City Sanctuaries: 10 Great Urban Getaways

City Sanctuaries

When you hear the words “city” or “urban,” you probably don’t think about a relaxing getaway.  I’d beg to differ, as there are lots of cities that make for fantastic destinations to put your feet up and relax.  Lots of value luxury hoteliers have gotten smart about this trend, and are rolling out amenities and options to suit those in search of their perfect city sanctuaries.

But where to go for your urban getaway?  Here are some of my favorite getaway cities.  Add your favorites in the comments.

Lisbon, Portugal


lisbon city sancturary urban getaway


My memories of Lisbon, a totally underrated town, mostly revolve around sitting on terraces, snacking on amazing pastries and cheeses, and sipping chilled wines all day.  I was visiting with a friend who is Portuguese, so I totally got the royal treatment, but you can have the same experience.  If you plan a week in Lisbon, you can pick one art gallery or museum each day as your cultural highlight, and then spend the rest of the time gawking over the city’s many incredible views with a glass of wine.   As I’ve mentioned before, Noobai Café has one of the best views of Lisbon and I could eat lunch there every day.

Stay:  Hotel da Estrela’s city sanctuary package includes a sightseeing pass, breakfast, and the hotel is steps away from parks, food shops, and much more.

New York, New York


new york city sancturary urban getaway


It might be one of the world’s most bustling cities, but New York has plenty of its own places to relax and enjoy – well worth the effort to make it into Manhattan.  Iconic theaters? Strolling in Central Park?  Lazy bike rides under the Brooklyn Bridge? Coffee tastings, cocktail tastings, pastry tastings?  The only problem with an urban getaway in New York is making sure that you sleep in and relax instead of overdoing it on the chillout activities!

Stay: The Inn at Irving Place really does feel like a shelter for weary souls.  Located in Gramercy Park, you could easily spend your entire time wandering the park and nearby avenues in Union Square and forget that you’re in one of the world’s busiest cities.

Quebec City, Quebec


quebec city urban getaway city sanctuary


You don’t have to fly to France to get a French travel experience – Quebec has all of that and more.  While Montreal is certainly a memorable spot, you can’t help but feel a bit revived and refreshed by the outdoors, the architecture, and the hospitality of Quebec City.  Wander the old cobblestone streets that skirt the city walls (the oldest in North America), take a peek at Battlefields Park, or relax on the ferry trip to nearby Levis.  And don’t even get me started on how fantastic the food is here.  Just arrive hungry.

Stay: Château Frontenac is, I think, the prettiest hotel in North America.  There are also lots of lovely, quiet inns – look out for the world “auberge,” which means inn in French, such as Auberge Le Vincent or Auberge Saint-Antoine.

Brussels, Belgium


brussels city getaway urban sanctuary


The best steak I’ve ever had in the world?  Brussels.  The best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had in the world?  Brussels.  I could go on and on, but instead, how about you get yourself a ticket to one of Europe’s most underrated countries?  Whether you hang out in the city’s many beer bars and wine cafes, take advantage of some Dutch and French inspired shopping, or just chillax in Bois de la Cambre (the largest, and in my opinion, best, of the parks in Brussels).  Don’t forget to wave hello to the Manneken Pis statue on your way for yet another waffle topped with tastiness.

Stay: The Sofitel Brussels offers affordable luxury accommodation in a easy-to-access part of town.  There’s a trendy bar downstairs, but that’s only if you can tear yourself away from the Turkish bath, Jacuzzi and other spa facilities – not to mention very spacious bathrooms and lovely balconies in each room.

Buenos Aires, Argentina


buenos aires city sanctuary urban getaway


They say that Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America. If you’re traveling from the US, it’s about as far as Paris, but there’s less jetlag.  You don’t have to dance the tango to enjoy a relaxing break in this fabulous town. Head for Jardin Botanico (Palermo Park) or linger over a latte at one of the many city cafes (Los 36 Billares a good choice).  Or, enjoy some fine art (Museum of Fine Arts, by chance) followed by a liberal lashing of a fine Argentinian wine.  El Ateneo is also a must – a former theater turned into an incredible bookstore (English books available too).

