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How To Plan A City Break

Get ready for TripAdvisor to be your new best friend…

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I must preface this post by saying that I’m actually pretty shit at planning city breaks and most, if not all, of this advice comes from Mark who is an absolute boss when it comes to travel itineraries. He went interrailing back in the day so not only is he pretty clued up when it comes to European cities, he also knows how to nab a bargain. I’m so bloomin’ lucky that I get to travel with what I do, but more often than not it’s without Mark. So we’ve been saving up his holiday allowance and instead of taking long breaks which are often hard for both of us to schedule in, we’ve been getting on the long-weekend city break bandwagon.

There are so many cities that are on my wishlist and most we can travel to with a plane journey that’s under two hours and a fare that costs less than a train ticket to Scotland. Mad. So we’re trying to tick-off the list and swap the odd weekend here and there from flicking through magazines in our dressing gowns (dream weekend) to exploring new places, eating, drinking and repeating exactly the same the next day (even dreamier weekend). Here are some Mark-advised tips to planning the perfect city break…

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Travel

SkyScanner is the obvious place to start. There you can compare fares between airlines and see what days and times it’s cheaper to travel. More often than not we find EasyJet to be the cheapest and most flexible, but it’s always good to double check. We like to book flights first because more often than not they’re the things that seem to rocket up in price the longer you leave it, plus that way you can have your exact timings on hand when it comes to booking accommodation.

Once you’re actually out there although the appearance of Uber working on my phone always brings a secret smile to my face, Mark makes me persist with public transport and more often than not it’s one of the fastest ways to see the city and get around the same time. Have a quick google before you go to see what’s the most used way to get around (in Stockholm we ended up using the bikes there a tonne and it was so much fun). Although CityMapper is a fab app to download before you go. It works for a shedload of cities and makes following the metro, buses and trams a breeze, even when everything is in a language you don’t understand.

One thing that Mark’s really good at is working out how to get from the airport to our accommodation  before we leave. Although it’s a very boring task, it’s one that makes the process much less stressful because you know where you’re heading when you exit the airport. It usually saves a lot of money and sometimes time too, as trains can be quicker than cabs.

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A Place To Stay

This is the part where I start searching on Mr & Mrs Smith and Mark just sits there patiently watching and raising an eyebrow. As lovely as their picks are, for city breaks accommodation sits a little further down the priorities list than usual as you don’t really do much else there aside from sleep and shower. TripAdvisor is a great place to start (I find the function where you can search the reviews for the most-used phrases to be very helpful – if I see ‘noisy’ I’m out). Although friend’s recommendations are often the most helpful – pop up a FaceBook status – and a google of ‘Boutique Hotels in X‘ often comes up with an article from the Guardian, which are always worth a read.

Of course there’s always Airbnb which for me, have always come up trumps. Just be sure to go for a place that has a lot of photos so you can really see what you’re getting before, has plenty of reviews and remember to take a toilet roll in your suitcase.

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Whilst You’re There

For food and top tourism attractions, TripAdvisor is again a great place to start, although the first thing that Mark and I do once we’ve settled on what city we want to visit, is purchase a Wallpaper Guide. Not only is like collecting top trumps (plus they look nice on your bookshelf), they house some of the best recommendations for food, culture, hotels, districts and shopping. It’s basically like a mini ‘MAN YOU HAVE TO INSTAGRAM THIS’ guide. They’re small, but perfectly formed so you can throw them in your bag for the day. They also house a section called ’24 hours’ where they pick out their top picks if you’re limited for time in the city. Mark and I always find these places to be the best so make sure that we tick them all off the list during our stay.

