On an Island in the City

The traditional island getaway is somewhere remote. Somewhere with beach huts, only the sound of the waves lapping the sandy shore and just the stars for company. Yawn. Borrring.

We’ve got the island getaways for those who don’t want to getaway. Bright busy islands where you can dance ’til dawn, climb celebrated Cathedrals and flit from cosy coffee shop to bustling boutique.

New York

New York - City Islands
Downtown Manhattan. Image © dan vojtech photographer

Any list of hedonistic, non-stop city islands must start with Manhattan Island. Don’t blame me, I don’t make the rules.

Twenty-three square miles and one of the highest population densities in the world mean one exciting island. Roof-top parties all summer long, 24-hour pizza, vintage clothes shopping and a brilliant tradition of brunch are just some of the reasons we love the Big Apple. But you can also have a ball if sightseeing is your thing, though you may need to do some island hopping to get to Liberty Island and Ellis Island too.


Cairo - City Islands
Cityscape seen from the Cairo Tower – fragment of Gezira Island in foreground. Image © WitR

Cairo’s massive metropolitan sprawl spreads for miles but at it’s centre lies one island in the Nile: Gezira. It’s mostly residential, which makes it a quieter place to stay whilst away in Cairo, especially the upmarket district of Zamalek. You can also get a great view of the Pyramids – from 187 metres up in the air at the Cairo Tower that is.


Paris - City Islands
Image © Nikonaft

Ile de la Cité is probably the site of the very first settlement in Paris, and definitely contains more than enough attractions to keep you going for a chic island city break. Meet the gargoyles of Notre Dame cathedral, and head to Gothic Sainte Chappelle on a sunny morning to marvel at the stained glass windows. It’s reminiscent of being inside a jewellery box. Take a picnic to the park at The Place Dauphine, and you can cross to the mainland at Pont Neuf. The name might mean new bridge, but this is the oldest bridge in Paris. One word of warning: Since Cité is so central you may want to look to the mainland for cheaper Paris hotels.


Stockholm - City Islands
Panoramic view on the Old City of Stockholm. Image © SergiyN

The city of Stockholm is just part of the Stockholm archipelago, the largest archipelago in Sweden. So if you were looking for a place for an island-hopping city break you just found it. Stockholm itself occupies 14 islands, of which the Old Town, Gamla Stan, is just one. This is where the Royal Palace resides, and the historic Storkyrkan Cathedral.


Venice - City Islands
View of San Giorgio island, Venice. Image © Iakov Kalinin

A Venice island break is for those who prefer learning to lounging. The city of 118 linked islands was at the centre of world trade from the 13th century until the 17th century, leaving it with more history than you can handle. Spend time seeing the famous sites from the Rialto Bridge and the Clock tower, to the grand Doge’s Palace. Visiting the Basilica di San Marco is a highlight, but be prepared to queue. There are museums galore from the modern art collected by Peggy Guggenheim to a recreated 18th century Venetian noble’s home at Ca’ Rezzonico. And if you did get a hankering for the ‘other’ sort of island escape, catch a boat across the lagoon to the beach at Venice Lido.