Thinking ahead to next year's European holiday? Try one of these great city break locations with a wealth of culture and style, writes Sophie Butler.
Sure, this Portuguese city is most famous for its cobbled riverside district, and the port warehouses that line the quays of the Duoro, but the rest of compact, highly walkable Porto is enjoying a renaissance with new hotels, restaurants, cafes and craft shops springing up on the steep streets of the city above the river.
A thriving opera, a house built by Rubens, a spectacular cathedral and excellent museums, including the fascinating Plantin-Moretus — one of Europe's great printing houses — this is a city of the arts and history par excellence. And if you don't enjoy high culture, the beer and chips are among the best in Belgium.
Andalucia's lively capital may lack size but it offers an atmospheric old town, 12th-century architecture, the Moorish Alcazar palace and the grand square of Plaza de Espana, combined with fiery flamenco shows, top-notch tapas bars and good-value hotels. There's also a chance for some late-night partying in the bars and terraces of Alameda de Hercules.
Unfairly typecast by its red-light district, Hamburg is, in fact, an attractive and sophisticated city — qualities recently underlined by the spectacular glass Elbphilharmonie, with its three concert halls, built above an old warehouse on the Elbe river. It joins the city's "art mile" of five major museums and galleries to emphasise Hamburg's status as one of Germany's cultural capitals.
Eat out in Genoa and you will be surrounded not by tourists, but by the Genoese. This is a city that has yet to lose its soul to tourism, despite its seaside setting, a stunning medieval centre, dozens of Renaissance palazzi, and a harbour front redesigned by local boy Renzo Piano.
Flattened by German bombs during World War II, Rotterdam has risen from the ashes to become a vibrant modern city of wide avenues and eye-catching contemporary architecture. It also has a thriving arts scene underpinned by one of the Netherlands' greatest arts museums — the Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Sweden's capital of cafe society is best enjoyed in the summer, when it comes to life as an outdoor city and the leafy canals and boulevards are lined with bars and restaurants. The young vibe is underpinned by its status as a university city, and some popular summer music festivals.
Lyon not only has a remarkably beautiful old town of Roman, Gothic and Renaissance architecture, but a redevelopment has recently transformed the riverside Confluence district, and, of course, this is the food capital of France.
Compact, leafy and full of surprises, Aix-en-Provence is surely the most beautiful city in southern France. There's enough to keep you busy here for a week — from Cezanne's studio, a superb arts museum, a cathedral adapted from a Roman temple and a plethora of excellent restaurants.
Best known as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the setting for the 1965 film The Sound of Music, this Austrian city's elegant historic centre — with its alluring mix of both medieval and baroque architecture — is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Hotels in Salzburg tend to be booked up well in advance for the prestigious music festival, which takes place every July and August. Get in now if you want to book for next year.
— Sunday Telegraph