9 Valuable Tips for an unforgettable City Break
City breaks can be very rewarding. Different cultures, food, history. But to get the most out of it, in particular, if you only have 2-3 days, can be a challenge.
In our post, we tell you how best to prepare for a city break to make it an unforgettable experience.
We share 9 of the best tips for a city break that we learned from numerous trips all across Europe.
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City Breaks are a great way to explore the world, to leave work behind for some days, dive into a different culture, or to see some of the best-known tourist attractions in the world.
For most of us, a city break lasts from Friday to Sunday. Or, if we are lucky, even for a long 4-day bank holiday weekend.
There are certainly various ways to explore a city, some prefer a well-planned and organized trip, others just go where the flow leads you.
The latter is great if you can travel a lot, and if you have more time to spare in each place. It is wonderful to explore the local bars and streets without time pressure.
But for most of us, this is unfortunately not the case. We need to be at the office desk on Monday
If you are one of these people, this article is for you.
My City Breaks
In the past 12 years, I have traveled almost every capital city in Europe, plus other beautiful cities like Marseille, Barcelona, Milano, Nice, Antwerp, and so on.
During this time I tried both of the above approaches and today I want to share my experience with you on how to get the most out of your city breaks if you do not have the luxury of endless traveling.
Maybe you are planning your first city break, or you have been unsatisfied with the memories of the last one.
Here are 9 tips how best to prepare for a city break and not having any regrets afterward.
Some of the tips certainly depend on your budget in which case you will get various proposals. As the majority of city trips is performed by air travel, I focus on that vehicle.
So let’s dive right into my tips:
9 Tips for a good preparation of a City Break
Find good flight times and check where the airport is located
We all know that outbound flights on a Friday afternoon and inbound on Sunday nights can be more expensive than other times. But think about the investment versus the time you lose at your destination.
It needs to be a fair balance, but it might be worth spending 15% more on a ticket but be at your destination at a reasonable time on Friday and leave the city on Sunday late afternoon.
Always take into account that a flight at 6 p.m. means in most cases that you need to leave the city about 3 p.m. (pick up luggage at the hotel, transport to the airport, be there 1 hour in advance). This time is often underestimated and a flight in the afternoon does not sound too bad in the beginning. Do the time vs money calculation for a 3 p.m. and a 8 p.m. flight and see what is the best option for your given budget and other restrictions.
Also, check where the airport is located. There are many cities that have more than just one airport. One is usually close to the city and the other one further outside.When choosing between the airports, take the commuting time plus the transportation fee into account. Be cautious when booking cheap airline tickets, the airport is often located ridiculously far outside the city and it takes you a tremendous amount of time to reach your city destination. A good example is the Weeze Airport in Germany. On some booking pages, this airport is called Weeze Düsseldorf Airport. However, Düsseldorf is 80km away and has an airport close to the city center itself.
Traveling just with hand luggage is the best you can do for a short city break.
There are airports where your luggage can be on the belt quickly, but there are other airports, e.g. Amsterdam, where it can take up to 30min before you get your bag delivered (btw, Amsterdam often even takes 40min from the moment the plane arrived in
Carry-on luggage should be your choice for every city break.
Nowadays, some budget airlines charge for luggage as well, so another reason to travel light.
And just in case you have a hotel a bit further outside the city center, for budget reasons, it is always easier to cross the city with just a lightweight suitcase or a backpack.
Here are some of our ideas for a City Break
Aachen Travel Guide – on the trails of Charlemagne (and beyond)
Check the transportation from the airport beforehand
There is nothing worse than spending hours to get from the airport to your accommodation.
Unless the commuting is a trip across the city where you get a first impression (Paris Charles-de-Gaulle is a good example if you take a cab from the airport), it just costs valuable time that you could spend better.
Before you leave, check the available options. What are the taxi prices in the city? Sometimes it is really reasonable to take a cab, in particular, if you are not traveling solo. And to not be caught by surprise, always check the latest trains, metros or busses, in case your flight arrives later in the evening. With less frequent metros, for example, a taxi is (in a lot of cities) a good option.
Let’s continue with my 4th tip to prepare for an unforgettable city break.
Have a clear idea of what you want to see and do
What is the reason you want to visit a particular city? Are you a museum fan, a shopping queen, a food junkie, a history lover, or do you want to see the top 3 sightseeing spots?
