Here in the UK when the winter sets in it can all start to get a little bit grey and dreary for a few months whilst the season does it thing and passes, making way for spring. Don't get me wrong, I might mention my slight distaste for the British weather quite a lot on this blog but I do truly love my home country - to me there's no place like home. Even so, it's during these slightly grey months that you might find me daydreaming of a little break away from the norm and looking back at past travels with even more enthusiasm than usual.
With Europe just on the doorstep there are many options available to us Brits for a quick city break overseas. What with current reports stating that the Euro is currently at a seven-year low against the pound it's also a good time to take advantage of the fact that this translates into an extra £10 of spending power for every £100 that you spend in the eurozone!
So today I thought I'd share a little escapist inspiration for those of you contemplating getting out of the office on a Friday afternoon and taking a trip somewhere different for a few days. Here are some of my favourite classic European cities that are perfect for such an adventure and that I've had the chance to visit over the past few years.
First on my list is the very beautiful Barcelona.
I love this city and of all of the places I'm talking about today this is the one destination I could visit time and again and could even envisage myself living in given the opportunity (and if I spoke the language!)
The charm and beauty of Barcelona lies in the art and architecture of one of it's most famous residents Antoni Gaudí whose stamp can be seen all over this colourful city. With such a distinct and individual style Gaudí, the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism, has left an indelible and beautiful mark on Barcelona in the form of some of the most unusual structures and buildings that you will probably ever see.
Basílica de la Sagrada Família - This awe inducing structure in the heart of Barcelona is still under construction since work begun way back in 1882. Started by architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, Antoni Gaudi took over the project in 1883 and worked on it until his death in 1926. Since then many have continued the project bringing their own ideas to the original plans.
Since the outset over 133 years ago the entire structure has been funded purely by donations and it stands as one of the most iconic centrepieces of the city that is visited by millions of people every year. Honestly you just have to go along and gape at the size and beauty of this amazing construction - it will blow you away!
Park Güell - One of the major works of Gaudi in the city, Park Güell is a public park system composed of gardens and architectonic elements located on Carmel Hill. It's truly beautiful and a really relaxing way to spend an afternoon exploring its peace, colour and beauty as well as getting views over the span of the rest of Barcelona. I just loved it and think it's definitely a must see when taking time to visit this city.
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Casa Batlló - An artistic treasure of organic forms and innovative architecture this building was built between 1904 and 1906 and is one of the most emblematic works of Antoni Gaudi. Not only that but it's just so very unusual, beautiful and full of imagination. Definitely worth a visit and a wonderful way to spend a few hours exploring the many statements that this city makes in it's gloriously unique style.
Istanbul is a wonderful city to visit and holds a special place in my heart as it's where my husband proposed to me! The hustle and bustle will keep you well on your toes and again this is a city full of such beauty and history that you can't fail to come away feeling full of wonder.
Just as a side note to my introduction regarding the Euro - the currency in Turkey is Lira although in Istanbul some prices may well be quoted in Euro and USD and you may find you are able to pay in these currencies. That said it's best to have Lira with you.
The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) - There are many amazing mosques, palaces and beautiful structures that you should stop by when in Istanbul but for today's post I'm going to focus on the stunning Blue Mosque. Known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles that adorn its interior it is probably one of the most photogenic buildings in the city and it's interior is truly stunning. Make sure you dress appropriately for your visit, but don't miss out on this truly beautiful historical attraction.
The Galata Tower - Well this was the location of the aforementioned marriage proposal so of course it holds a very fond place in my heart. Yet personal feelings aside this tower is still worth a visit as one of the oldest and highest towers in the city that offers stunning panoramic views of the bustling metropolis below as well as a far reaching look out over the magnificent Bosphorus River.
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The Grand Bazaar - Colourful and chaotic you cannot miss out on a trip to Istanbul's very Grand Bazaar. Located at the heart of the Old City the Bazaar is one of the worlds largest covered markets with 60 streets and over 5000 shops. Take your time to wander around the astounding collection of goods on offer and when it all starts to get a little too much nip in to one of the many cafes to freshen up with a traditional Turkish Black Tea and plenty of sugar to get you back on your feet again!
It's been a while since I've stepped foot in Paris but it's such a classic city and so very easy to get to nowadays that I couldn't leave it out of today's post. The city of love never fails to deliver and is a wonderful way to spend a weekend away exploring, eating, drinking and shopping. In my opinion!
The Eiffel Tower - I know this is an obvious one but it had to be the Eiffel Tower really didn't it. If you've never been to the city before then of course you have to stop by one of the worlds most iconic structures and take a peek upwards - or downwards from this famous landmark. Having celebrated it's 125th birthday last year it's certainly a must if you've never had the chance to encounter it before. Whilst it is possible to climb to the top, there are 1,665 steps so most people take the lift - if you're feeling fit then pack some comfortable shoes and give it a go!
La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmarte - This is one of my favourite stops when visiting Paris. An iconic white domed church located atop the Montmarte Hill, it's such a very beautiful landmark to visit, especially at night when it's lit so beautifully and sits so majestically in it's spot over the city. I also remember having a very lovely meal in a tiny candle lit restaurant nearby and trying snails for the first time with a very good glass of red wine - so this certainly added to the joy of an evening spent visiting this beautiful location!
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Champagne Region - So in Paris itself there are just too many wonderful places to mention that are well worth taking the time to visit. So instead here I'm going to suggest something a little different. If you have the time to take a slightly extended longer weekend away then why not hop on the train to the nearby Champagne region.
Just a couple of hours train ride from Paris will take you to beautiful Epernay which is where we had the pleasure of visiting. Here you can take tours of the many famous champagne houses and caves including Moet et Chandon, Mercier and many more. Or perhaps head to nearby Reims to discover the charms of Veuve Clicquot and Tattinger amongst many other famous tipples.
Beware though as copious amounts of champagne tasting will ensue so do make sure you remember how to get back to your hotel!
The most recent of my own city escapes was a trip to wonderful Rome. I'm not quite sure why it had taken us quite so long to get there but at last we did and it was worth every second. For some odd reason I wasn't quite prepared for just how much historical beauty Rome had to offer and was blown away by the many beautiful sights of this ancient city.
Colosseum - Located in the centre of the city you cannot visit Rome without taking a look around this famous landmark considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Probably one of the most recognisable buildings in the city it's certainly worth taking a look inside to marvel at the somewhat gruesome history of this Gladiatorial building and amphitheatre.
Pantheon - It was the Pantheon that really inspired me when we visited. I just really felt amazed by it - quite a lot more than some of the other sites that we had queued for ages to view! The largest structure in the world until the 20th century it stands as a strong reminder of the enormity of the Roman Empire. As light streams blazingly in through the oculus at the top of the dome I defy anyone not to gape up in awe for a few seconds at the beauty of this magnificent building.
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Roman Forum and Ruins - The Roman Forum kind of blew me away. I guess I wasn't expecting such a wealth of ruins and history all sitting there in one place and allowing you to vividly imagine the bustling ancient city clambering on below. Although quite obviously ruined it is still hugely impressive and certainly worth a look during an afternoon of exploring this wonderful city.
So there we have a few snippets of some classic city destinations that I would recommend you take a look at.
What are your top city destinations and how do you love spending your city break time? Please share in the comments below so I can get myself all inspired for the next adventure.
PLUS: Join me back here tomorrow as I have an exciting Getaway Inspired Giveaway that I'll be launching with some goodies that I think you may just like to get your hands on before heading off to your next destination.