Category - City Breaks

Discover the best city break news, city break deals and travel tips about global city breaks

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Purple Hearts: Free things to do in New York City
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Purple Hearts: Florence Things To Do
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City break: Holidays Sofia Bulgaria

Purple Hearts: Free things to do in New York City

There are a million and one things written about New York, but we wanted to focus on the budget side. Although NYC is the home of Carrie Bradshaw and her Manolos, it is possible to get a great city break or summer vacation on the cheap, as long as you’re a bit savvy about it. Read on and get the best in cheap and cheerful, budget and value on New York Holidays.

Times Square

Image via @ hom26

Free Things to do in New York City

Staten Island Ferry: One of the most popular free things in New York City, the ferry is renowned as a top tip. Escape the fare of the Statue of Liberty Ferry but keep the views on the commuter version. Find it at the east end of Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.

Take a walk in Central Park. It’s not just your average patch of grass is it? There are usually free events, statues to visit and sites like Strawberry Fields that are well worth an afternoon’s wandering.

The Trinity Church on Wall Street has regular lunchtime concerts to perk up any afternoon. Usually held on Thursdays around 1pm, it’s worth getting in early for string quartets, sopranos and more.

High line park

Look to the skies: High Line is a gorgeous park built on a former freight rail line. It’s a great place to go and get away from it all for an hour or two. You’ll find opening hours and access information here.

Kayak I love you. There is free kayaking from a couple of different places in Queens such as the Downtown Boathouse. See Manhattan from another angle, down in a kayak!

Sing along at a Broadway Show. Ok, don’t *actually* sing along, your fellow ticket holders might not actually like it, but a night at a show is practically obligatory in the Big Apple. Head for the ticket booth in Times Square for tickets up to 60% off. Cinderella, Matilda, Kinky Boots and Aladdin are just some of the upcoming shows in 2013.

Go to a baseball game. Not strictly free, but if you can wrangle some tickets, a trip to NYC isn’t complete without this all American experience, and where better than watching the New York Mets in Flushing or the Yankees in the Bronx. Just remember not to mix these two up, or feel the wrath of fans! Grab a hot dog, wrap up well and root, root, root for the home team like a true American.

Get in on the act. TV and film play a big part in the cultural identity of New York, so why not be a part of it at a studio taping. Shows like the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the Late Show with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live always have a studio to fill up, but these will definitely need to be booked in advance.

Free tour in a brewery Do we need to say more than that? The Brooklyn Brewery offers free tours at weekends between 1 and 4pm.

Walking is free! Big Apple Greeters are locals who offer free tours of their neighbourhoods, these friendly folks will show you the ins and outs of the city, in a way you might never discover otherwise. Other free tours include a 90 minute runaround of the Grand Central Terminal led by an architectural historian, someone who certainly knows their stuff! At Times Square, there’s an Expose Free Walking Tour every Friday from 12.

What to see for free (or cheap) in New York City

Check out Chelsea The galleries of Chelsea are famous (infamous?) and are mostly free. If you time you’re visit right you might even make it for the cheese and wine openings each Thursday. It’s where the beautiful people hang out, so you’ll fit right in.

Museums to savour There are so many museums with free entry in the city, we can’t name them all, but these are some favourites: (you can find more on free and sometimes free museums in NYC hereThe Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology, Socrates Sculpture Park, Tuesday only: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Fridays between 4 and 8pm Moma, the Museum of Modern Art and for kids after 3pm, pay what you will at New York Aquarium or free Fridays between 2 and 5pm at the New York Hall of Science.

BUrgerImage via @ hom26

Eat… a lot for free (or cheap) in New York City

New York is hardly short of places to eat, but it’s the cheap street food and burger joints that really impress us. New York Street Food will help you find the best in food trucks from hot dogs to ramen to cupcakes and ice cream on the go.

For the best in burgers, well it’s hard to decide but mini burgers at Pop Burger, 58-60 9th Avenue or pop to an outdoor seat at Shake Shack on the corner of Madison Square Park, near Madison Avenue and East 23rd Street, for a tasty treat. The Burger Joint in the fancy Meridien Hotel is a bit pricier, but the queues around the corner really say it all.

For totally free deliciousness, head for Brooklyn where some smart marketing folks came up with free food for every beer purchased. The farmers markets that dot the city are a good choice too for healthy and tasty snacks and decent prices. You can find out where to catch one here.

Where to stay for free (or cheap) in New York City

Stay on budget, stay for cheap Although there are plenty of options for cheap hotels and hostels in the city, you do have to be careful that it’s not some dodgy place that’ll have you awake all night worrying.

A couple of good options include the Harlem Flophouse, an atmospheric choice, with shared bathrooms and themed rooms at 242 West 123rd Street, the 3* Milford NYC in Times Square. It’s in a great location close to everything and with nice touches like iPod docking in each room. Trendy and central, the 3*Yotel, also in Times Square is modern and funky, with flat screen TVs in every room and a moving bed. The 2* Gershwin Hotel is cheap and cheerful in midtown, in the Flatiron district and within 10 minutes walk of the Empire State. Simple rooms make it a good value choice. On the other end of the scale, you’ll get extreme luxury at the historic Waldorf Astoria, but it’ll cost you!

