City Breaks: A Guide To Exploring The World's Urban Centers
What's your idea of the perfect vacation? Do you picture yourself popping in and out of interesting museums? Wandering pretty sides streets and people-watching in sprawling plazas? Spending a boozy evening bar-hopping and sampling late-night bites? Laying in the park with a good book and a picnic lunch from a local bakery? If any (or all) of those sound up your alley, then a city break is right for you. Whether it’s a long weekend exploring New Orleans’ best jazz venues or 10 days in iconic European capitals like the food-lovers paradise (Rome) or the techno capital (Berlin), our city break guides will help you make the most of your trip.
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City Breaks in the U.S. — Where Should You Take Your Next City Trip?
Coastal giants like New York and Los Angeles aren't the only cities that deserve your attention. You'll find plenty to do in cities big and small across the U.S., from sultry Savannah, Georgia to jazzy New Orleans to the ultimate party city, Las Vegas. Check out our guides to all the cities just waiting to be explored:
East Coast City Breaks — Fall + Summer
The West Coast may have cornered the market on laid-back cool, but the East Coast has its own brand of rest and relaxation. New York beckons with promises of wild nightlife, world-class eats, and a broad selection of quality museums, galleries, and performances to fill your days. Boston draws history buff crowds, Vermont attracts leaf-peepers, and the beaches off the Atlantic fill up as the days grow warmer in June, July, and August. A trip to the East Coast is ideal in fall, as the leaves are changing, and in summer, when temperatures tend to stay milder than cities in the south and west.
Artist Georgia O'Keefe once said, "One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt." The only way to truly understand this world-famous metropolis is to experience it for yourself. Visit New York in the summer to see the city at it's zenith, with outdoor music, films, and markets going on everywhere, the sidewalks outside bars and restaurants teeming with people, and beautiful kaleidescopes of color in the sunsets. Plan a fall getaway as the weather grows cool and breezy to wander the famous museums, cozy up in neighborhood cafes, and marvel at the changing of the seasons as you explore the city parks.
Historical Boston is awash with soothing colors, from the deep red brick of Harvard Square, to the cool blues of Walden Pond, to the lush greens of Boston Common. In the fall, the trees that line the city streets and fill the parks put on a fantastic color display, and you can wander through the pretty neighborhoods amongst the yellows, oranges, and reds of falling leaves. In the summer, catch a Red Sox game and enjoy the many farmers markets and outdoor events hosted by the city. Tiny coastal towns abound not far from this metropolis, meaning it's easy to sneak a beach trip in.
West Coast City Breaks — Spring + Fall
Take a trip to the West Coast and you may feel like you're entering a whole new country. The cities near the Pacific differs remarkably from their East Coast counterparts, and no matter where you're from, you'll discover something to love in the West Coast culture. Whether you're driving down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, stopping in for a lazy weekend in San Diego, or checking out the fun mix of local stores in Portland, you'll find the cities of the West Coast to be incredibly diverse and fantistic blends of both the urban and the natural. Spring and fall are the best times to head out West, when temperatures are pleasant and not too cool and tourist crowds have fled.
Nestled between Los Angeles and Tijuana, Mexico, San Diego hasthe best of both California culture and Mexican influences on food, art, and language. Referred to as the "birthplace of California", San Diego was one of the first Californian cities to see an influx of European settlers, and it's no wonder they were drawn to natural beauty of this coastal gem. Visit in the springtime to whale-watch off the coast and try delicious seafood on Mission Beach Boardwalk. Take a trip in the fall to hike the trails just outside the city without the overbearing summer heat.
True to it's motto, "Keep Portland Weird", Portland is all about creativity and celebrating what makes people unique. An urban gem in the midst of Oregon's verdant greenery, Portland is a city that's great in any kind of weather. With plenty of beautiful nature in the surrounding area, and eclectic indoor offerings in the city, you'll never run out of new and interesting places to explore. Visit in the spring to see the parks and gardens in full bloom and explore the famous bookstores and coffee shops during the light spring showers. Visit in the fall to spend chilly evenings sampling craft beers and cool, breezy days wandering in and out of the various theater, art, and music offerings that amp up in the autum.
