Ask CBT: a cheap 5-day city break in Europe

A few days ago, a good friend of mine got in touch asking for some advice about an upcoming city break she was planning. Being a research junkie, I was more than happy to help, but thought this would also be the perfect chance to resurrect my short-lived feature: Ask CBT.

I am therefore answering through the medium of blogging. (Interpretive dance just isn’t my thing.)

Dear CBT, that fool I call a sister and I are planning a mini holiday!

All we know is we have 5 days off at the same time and we want a cheap, easy city break somewhere in Europe. We want some culture/pretty buildings, decent food and lots of good drinking establishments.

Any ideas?

Obstacles

The request seems simple enough, but there were two main problems I faced:

Having known both sisters (for the sake of clarity, let’s call them Sensible Sister and Silly Sister) for quite some years, I know they are both keen travellers, meaning a lot of my first ideas were off the table: Sensible Sister had an extended stay in Istanbul fairly recently, while Silly Sister has already been to Rome, Berlin, Prague and Vienna to name a few.

Secondly, five days is quite a long time to spend in one city. Sensible Sister added that neither were keen on a really hot destination – meaning that spending a day on the beach wasn’t on the cards.

Nevertheless, I used my best sources and came up with the following three options:

West Ireland

Galway city
Galway city

Specifically, Galway and Sligo – two cities I would love to visit. Having been researching Ireland a lot for work recently, it was the first place I thought of and easily fulfils the criteria: Galway has lots of Irish heritage, while Sligo has small-town Irish charm – and both have plenty of great drinking establishments.

Because neither city is huge, I would maybe suggest three days in Galway followed by two in Sligo – possibly with a visit to the beautiful Aran Islands.

Ryanair fly to Knock Airport (roughly equal distance between the two cities) from Luton and Stansted (for Sensible Sister) and East Midlands (for Silly Sister), among others.

Tallinn, Estonia

View of St. Olaf's Church
View of St. Olaf’s Church

Tallinn is a beautiful city, but as one of Europe’s smallest capital cities, it’s perhaps a bit of a surprise to include it here. However, I think it has real appeal: a medieval city centre with good pubs and restaurants and good value, too.

Day trip options are also good: the pretty city of Tartu, the beach at Pärnu or the island of Saaremaa are all close by. You could always try a three day/two day split with Riga, Latvia.

easyJet fly to Tallinn from Gatwick, while Ryanair fly from Stansted and Manchester, among others.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest
Budapest

My final choice would be Budapest. By far the biggest city on this list, there’s little that Budapest doesn’t offer: amazing architecture, a fascinating history and a diverse bar scene.

Budapest is very high on my to-do list for a number of reasons, including the Szobor monument park, the historic baths and the city’s many ruin bars. In case you want to escape the city, there’s always Lake Balaton or the fortress at Visegrad to explore.

Many budget airlines serve Budapest from the UK, including Jet2 (East Midlands), easyJet (Gatwick, Luton), Ryanair (Manchester, Stansted) and WizzAir (Luton).

Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive – there were other cities I considered but didn’t include in my final three (such as Krakow and Gdansk), so I’m interested to see where the sisters end up.

Fingers crossed Silly Sister remembers her passport this time!

Where would you recommend?
Comment below!

0 thoughts on “Ask CBT: a cheap 5-day city break in Europe

  1. Great choices, particularly Tallinn. I would also add Helsinki to the list. Quite a surprising city and one you could spend five days in.

  2. Good choices (I’m hoping to get a Tallinn trip in next year) – I seem to have got a second (unpaid!) job as a travel planner too, do love the research bit, even if I don’t get to go on the end result trip myself!

    1. Same here – but I have to admit I love planning – a lot of the time, I can pull together parts of previous plans that never worked out, haha. Tallinn is a lovely city, think you’d really like it.

  3. I like the sound of west Ireland – they could also pop to Derry on the bus for a daytrip.

    Another to consider is Bratislava – dirt cheap and lively, and maybe add a night or two in nearby Vienna in for an extra culture-fix.

    1. Great ideas. I didn’t think of Bratislava actually. I was going to mention Vienna, but I know one of the sisters has already been. Still, a nice two-city combo for the future…?

  4. Budapest is an excellent idea! I would have also said Gdansk, lately I’m more and more drawn to the idea of a trip there. I love researching for trips too, wish more people would ask me for advice, my friends seem rather annoyed when I tell them about yet another trip we can go to….

    1. Once you advise on one trip, they will all come knocking. Gdansk is a great little city, but not enough for 5 days – you’ll love it when you finally get there :)

  5. I was actually going to recommend a Riga-Tallinn split and then turns out you have it :) I might be doing it myself this august/september for a long weekend

  6. Liverpool to Knock Ireland West (cheap), hire car in Knock (v cheap usually) – Sligo, day 1 Town, Museum, Cathedral, Drink, Food, day 2 Full Irish BFast, Beach, Surfing, Golf, Drink Food, day 3 Full Irish BFast, Yeats, Lissadell House, Mullaghmore, Drink, Food, day 4 Full Irish BFast, Carrick on Shannon, Leitrim’s Lakes, Drink, Food, day 5 Full Irish BFast, Enniscrone, Airport – Home….Result = Happiness

      1. Better produce plus maybe a white pudding or a piece of Boxty (like an oat pancake) plus proper Soda Bread with marmalade for afters.

  7. Or alternatively look for cruise offers and wake up every day in a different City? An underestimated mode of tourism by the young but excellent value for money..see Iglu, Travel Zoo, Cruise Critic, Planet Cruise, lots of offers.

    1. I think the main problem with cruises and young people is the expense and the lack of self-determination. The idea does not appeal to me at all, I must say.

      1. I feel a whole guest blog coming on. I’ve got Vancouver – Vancouver via Alaska for $449 for 7 days. Great value, lots of offers out there at the minute.

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