The Art of the “City Break”

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Before I moved to Europe, the term “city break” was not even in my list of vocabulary. The idea of a weekend away was entirely familiar but, I’m a desert rat and the wide open landscapes of the American Southwest hardly lend themselves to a culture of cosmopolitan short vacations. After I moved to Europe and started dating a local, I kept hearing the words “city break” come out of his mouth. “Let’s take a city break to Madrid.” Hmm. That sounds nice, I wonder what that is.

So we did.

City breaks have become my bread and butter of traveling. Even around East Asia and the U.S., I’ve learned that short, city-specific trips are the only way I’ll ever get lots of travel racked up without getting the bank statements racked up, if you know what I mean. City breaks afford you the chance to go somewhere and spend a few days looking around without costing you an arm and a leg in two-week vacation costs. It’s brilliant.

Parc Güell, Barcelona, Spain
A moment of repose at Parc Güell on a solo city break to Barcelona

Now if, like me, you are an American stuck in a small town somewhere in the middle, you might be thinking “Sure, that’s all well and good for you. You live in Europe. Where am I going to go on a city break?”

Megan’s Rules of City Breaking

1. City breaks are for everywhere. You don’t have to be hopping from Prague to Milan to enjoy a city break. In China, I took city breaks from the tiny town I lived in to other tiny towns nearby, or weekend trips to big cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. In the U.S. recently, I learned that even a city break to Amarillo, Texas or Denver could be a great way to get away.

Paris from above

Paris makes for a great city break

2. City breaks aren’t just for new places. Some of the best city breaks I’ve taken were to cities I’d already visited – sometimes places I’d been numerous times before. If you are in a geographical or financial situation that doesn’t afford a lot of city break variety, then traveling to the same cities over and over can be really rewarding, as you get a chance to really get to know the place and discover its corners like a local.

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