It looks like summer is nearly upon us so thoughts turn to our next overseas adventure. Whether you’re looking for culture, relaxation, memorable experiences or great food & drink; there’s a European city break that’s perfect for you. We’ve rounded up our top 10 customer favourite overseas destinations to visit this year…
Best For: Iceland’s capital city is the most popular destination for travellers searching for the incredible spectacle that is the Aurora Borealis. Amazing displays of luminesce light up the night sky between September & April and organised tours run from Reykjavik every night during the winter months. Must-Do: Relax and de-stress in the warm, mineral-rich waters of the Blue Lagoon. A real bucket list destination and one of the natural wonders of the world; a trip to Reykjavik isn’t complete without a dip. Food & Drink: One of Iceland’s most famous eateries is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a hotdog stand in central Reykjavik. Archly referred to as Iceland’s national dish, the humble hotdog is popular with locals and tourists alike and queues can stretch right down the street during busy periods! Top Tip: Experience the best of Reykjavik with an Ultimate Iceland Break that includes airport transfers, a trip to search for the Northern Lights, a visit to the Blue Lagoon and a Golden Circle tour with stops at Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area. If you’re visiting in summer, a whale watching trip replaces the Northern Lights tour.
Best For: Vibrant culture and a relaxed atmosphere. Must-Do: All you culture vultures should make a bee-line for the Rijksmuseum. The Netherlands’ largest museum houses paintings by Hals, Vermeer and Rembrandt’s iconic masterpiece The Night Watch. Food & Drink: Keep it simple and go for a cone of chips. Readily available on every street corner, double fried and covered in mayo they make an ideal snack while on the move. Top Tip: Do what the locals do and hire a bike. You’ll cover more ground and look cool at the same time!
Best For: Gothic architecture, sprawling city squares and unusual attractions. Must-Do: A visit to Krakow’s unique visitor attractions is a must. With a Discover Krakow ticket you can visit the underground caverns at Wieliczka Salt Mine, tour Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps and enjoy an informative walking tour of Krakow’s old town. Food & Drink: A Polish speciality, pierogis can be eaten as a snack or a larger meal and with plenty of varieties to choose from, both meat and veggie, you’re sure to find something to treat your taste buds. Top Tip: Krakow’s Main Square is the largest in Europe but is also something of a tourist trap. Venture away from the square for quieter venues and fewer tourists.
Best For: A powerhouse during the middle ages, Bruges has well-preserved medieval buildings, cobbled streets and open squares. Must-Do: Get a taste of Bruges’ golden age at Historium Brugge where you get to see, hear and taste the past. After the tour, relax with a beer in the Duvelorium overlooking the historic Market Square. Food & Drink: Belgium is world-famous for its chocolate and Bruges is no different. Chocolate shops can be found all over the city and sampling Bruges’ sweet treats is a must during your stay. Top Tip: Belgium is equally famous for its beer so a visit to the only remaining brewery in Bruges, Half Moon, is sure to satisfy beer aficionados. Brewery tours are inexpensive, interesting and light-hearted and, best of all, include a sample of Bruges’ famous beer, Brugse Zot at the end.
Best For: Barcelona is one of Europe’s city break hotspots but did you know the city has nearly 5kms of beaches right on its doorstep? For people who like to mix city sightseeing and relaxing by the sea, the Catalan capital is definitely the place to be. Must-Do: If you’re a football fan then you can’t go to Barcelona without paying a visit to the Camp Nou. FC Barcelona’s iconic home ground is a true cathedral of football, home to some of the modern games’ greats like Messi, Iniesta and Suarez. Food & Drink: Barcelona’s seaside location means it’s the perfect place to indulge in seafood tapas straight from the sea. Give the pricy and crowded Las Ramblas a swerve and try fresh produce from La Boqueria food market or the tapas bars around the harbour or La Barceloneta beach. Top Tip: For the best views of Barcelona, take the cable car from the harbour to Montjuïc. Once at the top there are amazing panoramas across the city and out to sea. Montjuïc also houses the grand Palau Nacional, the Olympic Stadium and a modern art museum showcasing the works of Catalan artist Joan Miró.
