Top 5 European City Breaks

Summer’s fast approaching, revision is at its peak and we are all longing for the moment we walk out of the exam hall for the last time. But with near four months summer holidays ahead of us, what are our epic summer master plans?

Naturally, we’re students, so money doesn’t grow on trees and like it or not we’re probably going to have to work at some point this summer. But all work and no play isn’t the summer holiday we had in mind now, is it? So what better way to maximise your time abroad and minimise the piggy bank damage than a city break?

Here’s my list of 5 cities to choose from this summer:

1. Amsterdam:

Amsterdam

The lights at Golden Bend, Amsterdam (Will Salter, Lonely Planet 2011).

 

Immediately it conjures ideas of the red light district and that drug-induced haze, but will you spend much of your time trying to recall exactly what happened during your stay? Dig deeper than the stereotypes and you can discover a city with a vibrant culture and gems, like the Van Gogh or the Anne Frankhuis Museums. Amsterdam is arranged around a maze of canals known as the ‘Canal Belt’ which can be occasionally misleading, but are ultimately a part of the city’s character. Amsterdam is packed full of hotels and hostels and as you’d expect, they have a wide range of prices, usually from £20 to £120 per person, per night. Hostel dorm rooms are by far the cheapest option and they usually offer Single or Double rooms if you’re willing to pay a little more for some privacy. Return flights from London Heathrow to Amsterdam are around £120.00 and cheaper when booked in advance. Like all international tourist hot-spots, Amsterdam has a brilliant party scene that caters for the many travelers and does it with style. If you find yourself in Amsterdam this summer, do yourself a favour and do more than just the coffee-shop spliffs and red-light district expeditions.


2. Berlin:

Berlin, Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg, Berlin. (Martin Moos, Lonely Planet 2011)

 

Berlin is a city which has withstood the test of time triumphantly, after being the seat of fascist rule, bombed to dust in World War Two, torn apart and eventually reunited all within a century. Asking yourself “What doesn’t this city have to offer?” could save you a lot of time. The city is full of museums and galleries, has the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and the remains of the Berlin Wall. Less well-known outside of the city is Berlin’s TV tower, a 360° view from a height of over 200m. The pubs and clubs cater to an impressive variety of tastes in the very multicultural city. The full day Berlin bike tour is by far the best way of seeing the sights, learning about its fascinating past, whilst socializing and enjoying yourself. Priced at just £21.00 per adult for a 4 and ½ hour tour, it’s well worth the money. The Berlin Beer Festival, 5-7 of August 2011, is world renowned and attracts many a thirsty visitor with over 1,800 varieties of beer on offer. If you’re looking to attend the festival then advanced hotel booking is essential in order to get the best deals. Hostels are again your best bet if you’re watching funds with £30.00 upwards. Flights vary from £40 – £120.00 return from Heathrow.

3. Rome:

It may no longer be centre of a massive empire, but it continues to inspire generations of travellers eager to explore every corner of this magnificent city and unravel myths of lost empires. Rome harbours a wealth of history and archaeology as well as an uniquely Italian chaos. Although not a bargain destination it certainly has a lot to offer, including the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla, the Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel to name but a few. There is a half-day walking tour of Ancient Rome and the Colosseum which has the benefits of a professional guide as well as skipping the lengthy queues at the Colosseum. The tour is a total of 3 hours long covering several key sites and leaves you with the rest of your afternoon to explore, but is quite expensive at around £42.00. None the less, Rome is still a key destination on any travellers map and although not as cheap as some, is certainly a worthwhile stay. Hotels are priced toward the higher end of the market at  £60+ per person per night and an average return flight is £130.00. So if you’re feeling slightly wealthier and fancy a more up-market break Rome is a good place to burn that cash.

4. Barcelona:

Barcelona

La Font Magica, Barcelona. (Krzysztof Dydynski, Lonely Planet 2011)

 

As the capital of Catalunya, a Spanish region which believes it is a separate country to the rest of Spain, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a whole different world. Barcelona, as well as Spain itself, has a famous party scene with peak season seeing the beaches full and the nightclubs buzzing. There is an impressive array of Gothic architecture situated in the city with Antoni Gaudi’s life masterpiece La Sagrada Familia being the icing on the cake. As much as there is to do in the city, it’s well worth planning a couple of day trips outside, such as the Montserrat mountain range for breath-taking scenery. It will cost you around £50.00 for a half-day tour. Cheap accommodation in Barcelona can be hard to find so booking ahead is recommended with average hotel double rooms being between £70.00 and £250.00. Return flights are around £110.00. But, for a city like Barcelona, it’s definitely a good trip.

5. Paris:

Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris. (Glen Beanfield, Lonely Planet 2011).

Paris, Paris, Paris. If I simply left the page blank from here, you could probably write this paragraph for me without much research. It’s the City of Light for a reason and probably one of the most written about cities in the world. So, as a destination, it doesn’t often fail to deliver. Attractions such as the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe…..the list goes on. A good way to explore Paris to the full is simply by getting a good map and exploring the cities many avenues and back streets. Accommodation is the largest cost, the minimum for a double room in an average hotel is around £60. As usual hostels are the cheapest way, but again this depends on preference. Paris is easily reachable via Eurostar, coach, plane or even by car for those seeking more of a road trip. A flight to Paris averages £120.00. As mentioned before, Paris is one on everyone’s list and if the twee Paris of bad romance films isn’t doing it for you, maybe exploring the dark side is more your thing? Deep underground is an extensive network of catacombs, most of which you are forbidden from entering, but that doesn’t stop the literally underground rave scene. Just mind the thousands of human skulls!

Paris

Louvre, Paris (Diana Mayfield, Lonely Planet 2011).

So, Europe really isn’t that far and if you look hard enough, you can get some brilliant deals, especially in early September before Aber term starts back. Your challenge is return flights and 4 nights accommodation for less than £150. If you can get it cheaper we want to know all about it!