If you live in Europe, there’s nothing better than planning a break to a famous capital city. It doesn’t cost you too much, it’s a plane ride away and it’s pretty easy to tick off a lot of bucket list countries in a short amount of time.
However, with the pressure to hit all of the tourist spots, it can be quite overwhelming planning so much to do in a weekend or even a week.
Luckily, I have quite a lot of experience with this. Back in 2016, I made the decision to take a month between jobs (it was after uni) and take myself around Europe on an Interrailing trip.
I managed to cover seven cities in 30 days and it’s fair to say, I saw a lot. From the Sistine Chapel in Rome to the coffeeshops in Amsterdam — I did it all.
Not sure where to start? Here are some tips to planning the perfect city getaway.
Long gone are the days of rocking up to the travel agent and paying someone to book your whole trip for you. Luckily, this means that jetting off is a lot cheaper, but the number of options can leave you feeling a bit perplexed and unsure where to go.
Am I getting the best deal? Are these the best flights? How do I do this?
These are all valid questions and ones I aim to answer.
Personally, I suggest starting at Skyscanner. It’s a comparison website that lets you look at all the best flight times in one place. Ryan Air, Easy Jet, British Airways — there all there. Depending on whether you know where you want to go, Skyscanner has an option for you.
Want to go somewhere on the cheap? Select ‘Everywhere’ in the search and you’ll be met with flights from £15 to some of the most popular destinations.
Know where you want to go? Feel free to type in your destination with your dates and Skyscanner will give you the best flights and even whether it’s cheaper to fly on a different day.
If you’re going to a European destination, aim for an early morning departure flight and a mid-afternoon return. This way, you’ll be able to make the most of your trip, without the 5 o’clock starts and the last day spent dragging your luggage around.
If you’re going for a short break, avoid taking hold luggage where you can. It’s extra money that can be spent on #avotoast and sightseeing. Worried about your toiletries? Buy mini bottles you can refill or buy your shampoo and toothpaste over there. Unless you’re heading to a remote village, you’ll be able to find what you need.
Where to stay
Depending on the type of experience you want, there are a few options you should consider.
If you’re looking for an immersive experience, you might want to consider looking for an apartment in the city centre on Airbnb. This way you’ll get a proper feel for the place you’re staying in, and while you can find many different types of properties on there, you’re most likely to find a whole flat with your very own bathroom and kitchen.
If you’re travelling on your own or with a group, it’s always worth looking into staying at a hostel. You’d be surprised at how nice some hostels can be and they often offer private rooms for two or more people at a reduced rate if you go in a group.
I stayed in many hostels during my European trip. If you’re just looking for a place to kip for the night, they’re a good option. I used Hostelworld to find mine, but there are plenty of websites available.
Sometimes you just want a classic hotel — tea and coffee making facilities, the lot. There are plenty of sites you can use to find the right place for you. I’ve used a few, but I always end up going back to Booking.com (booking.yeah) because I like the filters you can use.
What to do
City breaks are completely personal to everyone. Some people want to head to every museum in Amsterdam, while others want to walk the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
The best place to start looking is TripAdvisor. They show you the top things to do in any given city and then it’s down to you to start picking.
For me, booking a free walking tour is the best place to start. Not only will you get to learn a lot more about a city, but you’ll also get a feel for your surroundings and where things are.
They’re available in most cities and while they advertise themselves as ‘free’, your tour guide makes their money on commission, so it’s kinda expected that you give them a tip. Don’t worry, they’ll let you know this — a couple of times!
Otherwise, it’s good to write a list of the top places you want to visit and plan your trip around them. If you want to get really organised, some find planning an itinerary is a helpful way to make sure they do everything that they want on their trip.
If you’re not into organising, but you’re keen to get your trip planned, you can always use a planning service like Life, Made Simple. You can pay planning queen Abi a fee to make sure you get the trip of your dreams.
A city break is a unique experience and everyone is going to do it differently. My biggest advice is to plan ahead and be realistic about what you can achieve during your stay. Remember, there’s always next time.