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European urban adventures: Top five city breaks

July 11, 2012
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A European city break is a great getaway – in just a few days you can explore a new place, soak up a different culture and indulge in exciting new foods. With so many fascinating cities just a short flight away from the UK, we’re spoilt for choice.  HELLO! Online brings you five of the best city breaks to tempt your next travels:


Venice   With its myriad of canals, bridges and magnificent piazzas, Venice is undoubtedly one of the world’s most romantic cities. Start your tour of the city at the dreamy Byzantine Basilica di San Marco: the sparkling, mosaic encrusted interior will undoubtedly leave you dazzled. A weekend in Venice wouldn’t complete without a trip on a gondola – be serenaded down the historic waterways, under quaint bridges and past hidden marble churches. Contrast Venice’s old world allure with modernity at Peggy Guggenheim’s extensive art collection. Lesser known folk artists rub shoulders with big names such as Picasso and Rothko in Peggy’s palatial home on the Grand Canal. With its sprawling piazzas, imposing palazzos, tempting shops and incredible local cuisine, there’s something to savour at every turn in Venice.   

Seville  You’ll find sizzling hot Seville at the heart of Andalusia, southern Spain. Seville’s citizens pride themselves on knowing how to party: they passionately celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week) at the beginning of spring, and just weeks later the vibrant feria festivities bring carnival spirit to the city once again. Shady medieval streets wind from plaza to plaza whilst the scent of orange blossom follows your every step during spring - the city's stunning Plaza de España is a short stroll from the city centre and showcases Renaissance Revival architecture. Its varied architecture goes unrivalled elsewhere in southern Spain – an intriguing jumble of Roman, Islamic, Baroque and Renaissance influences provides a photo opportunity at every corner. But Seville’s real magic comes alive after dark: enjoy balmy evenings over a smooth bottle of red with some of Spain’s finest tapas, catch a late night flamenco show and join in with the party-loving locals.

Berlin   Since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany’s capital has become one of Europe’s most vibrant cities, as well as one of this year’s most popular destinations. Berlin is teeming with famous landmarks: the Brandenburg Gate, a 18th century peace symbol; the Reichstag, the impressive parliament building that offers panoramic views of the city from its glass dome; Checkpoint Charlie, the symbolic crossover point between East and West Berlin in the Cold War. With its high student population and the late 20th century influx of creative types, Berlin’s cultural scene is thriving. And the city has something for everyone: bohemian cafes stand next to the finest restaurants, student drinking holes are nestled alongside sophisticated cocktail bars and underground clubs can be found close to the city’s grand opera house. A long weekend simply isn’t long enough to delve deep into Berlin’s rich history but just a few days spent here will make you want to come back for more.  


St Petersburg   St Petersburg was named the ‘window to the West’ by its founder, Peter the Great. He envisioned a city that would rival the modern metropolises of Europe and his vision remains evident in modern St Petersburg. Neoclassical and Baroque architecture fuses harmoniously whilst a network of waterways weave through the city and earned it its title of ‘Venice of the North’. Russia’s second largest city is best explored on foot – wander the grandiose streets, elegant waterside walkways and marvel at the lavish tsarist relics. The State Hermitage museum is an absolute must: with over 3 million works on display, it’s an art enthusiasts dream with a fascinating collection that spans the Far East, Russia as well as Western Europe. The city is famous for its romantic ‘White Nights’ phenomena when the sun barely dips below the horizon meaning that night and day are hard to distinguish. Light or dark, we defy you not to succumb to the endless charms of St Petersburg.

Budapest   Divided by the romantic Danube River and linked by a series of bridges, Buda and Pest are united to form one of Europe’s most enthralling cities. Hungary’s capital has come along way from its turbulent 20th century happenings but its history can still be seen all over the city. A strong sense of East-meets-West pervades the city from years under Ottoman rule. One of the top Ottoman relics are the steaming outdoor Turkish baths dotted around the city. The architecture is absorbing with a blend of Art Nouveau, Neo Classical and Baroque throughout the city. Budapest offers excellent value for money and caters for most budgets and tastes, ranging from upmarket restaurants, high-end boutiques and luxury hotels to affordable independent eateries and low-key guesthouses. Stroll the banks of the Danube, cross over the Chain Bridge, take the funicular up to the enchanting Buda Castle, enjoy local food and wine and join local revellers for a taste of Eastern Europe's exciting nightlife.       

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