City breaks are a great way to see somewhere new and get a flavour of a country. All without having to break the bank or take much time off work. Three or four days is usually plenty of time to see the main sites, do some shopping, and enjoy a few delicious local meals before heading home. City breaks are also a great way to extend group tours or other holidays in countries such as Egypt and Vietnam. They give travellers more time to explore cities like Cairo or Ho Chi Minh City before embarking on a cross-country adventure or heading home. To help you start planning your next trip, here’s our round-up of 12 of the best city break destinations in the world.
Istanbul holds the distinct accolade of being the only country in the world to fall into two continents. The Bosphorus Strait divides the city, and also marks the border between Europe and Asia. The city is packed with cultural sites to see, from the stunning Blue Mosque to Hagia Sofia. And it’s a foodie paradise, with irresistible street food stalls selling specialties including baklava pastries, durum kebab wraps, and lahmacun, commonly known as Turkish pizza. A Bosphorus cruise is a must. And you’ll want to delve into the Grand Bazaar to practice your bartering skills. It’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Our 4-day City of Sultans short break is a great way to get a taste of Istanbul!
There are not many city break destinations that allow you to tick off one of the world’s great wonders. But Cairo fits the bill. Egypt’s capital has a bit of a historic reputation. But the reality is that the city is safe, clean, inexpensive, and full of some of the friendliest and most hospitable people around. Not to mention it boasts reliable sunny weather virtually all year. Hotels are affordable and of a good standard. And even once you’ve seen the Pyramids there is still plenty to do. The Egyptian Museum is home to the treasures of Tutankhamun (soon to be relocated to the new Grand Egyptian Museum). You can see the mummies of ancient kings and queens at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. And the Islamic Quarter of the city is home to historic mosques and traditional markets. Cairo is a wonderful city to explore, and our 4-day Cairo City Stay is the perfect way to see the sights.
A star in the middle of the desert, Dubai has long lured travellers for its glitz and glamour. Luxury hotels, yachts, skyscrapers, and supercars await. And the emirate is also one of the best shopping locations on the planet. There are cultural experiences to be had too. Riding a camel in the desert is a bucket list activity for many. As is tucking into local food in a Bedouin camp. And a 4X4 desert safari is a great way to get the adrenaline pumping if you find skydiving a bit much. Dubai is the perfect layover destination for travellers from many parts of Asia and Oceania on their way to Europe and vice versa. Our 4-day Dubai Stopover is a great option for travellers who want a little bit of the Dubai lifestyle for themselves.
One of Europe’s most popular city break destinations and a constant in travel magazines’ top 10 city breaks year after year; Barcelona has it all. Stunning beaches, tapas to die for, the architectural masterpieces of Gaudi. It’s been 140 years since work on the Sagrada Familia began, but construction is to be finished by 2026. And even in its near-finished state, the basilica is something to behold. The Gothic Quarter is home to even more astounding architecture. And Parc Guell is a great place to take it all in. A wander down Las Ramblas is recommended to take in the atmosphere and see the street performers in action. However, we advise avoiding the restaurants here. They’re expensive and you’ll find better food down quieter side streets. Check out where the locals are eating, you can thank us later.
Marrakech. A city of twisting streets and vibrant souqs. Beautiful gardens and historic mosques. And a medieval medina that is chaotic and exhilarating yes; but also one of the most charming and captivating places to visit anywhere in the world. Loved by British wartime leader Winston Churchill, the city’s focal point is Djemaa el Fna. This square is a world of its own, with snake charmers, market traders, and delicious street food stalls at every turn. Marrakech is an assault on the senses and is up there with one of the best city breaks, as long as you aren’t expecting peace and quiet! A short stay in Marrakech can easily be combined with a day trip into the Atlas Mountains to see the fortified kasbah of Ait Benhaddou, and the coastal city of Essaouira isn’t far away either – a couple of days spent in each makes for a great trip.
The Greek capital endures as one of Europe’s best city break destinations and three or four days spent here is also well combined with an island-hopping cruise to Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, and elsewhere in the country. Culturally it doesn’t get better than the famous Acropolis, the ancient sanctuary home to the legendary Parthenon. But there is plenty else to see and do in the city, from exploring the colourful Plaka district to running laps of the famous Panathenaic Stadium. The summer weather is about as reliable as it gets, and you can’t come all the way to Athens without trying the local gyros, moussaka, and souvlaki. If you’d like to sample Athens for yourself, then our 4-day Athens City Stay offers a great combination of guided sightseeing and free time.
