As the world grapples with the effects of climate change and the global population becomes ever more clued-up about our impact on the environment, it’s hardly surprising that talk is swiftly turning towards how to travel more sustainably. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are a whole host of ways to be kinder to the planet on your next trip, right down to where you choose to visit.
Whether you’re planning to reduce your carbon footprint in 2020, want to make more environmentally friendly travel choices or are just ready to become a more socially conscious traveller full stop, we’ve pulled together a list of the very best destinations for an eco-savvy city break.
As one of the world’s greenest cities, it’s easy to see why Copenhagen takes the (vegan-friendly) biscuit when it comes to sustainable stays. Showcasing its own unique brand of Scandi-cool, this cycle-friendly city has been making waves in the sustainability sphere for decades, thanks to its ongoing initiatives to curb diesel emissions (the city plans to be carbon neutral by 2020), recycling drives, organic farming practices and ever-growing collection of plant-heavy open spaces, including Tivoli Gardens and Frederiksberg. The city’s latest eco venture is CopenHill, a renewable energy heat and power plant that doubles as an action-packed activity centre offering a line-up of thrilling pursuits from futuristic ski and snowboard runs and hiking trails to the world’s highest climbing wall.
While air travel is undeniably a major global polluter, it’s still a necessity when it comes to reaching further-flung destinations. If you’re in the market for a long haul trip with an eco-conscious edge, San Francisco is a safe bet. Not only is the city itself forward-thinking in the transport stakes, with its coherent public transit system, the introduction of a number of zero emission buses and the handy BART network offering an energy-efficient way to get from A to B, but its proximity to the great outdoors means there are plenty of eco-friendly activities right on your doorstep. Whether enjoying a sunset hike to the Twin Peaks summit or drinking in coastal views on Lands End Trail, there are a host of natural beauty spots just beyond the city limits. When it’s time to refuel, you’ll find a crop of farm-to-table eateries across the city boasting menus brimming with delicious California-sourced ingredients.
Hailed as one of the most eco-friendly cities in the world, Amsterdam has long been a pioneer of sustainable living. From its cycle-friendly status (complete with a super-efficient network of bicycle lanes in lieu of cars), to its crop of plastic-free supermarkets and eco-conscious hotels dotted around the city, there are plenty of ways to embrace environmentally-friendly living here. Better yet, with Eurostar launching its direct return route from London in the spring, you can even arrive in (sustainable) style. Once on Dutch shores, you’ll discover that many of the city’s top attractions are geared towards the eco-savvy traveller. Spend your days navigating over 400 kilometres of bicycle paths as you drink in the city’s famous lacework of canals, learn about the city’s sustainable fashion movement at Fashion for Good or drink in a healthy lungful of fresh air at the Botanical Gardens.
Set just a two-hour train ride from the smog-filled streets of London, Bath is an ideal choice for a closer-to-home eco city break. This storybook-esque city, carpeted with honey-hued cobblestones, is so small in stature that it’s best discovered on foot, so you can gain some serious brownie points simply by virtue of leaving the car keys behind. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are plenty of untapped treasures to explore, from the grand Pulteney Bridge arching over the River Weir to the Gothic-stye Abbey and its namesake Roman baths sprinkled throughout the city. You can even shop sustainably here, with a range of vegan and ethical stores ranging from cruelty-free beauty boutiques to health food meccas.
With its smattering of green-certified lodges hugged by rolling countryside, an ever-growing list of farm-to-fork restaurants and a pioneering move towards using more renewable energy sources, Scotland is streets ahead when it comes to flying the flag for green tourism in the UK. If you’re looking for a stylish Scottish city break with a sustainable twist, Glasgow is the place for you. Having been recently recognised for its commitment to sustainable tourism, the city has an ever-expanding line-up of eco-friendly stores and markets, plant-based eateries and tranquil, tree-lined parks, making it a great environmentally-savvy all-rounder. Getting here is also part of the fun – switch-out your gas-guzzling flight and catch the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Edinburgh, then it’s just a scenic 45-minute train journey from there.
At first glance, Berlin may not seem like your typical green-focused city but between its sky-high monuments and Brutalist architecture, it’s brimming with secret eco credentials. Best explored through its sprawling network of over 500 miles of cycle paths, you’ll whizz by thousands of wide open spaces and forest-fringed scenery, including the expansive Tiergarten. Mindful travellers take note, there are a host of ways to do some good around town too. The city’s recycling incentives, like bottle and can deposits in exchange for cash, mean you won’t see many plastic bottles tossed aside. There’s also a thriving vintage fashion scene with retro stores offering clothes swaps and kilo sales, so you can refresh your wardrobe as you shop guilt-free.