Best small cities for culture lovers
The obvious option: Prague, Czech Republic
In a city that's famed as much for Baroque architecture as it is for beer, swerve the louty, shouty stag parties and visit the Czech Museum of Cubism at the House of the Black Madonna instead, then download the map of Prague's Cubist architecture that'll take you on a tour of the city centre (which we're sure you could turn into a pub crawl if you really wanted to). Elsewhere, head to MeetFactory, founded by eminent Czech artist David Cerny, which has a cinema, a gallery and a host of other cultural events.
Stay: The wittily named Czech Inn will give you a decent amount of bang for your buck. From £46 for a private room. czech-inn.com
Getting there: Czech Airlines flies from Gatwick to Prague from £216 return. csa.cz
The alternative option: Münster, Germany
Photograph by Ralf Emmerich
If you go gaga for Gothic architecture, Münster and its gloriously ornate buildings should be on your hit list, from the cathedral with its twin spires to St Lamberti church and the three cages hanging from the clocktower – where the corpses of the leaders of the Anabaptist Rebellion were displayed after they were publicly executed. Gruesome, but you'd expect some serious history from a city that's 1,200 years old. That said, university city Münster is undeniably up with the times. It's chock-full of cafés, restaurants and decent pubs, and the abandoned halls and warehouses of the revitalised harbour have been converted into artists' studios and creative businesses. And while you're here, the city's a brilliant jumping off point for exploring the rest of the North Rhine-Westphalia region, from drinking Kölsch in Cologne to eating döppekooche in Düsseldorf – a bacon, sausage and potato bake with a moreish crunchy top.
Stay: Embrace the industrial-chic vibe at Factory Hotel. From £82. factoryhotel-muenster.de
Getting there: Ryanair flies from Stansted to Cologne from £60.16 return. ryanair.com
Best big cities for culture lovers
The obvious option: Athens, Greece
Reynold Mainse/Design Pics
The Acropolis? Check. The Parthenon? Check. The temples? Been there, got the t-shirt. But there's far more to Athens than all that old stuff: the city has an urban, gritty, and distinctly modern culture that covers everything from art to music. So once you've ticked off the ancient sights, work your way towards modern times with a visit to Cine Paris, a rooftop cinema that was set up in the '20s, and trendy contemporary galleries like The Breeder. Housed in an old ice cream factory, it promotes emerging Greek artists like Andreas Angelidakis, who experiments with videos and 3D printing.
Stay: Relax by a rooftop pool overlooking the Acropolis. #Winning. From £99. freshhotel.gr
Getting There: Ryanair flies from Stansted to Athens from £230 return. ryanair.com
The alternative option: Dubai, UAE
On the surface, Dubai might look like it's all shopping malls, never-ending Friday brunches and sun-drenched beaches, but dive underneath the dazzling modern architecture and you'll find deeply rooted traditions and a burgeoning local cultural scene. Yes, it's the perfect destination for kicking back and topping up your tan, but you can also venture out into the desert on a Jeep trek to see traditional belly dancing, try a shisha pipe, and get your chops around Middle Eastern cuisine at a giant barbecue. Sounds like our kind of party. Then swap the sand for an afternoon of sophistication at one of Dubai's many contemporary art galleries, like the cutting-edge Third Line, which has played a significant role in helping to grow the city's art scene.
Stay: Keep the sophistication levels high by staying at the Grosvenor House Hotel in the iconic Dubai Marina. From £105. grosvenorhouse-dubai.com
Getting there: Emirates flies from Heathrow to Dubai from £387 return. emirates.com