Work Hard, Play Hard: The Top Cities for a Working Holiday

| Courtesy of Wayhomestudio / Freepik.com / Digital Trails
Culture Trip Travel Team

With remote work and digital nomads on the rise, the need for workplace flexibility has never been greater. According to the State of Remote Work report, flexible locations, work from anywhere, and the 4-day work week are in demand.

As flexible working policies become more common for those who had previously worked in traditional office-based 9-5s, choosing the right destination for a successful working holiday has never been more important.

Rising to the challenge, we have taken a deep dive into the destinations that best serve the demands of a working holiday, analysing the largest cities in countries most popular with UK tourists and unveiling the ultimate ranking of working holiday destinations around the world.

We gathered data on 5 essential remote work criteria (e.g. internet speed and the cost of a coffee) as well as 5 all-important holiday considerations (e.g. accommodation costs and availability and top tourist attractions) to assess whether each of the 60 world cities included in the research could deliver what’s required for those looking to work hard and play hard.

And we didn’t stop there. We’ve put together the perfect itinerary for the top 3 cities to help people get the most out of their trip without having to use up much or any annual leave!

The best destinations for your next working holiday revealed

1. Porto

Porto tops the list as the best city for a working holiday due to its high internet speed (222.03 Mb/s), bettered by just one other city on the list, and its solid cyber security score (97.32), making it a great option for remote workers that mean business. The city also offers a good balance between work and play with plenty of green spaces for a breath of fresh air, second only to Limassol, Cyprus, when adjusted by population. Additionally, Porto has a plentiful supply of Airbnbs (4,251) for its size at an average nightly price of £71.28 and, with just over 11 five-star rated attractions per KM2, there is plenty to see and do when you clock off for the day.

2. Valencia

Valencia performs well across the board, making it a desirable option for anyone planning their next working trip. With a high cybersecurity score of 98.52 and an average internet speed of 166.64 Mb/s, this Spanish city is a great option for remote workers looking for a secure and reliable connection. With 2,701 hours of sunshine a year, the city also offers plenty of opportunities to get out and soak up those rays during breaks from work and, when your working day is done, you can close your laptop and explore its many five-star rated attractions (465).

3. Barcelona

Barcelona is a popular destination for remote workers due to its fantastic weather (6,576 sunny hours per year) and plentiful green spaces, many of which offer the opportunity to take in some of Gaudi’s famous work. The city has a high cybersecurity score of 98.52 and an average internet speed of 147.06 Mb/s, making it a good option for those who are working remotely. Bettered only by Paris and Athens on the number of five-star rated attractions per KM2 on offer, there are no shortages of things to do with your time off. However, the city’s average cost of living is relatively high, with an Airbnb setting you back £159.57 on average per night it’s the most expensive destination in the top 10 for accommodation.

4. Lyon

One of the closest cities in the top 10 to London, Lyon has a lot to offer without the need to travel far. The city provides everything needed to work comfortably and safely, with an average internet speed of 171.21 Mb/s and a cyber security score that is up there amongst the best (97.6). The city has a good supply of Airbnb accommodation (3,406) with an average nightly price of £77.76 but, with some of the lowest scores for the cost of coffee and public transport, both things worth considering when choosing your accommodation.

5. Lisbon

Despite having a lower internet speed of 77.59 Mb/s, Lisbon makes the list due to its good supply of Airbnb accommodations (82 per KM2) with an average nightly price of £94.77 and is the second Portuguese city to make it to the top 10. The city also has a good number of five-star rated attractions (12 per KM2) and plenty of sunshine hours per year (2,801) for those looking to escape the more gloomy weather in the UK.

6. Naples

Despite being the furthest city in the top 10 from London at just over 1,000km, Naples doesn’t offer as many sunny hours per year (2,378) as many of the other cities that feature on the list, including Marseille which is almost half the distance. However, as one of two Italian cities to make the top 10, Naples has lots to offer in terms of places to stay, things to do and, having a more reasonable average cost per night in an Airbnb (£77.76), will leave anyone visiting with the budget to spend on dining out and enjoying the sights.

6. Marseille

Offering the best chance of sunshine of any of the cities in the top 10 and relatively few miles from London, Marseille is definitely worth considering for a short working break. With a good cyber security score of 97.6 and an average internet speed of 100.82 Mb/s, in comparison to Paris, the only other French city to make the top 10, Marseille offers a good supply of Airbnb accommodation (3,300) and an average nightly price (£73.71) that is less than half that of the capital.

8. Paris

Paris, the eighth-ranked city on the list, boasts an impressive number of 5-star attractions, with 15 per KM2 there is something noteworthy around every corner. The city’s abundance of green spaces, with 303 located within its borders, also contributes to its high ranking. However, Paris does fall behind in terms of internet speed, with an average of 84.3 Mb/s, which is lower than other top-ranking cities on the list and has one of the highest average prices (4th) for accommodation seen in the entire list of cities.

