Europe has been long renowned as the leading continent for city breaks. With each country as diverse as the last, Europe is home to some of the most historic and culturally-rich cities in the world.
From experiencing Florence’s elegant Renaissance history to immersing yourself in Istanbul’s eclectic music scene, read on to find out more about the impressive and emerging cities you should be visiting in 2019.
Croatia may not be the first country you think of when you’re looking to book a city break, but this majestic country has a dynamic culture just waiting to be explored. One of Croatia’s most memorable city break locations is Dubrovnik on the south coast. Known for its distinctive Old Town, this charming medieval town is sure to delight with its old stone walls and coastal gems.
Travel Blogger Krista from Passport Delicious told us what makes Dubrovnik so special. “When the sun hits the old town in Dubrovnik, everything glistens. During the summer months, you can escape the heat by exploring the quiet alleyways and ancient staircases, nipping into bars and restaurants for a glass of Dalmatian white wine or local Karlovacko beer.”
Krista told us what she recommends getting up to when visiting this spellbinding city. “Normally, I would really recommend taking the cable car up to the top of Dubrovnik to enjoy the view, but I understand that's closed at the moment, so I think my second suggestion would be to take a free walking tour of Dubrovnik and explore Lovrijenac Fortress, Minčeta Fortress, Saint Saviour Church, and more. These tours are only 90 minutes and are great for your first initial introduction to this compact little city.
“Take a boat ride along the shore to get away from the crowds, or dive right into Game of Thrones tourism by visiting some of the popular show's most well-known sites. And of course, explore Dubrovnik's unique history which has existed as an independent merchant republic for many, many years and is the envy of Venice!”
Straddling Europe and Asia on the Bosporus Strait, Istanbul is one of Turkey’s most culturally diverse cities famous for its rich tumultuous history spanning the empires of the Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Ottomans. This luxurious heritage is still evident today, with Istanbul’s architectural delights and luxury structure evident throughout the city.
Travel Bloggers Tom and Gabbi from Wunderhead told us about Istanbul’s distinctive music scene. “The weird and wonderful musical heritage of Istanbul makes it such a unique destination,” says Tom. “If you collect records, take a ferry trip to Kadıköy and check out Plakçi Hamit and Zihni Muzik for some absolute bargains."
As well as a unique musical heritage, Istanbul also has some indulgent dishes to delight, says Gabbi. "If we’re being honest, everything we got up to on our holiday pales in comparison to the kebabs and lamb chops at Zübeyir Ocakbaşı. It really was one of the tastiest meals we have ever had and would justify a trip to Istanbul on its own."
The homeland of the Renaissance, Florence will feed your artistic side with its architectural delights and treasured art scene. As well as the magnificent sights to behold, Florence is famous for its gorgeous Tuscan cuisine that will win over your heart and stomach. Accessible by the beautiful port city of Livorno, even the journey between sea and city will take your breath away.
Katy, travel blogger from Untold Morsels, told us what makes Florence so majestic and charming. “It is hard not to be enchanted by Florence, the city that was the cradle of the Renaissance. Around every corner and cobbled street, you will find a stunning palazzo, piazza or fountain to remind you of its glorious past.
“Some of the greatest artists that ever lived are responsible for the beauty that Florence is famous for. Brunelleschi’s dome rises high over the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral and the city roofs. While Michelangelo’s statue of David, the ideal man, is a must see for most visitors.
“One of the greatest pleasures of spending time in Florence is strolling through the city streets and enjoying the sights around you. Make your way across the river and up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo at dusk for incredible views of the city as the last rays of sunlight bounce off the buildings reflected in the River Arno.”
Hamburg is quickly becoming one of Germany’s most favourable cities. With a laid-back, vibrant port-city atmosphere, Hamburg offers its guests a wealth of cultural treasures, with a vivacious bar and restaurant scene, glorious architecture lining the riverbanks and a compelling musical heritage to boot.
Travel Blogger Caroline from Pack The Suitcases told us why Hamburg is the perfect destination for a city break. “Hamburg is Berlin’s relatively undiscovered cousin. This up-and-coming German city has plenty of interesting history, a gritty-but-cool atmosphere, and brilliant places to eat and drink.”