New York, USA
Top of many bucket lists, it’s a sure fact that you’ll remember your first trip to the Big Apple. The city of cities, New York is home to landmarks including the famous Empire State Building, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty. Not to mention the green oasis in a jungle of concrete – sprawling Central Park. And that iconic yellow taxi. No length of time is too long in New York. With galleries and museums aplenty, shopping to keep you busy for days and of course the famous Broadway, it’s THE ideal American city break. A short stay in New York works really well in combination with a trip to Central or South America. Especially if you’re flying over from Europe. So if you’re planning a visit to Machu Picchu in Peru or Chichen Itza in Mexico, then why not tack on a few days in New York? You won’t regret it.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv is a delectable combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures, with an eclectic food scene, reliable weather, and great beaches. The city is also renowned for its dynamic nightlife, but it’s worth bearing in mind that Saturday is the Sabbath in Israel, a majority Jewish country. So, most places are closed on this day. Perhaps the best thing about spending a few days in Tel Aviv is the day trips you can take to nearby destinations. The ancient port city of Jaffa lies just to the south. And the religious sites of Jerusalem are within reach for day-trippers. Our 4-day Tel Aviv city break includes a guided day trip to Jerusalem to see the Mount of Olives, Wailing Wall, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, and the hallowed Church of the Sepulcher.
This author’s favourite city in Europe, Rome is possibly the only place that can rival Cairo in terms of city break destinations for history buffs. The Colosseum, Pantheon, and Roman Forum are the obvious highlights for visitors to the Italian capital. But there’s much more to Rome than relics of a long-gone empire. The city engulfs the Vatican, the centre of the Catholic Church and the residence of the Pope. And as the Vatican is a separate sovereign nation, a city break in Rome technically allows you to tick another country off your list. Other places you won’t want to miss include the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Though to see it all will mean tearing yourself away from your new favourite rustic pizzeria. This is never an easy task, especially after a limoncello or two.
The majority of trips to Iceland will involve at least transiting through Reykjavik, as it is the country’s main transport hub. It’s one of Europe’s more unusual capital cities, smaller in size than most. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t packed with things to see and do. The Blue Lagoon (and brand new Sky Lagoon) are perhaps the most well-known destinations. You’ll also want to head out on a whale-watching cruise, especially if visiting during the peak summer months from April to October. And you can’t come all the way to Iceland without heading out of Reykjavik to see some of Iceland’s natural wonders. The waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss, the rainbow mountains of Landmannalaugar, and the black lava beaches of Reynisfjara are all relatively close to the city, as are the volcanic Westman Islands and Hella, a rural town, perfect for spotting the Northern Lights in winter. With Iceland’s famous Ring Road, it’s easy to cover the whole country in just a few days. But if you’re short on time then basing yourself in Reykjavik for a day or two is the next best thing!
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Perhaps the most unusual city break idea on this list, Ho Chi Minh City is a great option for travellers from Australia or New Zealand. The Vietnamese second city and former capital of South Vietnam (then known as Saigon) is renowned for its friendly hospitality, Vietnam War sites and museums, and culinary excellence. It’s the best place in the world to eat Pho and Banh mi (also referred to as a Saigon sandwich). The War Remnants Museum is a must to learn more about the horrific conflict that quite literally tore this wonderful country apart in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Crawling a section of the Cu Chi Tunnels (used by the Viet Cong during the war) is a great experience. And it’s not far from the city to the Mekong Delta, a lush network of waterways well worth spending a few hours cruising about on. Our 3-day Saigon City Stay is the perfect way to begin a longer adventure in Vietnam.
Budapest is an extremely popular city break destination for European travellers for three reasons. One, it is extremely cheap when compared to places such as Rome, Paris, and Barcelona. Two, there is excellent local beer. And three, it is somewhere a bit different, off-the-beaten-track if you like. Travel to Budapest has really taken off in recent years, and there’s plenty to see and do in the Hungarian capital. The River Danube cuts through the heart of the city, with historic Buda on one side of the river, and the more modern Pest on the other. The hilltop Castle District is probably the place to start your sightseeing. And the riverside Parliament Building is definitely not to be missed. Throw in a trip to the House of Terror Museum (housed in a former Hungarian Secret Police hub), a dip in one of the many public spas, and a stroll around Heroes Square, and you’ll begin to understand the appeal.
Have we missed any of the best city break destinations from this list? Where are you heading next? Make sure to let us know in the comments and check out our range of city breaks and short stays on our website!