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European city breaks you shouldn’t miss

[ 0 ] November 27, 2013 |

When I was young I was fascinated by Europe. Every page of my art history text book seemed to be filled with amazing buildings from Europe. My bookshelves were lined with souvenirs from my grandmothers many trips to the UK and Europe. It seemed completely preposterous, and a little magical, that you could drive through three countries in the same time that it took to cross a single state in Australia.

For those that live in or near Europe it’s easy to take short city breaks and long weekends in great holiday destinations on your doorstep. For those of us that live further away you’ll want to plan for longer than a weekend. But the beauty of Europe is in a short period of time you can explore a number of cultures and stunning landscapes.

I’ve been to Europe twice now, once with my husband and once as a family. The places that I have visited have lived up to every childhood dream. Well almost. Sadly I wasn’t transported through a portal to the middle ages when visiting Stonehenge. Nor did the Eiffel Tower light up with a pink love heart on Valentines Day as it does in the movies. But apart from that most places have lived up to those dreams.

So what have my favourite cities so far been? It’s almost impossible to narrow it down. There are four cities that stand out as the ones I’d be rushing back to visit: Barcelona, Athens, Belgrade and Paris. And here’s why:

Barcelona

Architecture, music, food, history and atmosphere!  Barcelona should be on everyone’s must-see list.

Barcelona, Gaudi, Casa Batlló

Walking around the streets of Barcelona I felt like there was a new discovery awaiting me at every turn. A hidden piazza filled with restaurants and hole-in-the-wall trendy cafes, a spectacular building designed by Gaudi, interesting galleries, an ancient church or a funky shopping area. Gaudi’s famous works are a must-see, but equally captivating are the beaches, city parks and nearby mountains.

streetlife

If you are looking for a city break that will leave you feeling re-energised, Barcelona is the place to go. There’s something about this unique city that energises and inspires you.

Belgrade

Walking through downtown Belgrade at night you could be forgiven for thinking you are in a trendy area of London or Paris. Cafes selling hot chocolates so thick you need a spoon, hip-art galleries and trendy shops. Leading up to Christmas it’s particularly vibrant. The outdoor cafes are still there, even on a cold night. They just have heaters and blankets to go with your hot chocolate and fruit fondues.

fondue in Belgrade

By day, inner Belgrade is filled with character. Beautiful old buildings, some in better repair than others, line the streets and make their way down the hill to the Danube River. On a clifftop where the Danube meets the Sava river is Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegedan Park. Layer upon layer of fortifications have been built on this site since the first records of human habitation here in the 3rd Century. It’s a fascinating place to wander, to glimpse the different layers of the castle and look out over the meeting point of the rivers where it’s rumoured that Attila the Hun lies buried.

Belgrade Fortress

What makes exploring Belgrade Fortress truly memorable though is how much the fortress is still a part of the city. On the days we visited the parkland’s surrounding the castle were filled with joggers and parents picnicking with their children. There are cafes, playgrounds, military museums and even tennis courts. Around the walls you’ll find a collection of almost every weapon that’s been thrown against the city in the last hundred years. Tanks, heavy artillery guns, armoured cars. All sitting under trees against the castle walls.

Inside the outer walls

Paris

This iconic city is enchanting, no matter the time of year. Paris has a fantastic metro system that will take you to within a few blocks of every place you’ll want to visit. Although make sure you devote at least one day to just wandering. You’ll  uncover fine food and antique markets, historical baroque buildings and galleries, exclusive shopping and flower filled parks. Paris is very family friendly, with a huge range of parks and museums to keep everyone entertains. And of course there’s DisneyLand Paris!

Notre Dame Cathedral

Athens

This awe-inspiring city is also surprisingly kid friendly. Convincing the kids to walk around the streets of Athens is made easy thanks to the vendors selling bakery treats, fresh fruit, dried fruits and nuts.

Athens mobile bakeries

Clambering around near the ruins of the Acropolis will keep them happy for hours and thanks to the children’s pack provided at the Acropolis Museum, visiting this amazing museum is fun for the whole family.

Come find us

Don’t miss the Hellanic Children’s museum. The facilities aren’t flash but the activities on offer are fabulous and the staff are wonderful. You’ll have to drag your kids away from here! The museum is better if you have 4 or more children as they offer additional activities for groups.

Hellenic Childrens museum

If the weather is nice you might want to head to Flisvos Marina and Resteion swimming pool and park . At the marina you can explore the Battleship Averof and learn a little about Greek naval history in the on-board museum. A short walk to the south, the Alimos seaside resort boasts a large playground area. It’s well worth the trip to Parnitha National Park where you’ll find stunning scenery and hikes to caves and streams. For those with younger kids, the National Gardens is a good sunny day alternative. The park has a playground, duck pond and even a small zoo.

Have you visited Europe? What are your favourite cities? If you consider yourself quite knowledgeable about European cities, take this quiz next time you are sitting on the train or bus on your way to work. It’s quite tricky so see how many you can get without googling for the answers!

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About onurwaytravel: Colin has been travelling the world with his young family for the past 2 and half years. He runs a couple of websites all revolve around travel, family travel and digital nomadism. His websites include http://ourtravellifestyle.com, http://vagabondfamily.org, http://nunomad.com and now http://on-our-way-travel.com. View author profile.

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