I am a sucker for city breaks. I think it is the whirlwind of cramming everything in, in such a small space of time. After all, I do love planning and city breaks really do bring my crazy planning addiction into it’s own. I don’t just do long weekend city breaks though, I often tag city stopovers onto my long haul trips as well. It is a good way to make the most out of my limited annual leave allowance and to ensure I visit as many places as possible. I mean, my bucketlist is LONG…
Anyway, I thought I would rank my favourite cites that I have been lucky enough to visit, using my favourite drink of all time, Champagne (and prosecco/cava if budget requires) as my rating tool. So, here goes.
Quito – Prosecco
I have given Quito the Prosecco rating as it does mimic a good bottle of this bubbly delight. It is delightfully cheap (both to travel to/from and around) but still delivers on flavour (so to say).
I first visited Quito when I was a young 18 year old, embarking on my first solo travel adventure. I was all wide eyed and bushy tailed and so even if Quito hadn’t been the amazing city that it turned out to be, it would still have had a special place in my heart. Luckily though, Quito turned out to be a fabulous city and one I would urge you to visit if you haven’t already. Here’s my five reasons why:
- The city is surrounded by the stunning Andes mountain range. I mean, literally surrounded. From the mountains looking down, and from the city, looking up, it is truly a stunning site. There are also a fair few volcanoes in the immediate vicinity of Quito, which, if you are a volcano nut like me, is just awesome.
- La Mariscal Sucre – yes, it is essentially a central hub for tourists/travellers but it is a great place to meet people if travelling solo and there are some awesome bars and restaurants around here. I had many a good night in this area of Quito.
- La Mitad Del Mundo – just a short bus ride from the centre of Quito and you can stand on the Equator. Pretty cool right? You can also take part in various experiments such as balancing an egg on the Equator (you get a certificate if you manage this!), seeing which way water drains either side of the Equator and having a go at using a blow pipe (alot harder than it looks!).
- Pims Panecello – this is a fantastic restaurant with the most incredible views across Quito. It is located near La Virgen De Quito, which is also a great viewpoint, especially during the day. The only thing I would say, do not walk up the steps to the restaurant at night, it is quite the hot spot for pick pockets and muggers. You can get a taxi direct to the door no problem for next to no cost.
- Pichincha Volcano – yes, this is an active volcano and yes, they have built a cable car on it. The Teleferiqo as it is called is a great way to take in the vastness of Quito and the surrounding Andes. There are options for food at the top and a few small shops and, should you be inclined, you can continue the small hike to the summit and the crater. I’d give yourself time to acclimatise before doing this though, Quito is already crazy high and your body will likely be struggling already. I climbed this too early on in my trip and I was horrendously sick afterwards.
Reykjavik – Cava
There really isn’t much between Cava and Prosecco and as such, there isn’t much between these two cities (in my opinion).
Reykjavik stole my heart way back in 2005, when I first graced it’s colourful streets in the midst of an Icelandic heatwave. I have since been back in -17 degrees Celsius weather and battled my way around this city as ice formed on my eyelashes. Despite the differing climates when I have visited, the city still captivated me in every way imaginable.
- Cafes – I love cafes. I therefore love cities that have a huge cafe culture and Reykjavik certainly has that. It is particularly prominent in the cold, winter months, when locals and tourists alike take shelter from the bitterly cold wind to warm themselves over a hot chocolate. There is something so cosy and satisfying about this, I cant quite put my finger on it but whenever I drink hot chocolate or I am all snug in my house on a winters day, I am immediately transported back to the cafes of Reykjavik.
- The Cathedral – the first time I stepped foot in this magnificent piece of architecture I dreamt of one day getting married there. Realistically, this is not going to happen but, it should sum up how magical this building is. It is bizarre, modern and unlike any other cathedral I have been in before. It is certainly unique and far from my usual traditional loving self, but there is something about this place that just captivates me.