Best For: Cheap beer! There’s definitely more to Prague than that but the Czechs are Europe’s biggest consumers of beer and with plenty of beer halls and pints costing less than a pound it’s easy to see why! Must-Do: Take a photo on the iconic Charles Bridge. Crossing the Vltava River, the 15th century bridge is over 600 metres long and connects the old town and the castle. Food & Drink: Chimney cake is a popular snack; known as Trdelník, it’s a sweet pastry, coated in sugar and often served filled with ice cream. Top Tip: If you’re visiting Prague Castle, arrive early, before it opens to maximise your time and beat the crowds. Also, there is a charge to enter the castle but entry to the castle gardens is free.
Best For: Iconic landmarks such as the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and Montmartre. Must-Do: The most famous of all must be the Eiffel Tower. Constructed between 1887–89, the tower stands at over 300 metres high and is a cultural icon of Paris and one of the world’s most recognised structures as well as one of the most visited with an average of 25,000 people ascending the tower each day. Food & Drink: Paris is known as a gastronomic capital and the city hosts the most Michelin starred restaurants anywhere in Europe. Top Tip: Les Fables de la Fontaine is one of Paris’ most reasonable Michelin starred restaurants, offering a weekday lunch menu for just €28
Best For: Exploring the history of the Roman Empire – “veni, vidi, vici” Must-Do: Among Rome’s historic highlights such as the Forum, Trajan’s Column and the Pantheon; the Colosseum is surely the most famous. The site of infamous gladiatorial combats, public executions and even mock sea battles, the Colosseum held up to 80,000 spectators and is now one of Rome’s major tourist attractions. Food & Drink: Take your pick – pizza, pasta, risotto, wine – it’s all good! Roman cuisine takes a lot of influence from ancient Jewish cultures so salt cod and artichokes are local specialities. Top Tip: Although Rome is a large city, the centre is easy to navigate on foot and with historic highlights around every corner you just might discover some real hidden gems.
Best For: Akureyri’s location on the Eyjafjörður means it’s a prime location for whale watching. The mild climate and plentiful food mean humpback whales find the fjord an ideal place to call home. Whale watching trips from Akureyri boast an impressive 99% success rate. Must-Do: One of the highlights of our Lake Myvatn Adventure – Land of Ice and Fire tour, a visit to Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) is an awe-inspiring sight. Holding an important place in Iceland’s cultural and religious history, Goðafoss might not be the most powerful but it is regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. Food & Drink: Although only a small town, Akureyri is well served for places to eat and drink. Bautinn serves traditional local specialities such as grilled whale, guillemot and seafood gratin as well as “safer” options such as pizza, pasta and burgers. Top Tip: For a really unusual experience try a visit to Bjorboðin beer spa. Here you can bathe in beer which has a powerful effect on the body and skin while at the same time drinking your fill from your own personal beer tap. The outdoor hot tubs overlook the fjord and you may even glimpse the Northern Lights if you visit during the evening.
Best For: Venice is spread across more than 100 islands which are linked by over 400 bridges and is therefore well known for its canals and waterways. A unique city, Venice has no roads so the main mode of transport are boats including water taxis and gondolas. Must-Do: The city’s iconic square, Piazza San Marco is flanked by historic buildings including St Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Biblioteca Marciana. For this reason it has been referred to as “the drawing room of Europe”. Food & Drink: Risotto al nero di sepia. They say the first bite is with the eye but although it looks unappealing, this jet black risotto (made with squid ink) is a local favourite with a distinct flavour. Top Tip: Although they look nice and may be very romantic, gondolas can also be very expensive. A single ticket for Venice’s water taxis or vaporetto are just €1.50. If you’re looking for a city break in this country, check out our Top 10 UK Destinations blog with more top tips and info on UK cities including London, Edinburgh and Liverpool.