It’s official; this is your year for exploring the unique, the unexpected and the utterly brilliant. We know the start of the year can be a downer what with no holidays yet on the horizon, but didn’t you know this is the perfect time to explore the hidden gems not so far from home?
Here at www.CRUISE.co.uk, we just can’t resist a travel-related resolution and don’t we all deserve a good holiday in the new year? The winter months don’t need to be daunting ever again with these city breaks that we call budget-friendly, adventurous and damn right essential! The chilly seasons just got great again…
The City of Surprises
Welcome to Spain’s third largest city and the place that has never been afraid to be innovative. Did you know that Valencia diverted its flood-prone river to the outskirts of the town and converted the former riverbed into a green ribbon of park winding through the city? Witness this and don’t forget to find the futuristic and contemporary buildings that will grace the backdrop of your tourist photos with ease and beauty.
Head for the cathedral if you fancy a stroll around the historic Carmen neighbourhood, or if you want to get yourself educated you can take a look around the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. Oh and don’t miss the Oceanografic aquarium, you’d only be a fool to miss these gems!
Visit Valencia now to make the most of the decade of urban development that has resulted in the most spectacular architecture in Spain. If you fancy some fireworks, then head over in March to be a part of the Las Fallas festival.
The city will shake with firework displays and parades as papier-mache figures of celebrities and politicians are paraded through the streets (beware: your favourite celebrities’ adaptations may then be ceremoniously burnt to the hilarity of the Valencian crowd!)
Let Valencia surprise you this month…
Pop to Porto
The Famed River Cruise Stop-off
Portugal’s second biggest city has been described as the perfect weekend playground and you’ll find this justified in the easygoing, laidback aura that surrounds you. Porto sits on the banks of the Douro river and you’re free to relax in the many pubs, clubs and bars alongside the famous knowledge that the locals are as friendly and welcoming as you’d wish them to be!
Head straight for the nicest beach in the city, Matosinhos beach, for those dreamy long walks along the promenade with views to the side of the buildings, trees and streets that make up the local lifestyle. Surfer lovers will be happy to know that the empty surf beaches only lie a few minutes away from the city centre if you want to get away from the tourist madness..
You can seek out the life and soul of Porto on her hilly streets where you’ll find hipster bars, smoky cafes, portions of tasty local food perfectly affordable for frequent travellers!
There’s so much more to this destination than just your average bars and beaches; in Porto you’ll find the Casa da Musica concert hall and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art.
This Portugese city is best known for its river, the Douro, so don’t miss the chance to do this famous river cruise. Step off the ship to discover the area’s maze of steep and narrow cobbled streets that are home to the beautiful plazas, churches and houses with colourfully tiled facades! Explore the unexpected…
Ogle at Oslo
(Literally) Climb On Top Of The Skyline
Norway’s capital is something of an undiscovered gem, if you didn’t already know. You can expect Oslo to be fringed by forests, ringed by hills and surrounded by lakes. If you’re a nature lover aswell as a city break fanatic, this is the one for you.
Immerse yourself in the city’s surrounding countryside and parks that hand you the perfect opportunity to hike, cycle, ski and go boating. Who doesn’t love a holiday that combines your desire to relax along with your urge to explore…
This Norwegian city doesn’t lack in culture though with its world-class art museums and increasingly impressive architectural landscape. And calling all young, inspired architects…Oslo has even been named the best place for young architects to find work! This city’s skyline practically climbs before your eyes and gives us an exciting insight into the future of Norway’s next architectural gems…
In Norway, climbing mountains feels like the most natural thing to do, so what’s to say this shouldn’t apply to buildings too? Where nature is free for everyone to walk around and explore at their own leisure, some buildings were designed to be an extension to this idea: one of these is the Oslo Opera House!
The ‘Please don’t touch’ rule does not apply, but instead walking on the roof is the norm, and no-one wants to look out of place now, do they? Make the most of this and step above a myriad of public rooms and halls and a vibrant workplace of more than 600 opera and ballet professionals!
The marble covered roof will unveil to you surprisingly different angles of the city and the Opera House even hosts an array of outdoor plays and concerts, so choose when you visit Oslo carefully!
Wander Over to Wroclaw
The Venice of Poland
Well, this one’s a mouthful (and it’s actually pronounced ‘vrots-waff’) so once you’ve got your head around that, you’ll discover Poland’s fourth largest city is a photographer’s dream. Its unique architectural and cultural make up is best found in the old market square and it comes topped off with a medieval background…one for the history fans. Capture the moment in one of the largest squares of its kind in Europe!
It’s the central hub of the Old Town and named ‘The Meeting Place’ by Wroclawians and foreigners who gather here to shop, dine, do business or wish away their time in these pretty Gothic surroundings. The grand houses that line the streets have been constructed and reconstructed with each passing century so now represent every style from Gothic to Art Nouveau; Wroclaw lets you experience the past in the present…
Wroclaw has gained the title of the ‘Venice of Poland’ and it is down to its maze of islands and bridges that make up the whole city, although the reasons aren’t just limited to this. Its history has left it with a colourful culture and atmosphere to match so if you’re looking for a destination bursting at the seams with cosy cafes, excellent restaurants and charming hotels, this one’s for you.
One gem you just cannot miss in Wroclaw is the city’s Multimedia Fountain, once created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Polish democratic elections. It features 300 nozzles that create wonderful water multimedia shows with music and colour effects on the side. Make sure you tick the city’s most magnificent and popular attractions off your list (it projects water 40 metres high and only a few of these fountains actually exist, what an exclusive…)
Vacation in Valletta
A Tiny Gem of Past and Present
This one is Malta’s liliputian capital that its founder named as ‘a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen’. Don’t underestimate this very small city because even though it is sized at only 1km by 600m, it is named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and described as one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world!
You’ll find it wedged in between two of the finest natural harbours in the Mediterranean and why not set yourself the task of seeing as many of the 320 monuments it has that encapsulate every aspect of the civil, religious, artistic and military functions of its founders…leave Valletta feeling educated.
If you love a combination of magnificent sights and fascinating history, St John’s cathedral is a must. You’ll find a floor that resembles a patchwork quilt of marble tomb slabs and paintings that illustrate the life events of St John the Baptist. And this is a visit for those who love going the whole haul as you’ll find it’s expected that you dress appropriately for a house of worship. Note: marble floor is not stiletto friendly.
With all of that being said, not everybody is a history lover and some of us still want to feel a real escape from everyday life! You’ll be happy to hear that Malta has some of the best diving in the Mediterranean so you’ll find dive centres all over the island where you can get up close and personal with colourful fish and extraordinary underwater landscapes and wrecks (some places just for your entertainment).
When its time for some relaxation you can expect all the dreamy spots you’d ever expect from a January city break; head to the traditional fishing harbour, complete with colourful wooden fishing boats for your perfect pictures, and you’ll find a small complex of cafes and cocktail bars. Everything you need after a hard day of delving into Malta’s past and what literally lies underneath the water…
So when your summer blues are getting the better of you, don’t hesitate to head somewhere new that’s full of the opportunity to explore the past and appreciate your present.
Will it be the famed river in Porto that becomes your next stop or Oslo’s skyline that you will literally be climbing on top of? Wander over to Wroclaw if you want Poland to grant you a photographer’s dream, or tick Valletta off your list to prove that cities don’t always have to be big to boast big things…