How To Do A City Break

How To Do A City Break

5 Minute Read

Who doesn’t love a city break. They are short and sweet, not too expensive, and if you time it well – Friday morning to Monday evening – your boss, clients or kids won’t even notice you’ve gone.

Me and Rick Up a Tree

Don’t know if you caught Rick Stein’s Long Weekends (BBC2), but I think Rick (who is my secret crush and has been for 20 years, so I’ll hear nothing against him, thank you very much) and I would have a grand old time on a weekend break.

When picking a hotel we (that’ll be Rick and I) don’t really care if it has a swimming pool or spa or the best view in town– it just has to be right in the heart of things – although, we do like a balcony where we can sit sipping Kir Royales (or whatever the local drink is) and watch the locals promenade, before heading out.

On Day 2, while Rick heads off to nose about fish market – and hold up unfeasibly large eel-like creatures – I’d find the Zara.

It’s not that I love Zara so much – it’s just it’s always a good starting point to find the main shops in town.   So after having a silent moan about how the prices are compared to Zara back home (why is that? grrrr) I’d have a potter around some proper local shops checking out the knick knackery of the region (I’m a sucker for a tacky souvenir) then find a great patisserie, sit outside in the sun having a coffee and the famous local cake, admiring my new fridge magnet and occasionally shaking the snow globe I’ve just bought.

Shake it Up Baby

Later in the day, I might mooch around the main art gallery/museum for an hour or two or then again I might just have a wander by the sea/cathedral/castle/harbor – whatever tickles my fancy.

In the evening I’d get dressed up and put on flicky eye liner and meet Rick and we’d head to some fantastic restaurant that he knows and he’d order me an array of amazing dishes and wines, while regaling me with stories of food and travel and quoting Keats.

Anyway, forgetting Rick for a moment, city breaks, rather than long holidays suit my work and budget. They don’t have to be too pricey – especially if you can go slightly off season (April/May, September/October are my favourite times) – so you can maybe fit in 2 or 3 in a year, giving yourself some much-needed blue sky and a change of scene. Plus I am a pain in the ass on a beach holiday. Ask anybody.   I have aversion to doing nothing – I can sit in the sun and read for about 18 minutes then I need to find some shade or explore something.

Palma, London, Not Sure, Paris, Malaga, Athens

So, in case you are interested here are my ‘rules’ for choosing the perfect spot for a city break

You need to able to fly from a local airport. Sod changing London. Too expensive and Stressssssy.

The flight should be no more than 3 1/2 hours and the destination airport no more than 20 minutes from the city centre.

It should be warm and sunny, but not stroke-inducing, have great shopping, bars and restaurants and a beach. Not asking for much, eh!

It should be easy not ripped off  eg there are some good local restaurants that don’t churn out crap for tourist and round the bill up to the nearest 50.

Ideally, it should be similar in size to Edinburgh – which is very get-round-able in 72 hours

How to Get Your Bearings

You can keep your Ferrari – this is THE only way to see Monte Carlo

Day 1 – A bus tour . The best are the Hop on Hop off ones. If that’s not available then I’ll make do with the Choo Choo Train (generally this is a bus disguised as train )

Don’t scoff they have one in Monte Carlo and Key West. Frankly, I don’t care if I look like a touristy twat, nothing beats a bus/choo choo tour for familiarising yourself with a city QUICKLY.

Second, apply, what I call The Buchanan Street Theory.

So here’s how it goes…..every city has the same few key ingredients which are good to know if you are a visiting.

Once you work what and where they are then YOU, my friend, have conquered that city, you can tick it off your Bucket List – and get back to the ironing and catching up on Love Island.

 Key Ingredients?  Well, here they are….

 A Posh Shopping Street (in Glasgow terms that would be Buchanan Street – hence the name of the Theory geddit).

Find a city’s Buchanan St and you’ve cracked it

An arty studenty bit that’s quite tourist-friendly

A scary bit which unless you’re under 23 or a crackpot, it’s best to avoid

A must-see tourist destination (Eiffel Tower, Palma Cathedral, The Leaning Tower)

A couple of areas full of great bars and restaurants.

