UK Travellers Prefer City Breaks

Tourists from the UK are favouring city holidays more than ever, according to an online independent travel agency, sunshine.co.uk.

The company claims that British travellers are opting for holidays in city destinations, such as Rome, Venice, Dubrovnik, Prague and New York, in preference to taking breaks in beach or adventure destinations. Britons have booked around 37 percent more city breaks on the company’s website in 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, suggesting a change in their travel trends.

Based on the website statistics, the top 10 destinations for 2012 are the following:

1. Rome (Italy)

2. Venice (Italy)

3. Dubrovnik (Croatia)

4. Prague (Czech Republic)

5. New York (US)

6. Lisbon (Portugal)

7. Barcelona (Spain)

8. Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

9. Dubai (UAE)

10. Hong Kong (China)

The company has also conducted a flash poll of 986 UK adults, and reported that 53 percent of them prefer a city break to a beach break.

Chris Clarkson, the co-founder of sunshine.co.uk, said, ‘Beach breaks are certainly the more relaxing option, as city breaks can often involve a lot of walking and sightseeing which can be incredibly tiring. Often, returning home from a city break holiday makes you feel in need of another short break to recuperate!

Often, if you think a beach break might be too quiet for you and you want something a bit more action-packed, go for the best of both worlds. Cities like Dubrovnik are also on the coast, so you can combine the relaxing nature of a beach break with the culture and history a city has to offer.’

 

The Top Five Short Breaks from London

Cox & Kings, a UK-based travel company, has listed top five European cities for short breaks from London.

Berlin, Germany

Since the World Wars, the city of Berlin has played an important role in shaping the history of Europe. The present city is a lively tourists hotspot, offering various attractions including the tree-lined boulevard of Unter den Linden, the century-old, Hackescher Markt station, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag parliament building.

A four-night stay in Berlin costs around £625 per person.

St Petersburg, Russia

St Petersburg city is replete with buildings that reflect Neoclassical and Baroque architecture, interwoven with numerous waterways. It offers many visitor attractions including one of the world’s largest museums, the State Hermitage museum, which hosts a large collection of oriental, Russian and western European art.

A three-night stay in St Petersburg costs around £455 per person.

Istanbul, Turkey

The Turkish city of Istanbul is said to offer a blend of Asian and European charm. Tourist attractions include the Blue Mosque, the Ottoman sultans’ Topkapi Palace, and the former Orthodox basilica, Hagia Sophia. Turkish baths or Hamams are also a popular spa experience.

A three-night stay in Istanbul costs around £455 per person.

Venice, Italy

Venice is the city of palazzos, piazzas, courtyards and marbled churches, which throughout history have drawn tourists from far and wide. An experience that is not to be missed is a cruise on a gondolier along the city’s many canals.

A four-night stay in Venice costs around £345 per person.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest offers travellers cafes, restaurants, boutiques and spas. Places to see include the Buda Castle quarter, a UNESCO world heritage site that is around 700 years old, Andrassy Avenue, one of the city’s boulevards, and the Central Market Hall.

A three-night stay in Budapest costs around £345 per person.

Leicester: Things to do in the East Midlands city

The East Midlands is a crowded place, as far as it goes; you’ll find plenty of towns and cities vying for your attention when you’re making a shortlist of places to go in the area.

While Derby, Nottingham, Northampton, Lincoln and Boston may all seem like perfect places to go for one or more reasons, you’ll find plenty of fun to have in Leicester. As a great city to work into an itinerary of a tour of the area, there are plenty of options to take further coach holidays from Leicester and make your break that extra bit special.

Leicester is the largest city in the East Midlands and the tenth largest city in the UK. What’s more, it hosts one of the most culturally diverse populations in the UK, reflecting highly on its cuisine, nightlife and sights to see.

It firmly established itself in the 1950s and 1960s as a major centre for manufacturing, bringing people from all over the world to work for organisations in nearby towns and cities including Siemens, Rolls-Royce and Caterpillar. Leicestershire and surrounding counties also act as a major base for automotives – Triumph, Toyota, Cosworth and a whole host of F1 teams have residence near to the city.

As a result, Leicester has always been moving with the times, reflecting its consistent wealth and diversity in great places to visit. The city centre alone provides a perfect place to eat, drink and shop, for one. Subject to a £19 regeneration project in the last few years, its new layout has garnered countless awards for its success.

It all centres around the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower, an incredibly ornate landmark that acts as the most popular meeting point for families, friends and even strangers in the city. From here, streets snake out to all manner of other places to explore.

Just south of it is the famous Leicester Market. Open Monday to Saturday, this incredible canopy-based creation is the biggest outdoor covered market in all of Europe. Leicester Corn Exchange sits in the centre of the market and now serves as the home to bars and restaurants, though with excellent deals and a rich history in this area, you’ll be forgiven for overlooking them.