Aside from chatting and gathering more recommendations from friends and family who have visited, I also check out What Olivia Did and Wish Wish Wish to see if they have a city guide for where we’re going. They’re bloomin’ fab, so if they’ve done one I always make notes. I also watch back any vlogs from people I follow to see what they did there too – again more notes are added to the list. I’ve done travel vlogs for Stockholm, L.A, Germany and New York if you’re interested. Barcelona – you’re next… 

Photos by Me/Edited by Lauren Shipley

Comments

  • Thanks for the skyscanner tip! I feel so dumb that I haven’t used it before! Makes choosing the dates to fly so much easier! xx
    Whiskey Tango Flat White | The foodie beauty blog

  • marblebeauty

    Loved this! My favourite trips are always city breaks, I much prefer it to hot holidays! Tripadvisor is so handy too. Some brilliant tips, thank you!

    http://www.marblebeauty.wordpress.com

  • Lots of lovely tips Anna – I love travelling so this was a really useful post to read 🙂
    – Ambar x
    http://www.herlittleloves.co.uk

  • It must be good to have someone who is good at planning all these things. I am not really good at arranging all these things. I use travel advisor and sky scanner, also Airbnb is great for finding good accommodations when the hotel prices are too high.

    Ela BellaWorld

  • Eva

    this is super helpful, thanks for the tips, Anna!

    whatevawears.blogspot.co.uk

  • Stephanie Hartley

    I really want to go on a city break in the next year: I’ve never been on one and I really feel like I’m missing out! Those wallpaper guides look dreamy, and I’ve saved this post so that I can remember to buy one before I attempt a city break in the future

    Steph – http://www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

  • Love these tips!

    xo Bree
    http://bree-west.com

  • Very helpful article, and lovely photos (you’re right, those Wallpaper guides look great!) 🙂
    I think we’re really Lucky to be living in Europe where we can travel to so many different cities and capitals just by flying a couple of hours ! I love discovering new cities and can’t wait to see what you have to say about Barcelona !!

  • Anna

    Hi!! Love all the tips you give in this article! I’m from Barcelona and I can’t wait to see the vlog you will made. I hope you a wonderful weekend here and you enjoy every part of the city.

  • Love these tips, I’ve recently come back from a city break to Prague! Your photos are lovely 🙂
    http://theyoproedit.com/

  • Such a useful post. I’m doing my first airbnb soon, and I would never have thought to take toilet roll with me without this post, but now I see how useful it might be!

    Thank you
    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

  • Great tips! I went on a city break to Paris this summer & used Air b’n’b (which luckily turned out great) & also persisted with Public transport.. although both a little daunting at first it was a great way to really get a feel for the area! x

    Small&Blonde

  • Love this Anna! Airbnb is the DON when it comes to city breaks. I wrote a mini guide on Copenhagen so if you ever plan on visiting, check it out! Alice xxx
    http://www.aliceadventures.co.uk

  • Ana S

    First of all, lovely post!

    And second of all, you MUST go to Primor on Carrer Pelayo in Barcelona. It’s kind of a Superdrug/Boots but everything is sooo cheap! You’ll love it! My uni is next to it and it has been my doom!

    I myself I’m going to Brighton in November (already have your post of it in my favourites!)

  • Grace Campbell
  • I seriously need to jump on a plane/train more often and visit places, really want to see more of Scandinavia and Europe 🙂

    Lauren x
    Britton Loves | Lifestyle Beauty Wellbeing

  • The Sunday Mode

    These were brilliant tips! The only thing I’d add to this when it comes to food would be looking on Yelp and searching your destination on Instagram to see what other people are doing there!

    http://www.thesundaymode.com

  • Katharina

    I would recommend checking out bikinis & passports for her Barcelona guides (yes there are several). She is Austrian but blogs in English: http://www.bikinisandpassports.com/barcelona-day-uno/

  • This is exactly what I needed! I find planning a city break so hard. Sometimes the low prices can be off-putting because I don’t know whether it’s because it’s a bad hotel or rubbish flights. These tips are going to help so much!

