Short city breaks for us in the UK are attractive for many reasons. They don’t use up many valuable holiday days, give you a glimpse into another city/culture, and most importantly give you that mini holiday feeling without putting too much strain on your bank balance.
But with this being said, they also have their disadvantages. They can involve rushing to the airport after work on Friday (after kicking yourself all day remembering something left at home) and having to meticulously plan in order to tick off everything you found to do on timeout.com. And that’s just the preparation! Once you’re there there is a whole plethora of other first world struggles. You have to wake up early to make proper use of the day, you get sore feet from all the walking, and my personal least favourite…being stuck with limited outfit choices due to packing light. All of this can make you come back tired and unprepared for the next week ahead, not feeling like you have had a ‘break’ at all…
With this in mind, when deciding to get out of London for a weekend my initial thoughts of visiting large cities such as Paris, Berlin and Rome didn’t seem appealing. The thought of walking around for hours, getting to know the transport systems and fitting in all the bars, shops and sights in two short days did not reassure me that my city break would indeed be break from the stresses of everyday life. Thus, the idea of going to a small tame city was born, and after my trip to the small Swiss town Basel, I have been enlightened. A city break does NOT have to be about cramming in the sights sounds and smells but rather CAN be a relaxing break! (crazy huh!)
Here is a list of 5 ways inspired by my trip which will enable you to make your next city break relaxing :
1 >> Pick a smaller city
This, for obvious reasons will eliminate the stresses that come with a big, popular city. The smaller the city the easier it is to tick off your to-do-list. You can find yourself with free hours in the day to wander around and explore hidden gems not found in the guide book. One of the best advantages of there not being too much to do is that you are able to find your favourite spots and return to them over the course of the weekend. Basel, being a small city enabled us to do just this. After the first day we had a real sense of familiarity with the centre of the city, could navigate around and easily revisit our favourite spots for snacks and drinks! Also, if you are like me, and visiting a city’s clubs and nightlife is something you find especially enjoyable, you can afford to have a lie-in one morning and not feel as if your inevitable hangover is making you miss out on too much.
2 >> Go in a small group
Going in a small group will make it so much easier to make decisions about how you spend your time whilst away. Different people prefer their trips to include different activities, some like the more cultural aspects, some the social. Also, trying to organise and please 5+ people who all have different food preferences can be a nightmare come dinner time. In order to avoid arguments about what you do I recommend a group of no more than 3. For city breaks I prefer to go as a duo as two days for two people’s opinions/ preferences seems to be the winning combination!
3>> Don’t buy the WiFi in public places
I could not recommend this one enough. When out and about don’t be tempted to buy roaming internet that many European cities offer. Make your phone, what I like to call ‘a dummy phone’ meaning you only use it for photos and those unlikely emergency calls. Opting not to buy the WiFi around a new city can make you feel nice and disconnected from the virtual world. No pesky notifications popping up and stealing your attention, no Instagram feeds to scroll though and definitely no painful group chats buzzing throughout the day. You’d be surprised how much time you actually spend on your phone just checking why it is vibrating, and how much time you gain from keeping it in ‘dummy mode’ when out and about.
4 >> Do some research and plan… but not too much
This one is a little bit of a paradox. You definitely have to plan a little bit in order to make the most of your time, but you don’t want to have lists and lists of things to cross off. If you familiarise yourself with the city or town a little bit before you go, you can chose just a few things which you definitely do not want to miss out on. Luckily for us, we had nothing but Swiss chocolate and a few cool bars on our list, something which was very easy to accomplish in two days. It means you can also wander around and find hidden gems like below!
5 >> Be on a budget
There is nothing worse than spending half your paycheck on one weekend in the month. Plan your spending, limit yourself and don’t be tempted to get out that contactless card when drinking. Coming home to regrets and having to eat super noodles until your next pay day is one way to make your weekend away far more stressful than it needed to be, even if this is in hindsight! We found Basel to be quite expensive (lets just blame Brexit like everything else..) so spent a lot of time opting to walk rather than getting transport and being selective on what museums and places we paid to enter. Being on a budget meant that we weren’t too frivolous and spent our money on what we actually wanted to (cough cough.. beers.)
If you keep these five things in mind when picking, planning and during your trip, you can expect to have a much more relaxing city break.
A city with a small population, a small centre and limited restaurants and bars may not sound like the ingredients for a fun time normally, and before my trip to Basel I would have probably grimaced at the thought. But sometimes a ‘break’ away from your normal life should really feel like an actual break, sometimes you need to chill out and relax in a new environment. It works.. try it!