The proliferation of budget travel options has made city break holidays in European destinations — both on and off the Continent— a breeze. Let’s take a look at some of today’s best city break destinations, including Dublin, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Vienna and Reykjavik.
Amsterdam’s been nicknamed “Venice of the North” and for good reason — its many canals and more than 1,500 bridges make this gorgeous city a great destination for aweekend getaway. Whether you love the nightlife, want to soak up some culture or just wish to bask in quaint European charm, Amsterdam’s got something for you.Go on a city break to Amsterdam during the spring to see the famous tulip fields.
While in Amsterdam, you’ll want to visit the Rijksmuseum, where you can see many works of the Dutch Golden Age by artists like Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, and Frans Hals.
“Night Watch” and “Milkmaid” are displayed here. Don’t miss the Van Gogh Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of the namesake artist’s works. Also visit the Anne Frank Museum, a monument to the famous young girl’s life. She hid with her family from the Nazis in this very building.
Where’s the craic? In Dublin, of course! Budget airlines have made Dublin city breaks more accessible than ever before. While there, check out landmarks like Christ Church Cathedral, which dates back to the 11th century and is the oldest structure in Dublin, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which dates back to the late 12th century.
Literary types will want to visit the Dublin Writers Museum, dedicated to the lives and works of writers like George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Patrick Pearse and James Joyce.
History buffs might enjoy Dublinia& the Viking World, an exhibition in the heart of the city’s old medieval centre where visitors can explore Dublin life during the days of the Vikings. Art lovers mustn’t miss the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland — Decorative Arts & History. All these museums are free.
Antwerp, Belgium, has a reputation for being a relaxing destination; the people are friendly and the living is good. While there, visit Antwerp Zoo, one of the world’s oldest; its 19th-century architecture is almost as impressive as its 4,000 animals.
Other landmarks you mustn’t miss include Rubenshuis, once the home of the artist Peter Paul Rubens and now a museum dedicated to his life and work. Visit Het Steen, the medieval castle on the river Schelde. The Cathedral of Our Lady, at over 121 metres tall, is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.
The home of classical music and café culture, Vienna is both ancient and modern. Visit theSchönbrunn Palace, the summer home of the Habsburg rulers. Hofburg Palace, where the imperial jewels are now kept, is also worth visiting.
Classical music lovers can take in a performance at the Vienna HofburgOrchestra from May to December. The orchestra plays mostly Viennese waltzes and operettas from composers like Franz Lehárand Johann Strauss. Try the various delicious coffees available at nearly every café; at Hotel Sacher, you can eat the renowned Sachertorte.
Outdoorsy types will love the capital of Iceland, where whale watching, hiking and horseback riding are popular activities. The average person canclimb nearby Mount Esja in about five hours. From September to October and February to March, visitors to Reykjavik stand an excellent chance of seeing the Northern Lights. History buffs should visit Thingvellir National Park to get a glimpse of Icelandic culture dating back to the 10th century.
Iceland is also famous for its geothermal bathing. Join the locals for a soak at Laugardalslaug, the city’s largest geothermal-bathing facility. At NauthólsvíkBeach, you can swim in the waters of the Atlantic itself where waters from the hot springs have been piped directly into the frigid sea.
City breaks to some of Europe’s top destinations offer a plethora of fascinating cultural experiences. With one of these five destinations, you’ll make holiday memories that’ll last forever.
About the Author: Contributing blogger Hilda Bleasdale remains in awe of Europe’s vast city breakpossibilities. She’s planning her second trip to Iceland for later this year.