Now that you know where you want to hang out for the next 72 hours – you can move on to finding out WHAT MAKES A CITY TICK and that’ll be…

The bit of history that the locals are proud of (along the lines of Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear off here)

An Art Gallery or Museum – try to take at least take at least 20 selfies outside it (I’m thinking The Louvre)

A famous food – which you should try unless it involves offal.

A local drink – which you should try (go easy if it’s luminous)

A famous product – shoes, gloves, almonds, Tunnocks Teacakes – which you should look at and possibly buy and take home

Someone famous (alive or dead) connected to the city (Vincent van Gogh was born/died here)

Here are my favourite spots for a City Break


Bordeaux (no better streak frites and glass & red to be had)

Malaga (home town of Antonio Banderas who, if the window signs are to be believed, has eaten Iberian ham in almost every tapas bar in town)

London (never a dull moment or change from a tenner)

Oh yes I do

Nice (got it all beach, shopping, blush rose, Salad Nicoise)

Paris (impossible not to feel romantic)

Palma (easy peasy and fun)

Reims (the home of Champagne where it’s sipped for breakfast, lunch, and dinner)

Verona then take a trip half an hour down the road to Vicenza (neither are as busy or as expensive as nearby Venice and almost as nice for a potter)

And, of course, Padstow (the home of Rick). Only joking – the injunction prevents me going there. No, seriously it’s too small: About 1/50th the size of Edinburgh.

Here are the ones I am not so keen on

Barcelona – I know I should love it, but I just don’t. Probably because I always end up clinging on to my bag in case some clever gang of bag stealers dupes me into looking at the sky and nick it

Cannes (too expensive and full of yellow Lamborghinis)

Dublin (too full of hen parties)

Prague (too full of stag parties)

Here are some I’d like to visit








Any favourite city breaks you’d recommend?


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Twitter @MidlifeSmarts



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  1. Kyle
    29 July 2017 / 11:35 am

    I’d recommend Rotterdam – not far and much better than Amsterdam. Also try Budapest, great place to visit and both meet your “criteria!” X

    • Jill
      29 July 2017 / 7:23 pm

      Not been to either Kyle. Now on added to the Bucket List!! x

  2. 29 July 2017 / 2:42 pm

    It is so easy to “feel” your enjoyment as we read your post and watch you follow your own advice for weekend traveling.

    I wish more people took a moment to realize just how much LIFE offers. All it takes is a little creative thinking and a good ATTITUDE!

    Great read! 🙂

    • Jill
      29 July 2017 / 7:22 pm

      Oh thanks for your kind comments. Much appreciated. How is the USA for a City Break ?

  3. 29 August 2017 / 5:00 pm

    Never mind the fridge magnets, I’m all about the Christmas tree ornaments on holidays. I’m the same when it comes to beach holidays – no chance. As much as I love sitting around with a book, I’d rather do it somewhere a little cooler, and spend my holiday time exploring somewhere new!

    Lis / last year’s girl x

    • Jill
      29 August 2017 / 6:14 pm

      Yes I last about 10 minutes on a beach! I’ll need to look out for Christmas tree ornaments – new one on me – makes a change from snow globes!! Jill x

  4. 8 October 2017 / 10:00 am

    So glad to see London there. I would absolutely love to visit Reykjavik. I’ve been obsessed with going there for years. I would recommend Oxford, Liverpool or York/Leeds for a weekend city break too. Oh and definitely Amsterdam, which I think someone else has recommended too.

    • Jill
      8 October 2017 / 10:06 am

      Hey Hayley – thanks for reading and commenting. Saw a great programme on Amsterdam (player Art Lovers’ Guide ) – put me in the mood to visit again .

  5. 8 October 2017 / 1:59 pm

    I am a huge fan of city breaks and I like to take one at least once a month. Currently UK destinations are winning but I’ve been having the time of my life and enjoyed discovering some stunning sights and places to eat. I hate beach holidays and can think of nothing worse that being sat on a beach or by a pool and doing nothing all day. I just love exploring new places and have plenty of adventures

    • Jill
      8 October 2017 / 2:24 pm

      Yes agree – there’s nothing more boring than sitting in the sun all day. I am thinking of visiting some tourist attractions in my home city – Glasgow. See it through tourist eyes (might even blog about it). Thanks for comments.

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