Do you want a balance between sightseeing and relaxing? Are you on a budget? Are you going for romance or for finding some hidden gems?
Unless you are planning to just go with the flow, it is good to have a reasonably clear image of what kind of places you want to visit.
And don’t forget to have a plan B. For example, if you planned a romantic walk in a famous park and it is pouring down rain.
Book an accommodation close to the public transport station(s)
Walking half an hour from your hotel/hostel/apartment to the next metro or tram station is a waste of time. Sure, in most cases the accommodation is cheaper, but if you have only 48 hours to spend, make sure you don’t spend this time on walking to the metro station. And keep in mind that you walk this way a couple of times so that the time spent on walking adds up quickly.
And check the timetables to prevent any surprises regarding last metros/trams. Some large cities have some odd operating hours.
Find the best deals for a City Break accommodation here
Get information about the sightseeing spots beforehand
Of course, there are people who want to explore cities/countries by just strolling through the streets and get inspired that way. However, most of us do not have the time to spend a week or more in one place to fully explore it, so we do need a bit of prep work beforehand.
Check at least the most popular attractions and also get a bit of an understanding of the city layout and where these attractions are located.
Then try to find out what people recommend as an average duration for the visit of these spots so that you can get a rough planning of your days (mundolore will also offer this service, based on the recommendations of our community).
Even if you read some facts about the spots beforehand, there is a high chance you might have forgotten it upon arrival. Write down some of the information you’ve found valuable and take it with you on a tablet, smartphone note or paper.
But don’t overdo it, a lot of information sources are too detailed and you get a complete review of the history lasting 10 pages. You will not be able (and willing) to read these assays while you visit the attraction site. Keep your notes reasonable short especially when you visit a couple of attractions each day.
Use mundolore for easy sightseeing planning
To prepare a city trip thoroughly is a time-consuming endeavor.
To save time and still get all information needed, you can use mundolore mini travel guides. These guides provide information and tips in a condensed and structured way.
You can also write own mini travel guides from any information you found on the web and want to take it with you in a structured way.
Take the mini guides and use our free trip planner to prepare your city break according to your preferences.
mundolore is free, so try it today
Buy sightseeing attraction tickets online
Today, there is hardly any need for queuing up in endless lines and wasting precious hours of your sightseeing time. The majority of the big attractions in each city offer online ticket purchases.
Most of the time you can easily print out the tickets and just take them with you. Some attractions are even going digital nowadays so that you just need to have the entrance tickets on your mobile phone.
Check the conditions, because sometimes the tickets are in the name of the holder and you are required to bring an ID.
From my experience, first, check the prices on the actual attraction homepage. Even if a lot of guides and discount ticket sites claim to have the best prices, this sometimes is not true. Often these sites sell combi-tickets for all kinds of stuff you do not need.
Go off-peak times (for city and attractions)
If you can, it is always best to travel off-season. The prices for flights and hotels are lower and the cities and restaurants are less crowded.
However, the lines for the major highlights are (in most cities) still there, especially during the weekends. So, I still recommend the online ticket booking.
When booking your entrance tickets online, for a lot of these attractions you can also choose the time of your visit. All attractions have peak hours, which you can easily check on Google before booking a ticket. Going against these peak hours will make your visit far more relaxed and pleasant.
Another advantage is, that most of the time you can take prettier pictures, as there are not so many people on the photos 🙃.
Let’s come to my last tip for a city break.
Consider a multiple-day public transportation pass
Many cities offer special 2, 3, 5-day bus/metro cards (or a week etc.). Sometimes these are really good deals, sometimes, it is not worth the money.
If considering such a ticket you should ask yourself the following questions:
Is it a large city? Are the sightseeing spots far away from each other? Does the ticket include the transportation from the airport? What are the zones that this ticket is valid for? Will I travel outside of these zones?
Always check the terms and conditions. Sometimes these tickets are valid for XX hours and sometimes from 0:00 to 23:59. These two ways of time counting can make a huge difference, depending on your time of arrival and departure.
Sometimes single tickets or a 10-ticket strip are more cost-effective.
What will be your next/first city break?
We are curious to hear which cities you like and what you want to see. Leave us a comment below.
What do you do to make it a memorable trip and how do you prepare?
Do you have a hard time gathering all the relevant information?
Then mundolore mini travel guides will be your best friend for your future trips! Join today!