Stay:  With an onsite spa, buffet breakfast, flowers in the room, L’Occitane amenities, and tapas bar, the low-brow-chic CasaSur Art Hotel will be your perfect home away from home.

Queenstown, New Zealand


queenstown city sanctuary urban getaway


I always say my favorite country is New Zealand – the outdoors there is unreal, and it’s one of the few places that I can tell someone they can truly get away.  The South Island is the best, in my opinion, and the best place to hang out is Queenstown. It’s a magnet for adrenaline junkies, but you can just chill out and watch the world go by, while sipping on wine from wineries on the island, or New Zealand beers, and some of the best food (and service!) in the country, even at the local Starbucks. You can also do some wonderful hikes in this area.  It’s a long flight to get here, but you won’t regret a minute of it.

Stay: Eichardt’s Private Hotel isn’t in a very private spot – it’s smack in the middle of Queenstown’s lovely waterfront.  Despite this, it’s in a quiet spot, with lovely views and a very quiet hotel

Milwaukee, Wisconsin


milwaukie city sanctuary urban getaway


A city that went from up-and-coming to just-can’t-stop, Milwaukee is the place to be these days, but still many travelers overlook it.   Their award-winning art museum is a must, as well as lounging at one of the beaches on the lake.  Top it off with a  tipple at one of Milwaukee’s many breweries and distilleries – Sprecher Brewery covers all the bases, serving both beer, root beer, and their own soda.  There are also several options for a sail across the lake, such as the Edelweiss dinner cruise or Sunday champagne brunch trip.

Stay: The Pfister Hotel masterfully blends old world furnishings with a modern luxury touch.  It’s right on the lake shore, offering some great views, and many of the attractions are located nearby, as well as café right downstairs.

Portland, Oregon


portland city sanctuary urban getaway


The popular TV show Portlandia refers to Portland, Oregon as where “the dream of the 90s is alive.”  While that may or may not be true, it is also where the dream of value luxury travelers is alive.  Some of the world’s best distilleries and breweries can be found all over the city, and boutiques selling everything from yarn to fantastic journals, as well as Powell’s Books– the world’s largest bookstore.   Don’t miss out on relaxing spots like The Grotto, a unique garden perched up on a cliff, as well as a walk through the International Test Rose Garden, and daytrips to the Columbia River Gorge.

Stay:  It’s not centrally located, but a stay in McMenamins Kennedy School is the perfect getaway. As the name implies, it’s an old school – along with the chalkboards and old lockers, you’ll find a soaking pool and onsite bar/restaurant.

Vancouver, British Columbia


vancouver city sanctuary urban getaway


Consistently rated as one of the best places in the world to live, everybody deserves a good, long break in Vancouver.  Whether it’s taking a food tour of Granville Island, stretching your legs in the inner-city forest called Stanley Park, or just poking your head in the city’s many quirky shops and abundant cafes (there is one corner with not one, but two Starbucks!), life is good in Vancouver.  The air is fresh, the grass is green, and the people are friendly.

Stay:  One of the best baths I have ever had was in Vancouver’s L’Hermitage Hotel. (Was that sharing too much?)  This affordable luxury hotel is fresh and modern, right in the heart of downtown, convenient to everything.

Melbourne, Australia


melbourne city sanctuary urban getaway


Last, but not least, is the worldly city that I have a wild love affair with, even though I haven’t been in a few years.  Melbourne has wonderful retail therapy (even their Target is cool), a beach a short bus ride away, world-class cocktail bars, a culinary scene that is as diverse as it comes, and as most locals will tell you, Melbourne is just a great place to live, so who wouldn’t want to visit.  Wander the shops and city markets, or hop in a car and take a drive to the coast.  Find a spot to enjoy the sun – the city is known as Australia’s “Garden City” so the Royal Botanic Gardens, Carlton Gardens, and Fitzroy Gardens are just a few that have a bench waiting for you.

Stay: The Blackman is the perfect art-themed spot to relax, with it’s huge balconies, modern luxuries, and great views from the rooms, which feel more like mini open-plan apartments than hotel rooms.

What urban getaways do think of as city sanctuaries?
Share in the comments!

Editorial Disclosure: This feature was sponsored by our good friends at Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It’s the second in a 3-part series highlighting unique hotel, packages, and value luxury vacation ideas! 

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