Karen A, April 2023

Make the most of your holiday time with our definitive guide to the best European cities for a short break - before or after a stay in the mountains.

Whether you want to take advantage of cheaper weekday flights, or you just fancy a bit of culture and shopping to enhance your ski holiday, Ski Independence can easily add on a night or two in a city destination.

Here are 7 great cities that work well combined with a ski holiday – with some recommendations of where to stay and what to see while you’re there.

1. Verona - The City of Love

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Verona is a small city famed for its Roman amphitheatre and medieval centre. Juliet’s balcony might be a bit of a tourist trap but it has its charm- and there’s a lot more to enjoy. The Centro Storico is full of beautiful architecture, designer boutiques and excellent gelato.

Top Tip:

Join the Italians taking a ‘passegiatta’ in the early evening.  An aperitivo in Casa Mazzanti on Piazza Erbe is a must.


Hotel Accademia – a historic hotel dating from the 18th century. Right in the heart of the Old Town.

> Works well with: Madonna di Campiglio

2. Venice – The Floating City

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Everyone should see Venice at least once in their lifetime, and winter is a great time to visit as it’s quieter and there’s more space to see the sights. The architecture is stunning and while the canals are what makes it unique, the crooked side streets and alleyways are such fun to explore.

Top Tip:

The best gelato I’ve ever had (and I’ve sampled a few) can be found at the Gelateria Paolin dal 1760 in Campo Santo Stefano.


The 4-star L’Orologio Hotel is near Piazza San Marco and has a 4th floor terrace overlooking the Grand Canal.

> Works well with: San Cassiano and Selva di Val Gardena

3. Innsbruck – The Tirolean capital

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Photo by Anna Rosar on Unsplash 

Innsbruck is a tiny city nestled right in the heart of the Austrian Alps. You’ll find baroque churches and narrow twisting streets in the Altstadt – with picture perfect cafés where you can enjoy apfel strüdel and schnapps galore.

Top Tip:

The Bergsidel ski jump is on the outskirts of town and you get spectacular views from the viewing platform. If you’re lucky you might get to watch some of those brave athletes train or compete.  It’s a spectacular thing to witness!


Altstadthotel Weisses Krautz dates from 1465 and has an illustrious past having hosted Mozart in 1769.

> Works well with: San Cassiano and Selva di Val Gardena

4. Geneva – The City of Peace

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Geneva is a truly global city so has a cosmopolitan vibe. The city is split in two by the River Rhone: the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) has beautiful buildings, galleries and many lovely pâtisseries to explore. The Right Bank is the business sector with numerous international organisations. Take a tour of the United Nations headquarters, or head out to CERN and learn about the research they are doing.

Top Tip:

Head for cocktails at the Mirror Bar in the Metropole Hotel for a taste of old school glamour.


The Manotel Auteuil is close to the main station in Geneva and is a modern 4 star hotel with great service in a convenient location for exploring.

> Works well with: any of our French and Swiss Alps destinations


5. Zurich – Lakeside elegance

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You know it as a financial centre but it’s also a mecca for shoppers seeking luxury brands, as well as offering over 100 museums and galleries. Pleasant lakeside walks and green spaces, plus café culture and people watching make this a really great space for a couple of days' break.

Top Tip:

The Lindt ‘Home of Chocolate’ centre is a must for those with a sweet tooth.  Even better if you have time to do one of their workshops and learn from the best!


The Baur au Lac has stood as one of the finest hotels in the world for more than 175 years. After a comprehensive facelift in 2022 it’s clear no detail has been left unchecked.

> Works well with: Andermatt, Klosters, St Moritz, Zermatt and Saas Fee

6. Lyon – the gastronomic capital of France

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Sofitel Bellecour Lyon 

The riverside city of Lyon is home to some incredible markets, cafés and restaurants – with its location making it ideally placed to draw inspiration from the alpine, Mediterranean and arable regions of France.  The indoor market Les Halles de Lyon is a must visit for foodies.

Top tip:

The Restaurant L’Artichaut is in a stunning converted abbey and offers great value gastronomy.


The Sofitel Bellecour (5*) is ideally located on the peninsula – a comfortable walk from the old town.

> Works well with: Three Valleys and Tarantaise resorts; Alpe d’Huez

7. Annecy – the Pearl of the Alps

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Photo by Anna Rosar on Unsplash 

Pretty Annecy is just 40 mins from Geneva and offers a relaxing lakeside setting with a stunning old town and beautiful scenery. You’ll find crooked medieval streets, local markets, pavement cafés and castles, plus numerous adventure activities.

Top tip:

Take an evening stroll along the lakeside, before enjoying a meal in one of the canalside bistros.


Hotel Le Pelican (4*) dates from 1820 and has been lovingly refurbished with flexible room types and a great restaurant.

> Works well with: most French Alps destinations 

For a dose of culture before or after your European ski holiday, get in touch with us today for a tailor-made quotation.

Submit an enquiry online or call us on 0131 243 8097