Gabriella, blogger at Gabriella Manchester loves Hamburg’s unique character and vast history. “Hamburg is a maritime city, and its history has been really well retained and protected, which sadly isn't always the case as major cities grow. Most of the old buildings have been sympathetically restored and repurposed, there's still the fish market every Sunday morning, and of course, the harbour is still a thriving part of the city. The city’s maritime identity, combined with the leafy neighbourhoods, lush sprawling parks and of course the beautiful Lake Alster makes Hamburg a wonderfully unique travel destination.”
To get a feel for the city, Gabriella recommends exploring its dynamic streets and gardens by bike. “My top recommendation to anyone visiting Hamburg is to see the city on two wheels. It's an incredibly easy city to bike around as it's never very crowded, with some really beautiful cycling routes around the lakes. Not only is it the most eco-friendly way to see the city, but it's also cheap, fun and safe. Hamburg has its own bike rental system called StadtRAD with 2500 bikes available at many suburban railway and underground stations around the city. It costs as little as €1.20 to rent a bike for an hour.”
Caroline told us about some of her favourite attractions to visit in the city. “Wander around the warehouse district to take in the red-brick industrial architecture before visiting the International Maritime Museum to learn more about Hamburg's seafaring past. The city is also home to the world's biggest model railway village, Miniatur Wunderland, which is Germany's most popular tourist attraction and somewhat of a mecca for railway enthusiasts from around the world. Whether you like model railways or not, you have to visit this - you won't see anything else like it!”
When it comes to dining, Caroline says you won’t be left feeling dissatisfied. “There are plenty of excellent dining options, including Hobenköök, a market hall and restaurant. It serves only local, homemade food in a cool converted warehouse by an old freight railway station. If you're going out for some well-earned drinks after a day exploring, you can't miss Clockers, a secret cocktail bar in the alternative St Pauli area of the city.”
When you think of European city breaks, Romania may not be at the top of your list, but it certainly should be! Bucharest, Romania’s capital, has an age-old allure and fairy-tale elegance that exudes splendour. With picturesque gardens, a vivid art scene and magnificent Orthodox churches, Bucharest is the hub of old-worldly charm.
Charlotte, Travel Blogger from The Millennial Runaway, told us why Bucharest is worth visiting in 2019. “Affable, affordable and untravelled by the masses, there has never been a better time to visit the city that’s younger than Coca Cola. But its Bucharest’s many layers of architecture and history hidden in plain sight that makes it such a unique travel destination.”
Travel blogger Alexandra from Shurupchik agrees that Bucharest offers something truly unique and special to its visitors. “Bucharest is unique in so many ways. Bucharest is a charming city, filled with lovely coffee shops, art places and friendly people. It is a city of contrasts where block buildings of Ceaușescu regime cohabit with refined architecture of the 19th century.
“It is not yet as busy as other European capitals making it a lovely destination to experience the Eastern Europe vibes at its best and to begin your acquaintance with Romania.”
Although a relatively new city, Bucharest’s cultural influences and rich history are what make it so captivating, says Charlotte. “With a likeness to Paris with its Arcul de Triumf and the country’s signature dish, Sarmale, derived from the Turkish dolma, Bucharest’s French and Turkish influences only seek to magnify your fascination.”
Charlotte told us about her favourite attraction when visiting the city. “If you do one thing in Bucharest, be sure to visit the Therme Spa. It is unlike any of the spas you’ll find in the UK and for a fraction of the cost (under £20 for three hours), this botanical paradise boasts 9 pools, 6 saunas, 4 wet saunas, 16 water slides and 800,000 plants perfect for a lazy afternoon.”
For a quintessential experience of Bucharest, Alexandra recommends getting outside. “Be sure to check out the Cișmigiu Park to have a glimpse of local life unplugged. It is especially lovely during the spring time of the year. The older generations sit on the benches while the younger ones walk the paths and ride the boats on a small lake.
“To be surrounded by locals as they start their weekend, visit Gradina Eden, a cafe and a bar located inside a forest right in the middle of the city. And don’t forget to visit Restaurant Hanu' lui Manuc for some delicious local food at one of Europe’s last caravanserais.”
Your European adventure is only a booking away, with most of the above destinations available on a wide-range of cruises from Southampton. For more information about booking your city break, contact the ROL Cruise team today.