The ten best city breaks

Discover brilliant breaks in Europe and the US

Marcus Webb – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Marcus Webb | Independent Money Mentor

Editor of Delayed Gratification and independent journalist


The rise of low-cost airlines has made it easy and affordable to swap a humdrum weekend at home for an exciting city break. Whether you’re a couple, a family, a group of friends or a solo traveller, here are ten fantastic city break ideas which offer something for everyone…

Porto, Portugal

It’s no surprise that Portugal’s second city excels when it comes to crisp and creamy custard tarts, sun-soaked cruises on the Douro River and port wine houses with tours and tastings. But it also shines when it comes to its incredible restaurants, its majestic architecture and its easy access to pristine beaches and scenic walking trails. It’s a great destination for a short romantic break.   

Reykjavík, Iceland

Two thirds of the population of Iceland live in greater Reykjavik, yet it’s a small and compact city, easily manageable by foot and perfect for a relaxed weekend break. The world’s most northerly capital is ideal for small groups of friends – there’s great nightlife, a booming cultural scene and innovative Nordic cooking, not to mention the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, which is conveniently located en route from the airport. 

Athens, Greece

The hectic, bustling Greek capital may not be top of your list if you’re after a hassle-free long weekend, but it’s packed full of hidden gems for adventurous travellers to uncover. There are excellent wine bars and art galleries, atmospheric restaurants and swish boutique hotels, and of course, the Acropolis, one of the world’s great heritage sites.

San Sebastián, Spain

This Basque Country resort town is so perfect you’ll spend the first day or two trying to work out if there’s a catch. San Sebastián is justly famous for its food – and indeed the city’s pintxo bars offer fantastically creative and delicious small plates at reasonable prices – but it also has a wonderful beach, beautiful belle époque architecture and easy access to Bilbao with its Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum.

Hamburg, Germany

This lively German port city is a paradise for fans of art, music and leftfield nightlife. It boasts craft breweries aplenty, innovative eateries, cocktail bars and speakeasies, affordable design hotels, vintage fashion stores and third-wave cafes. It’ll bring out the hidden hipster in you. 

Nice, France

The largest town in the Côte d’Azur was a city break hotspot more than a hundred years before city breaks were even a thing. The Victorians went to Nice for la belle vie – sunshine, beaches, good food and good wine – and you’ll want to visit for pretty much the same reasons. Some things never go out of fashion... 

Bergen, Norway

No offence to Oslo, but Norway’s second city is the place to head for a charming, captivating Norwegian break. Expect cobbled streets, historic wooden houses, a waterfront with a famous fish market and a booming bar scene thanks to the large student population. 

Vilnius, Lithuania

The beautiful and beguiling Lithuanian capital feels tailor-made for an extended weekend away. It’s a compact and welcoming place and there’s lots to discover, be it underground art galleries, lively beer bars or Uzupis, a quirky self-proclaimed republic at the heart of the city. Oh, and we should probably mention that it’s one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. 

Boston, USA

The oldest city in America is just six-and-a-bit hours away and now is a great time to visit. It’s cheaper than ever to fly there, the Boston restaurant scene is buzzing, it hosts major league sports in baseball, basketball and hockey, and many beautiful New England seaside towns are an easy train journey away. 

Vienna, Austria

The Austrian capital has been rated the best city in the world for quality of life eight years in a row – and it’s easy to see why. It’s safe and affordable, the public transport is excellent, it’s full of splendid parks and public spaces, and the opera house is absolutely stunning. Although when you take your first bite of apfelstrudel – or any other crispy, crumbly pastry the city is famed for – in a grand Viennese coffee house, you won’t need the advice of a team of experts to know that life is good here. 

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