With the pound not stretching quite so far this summer, thoughts of a short break to European big-hitters such as Florence, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam may be out of many people’s budgets. But there are still ways to get your fill of Europe’s world-class food, buzzy bars, great shopping and vibrant culture. To help reconcile modest budgets with city break desires, we’ve devised some tempting city swaps. Bringing together superb places to stay with terrific value and plenty of city-break buzz, these travel gems start from just £58 a night.
Consider Budapest, where the architecture is a glorious as Barcelona’s. Try Athens over Amsterdam for a grittier city break of mezze bars and music clubs. Or perhaps Palma over Paris to swap the Metro for the Mediterranean! All the suggestions below come in at less than £100 per room per night, based on two people sharing…
Bye Bye Barcelona, Hello Hungary
Get more bang for your city break this summer – trade Barcelona for Hungary’s cool capital, Budapest. Swap packed Mediterranean city beaches for the broad sweep of the Danube; crammed bars for late-night bath parties at Budapest’s traditional spas…
Newly opened in 2016, this super-central hotel is packed with style. It sits in a converted Pest apartment block, within walking distance of all the main sights. The buzzy ground-floor restaurant serves delicious Asian food and inventive cocktails, and the brilliant staff will help you get plugged into the city. It’s great value, with rates starting from less than £60 a night; kids can stay too thanks to larger rooms with sofabeds. Couples and families alike will enjoy exploring Budapest by tram, cruising the Danube, and unwinding in one of the city’s 118 thermal baths.
From £58 per night, based on 2 people sharing a Small Double Room on a B&B basis.
Axe Amsterdam and Live like a God in Athens
While Amsterdam’s canals, bikes and pavement cafes sound like the perfect gentle city break, Athens offers an epic experience, too. Spend a day in the Acropolis and Archaeological Museum (you can’t not) and another day ferry hopping over to a glamorous Greek island, such as Hydra or Spetses.
In the up-and-coming Psiri neighbourhood, this hip hotel is surrounded by authentic mezze bars and music clubs. The roof-top bar has a plunge pool and views across the chaotic Athenian cityscape. Stylish interiors feature white-grey minimalism shot through with fluorescent colour – lime green, shocking pink. There’s a liberal dose of fun and the balance between cool and comfort is spot on. Huge showers and comfy beds sit alongside Starck chairs. A ground-floor ArtWall/Project Space hosts a new visual and/or performance art show every month. There are also good bus and Metro connections with Omonia Square nearby.
From £88 per night, based on 2 people sharing a Superior on a B&B basis.
Au revoir Paris, Hola Palma
Paris’ Notre Dame may be famed for its Gothic beauty, but Palma has its own magnificent Gothic cathedral, La Seu. What’s more, Palma is easily explored on foot. It has wonderful shops, great-value tapas bars, chic beach neighbourhoods, vibrant markets and 2 harbours packed with mega yachts to drool over.
Opened in 2015 (in a former ironmonger’s shop), StayCatalina’s self-catering studios and apartments (1 or 2 bedrooms) radiate coastal chic. Expect white-washed floors, wicker furniture and harbour views. They sit in the up-and-coming Santa Catalina neighbourhood, west of Palma’s historic centre and just 15 minutes from the airport. All have well-equipped kitchenettes and relaxing terraces – perfect for unwinding after a day cycling along the promenade or exploring the historic city. Food lovers will delight in the numerous local eateries, as well as Palma’s oldest and best market. For added convenience, guests have the option to request a big breakfast delivered direct to their door.
Studio apartments start from £81 per night, based on 2 people sharing on an accommodation-only basis (including one day’s bike rental).
Give Florence a flip and pack for Porto
Flights to Porto, one of Europe’s oldest cities, tend to be cheaper than Florence but you’ll still get inspiring art galleries, fine dining and chic shopping aplenty. With excellent Portuguese wine from the nearby Douro Valley and exquisite perfume from Castebel Porto, this city break certainly packs a punch.
High style meets low prices at this gorgeous boutique hotel in dynamic Porto. Once a traditional townhouse, it was meticulously renovated by brother-and-sister team Emanuel and Patrícia, and a sense of ‘home’ prevails throughout the book-lined lobby and herb-scented garden. The 7 bedrooms have a funky blend of iconic mid-century furniture, Portuguese linens and clawfoot tubs; many also have balconies that catch the sun. The food is gorgeous. A decadent lazy brunch is served until 12.30pm (perfect for lie-ins) and, if you’re lucky, dinner might include a gooey chocolate fondant with mint-infused strawberries (on request).
From £75 per room per night based on 2 people sharing a Club room on an accommodation-only basis.