    Sophie | It’s Cultured X

  • Elieska Lensink

    This post is great, thanks for all the tips! Barcelona is on my list for this year as well 🙂

  • The slow pace

    Hi Anna! Barcelona is great but beware of pickpockets! Definitely visit la Boquería market and be prepared to Instagram everything. Gaudí buildings are a must but buy tickets in advance. Rent bikes to ride along Barceloneta beach. The Born area has the best independent boutiques. MACBA is one of my favourite museum (contemporary art and a great museum shop, which is obviously the best part of every museum as everybody knows). The Mercer Hotel is lovely but if you are on a budget try Praktik Hotels. Chez Coco is the place to eat roast chicken (which is something that everyone has gor lunch on Sundays in Catalonia). Tapas at El Taxidermista in Plaza real. And walk walk wall in Barri Gotic and Passeig de Gracia.
    I hope this helps!
    xx,
    E.
    http://www.theslowpace.com

  • Olivia Grace

    Clicked on this as I’m partial to some wonderful travel content and LOOK WHO YOU MENTIONED. You sweetheart- thank you so much <3 always love your travel blogs/basically everything xx

  • This is such a good guide- thank Mark for me 🙂 I’m heading to NYC next year so I will use some of these tips to ensure smooth and cheap travel 🙂

    http://www.champagne-lifestyle.com

  • HeatherH

    Going to check out your New York vlog as I just booked a trip to visit there in December, super excited!!

    https://heather-h.com

  • Thank you for these great tips Anna 🙂 I’m off on a city break in October so will definitely be taking your suggestions on board!

    http://www.radhikarecommends.com

  • Long weekend city breaks are perfect as a getaway once you have kids. They get to see the grandparents and me and Mr. Loca have some quality time without packing a suitcase full of toys.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

  • Natalie Redman

    I love a good long weekend away. It’s a lot more affordable and doesn’t cut into that all important holiday days at work.

  • A long weekend is something i’ve never done but it’s definitely something I want to get into 🙂 Great tips I will be making note of these for the future. xx
    Rach | http://doublejointedgirlandherdog.blogspot.co.uk/

  • I’m off to Berlin next month so this post has been super helpful. Checked out carrie and olivia’s blogs and thy both have travel guides for there also, bonus!
    Amelia | ameliamaryx

  • This post has been absolutely helpful for me 🙂

    littletasteofbeauty.blogspot.it

  • Amanda June Brawner

    Love the Wallpaper guides! Dream job: writing for those folks.

    Swing through Budapest at some point if you can fit it in! Of the many city breaks we’ve done, Budapest remains a favorite (lived here 3 years and counting…)

    xx from Buda!

  • Jenny

    I literally did a post like this the other day on my blog all about how I plan for travels! It looks like we do the same thing with google maps too – pinning places so you can see in one go where you want to go. Thank you for sharing Anna!

    http://www.nnyley.com/blog/2016/how-i-plan-for-travels

  • Britta Graham-Hyde

    I love this guide! I love city breaks but planning them always stresses me out. I am flying to Hamburg tomorrow and going for a little trip to York in November with my husband. So this article came in perfect time for me! Thank you! Hope you have a lovely day x

    http://brightandboldlife.com/

  • PlugInKali

    And why not Madrid instead of Barcelona, for a change? Madrid is so much better, but EVERYBODY goes to Barcelona, and I honestly don’t get it. Yeah, Barcelona has a beach a couple of things from Gaudí. Blah, blah. Big deal. I still don’t get it. (P.S. There’s also a Wallpaper City Guide of Madrid, just sayin’…)

    • While I do agree that Madrid is very underrated, both cities have their share of things one must see and experience.

      Barcelona is much more than Gaudi and the beach (and beer and football). There’s history, art and beautiful architecture all around the city, green hills surrounding it, medieval and baroque streets and squares to enjoy and much more.

      Madrid on the other hand is an imperial capital with huge palaces, churches and parks, three of the most important art museums in the world, plenty of cosy spaces in its medieval core and around it, and tons of things to do in and near the city.

  • Carla

    The Man in Seat Sixty-one is an ace place to start for planning travel from the Uk to European countries (and now worldwide) as well as within and between them. Brilliant advice on how to get the cheapest prices for train travel, where to buy tickets, how to get between statins etc. I love it!