- The Blue Lagoon – just a short drive from Reykjavik and you come across this little piece of heaven. It is particularly amazing if you visit in the winter. There is nothing quite like lazing around in the warm, geothermal water, surrounded by snow capped lava, the cold wind bashing against your cheeks. It is just heaven. I wish I was there right now…
- The Viking Ship Sculpture – down by the harbour you will find this unique metal sculpture that is a nod to Iceland’s Viking heritage. It is a great place for photographs and just soaking in the beautiful location that Reykjavik is so blessed to offer.
5. The Colourful Buildings – this is one of the main reasons I love exploring Scandinavian cities. They have this quaint look that is mirrored across all their cities. I could explore the narrow winding streets lined with colourful houses for days.
New York – Moet
New York has earned the Moet rating as it is classy, accessible and packs quite a punch. I have only ever visited New York once but I am definitely hoping to visit this city many times more. It seriously satisfies my inner shopaholic in ways that no other city has (and possibly could?).
- Bloomingdales, Macys, Tiffanys – the list goes on but yes, shopping is immense in New York. They have the best stores, many of which you cant find in England! I spent an entire morning exploring Tiffany’s alone. It is just a shopaholics paradise.
2. Serendipity 3- not the film, although I do LOVE that film, but the cafe, that coincidentally also features in the film. Be prepared for a queue if you fancy going here, especially at peak times but it is worth the wait! I particularly recommend the frozen hot chocolate (to share with your love…), their hot chocolate with ALL the trimmings and their extensive selection of coffees.
3. Central Park – When I visited it was a full on snow storm and me and my mum had the entire park to ourselves. We were actually stopped by a policeman to check we were ok, as it was apparently a really bizarre thing for us to be walking around the park in the snow! I personally thought it was magical, but then again, I am a huge lover of snow.
4. Breakfasts – this is more USA generally, you really cannot beat an American breakfast. Pancakes, eggs so many ways, potato hash, maple syrup, french toast, waffles, I am literally salivating as I write this. I found so many diners in New York that served incredible breakfasts. It always made me giggle how they serve a tiny fruit cup on the side of every breakfast, as if it makes the whole thing magically healthy!
5. The Statue of Liberty – I am sad that you can no longer climb the statue. Instead though you can catch the ferry to the island and walk around the base. It is a still a fun day out and after all, it is such an iconic statue, you cant really visit New York without paying her a visit.
Singapore – Taittinger
I am a true lover of Taittinger, I find it the perfect balance of price, taste and bubbles and Singapore certainly reflects this. Singapore is by no means a cheap city, in fact in some aspects it is verging on crazy expensive but, if you do your research and know where to look, you can actually find some pretty decent deals without compromising on quality (as is the same with Taittinger!).
I visited Singapore only a couple of years ago on the way to Borneo. I have since found myself dreaming of ways to find my way back! Although my hair is not a lover of the humidity, I found I really did not care about this as I was exploring all Singapore had to offer. This is always a good sign of how great a city is!
- Marina Bay Sands – the hotel itself is nothing special given the extortionate price charged for a basic room here (around £300 per night upwards) but what you are really paying for is the pool. And wow, this is the best, most incredible pool I have ever swam in. EVER. I am not usually a fan of heights however, I was so mesmerised by the insane view from the pool that I seemed to completely forget this! This pool is worth a trip to Singapore in itself!
- Jumbo Seafood – we headed here on our first night as I had heard rave reviews about the chilli crab dish. Plus, any place that gives you a bib is a winner in my books! We made the mistake of not booking, and had to wait a good hour before our table was ready (luckily there are loads of bars in the Clarke Quay area to keep you entertained whilst you wait). True to form, we ordered the chilli crab with rice and dumplings. Oh my goodness, this dish was incredible. The sauce was a fiery yet sweet deliciousness that was drenched all over the fluffy crab. It was possibly the messiest thing I have ever eaten, trying to de-shell a crab covered in spicy red sauce is not easy! I now understand the bibs! By the end of the meal I was a hot, humid, sweaty mess covered in sauce but I was incredibly satisfied as the meal was just delicious. Dipping the dumplings in the left over sauce at the end just finished it off perfectly.
