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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

TRAVEL // MY TOP CITIES FOR LONG WEEKENDS AWAY

Some of us haven't yet had a holiday this year, which means the idea of a long weekend/mini break somewhere is ever so tempting this winter. I've never been a massive fan of sun or clubbing holidays and enjoy the idea of going on an adventure or visiting somewhere where I can really soak up the culture, which is probably why a city break always sounds so appealing to me. Even in the middle of winter with cold weather I think these type of mini weekends away can be really fun. And if you're really not planning to go for a full week, even a short Thursday-Monday break can be really cheap whilst still giving you enough time to get a perfect taster of a city.

Luckily it's not too late to arrange something with your girlfriends, family or other half for towards the end of this year. But the tough part is deciding where to go! Here are some places I think are definitely worthy of a little visit this autumn/winter.

AMSTERDAM
We're actually hoping to go to Amsterdam towards the end of next month and, despite what people say, I think there's a lot more to this scenic city then just drugs and sex! Amsterdam is actually really cultural and filled to the brim with museums (Anne Frank House, Van Gough Museum & Museum Van Loon are just a few) and it also has a lot to offer in terms of art galleries too. The city is super stunning with many canals, which are perfect to ride alongside on a long bike ride, and tons of open air green spaces, that some of which host free music concerts in the evenings. I'd suggest slumming it in a cheap hostel when in Amsterdam to really get a feel of the place when saving money.

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A beautiful view of Bruges from a boat tour
BRUGES
Bruges is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited and with being such a short journey away with the Eurostar, it's no doubt a place I'll definitely return to. In terms of culture, other then it's museums and galleries, the place itself doesn't have much to offer, but if you go close to Christmas then you really won't care. The stunning city is transformed into a total winter wonderland come Christmas with Christmas markets, a huge ice skating rink and even horse drawn carriage rides. The decorations are out of this world and Bruges is also great just for sight seeing. When my mum, my sister visited last Christmas we spent long walks along the canals and would definitely recommend a boat tour along them, to see an alternative view of this Belgium wonderland. We stayed in a town house kind of hotel which was right by the center and was really cheap too.

YORK
York is a little closer to home and is one of those places that will make you feel like you've traveled back in time. For lack of a better explanation, it's all very oldy worldy with lots of narrow cobbled streets and hidden gems like beautiful boutiques and an actual open-all-year-round Christmas shop. York has a rich history and you'll find yourself spoilt for choice here. There's the gorgeous York Minister, the York Castle Museum (you'll need a whole day to look around this!), the York Dungeons, and my personal favourite, Haunted - which is a genuine haunted house over 700 years old. There's also lots of outdoor stuff too such as a walk along the walls or a creepy ghost walk. If you're going to visit here then the best place to stay would be in a cosy and local B&B which are super cheap and always hosted by lovely people.

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A hidden gem found when exploring York
If you're looking to go all out, then somewhere like Paris or New York is your answer. Paris is beautiful whatever the weather but being so popular it isn't that cheap! The Gothic Quarter is particularly ideal for wandering around and the Catacombs and Monmatre should also be visited too. I've never been to New York but I really don't think there's much I can recommend because the top attractions are pretty straight forward! I will say that I'm absolutely itching to spend a Friday night watching some obscure band in a typical American dive bar though...

However, if your budget can't quite stretch to cover a weekend away in somewhere like Paris or New York then hopefully Amsterdam, York or Bruges will be on your 'must visit' list this winter! If you could go anywhere on a city break this Christmas, where would it be?! Let me know!

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