d lived in Málaga as a young boy. Staring at a pristine city perched over the crystalline waters of the Adriatic, it seemed impossible that, not two decades ago, the beautifully preserved city of Dubrovnik had been under siege.

Once we’d visited the Old City, we found ourselves at the entrance to the city walls. Our attempt to go the day before had been thwarted by an early winter closing time, but we were determined not to let a near-perfect day slip away. K told us the 1240m of the city walls were perfect to visit at this time, thanks to less tourists and the cool ocean spray. The parallelogram of the stone fortifications, punctuated by a few, round fortresses and towers, would take us 45 minutes to walk.

She apparently hadn’t taken notice of my got-Camarón-glued-to-mah-face approach to her tour.

If you go: The City Walls are open daily, rain or shine. In the summer months, you’ll usually find them overcrowded, and the sun can get hot, so be sure to bring water and snacks if you’re prone to diziness. Regular admission is 80 kuna (just over 10€), whereas a student card will get you a hefty discount, paying only 30 kuna (4,50€). The attraction is open October thru April from 10am until 3pm, and in summer months from 8am until 7pm. Bring your camera!!

Have you ever been to Dubrovnik? Did you get a chance to walk the city walls?

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