If you want ideas for a short haul city break, here are the top locations according to Tom Barber, co-founder of award-winning travel company Original Travel and Travel Editor of Esquire Magazine.
Everyone loves a city break, and if they don’t, well… they ought to, because what’s not to like about a short, sharp hit of culture,nightlife and gastronomic blowouts that – when done properly – can feel like a week away or more? The only downside would be a failure to look beyond the obvious. Don’t get me wrong, the Paris, Rome and New Yorks of this world are classic city breaks for a very, very good reason, but if you want to go a little under the radar, or like the thought of being the only person around the dining room table(OKA, naturally) to have been somewhere supercool, try these urban outliers on for size.
For so long second fiddle to the - admittedly gorgeous - capital, Stockholm, Gothenburg is enjoying a moment in the Scandinavian sun. Why? Because a city that was once most famous as an industrial centre and home of Volvo has found its mojo in a major way. Expect a high hipster quotient, achingly cool vintage stores, sensational seafood restaurants and bordellochic boutique hotels. Then practice that most civilised of Swedish pastimes – the fika – basically a café break to enjoy a gossip and strong coffee with accompanying small cakes. Repeat several times a day if required. When you want a break from this civilised civic life, head out of town to explore the beautiful granite islands of the neighbouring archipelago by kayak. It’s great exercise too because it’s a surprisingly tiring way to get around!
Whether you read Elena Ferrante’s epic Neapolitan Novels quartet or cheated with the new HBO/Sky TV series, you’ll know that Naples itself plays a starring role. It’s not an altogether flattering portrayal, but for a slice of genuine southern Italian life in all its searing, passionate reality, Naples is hard to beat. And on the subject of slices, you’ll eat never-better pizza, best sampled at Da Michele, and always, always, made using tomatoes grown on the slopes of nearby Mount Vesuvius. Then work off any excess eating by walking the trail to the volcano’s crater for exceptional views back over the city and sea beyond. Speaking of the sea - if you want a dose of luxury to top or tail the trip, the glorious and glamorous island of Capri is a short ferry away.
The foodie capital of France? Paris, sûrement? Mais non, mes braves, c’est Lyon (that’s quite enough Franglais, Tom.) Yes, it’s true. Most French people (sauf les Parisiens, naturellement)acknowledge that Lyon, the second city, has the finest food in France. In an increasingly vegan era the emphasis on meat dishes might be less of a draw than before, but the fabulously atmospheric bouchons (Lyonnais bistros) where France’s finest chefs create their degustation defining dishes are still wonderful places to while away a few hours, if only to enjoy the local Rhone and (criminally under-rated) Beaujolais wines. When you stagger out, we can point out a few traboules or secret doorways that lead to hidden passageways between the city’s blocks so you can get a glimpse behind the scenes.
“Marrakech? Oh, not like it was 20 years ago.” It’s an oft overheard phrase in travel circles, but if that puts you off visiting the default Moroccan city, then consider another of the country’s former capitals: Fez, a city that’s exactly like it was 20 years ago, and 800 years ago, for that matter. Fez is home to the largest intact medina (old town) in the world, and to get lost (a happy certainty) in the car-free alleyways here is to indulge in a spot of time travel, with sights, sounds and smells (thanks to the almost over-poweringly pongy tanneries) pretty much unchanged since medieval times. When you do find your way out, visit the oldest extant library and university in the world and then stay in a very comfortable riad hotel, complete with pool and tinkling fountains. This being Morocco, you’ll also get plenty of chances to put your haggling skills to the test in the city’s souqs.