More travel inspiration for your next city trip in the U.S.
European city trips — Summer
In the warm season, a European city trip is particularly inviting. The sun shines for hours and the streets and squares of Europe's cities are bustling with activity. Quick tip: you can explore the city of your choice on foot or by bike and experience the city like the locals. Another advantage of city breaks in the summer is that there are usually countless events, such as festivals and open air markets.
And for those who protest that cities are too crowded in the summer, not to fret. Many big cities like Paris and Berlin are relatively empty in July and August. This may be due to the many students that populate these cities, many of whom leave for vacation during the semester break. Many other locals may leave because they prefer spending their summer on the beach.
But hot cities are no problem for us pirates! Simply cool off with a cold beer or a dip in a lake or pool to balance out the heat. We've put together some of our top cities for the summer to show you where you can combine your a cultural and beach vacation!
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Countless events await you in Amsterdam, from open air markets to theater and outdoor film festivals. City beaches and the proximity to the North Sea allows you to take day trips to the sea.
London, United Kingdom
Of course, London is always worth a trip in the summer months. In the summer you have the best chance to experience good weather and spend a lot of time outside. The lowest number of rainy days is in July.
As an insider tip, we recommend the city of Tallinn. The delightful capital of Estonia radiates the charm of the Middle Ages through the small streets of the old town, which features a completely preserved city wall. Moreover, the city is ideal for all those who want to both save money and stay out of the summer heat. At a relaxed 68-77 degrees maximum temperature, the weather is usually very pleasant.
European city + beach trips — Summer
The two Portuguese cities of Lisbon and Porto attract visitors all year round with great bars and clubs and a Mediterranean climate. Both cities are in close proximity to the Atlantic coast and therefore offer you the perfect combination of a city trip and beach vacation. In addition, the summer in Portugal means pleasant winds, which provides relief from the heat.
In Crotia you will find the city of Dubrovnik , which is one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean. The port city enchants with a wonderfully preserved old town and it is located directly on the Adriatic coast. But be warned - in Dubrovnik it can get quite warm during the summer months. Temperatures in the mid-80s are not uncommon in July and August. But a dip in the crystal-clear sea near the old town is the ideal end to an extensive sightseeing tour in the summer heat
Our two favorite Spanish beach cities, colorful Barcelona and laid-back Valencia promise you the ultimate combination of city trip and beach vacation. In Barcelona you will experience vibrant streets wherever you go. In addition to the cooling off in the sea, you can also take a dip in the famous outdoor swimming pool Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc with breathtaking views over the city. Keep in mind that Barcelona will be very crowded in summer—long waiting times at tourist attractions are guaranteed. If you're worried about crowds, consider Valencia: it's not nearly as full as Barcelona, but it's just as nice. Beautiful parks and green spaces invite you to linger and have a picnic. The city beaches on the coast offer you a relaxing place to cool off.
The best city trips in Germany
Explore Berlin and its unique charms such as the emblematic Currywurst (fried sausage with curry sauce), or visit lesser-known gems like Aachen. Germany offers countless city trip destinations for every taste and budget. If you travel during wintertime, you absolutely must visit one of the many German Christmas markets.
- Berlin – The best way to explore the city is with the official Berlin WelcomeCard, which gives you free access to the public transport network, and reduced or free entrance to many attractions, such as the Museum Island or the Fernsehturm (Television Tower).
- Hamburg – Often nicknamed 'Germany's capital of musicals', this historic city offers everything from elegant streets lined with art deco buildings, to a working harbor.
- Heidelberg – Stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets in the old town, and don't forget to visit the world-famous Heidelberg Castle, built in the 13th century, with its huge wine vat.