Europe: it's always been a cheap destination for people who already live in Europe – yet last year it was only people who always filled their wallets with euros who could really afford to honeymoon in Paris or summer holiday in Rome. The very good news is that in 2010 there are some European destinations that even non euro holders can afford to visit – some destinations have lowered their prices to accommodate us, but some are up and comers you may not have considered visiting - yet. 2010 looks like it's going to be the year of the short hop to Europe then!
2010's Top European Destinations
For ages Sarajevo was that place in that U2 song: thought of as being scared by war – but what great European city hasn't bounced back from the point of destruction? And Sarajevo has done so with aplomb.
Its impressive architecture, crowned by spires, domes and minarets, and contributed to by the Ottoman Turks and Austro Hungarians is arranged within comfortable walking distance on the edge of the green Miljacka River valley; but the old trams will help you round Baščaršija: the old city, packed with coffee dens, bazaars and stores, artisans workshops, restaurants and bars. This area has long been the haunt of the poet, musician and authoring sets, so sitting in a cafe here is an entertainment in itself.
Sarajevo is quickly becoming popular as an inexpensive destination, but that niche will only last until the locals put the prices up.
France pouts its lips at anyone not using the euro and says “Merci, you will pay anyway”, but after some painful currency conversions in 2009 people are looking for destinations that are prepared to be a bit more flexible. In this the Languedoc might be able to do more than shrug – it's not the chicest part of France, but Nîmes, Carcassonne and Montpellier are all beautiful and atmospheric old towns, with neat little squares and terraces on which to take your cafe au lait, bits of old Roman architecture and you can stay close to the sea.
If Italy is a boot then Puglia is in the heel: a countryside less visited, yet one of olive groves, sea and sun, and excellent quality Italian food. It's just not as squeaky clean as Tuscany or Umbria, which is also why as a tourist destination it's quieter and cheaper. This coastline is at the junction of two seas, and it's been attacked and invaded from both sides, but these days there are far more invading Italians in the summer than any other nationality. The bits around Penisola Salentina are the whitest, but up near Promontorio del Gargano you're more likely to find limestone cliff faces and bright green seas.
Last year hundreds of gorgeous villas in some of the prettiest orange and sun drenched regions of Italy lay empty because no one could afford to pay the asking prices, especially once all the fluctuating values in currency had been taken into account. This year many owners will be more of the attitude that close enough is good enough, and they'd rather have their villas full than empty, so there will be opportunities for some negotiation as well as some competitive pricing.
Once you've European city breaked in Paris, Rome, London and Berlin you might start asking yourself which classic destination to do next. Here's a hint, in 2010, grand, imperial Vienna is supposed to be extra competitive, as well as benefiting from all the usual reasons to visit, one of them being the hardly rivalled classical music scene and another being that it's where The Third Man was filmed.
The Opera Ball is the main event but it's in February. After that there will be a great deal of celebrations around the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler's birth. If you're not a Mahler fan you'll not find yourself wanting as there's also Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, Brahms and Schönberg to accompany your visit.
If you get a Wien Kart (Vienna Card) – which costs less than €20 you'll get a discount off the entrance fee at more than 200 local attractions, plus money off guided tours, theatre tickets, restaurant bills and potentially even on your shopping. Of course you also get free transport – which is the original point of the card.
2010's Best European City Breaks
Ancient Istanbul has been the capital of three great empires, but Europe has finally 'recognised the skills' and in 2010 Istanbul is the European Capital of Culture. 2009 was a good year for travelling to Turkey, but it was the relative bargains along the Mediterranean coastline that got most of the attention, and this year Istanbul is on the map as a city break destination. And instead of the organised society of the Romans, the wealth of the Byzantines or the glory of the Ottomans, in 2010 Istanbul will be celebrating its more modern culture – with loads of urban events, art shows, performing arts programs and literary events – and that's before you consider all the treasures that this city has had on display for the last two thousand odd years...
You need a lot more than four days to 'do' any city properly, but this itinerary is a good place to start, for 'doing' Turkey's cultural highlights.
Copenhagen has been getting cooler for a few years now. First some cool people moved in – probably because they thought all the canals and beautiful, clean, cobbled squares made it a nice place to live - and then the locals realised they were pretty cool as well, which in turn made them happy – people like to be cool. And Copenhagen is supposed to be home to some of the happiest people in the world.
Before all the fuss was made over COP 15 they still had free bikes and extensive bike paths, some fairly brave new architecture and more restaurants and cafes than ever before.
As far as a city break goes it's got more than its fair share of castles, palaces and gardens. It's also very easy to get around and there's a lot of additional accommodation gone in for COP 15 that's now going empty.
