One of the biggest trends in travel for 2023 is one of our perennial favourites – the city break!
Urban exploration is back, even if it feels like it’s never been away. Whilst the city break is always a fantastic travel mainstay, many travellers have been seeking out other more nature-inspired options.
In a recent travel trends for 2023 report, it seems that travellers are yearning for some serious urban exploration, especially if it’s tied to a cultural event like a music festival.
Destinations like Sydney, which is the home of the World Pride festival, Edinburgh, which hosts its massive arts festival in August and Lisbon where music fans flock to enjoy NOS Alive where they can watch acts like Imagine Dragons, The War On Drugs, Stormzy and Fontaines D.C amongst others.
However, huge events aside, there’s still plenty of incredible destinations to enjoy a city break where there’s ample things to see and do.
From classic capital cities that should definitely be on your travel bucket list to more quirky under-the-radar regions, here are 6 of the best places to enjoy a city break in Europe.
Sitting alongside Turkey, Bulgaria is one of the best places to take a great city break in Europe.
It’s also a fantastic destination for those who love to ski and snowboard and to enjoy other winter sports, thanks to its proximity to the majestic Vitosha Mountains.
The mountains are a mere 10km away from Sofia. Not only is this area a really cost-effective place to ski (especially in comparison to similar resorts in Italy, France and Austria) but the magic mountains also offer some pretty impressive skiing conditions, making this area a real hidden gem!
Sofia, the capital is rich in historic treasures and has nearly ten millennia of history running through its streets.
Eating out is a joy – there’s some fantastic restaurants and you can expect to spend no more than £10 each on a 3 course meal, which is pretty much unheard of elsewhere.
Bulgarian cuisine has a myriad of culinary influences which includes Middle Eastern, East Asian and even Italian. Hadjidraganov’s Houses is a stand out and they mainly offer traditional Bulgarian cuisine as well as other pan-European favourites.
Nights out and drinking are also really cost-effective in Sofia, making this one of the best places to take a city break.
Wine and Bulgarian beers are notoriously cheap and when it comes to the Sofia nightlife, you don’t have to spend a lot to have a good time.
‘My House in Budapest’ sings George Ezra, this pretty city in Hungary is loved by artists, musicians and creatives the world over.
Maybe it’s the stunning architecture, the relaxed yet glamorous cafés, the vibrant nightlife, the thermal baths or the epic cultural activities, either way Budapest is an absolute 10 and it’s one of those cities that feels like it should be more expensive than it actually is.
Budapest’s unique drinking scene is vastly diverse and you could find yourself waving glow sticks in an abandoned warehouse one night, drinking craft beer in a dive bar in another or perusing the sights on a scenic rooftop of St Stephen’s Basilica the next.
Either way, your money will go a long way on a city break.
When it comes to the food, this is equally true and whether you favour hearty goulash lunches, forward-thinking dinners or some sweet treats at one of the cute bakeries across the city, you will not go hungry (if you pardon the pun!)
Whether you choose to visit in the spring or are hankering after a festive jaunt where you can enjoy the Christmas markets, you will be guaranteed a fantastic city break.
Weave your way through the winding alleyways of the charming Old Town and explore the medieval churches, charming cafés, the striking House of the Blackheads and the seventh-century medieval Swedish Gate.
One of the best things about Riga is that it’s compact, making walking around on your city break a bit of a breeze!
One fantastic option for a night out is at the Latvian brewery Valmiermuiza where you can enjoy great beers and hearty Latvian fare.
If you want some of the best views of the city, why not rent a paddle board for just €15 and take in the splendid sights from the banks of the Daugava River?
Think that a big city like Athens isn’t the best place for a great value city break?
You might be surprised to learn that the historical capital of Greece was one of the top destinations for a great value city break in Europe in 2022.
From its ancient citadels and world-famous museums to quirky street art and a pretty stellar coffee culture,
Athens is an exhilarating blend of contemporary cool and ancient history.
If you love retro-inspired cafes and street art, head over to the quirky district of Pagrati district where you can pay a visit to the 70’s inspired cafe Superfly. It’s only open in the evening, but it’s definitely worth the walk/Uber.
Think delicious coffee, vintage film posters and jukeboxes playing the coolest tunes.
When it comes to restaurants in Athens, you can eat out well on a budget.
There’s plenty of eateries and tavernas that offer cost-effective dining.
We love Cafe Ellyz which is not just one of the best places in Athens for brunch, it’s also one of the prettiest places in Athens to eat thanks to its spectacular flower wall.
Whilst Istanbul has got a smidge more expensive than it used to be in recent years. Typically, this Turkish city is, on average, around 40% cheaper than the likes of Barcelona and Rome making eating out pretty affordable for travellers.
Istanbul has also got some top-notch attractions like the Hagia Sofia, the Topkapi Palace and of course the iconic Blue Mosque which you can enjoy for absolutely free of charge.
If you are a history buff on the hunt for your next city break, then Istanbul delivers all the goods and then some.
It’s a treasure trove of intriguing architectural masterpieces. But the Istanbul restaurants are also masterpieces in their own right too.
This Turkish city has a thriving culinary scene and there’s lots of great options for eating out relatively cheaply for both international and Turkish cuisine.
Despite it being a capital city, eating out doesn’t have to break the bank. You can’t go to Istanbul without trying the world-famous kebab.
The Karadeniz Pide ve Döner Salonu has maintained its 35-year reputation as one of the best places to get a meat döner in Istanbul.
You can enjoy a high-quality grilled meat kebab with salad for less than £3. You may have to wait a little while to get served as it’s so popular, but it’s totally worth it.
The Albanian capital Tirana is one of the coolest places to take a city break in Europe.
It’s fast becoming THE place to book your next city break. On average you can book a double hotel room for just £41 per night.
In a capital city, this is almost unheard of. It’s also one of the sunniest places in Europe too. It gets on average around 9.5 hours of sunshine every day. It looks like a winner to us!
It’s a colourful and vibrant city that is full of character and has a fantastic cafe culture.
Speaking of food, it’s truly a foodies paradise and you can enjoy a pretty stellar meal out for less than £10.
Most meals at high-end restaurants in Tirana range from £6-£8 but street food can be found for less than a couple of pounds.
Tirana food features everything from hearty stews and fish and seafood dishes to an abundance of delicious desserts.
The nightlife is also pretty on point, Tirana is undoubtedly one of the liveliest towns in the Balkan Peninsula and your money will go very far on a night out.