City breaks are a must sometimes, when the culture vultures in us get peckish, if romance is on the radar, or simply because you’ve always had a burning desire to wrap yourself in a country’s specific urban heritage. However, sometimes walking on concrete or cobbles isn’t quite enough for us, and we also want to explore the hills or valleys that lie beyond. With the climate crisis, we also need to monitor our carbon footprint and so, if you are thinking of travelling somewhere for a city break, why not extend your trip and enjoy a walking holiday close by, and get the best of both worlds. Here are a few of our best walking holidays for combining city and countryside, urban tales and tranquil trails.
Lisbon is a treat at the best of times, but when you combine it with the colourful and colossal Pena Palace at Sintra and surrounding mountains, just 23km from the capital, it’s the icing on your pastel de nata. Sintra is also accessible by train from Lisbon and within minutes you have not only the great palace and the other grand buildings in its complex, but also the Serra de Sintra mountains and walking trails in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. With five full days of hiking alongside vineyards, through pine forests and dramatic seascapes, your trip comes to a finale in the coastal town of Cascais, just an hour’s train ride back to Lisbon.
Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains
Wicklow Mountains National Park is, much to many people’s surprise, just 23km from Dublin city centre. A vast open bogland, with rounded bronze-coloured peaks, you can walk in some of the country’s wildest spots, with vistas of heath, waterfalls and long winding roads for miles around including out to sea, as the national park overlooks the east coast. The Wicklow Way dips in and out of the national park for 132km, visiting some of its most magnificent natural heritage highlights, such as Glendalough and Powerscourt Waterfall, Glenmalure Valley and the stretched-out saddles at Mullacor, White Hill and Djouce Mountain.
Athens and nearby island of Kea
On this eight day, self-guided walking holiday you get some of the best of Hellenic heritage, cultural and natural. In Athens, where you spend two days, explore the city on our ‘hike and bite’ tour through not only some of the city’s ancient cultural highlights, but also its green and great gourmand spaces. On day three, you are transferred to the port of Lavrio, just one hour from Athens, and then take a short ferry journey (35mins-1h) to Kea. This is one of the Cyclades islands, and the one that is closest to Greece’s capital, boasting an array of walking trails along ancient kalderimi to the likes of Otzia Bay, the ancient site of Karthaia and elegant town of Ioulida.
Salzburg and the Salzkammergut Lake District
Salzkammergut is Austria’s lake district, and it’s just under 50km from Salzburg. When you take in the colourful, traditional houses and mountains around Lake Hallstatt, the largest lake, you feel transported to an era when people came to enjoy deep rest in the mountain air and ‘take the waters’. Historically a salt mining region, the goodness of heated salty waters are still enjoyed at Bad Ischl spa, but the natural goodness of the region as a whole can be imbibed on one of our walking holidays. To combine it with extra time in Salzburg, our short walking holiday in the High Trails of Salzkammergut is sehr gut.
Copenhagen and its castles
The Danish capital is clean, green and the place to be seen. It’s also foodie heaven, cycling central and World Capital of Architecture for 2023, making it a perfect place to start a holiday. Especially our walking holiday around Denmark’s magnificent Fairytale Castles starting in Klampenborg, just 20mins by train from the capital. Explore easy but exquisite rural trails, between 14 and 25km per day, to the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet’s own Castle Kronborg, Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, the largest Renaissance castle in Scandinavia, and Fredensborg, a Baroque palatial complex on its own lake. You won’t be short of other lakes on this walking holiday either, with forest and wetland trails opening out to an abundance of crystal clear beauties.
Stockholm and the Stockholm archipelago
As well as exploring the contemporary and very cool capital of Stockholm, Island lovers who haven’t discovered its sprawling and stupendous archipelago have a treat in store. The Stockholm archipelago is made up of over 24,000 islands and islets stretching out into the Baltic Sea, all within a hiking heartbeat of the capital. Hop from one island to another, adjoined by small suspension bridges in Stendörren Nature Reserve, soak up the joys of Sävö Island on a small section of the vast Sörmlandsleden Trail, or walk up to Tysta Klint, the highest point on Fjärdlång Island for awesome archipelagic views. Choose between our summer Stockholm archipelago tour or our quieter autumn or spring one.
We hope that this has sated culture vulture’s appetites and encouraged you to seek out a few more landscapes beyond the city breaks. There are few other ideas in our blog on walking holidays accessible by train for those who like a city and countryside combo, as well as a much bigger world of walking holidays to explore. For any other enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us.