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.

Tourist tax begins in Venice

Venice has become even more expensive for tourists, when last week the ‘tourist tax’ came in to force.

When plans emerged from the Venetian authorities last year about the plans to charge tourists a fee for overnight stays, they were met with critisism.

Tourists wanting a relaxing weekend break will now have to pay as much as €5 per person.

The fee is determined by hotel star-ratings, with a couple staying in a 3-star hotel paying an extra €6 on top of the bill.

Luxury travellers staying at one of the city’s gilded five-star options – such as the celebrated Hotel Cipriani – will have to pay the full €5 each.

Defending the ‘tourist tax’ Venice has suggested it is a cultural donation rather than a government levy interested in squeezing a little more from its tourist economy that sees 60,000 people visit every day.

Imposed to protect the city, the imposta di soggiorno, is said to be needed to protect the heritage of Venice which was once at the centre of the European empire.

‘This tax is a new and important opportunity for the city,’ Venice’s deputy mayor Sandro Simionato recently said. ‘The fundamental objective, which will also involve tourists who visit and love Venice, is to save this unique city, which is precious and fragile.’

A brochure outlines the reasons behind the new tax.

‘You will become one of the city’s sponsors, contributing to safeguarding it,’ the brochure explains.

It is illustrate with a sticker that states: ‘Thank you for being a sponsor of the splendour of Venice.’

Mr Simionato’s also stated:

‘The tax will help finance tourism, maintenance of cultural heritage sites, the environment, as well as public services’.

This may not please the tourists that will now be sponsoring domestic funding for the city.

Local authorities will be allowed, through government rules, the spend revenue on public services – tourists could end up paying for matters that should be covered by Italian tax euros.

Venice accommodation tax delayed

Following scenes of protest, walkouts by certain councillors, and ultimately a lack of quorum, the debate and vote on Venice’s proposed accommodation tax was delayed on Monday evening (June 20). Outside the chambers, people held up banners decrying money being wasted and suggested that not just tourists but also locals will feel more tax burden under the various proposals on the table.
The fallout from these events is that the council reconvened on Thursday, June 23 and that any resolution would mean that an accommodation tax is unlikely to come into force before August 23.

Prior to the council meeting, Mayor Orsoni held conciliatory meetings with the local hotel association, which has expressed its opposition and made clear that it sees managing tourism in the city as a very delicate balancing act. While the proposed tariff system is very similar to Florence’s (one euro, per star, per person, per night), there remains some uncertainty about whether Mestre and minor islands would be charged a lower rate.

“This is an interesting development, even surprising, given that initially this vote was seen as a formality,” said Nick Greenfield, Head of Tour Operator Relations at ETOA, “ETOA has spoken in the past about the need to consult with the travel industry and also to work to a realistic and sensible timetable that respects business cycles. Rome and Florence have caused a lot of bad will by introducing these taxes in a very haphazard, last-minute way. Perhaps, belatedly, Venice will now recognise the need for dialogue and clarity.

“Venice is a unique city, a very popular destination, and tourism is crucial to its economy. The city faces some challenges in terms of infrastructure; the very nature of the place means that it feels pressures that other cities do not. The way to move forward is to involve our industry at every stage to ensure that the future of the city’s most important sector is in safe hands.”