In 2013, it became clear that city breaks had become just as popular as beach holidays, and the appeal of culture, history and the cosmopolitan thrill to be found in the world’s greatest metropolises has shown no sign of abating since then. A city break lets you dive into a country’s unique culture in a few intense days, where a dizzying array of sights, activities and food take you up in a whirlwind of experience.
You can hop around cities in whatever style suits your budget, from the money’s-no-object collective ownership of luxury city apartments, to cutting costs by swapping a hotel for a stay at a hostel. You can even find accommodation that’s absolutely free if you are brave enough to stay with the locals and sofa surf. Whether you travel in style or on a shoestring, wandering through these famous and fascinating cities is an enlightening way to see the world.
While it’s hard to choose from the plethora of amazing cities that are most definitely worth visit, here’s our top picks to take you across the continents.
You could probably spend months happily touring the great cities of North America without ever getting bored, but New Orleans is something special even in this context. Still in recovery from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is slowly being rebuilt. The new developments complimenting the eternal appeal of the neon bars in the French quarter where the unique mixture of history, food and music all combine to create the true spirit of the city.
New Orleans is also famous for it’s festivals and parades – in particular Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest – and is arguably the crucible from which American popular music was born, giving the city an excellent reputation for live music in all forms. You’ll also find the best Cajun and Creole cooking here, cornerstones of American food culture, and absolutely delicious.
Other cities to see in the USA- Las Vegas, New York, Austin.
Rio De Janeiro
Known as the Cidade Maravilhosa, or Marvelous City, everything about Rio De Janeiro urges its visitors to live life as fully as possible. Watched over by the extraordinary statue of Christ the Redeemer, which is worth a visit in itself, Rio De Janeiro is an urban landscape in a tropical setting, with world-famous beaches tempting revellers out of the city to unwind next to the sea. Music pulses through this city and the carnival atmosphere lasts all year round. While Rio De Janeiro has its fair share of museums, history and culture, it’s the lazy days spent on the sand and constant festivities once the sun goes down that define the city.
Other cities to see in South America- Buenos Aires, Santiago, Manaus.
Considering it covers a relatively small space, Europe packs in an enviable amount of the world’s most visited and best loved cities. Picking just one seems almost factitious, but at the risk of argument its Barcelona that tops the list of European city destinations. A seaside city basking in the Mediterranean sun, with architectural wonders formed over the city’s two thousand-year history from the Romans, to the Gothic, to Gaudi, Barcelona is achingly attractive and full of individuality. Catalan cuisine, wine, culture and nightlife all ensure any trip to Barcelona is sure to be exhilarating and enchanting.
Other cities to see in Europe- Rome, Prague, Paris.
Istanbul has an extraordinary history and culture, one that’s intrinsically linked to its unique position straddling two continents. Once an important stop on the Silk Road, the city is the major meeting point between East and West. It’s also been the capital of four empires in its two and a half thousand-year history, and Istanbul has been formed through this ongoing convergence of cultures. It’s this that has created amazing landmarks, a delicious cuisine, and a hugely welcoming atmosphere. Istanbul is always ready to welcome travellers with open arms.
Other cities to see between East and West- Varna, Bratislava, Moscow.
Having been awarded the title of World Design Capital in 2014, you’d think it would be the attractive urban landscape that sets Cape Town apart, but it’s the stunning natural surroundings that makes this city truly spectacular. Proudly multicultural, Cape Town has a vibrant and unique identity, where the myriad influences have resulted in a rich and fascinating architectural diversity. Surrounded by what’s invitingly known as “The Winelands”, beaches and the famous Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town is the perfect mix of breath taking natural wonder and modern metropolis.
Other cities to see in Africa- Kigali, Marrakech, Cairo.
The appeal of Dubai lies in its newness, unapologetic ostentation, and the huge amount of fun that’s on offer. Dubai is growing rapidly from the vast desert that surrounds it, a behemoth of high rises, luxury hotels, cars and exhilarating immoderation that barely existed a few decades ago. You can find interesting architecture and history in the old town, while the city’s youthful optimism and energy will entrance you everywhere else. Dubai is perfect for shoppers, foodies and those in love with the ambitious and modern. In its cutting edge design, opportunities for indulgence and embrace of everything bigger, better and faster, Dubai is incomparable.
Other cities to see across middle Asia- Jaipur, Galle, Kathmandu.
Flawless gardens, sublime ancient architecture, cherry blossom trees and geishas floating past in perfect examples of living art, Kyoto has everything that’s attractively and traditionally Japanese. Fascinating museums, Buddhist temples, Shintō shrines all let you revel in the the culture and history of the city, while it’s modern shopping arcades and stylish bars and cafés give you plenty of opportunity to enjoy more contemporary pleasures. The authentic Japanese cuisine here is beautifully refined, and if you overeat on the perfect little sweets Wagashi, Kyoto is a great city to see by bike.
Other cities to see in East Asia- Hanoi, Hong Kong, Bangkok.