Probably the most famous nationally-important visitor’s destination in Leicester is the National Space Museum, which is just by the River Soar next to the A6. This unmissable tall structure devotes itself to astronomy and space science and opened in 2001, incorporating studies from the University of Leicester as well as the biggest mind in the industry.

Perfect for all the family, the institution also runs as an educational charity to teach children the ways of space. A restaurant is also located between two ballistic missiles: Blue Streak (UK) and Thor (US).

All manner of other historical delights can be found elsewhere in the city. You can see the War Memorial in Victoria Park, designed by London Cenotaph creator Edwin Lutyens. The small but perfectly-formed Leicester Cathedral is also a stand-out feature of the city, while the Grade I-listed Guildhall demonstrates one of the best examples of timber-framed architecture in the world; it’s also believed both Oliver Cromwell and William Shakespeare visited on several occasions. The Jewry Wall and nearby ruins also show Roman architecture in the area.

Whatever your reason for visiting, one thing’s for sure: you won’t regret a visit to Leicester!

 

Image courtesy of Colin Smith and resused under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence.

Spotlight on chic Parisian hotels

The French capital has always been a fashionable destination. While some world cities fall in and out of favor, Paris’s blend of history, art, architecture, and bohemian culture keeps it eternally in style.Accommodation in Paris reflects centuries of changing trends. Beyond the old-fashioned opulence of the Ritz and the George V, there’s a new generation of hotels bringing fun and modernity to a Parisian trip. Historic Haussmann-era buildings sport designer refits complete with high-tech gadgets and sleek new furnishings, at a fraction the price of their elite counterparts.

In time for Paris Fashion Week 2011, agoda.com rounds up the chicest urban hotels in Paris.

Seven
This boutique four-star hotel in the fifth arrondissement has standard guest rooms in three bold styles, plus seven individually-styled suites. Neon lighting, transparent showers, and Swarovski crystals are some of the more subtle design points, with levitating beds, suspended tubs, and a bathroom chessboard covering the more whimsical end of the design spectrum. From US$457 per night.

Pershing Hall
A block from the Champs-Élysées is the four-star Pershing Hall. Though guest rooms are muted in design, an illuminated atrium brings color and drama to the dining patio. A vertical garden creates a “living wall” that changes hue throughout the day, creating an ambient space for the restaurant and a favorite night spot for locals. From US$622 per night.

Le Secret de Paris
Convenient to the Saint Lazare station, this 29-room four-star hotel offers six different themes. These include “Eiffel,” which features wall murals depicting the view from the Eiffel Tower, and “Atelier d’Artiste,” which emulates living in an artist’s Parisian loft. Mod-cons include free Internet, flatscreen TV, music system, multi-function shower, and boutique toiletries. From US$469 per night.

Le Vignon
Smart white rooms with pretty country accents feature in this four-star property next to the Church of Madeleine in central Paris. Modernized loft rooms, bespoke art, and plush beds make this a comfortable and stylish stay with excellent access to Paris’s main sights. From US$315 per night.

Hotel Élysées Mermoz
A short stroll from the Arc de Triomphe, this newly-renovated four-star boutique features contemporary classic design in warm tones. Juliette balconies give guests quaint Parisian street views, while flatscreen TVs, iPod docks, light-blocking curtains, and L’Occitane bath products ensure all modern requirements are met. From US$343 per night.

Hotel Cambon
Next to the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre Museum, this four-star property has one of the best positions in Paris for sightseeing. Paintings, vases, rich fabrics, and trompe l’oeil murals create whimsical living spaces, with some guest rooms featuring private terraces and French windows. From US$290 per night.Best Western Opera Diamond Hotel
Close to Saint Lazare railway terminal, this is stylish monochrome property diverges from the conventional Best Western design. With only 30 rooms, guests can enjoy a boutique experience plus a long list of in-room conveniences like iPod docks, Nespresso machines, and WiFi. Guests can retreat to an immaculate French garden in the courtyard. From US$251 per night.

Pavillon Nation
This modern three-star hotel in the 11th arrondissement features sleek contemporary décor and full meeting facilities. Close to the metro, it’s one of the few budget-friendly chic hotels in Paris, offering fully renovated rooms, free WiFi, and cable channels. From US$149 per night.

Ares Eiffel
Versace tile and Bang&Olufsen sound systems feature in this elegant four-star boutique close to the Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower. Baroque fabrics and rich textures create luxurious living spaces, complemented by free WiFi and flatscreen TVs with movies on demand. From US$256 per night.

