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.
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.
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.
3. City breaks aren’t just for cities. The idea of a city break is a quick, short getaway to a specific place. It is a one-destination-only trip, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a city. Small towns and villages also make for great city breaks. So long as there is a place to stay overnight and food to eat, it can be a city break.
4. Slow travel is the name of the game. Let me break it to you right now. If you are the type of person that likes to see all of the main sights, museums and restaurants in one go, you are going to hate city breaking. I cannot stress this enough: to enjoy a city break, you must be willing to take it easy – seeing one or two sights is enough.
5. City breaking is about being a foodie. Since there’s no way your feet are going to let you see every sight in town during a long weekend, you have to enjoy the finer things: sitting down over a meal, a snack or a glass of wine, people-watching and generally soaking up the local vibe – that’s what city breaking is all about. There’s no better in to a culture or city than through its food and drinks, so stop, sit down and grab a bite of something yummy.
6. Plan for more than once. Again, your feet are not going to thank you if you touch down for 2.5 days in Fantasticville with the idea that this is your first and last time here. It just doesn’t work that way! You have to know that this is a destination you’ll make time to see again someday, otherwise, every time you sit down for a glass of wine, you’ll feel that creeping guilt about not being at Main City Museum or Crowded-but-Overrated City Sight That’s In All the Guidebooks.