Schadenfreude due to Iceland's collapse is starting to get a bit old, but it's easier to justify if you do your bit towards helping it get back on its collective feet by spending your travel funds with them. Reykjavík is as cool a city break destination as the name sounds: it's got colourful buildings, colourful people, very colourful night life and all the craziness that goes with living in a place that gets 22 hours of daylight in summer and 2 hours a day in winter.
The architecture is unique – the citizens may have a reputation for cynicism, but they're also artistic – the music scene demands international respect, the restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, galleries and museums are equal to those in many other city break destinations and from here you can venture out to see the Northern Lights – can't do that from Paris or Rome can you...
OK, so one of its most famous features is a stone that you're supposed to kiss for luck – but if that's all you can think about, and that it's the name of the bit that separated you from wine, then you're going to get a nice surprise out of visiting Ireland's second largest city in 2010. It was European Capital of Culture in 2005 and to celebrate that it got a whole load of galleries, museums, arts and theatre festivals, and of course the bars and shops that some people need to enjoy these more arty pursuits. And the food is supposed be really good. Don't tell Dublin.
The 'People's Republic of Cork' hasn't lost its rebellious air though – or its cosy pub culture with all that cracking live music.
Sofia is one of Europe's oldest cities, but you might not guess it from all the neoclassical Stalin era architecture obstructing your view of the tree lined boulevards on which stand the older and more graceful balconied buildings designed by Viennese and Russian architects in the 19th Century. It's also one of the least well known of the Eastern European cities that have become the up-and-comer city break destinations over the last decade so it's much cheaper, lots of visitors to Bulgaria skip it and head straight to the coast.
Sofia is a city you can walk around. It's one of the few cities where the old east meets west feeling lingers, and in 2010 the sense of opposing forces at play is augmented by new technologies fuelling the economy and ramping up the construction of the five star hotels and bars full of fashionably dressed people beside the museums, art galleries and theatres.
European Beach Breaks
Still in Bulgaria... Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast
Varna and Burgas and the smaller towns between them running along the Black Sea Coast are also thrifty destinations for 2010 – you could expect to pay between £300 and £400 a week for a villa with a pool right by a stretch of golden sandy beach. Burgas wins points for having an airport and a reputation for knowing how to have a good time once the evening comes around, but surrounding it are a string of much prettier and more peaceful resorts.
Varna has the Black Sea Riviera's other airport, and is also, unusually, both one of Bulgaria's prettiest and most modern cities – with all the charm renaissance and medieval buildings bring to a place, yet all the benefits of all mod cons and amenities. A string of beach resorts also run up and down the coast out of Varna: Elena, Albena and St. Konstantin are the names to look out for when you book.
Turkey was a big discount destination in 2009, lauded for having the sun and beaches but with better food, some culture thrown in and at half the price of the rest of the Med. And though some of its resorts have caught on and are charging more in 2010, some have added more rooms to meet demand so hopefully prices will still be friendly.
Dalaman as a destination saw the biggest increase in visitors in 2009, but the pretty harbour city of Bodrum was another popular spot. Antalya and Kusadasi are good if you're looking for a beach bumming kinda break, but Patara's 12 miles of beach is backed by a national park, and its sand dunes hide Lycian and Roman ruins.
For more inspiration on how to see Turkey in 2010 check out WR's Turkey Holiday Ideas.
The name doesn't do these isles many favours, but their location, off the very bottom of the UK, just off Lands End should – with better beaches and weather than the rest of the country you could easily come to the conclusion that you're not really in the UK any more. The shallow and un-frigid turquoise seas round the Isles of Scilly run up soft sand on five inhabited islands: Tresco, Bryher, St. Martin's, St. Agnes and St. Mary's, which is by far the largest, and around 145 uninhabited islands. It's not just the balmier weather that gets people coming back – the lifestyle is a bit on the balmy side as well: very laid back.
Before they really got into the tourism thing the islands made a lot of their money growing plants that didn't survive as well across the rest of the UK.
While for most of us the most inviting coastlines are those washed by warm waters and sprinkled with golden sands, for some people the ancient creaking stone and deep blue ice of the polar region are infinitely preferable. Svalbard is the most accessible part of the Arctic circle: a place of ice floe filled fjords, ancient glaciers and polar bears. At night you will often see amazing aurora displays, and a wondrous sky so clear that one regularly is able to see man-made satellites with the naked eye. Activities include snowmobiling, ice-caving and dog-sledding.
Its definitely not cheap, but well worth the experience. It is the world's most northerly destination for commercial aircraft, with flights available from Tromso and Oslo. But in 2010 the best way to visit is by boat. Independent travel will be more expensive.
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