If we missed any top tips on cheap or free things to do in New York City, let us know in the comments below!

Purple Hearts: Florence Things To Do

It might not be as famous as Italy’s other cities like historic Rome or Pisa with its leaning tower, but we think it’s fair to say Florence is a cultural, artistic and romantic capital all its own. Find out more in our guide to Florence things to do:

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The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is a small city filled with architectural marvels, cultural delights, breathtaking masterpieces, stylish Florentines and an atmosphere you could dip a spoon into. The birthplace of the powerful Medici family, Florence became a haven for aristocrats, architects and artists. A who’s who reads something like Botticelli, Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto and possibly the greatest of them all Leonardo Da Vinci. That’s quite a lot of name dropping and we’ve barely hit the tip of the iceberg.

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City break: Holidays Sofia Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s biggest city, Sofia, is the perfect location for one of these ‘do it in a weekend’ getaways. While many choose Prague, Amsterdam or Warsaw, Sofia is a fairly underestimated city break, despite being one of Europe’s most compact and walkable locations. Those travelling to Bulgaria tend to opt for its many beautiful ski resorts or picturesque coastal towns, unknowingly missing out on the charm and cosmopolitan vibe of this rich and dynamic city.

Sofia-BulgariaHolidays Sofia Bulgaria

Situated at the foot of the Vitosha mountain, Sofia is made up of streets lined with domed churches, Ottoman mosques and Red Army monuments. These are married with extravagant shopping malls, luxury hotels and some of Europe’s coolest bars, creating a distinctly east-meets-west vibe throughout the city. Rapid development has led to an increase in trendy international boutiques and an innovative restaurant scene, that rivals some of Europe’s biggest cities. Affluence is apparent on every corner, from the flashy cars whizzing around the city to the well-heeled women carrying Vuitton bags – a far cry from the Bulgaria you may have envisaged. Yet, despite being a modern, urbanized city, Sofia is also surprisingly green, with huge, winding parks holding the buildings in embrace.

Things to do in Sofia

Although no grand metropolis when compared to places such as Rome, Paris or London, Sofia is nevertheless an attractive and cultured city with many museums, art galleries and theatres to keep you entertained…

Take a free walking tour of Sofia: Twice a day, local tourism volunteer NGO sets off from in front of the Palace of Justice to give tourists a free tour of this beautiful city. Welcoming, English-speaking volunteers will lead you on a two-hour walk through the city’s main sites, and fill you in on all the interesting background details. From students to backpackers to businessmen, this tour is an excellent introduction to Sofia and a great way of making friends if travelling alone.

Picnic in a park: Borisova Gradina is Sofia’s finest patch of greenery and home to the Vasil Levski Stadium, CSKA Stadium and Maria Luisa Pool, as well as a gigantic communist monument built in 1956, known as the Mound of Brotherhood. Why not pack up some strawberries and fresh bread and have a unique walk in the park, where you can admire the countless statues and flowerbeds.

Soak up some culture: If you’re looking for some historic insight, the National Museum of National History is the place to go. The musty halls of this old-fashioned museum present a didactic collection of animal, plant and mineral specimens, whilst the ground floor focuses on rocks, crystals and minerals. The stuffed animal collection in the upper floors even includes a brown bear dangling a Nazi hunting medal from its claw. Equally impressive is the Royal Palace museum, which was originally built as the headquarters of the Ottoman police force. The Palace was also the place where Bulgaria’s national hero, Vasil Levski, was tried and tortured before his public execution in 1873. After the Liberation, the building was remodelled in Viennese style and in 1887, it became the official residence of Bulgaria’s royal family until the communist takeover. Today, the Royal Palace houses the National Art Gallery and the Ethnographical Museum, which contains a collection of regional costumes and crafts, as well as varying temporary exhibitions on topics ranging from traditional festivals or carpet-making. Even the rooms of the Museum are a sight in themselves, showcasing marble fireplaces and ornate plasterwork and don’t forget to pause at the old dining room to view a lobster, fish and dead duck on the ceiling.

Sofia-vitoshaGet your architectural fix: There’s no better place to do this than at the outstanding domed Sveta Nedelya Cathedral, one of the Sofia’s major landmarks. Built in the mid 1800s (on top of the foundations of several older churches) the cathedral’s interior is is a montage of Byzantine-style murals. A glass case holds the body of Sveti Kral Stefan Milotin, a medieval king of Serbia, wrapped in a velvet robe, whose bones are said to have miraculous healing powers.

Restaurants in Sofia:
Dream House: A vegetarian restaurant with a colourful menu, serving up dishes such as grilled tofu, algae soup and vegetable stir-fry. Itsa best to visit on a Sunday, when there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet with beer and wine available.

Egur-Egur: Armenian cuisine, featuring kebabs, steaks, stews and other meaty offerings for a much-needed bit of stodge after a night drinking in the Sofian bars.

BeSo: Here you’ll find an open sushi bar of excellent quality. Pair this with a “see and be seen” atmosphere, netted off VIP booths and an impeccably designed interior and you have more than enough reason to visit.

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