The weekend break has become an increasingly popular method of getting to see the cities of Europe without eating significantly into our precious holiday allowances. Take an early flight on a Friday and it’s possible to enjoy the best part of three days in another corner of Europe before flying home late on Sunday. More than any other factor, the access offered to new destinations by low cost airlines has fuelled our appetite for the European city break.
But how do you make the most of such a short time in a strange place? Without the luxury of being able to take a couple of days to chill out before exploring our new surroundings, it’s important to know in advance what you want to get from your weekend city break. Here are 5 suggestions that might help you when planning your next urban adventure: 
1. Do your research

With limited time in a city it’s more important than ever to know what you want to see. There’s no point discovering the Museum of Plastic Buttons as your taxi breezes past on your way back to the airport. Find out what the city offers in advance and pick out the three things that are most important for you to see/do.

2. Take a city tour

A good way to start in a city is often to take an organised tour. These are typically only a couple of hours in length and don’t have to be by open-top bus. Every city offers a walking tour, while many also offer cycling options (you can even tour some places aboard a Segway). The chance to hear about the city’s history from a local guide will often provide inspiration for your next two days. 

3. Try the local food

An important part of any trip, and particularly so in a short break, where choosing the right places to dine can make or break the whole experience. Guidebooks might offer some good suggestions.

Better still, if you can speak to a local person ask them when they like to go for a good meal. We’ve found many a good place by asking around. Try the local dishes, particularly those that you won’t find back at home. You might discover why fried pigs’ ears have never made it onto the menu at your local pub, but at least you can speak with the knowledge of having tried them. 

4. Take a breather

One of my favourite places to head for in a big city is its green spaces. Every European city is blessed with a park or two, and as well as being good places to sit and rest for a while, they also allow some of the best people-watching opportunities. Chill out and observe as the people around you play, chatter and promenade in their home town. 

5. Learn a few words of the language

With an ever-increasing number of tourists on the streets of the European cities, the use of English is becoming more and more widespread. Yes, you’ll get away without even trying a word of the local language. But the reception you receive, the warmth and respect that’s shown to you for even attempting a couple of words of the local lingo, will usually more than repay the minimal effort involved in a dziendobry or a faleminderit.

Andy Jarosz