European city breaks
If it’s value you seek, I say: head east! Ljubljana is very relaxed and pretty, and Vilnius is under-rated and under-visited in my opinion. Mostar is also one of my favourite cities: a beautiful setting, great wine, the chance to do some great kayaking, and a very raw sense of history.
In Western Europe, Portugal is good value and Porto is great if you like a riverside setting and port (obviously).
Hi Matthew, if food & history are important considerations, here are my suggestions:
Bologna: nicknamed ‘La Grassa’ (the fat), there’s plenty of good food on every corner here (tagliatelle con ragu, tortellini in brodo, bollito/arrosto misto, it goes on…), plus the city is easy to walk around, with great architecture and museums. The university is worth visiting for a tour of the astronomy faculty in the specola and a great view of the city – also possible from the Torre Asinelli.
Ravenna, Modena and Parma are all easily accessible by train from Bologna.
A little closer, on Eurostar via Brussels, the spa town of Aachen, in Nordrhein-Westfalen, has UNESCO sites, hearty food (many cafes put on excellent breakfast buffets), great beer and delicious local produce to bring home (spicy Aachener Printen biscuits and chocolates – check the factory outlets NW of the city centre). The Cathedral and the Dreiländerpunkt nearby are both fascinating historical sites.
For a bit of sun, why not catch a cheap flight to Malaga? Rather than head to a resort along the coast, stay in town and you’ll enjoy delicious tapas, Moorish architecture, plus the Picasso Museum in a sympathetically spruced-up pedestrianised old town.
Hope all that gives you a few ideas!
Antwerp and Bruges are both well worth a visit. Within easy reach of the UK by both rail and air (you can even fly direct to Antwerp from London City and Manchester), both cities are very pretty with more than enough museums, galleries and bars to keep you entertained. Both are heavily touristed, however, so if you want somewhere a bit more laid-back, I’d suggest Namur. Just don’t tell anyone or they’ll all want to go there!
Lisbon is my choice for a great city break. Great sites, good weather, fantastic food, great wine, beautiful Fado music, and good transportation. The prices are cheaper than anywhere else in Western Europe and the people are so friendly. Watch out for the taxi drivers!!!!! You can take a quick trip to Sintra, which is a real treat. It seems that Lisbon is often missed, because people focus on the biggies of Paris, London, Amsterdam, but give Lisbon a try. You may fall in love with this city of hills!!!!!
You don’t mention whether you’d like to fly, or possibly take the train? Ed Wright’s suggestion of Aachen by train certainly is appealing, and Cologne is also a good option if you go via Brussels.
(By the way, Mostar is fascinating as James says, but not realistic for a weekend – it’s a good few hours on the bus from Dubrovnik – better as part of a longer trip round the region.)
Wow – lots of great responses, thanks all!
No real preference on flying or taking the train to be honest, as long as the destination is good I don’t mind how I get there! I’ve not spent much time in eastern Europe so James’ suggestion of Ljubljana is definitely something I’ll look into. Going to Bologna for some good Italian food sounds pretty hard to resist too!
Thanks, plenty to mull over here!