- Sentosa Island – a playground within the city. There are amusement parks for all and some stunning beaches to escape from the city heat and humidity and take in some R and R.
- Buddha Relic Temple – this temple is just stunning, both outside and in. So much intricate and colourful artwork adorns the walls of this temple. It is a historic oasis right in the centre of the city.
- Gardens By The Bay – this place was made for Instagram. Every single picture you take here, no matter how experienced a photographer you are, will just look incredible and ready for Instagram (no filter necessary). In addition, one of the Super Trees has a fantastic bar at the very top. I spent my last night in Singapore here and have very fond memories of this place. It is called SuperTree by IndoChine and it is just fantastic. Such a unique concept and a great place to take in this city.
Copenhagen – Dom Perignon
I have only recently discovered Copenhagen and I genuinely could kick myself for not visiting sooner. This city has everything you could want and more. Incredible food, architecture, canals, colourful buildings, danish pastries and possibly the best coffee! It also has a price tag that certainly matches that of Dom Perignon. Copenhagen is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a cheap city!
- Schonnemann – I still think about this place and if anyone mentions they are going to Copenhagen this is the first place I recommend. I had possibly the most fun at a meal I have ever had here. They serve traditional Danish Smorrebrod (open sandwiches) and schnapps. The restaurant itself is seeped in history and you can tall as soon as you descend the steps into this basement eatery (a lot of places in Copenhagen are in basements). They have an extensive list of smorrebord and schnapps, it is quite overwhelming to the first timer like myself! Looking around, me and my boyfriend were the only non-locals in here! There were locals queuing up outside before the restaurant even opened, and having experienced it, I can now see why. Luckily they have a tourist menu for us unknowledgable folk. It also comes with schnapps pairings, which really adds to the experience. I am smiling as I write this as it was just a fantastic meal and experience.
- Nyhavn – This area of Copenhagen is what you see on all the postcards and tourist media, and for good reason. The colourful buildings lining the boat adorned canal are just stunning. There are also some fabulous cafes and restaurants along here to allow you to really spend some time taking in this incredibly beautiful area.
- Christiania – I have never been anywhere quite like this. It is a ‘freetown’ so to say, the entrance to which is adorned with colourful graffiti and the strong smell of weed. There is a sign with the ‘rules’ of Christiania – essentially have fun, do not run (it causes panic) and do not take pictures. It is a bizarre place, the smell of weed is unavoidable and the streets are lined with camo-net covered huts that sell an array of weed filled products. Weed is actually illegal in Copenhagen but as it seems to be confined to just this area, the police seem to just leave Christiania alone. It is now quite the tourist draw and it is an interesting experience wandering around. There is apparently a great veggie restaurant here but if I am honest, I was quite keen to leave once I had wandered around, it’s not really my sort of place but I am glad I visited and would recommend anyone else to visit just for the unique experience.
- Coffee – Copenhagen is a fantastic place for coffee lovers. Every single coffee I had from a basic flat white to an intricately designed latte was just incredible. Even their coffee chains served above the norm coffees. The only downside, they serve lattes in glasses – ouchy fingers!
- Food – Copenhagen is a foodies paradise. There are so many restaurants to chose from and an insane number of them are Michelin starred. It is literally the foodie hub of the world. If you are a chef, you probably dream of cooking in some of their restaurants. Because the standard of food is so high here, even your basic, run of the mill restaurants serve above average food. I didn’t once have a bad meal here and they provide everything from Danish pastries, bottomless brunch, pizza, steak, fish, pasta and burgers to the somewhat strange ingredients that grace the plates of the world famous Noma. If you like food, you cannot go wrong here.
There you have it, my five favourite cities of the moment. All ranked by my favourite alcoholic beverages. What are your top cities? Any that I should visit that may make their way onto the above list?