Le Bellechasse
With every square inch designed by Christian Lacroix, this four-star boutique is a super stylish retreat – just a block from the Seine River and a few steps from Orsay Museum. There are three categories of room – “Discovery,” “Original,” and “Privilege” – each with a range of color and design themes. From US$273 per night.

 www.agoda.com

Rome on a Budget: Looking Beyond the City’s Most Well-Known Cultural Attractions

Occupancy rates are up, a ‘hotel tax’ is looming on the horizon, and room prices are scheduled to increase once again. It’s a typical scene in Rome, and it’s one that’s becoming a frustrating reality for the thousands of tourists that arrive in the Italian capital daily. Rome is big, beautiful, and all priced outside the reach of many British travellers, particularly those searching for a budget tour.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Tourists to Rome have typically spent their daytime hours soaking in the same tired attractions – viewing the Colosseum, walking the city’s cathedrals, and moving from one aggressively priced restaurant to another. With the pesky budget out of the way, Rome isn’t the terrifying travel destination one might expect – it’s actually rather fun.

At least, that’s what community travel website WikiTravel suggests. The website suggests for budget travellers to move from one Monte Verde Vecchio bakery to another, enjoying the city’s cheap meals and student favourites. It also suggests cutting your hotel budget in half and opting for a small local hotel, ignoring the large facade of the looming international chains.

The suggestions, while slightly unappealing for older travellers, are a good idea. Europe’s cities are best explored with a light wallet and an appetite for adventure. Ignore the downtown hotels in place of a room in San Lorenzo – the extra walk to major attractions offers an opportunity to get entirely lose – one of the city’s greatest tourist experiences.

When spending becomes difficult, a change of strategy can eliminate problems. WikiTravel’s tactics certainly don’t make Rome worse, they merely change the side of Rome that visitors may see while on holiday. Given the city’s immense modern culture, that’s certainly not an unwelcome change.

Hong Kong Claims the World’s Greatest Skyline

Beating out competition throughout North America and Asia, Hong Kong has claimed the title of the ‘world’s best skyline’. The large city and global financial centre is renowned as a photographer’s dream city, housing numerous buildings of over four-hundred metres and one of the world’s most well-known and recognizable harbours.

Competitors included New York City, Chicago, and Seoul – all major population centres boasting over eight million residents. With a population of eight million, Hong Kong is considered a ‘small’ city when compared to its competitors. Other inclusions in Emporis’s countdown included Tokyo, which boasts a population of almost thirty million and a larger area than other entrants.

Hong Kong’s waterfront district has long made it an international travel centre. Due to its shape and geographic nature, the small region has little usable land facing away from the ocean. With building space limited and a constantly expanding population, the city has built upwards, leaving few areas within Hong Kong Island without tall buildings or landmark construction.

In fact, Hong Kong leads the world when it comes to residential height. The majority of the region’s residents live above the fourteenth floor – an unusual statistic in most cities. Thanks to the distinctly vertical nature of Hong Kong’s housing arrangements, the cost of hotels and apartments within the city is one of the highest in the world, despite the city’s reputation for inexpensive shopping.

For urban photographers and videographers, the city’s title is certainly a major attraction. The recent Batman film – The Dark Knight – brought even more attention to the city’s skyline, causing tourists and city residents to seek out filming locations throughout the Central and Admiralty districts. From its impressive skyline to its distinct cultural flavour, Hong Kong is a city built for urban artists.

Exploring Tokyo — The World’s Biggest City — on a Backpacker Budget

There’s no city quite like Tokyo. The Japanese capital is both the biggest city in the world and one of its most culturally interesting, combining three-hundred-year-old temples and skyscrapers, rich cultural gems with cutting-edge technology. When it comes to experiencing high-tech Asia, there’s truly no real alternative to a quick trip through Japan’s mega-metropolis.

But Tokyo has a semi-deserved reputation for expense, particularly for travellers. Ranked as one of the world’s most expensive cities for expatriates, the megacity is often thought of as a destination for those with Herculean budgets. We don’t think so – with the right spending strategy and a bit of calculated frugality, the Japanese capital can be a good budget travel destination.

Where to start? Pick a hotel that’s outside of the city centre. Tokyo has the world’s most effective public transport system and it’s pointless to ignore it by booking into a central hotel. Provided your room is within walking distance of a train station, it’s no less convenient than one in Shibuya or the Shinjuku business district.

Don’t eat out, eat up. Tokyo’s ground floor restaurants tend to be overpriced and disappointing, with basic plates of ramen attracting five-star prices. Find better prices and better quality by walking up a floor or two. Third and fourth-floor restaurants in Tokyo tend to be less expensive, more friendly, and less crowded, giving you a better travel experience and better food.

Finally, learn basic Japanese. Tokyo is expensive and impersonal at first, but with a basic collection of Japanese phrases on your side it quickly becomes a manageable city. Arm yourself with a concise phrasebook and take note of some simple Japanese sentences, particularly ones related to housing or eateries. Japanese people love to help you out, provided you’re willing to put in some effort first.