9. Milan

Providing plenty of green spaces (129) for those morning walks or runs, the fashion capital has much to offer those looking for cultural attractions and reasonable prices for the use of public transport to get you from one gallery to the next. The city also has a relatively high number of 5-star attractions, with 468 in total. Despite having the lowest cyber security score in the top 10 (alongside countrymate, Naples), Milan has a very good internet speed of 134.36 Mb/s for your work-from-anywhere needs.

10. Madrid

Madrid stands out with its high score in cyber security, earning a near-perfect score of 98.52, and is amongst the highest rated in the top 10 for the number of sunny hours per year (2,740). However, Madrid falls behind the pack in terms of the number of green spaces (when adjusted by population) and its available supply of Airbnbs, offering only 16 per KM2 in comparison to Barcelona’s 65 per KM2 for example.

The perfect working holiday itinerary

Welcome to our itinerary planning service!

We understand that work is important, but so is experiencing a new place, so we’ve created a balanced schedule that allows you to explore these cities and work at the same time without the need for you to really plan anything in advance. Our example itineraries are designed for individuals visiting one of the top 3 cities for 7 days – working for 5 of those days but with some flexibility around their core hours. It’s pretty impressive just how much you can fit in!

Day 1

Morning: Take a walk or jog along the Douro River and settle in for a coffee at the historic Cafe Majestic before starting work.
Evening: Enjoy dinner at Cantina 32, a trendy restaurant known for its petiscos such as pica-pau steak and excellent cocktails.

Day 2

Morning: Start work early to finish early
Afternoon: Visit the Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world before taking a stroll through the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, a lush garden with stunning views of the city.
Evening: Indulge in a lavish dinner at Antiqvvm, a Michelin-starred restaurant with an outdoor terrace overlooking the Douro River. Disclaimer – you might need to book this treat in advance.

Day 3

Afternoon: After a morning of work, take a break and grab a light lunch at Zenith Brunch & Cocktails, a vibrant cafe with a varied and delicious menu.
Evening: Stay in and make dinner using fresh ingredients from the epic multi-level Mercado do Bolhão, one of Porto’s most famous markets.

Day 4

Morning: Start work early to finish early.
Afternoon: Visit the Casa da Música, a stunning concert hall designed by Rem Koolhaas before losing yourself in the Parque da Fundação de Serralves where you’ll find a contemporary art museum set in a beautiful park with a sculpture garden.
Evening: Head to Pedro Lemos for dinner, a restaurant with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients.

Day 5

Morning: Start work late and visit the Torre dos Clérigos, a bell tower with amazing views of the city.
Evening: Take a sunset walk along the Ribeira district, and enjoy dinner at Portugues de Gema, a restaurant on a mission to support underprivileged people with kitchen and catering training.

Day 6

All day: Take a day trip to the Douro Valley, where you can explore the vineyards and taste some of the region’s famous Port wine.

Day 7

Morning: Grab breakfast at Confeitaria do Bolhão, a historic pastry shop known for its traditional pastries.
Afternoon: Visit the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, a museum of fine arts set in a beautiful neoclassical building.
Evening: End your trip with dinner at GH Restaurant & Cafe for traditional Portuguese cuisine with a twist.

Day 1

Morning: Take a scenic walk or run in Turia Gardens, and grab a coffee at La Más Bonita.
Evening: Head to Arroceria Maribel for dinner, a popular restaurant known for its authentic Spanish cuisine.

Day 2

Morning: Start work early to finish early
Afternoon: Visit the City of Arts and Sciences, an incredible cultural complex with much to see – both inside and out.
Evening: For a tribute to local ingredients, treat yourself to dinner at La Salita de Begoña Rodrigo, a Michelin-starred restaurant offering innovative tasting menus. Disclaimer – you might need to book this treat in advance.

Day 3

Morning: Start work late and visit Mercado Central, grabbing a coffee and picking up some fresh, local produce.
Evening: Take a walk or run on the beach promenade before heading out for dinner at Mahora Bistro, a hidden gem in the heart of the city.

Day 4

Afternoon: Take a stroll through the Old Town and enjoy a coffee or lunch break at Cafe de las Horas.
Evening: Enjoy a home-cooked dinner with fresh produce from Mercado Central.

Day 5

Morning: Start work early to finish early
Afternoon: Visit the Parroquia de San Nicolás de Bari y San Pedro Mártir and Valencia Cathedral for their stunning Baroque-style architecture and impressive interiors.
Evening: Enjoy dinner at La Salita, a cozy and modern restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine.

Day 6

All day: Take a day trip to the Albufera Natural Park, where you can take a boat tour and tuck into the catch of the day at Restaurante Leo.

Day 7

Morning: Enjoy a coffee and croissant at Ciudadela Coffee & Bakery before visiting the Valencia Cathedral, a short walk away.
Afternoon: Have a leisurely lunch at Casa Roberto, a traditional Spanish restaurant, and visit the Lonja de la Seda, stopping in the courtyard to admire the orange trees and shade yourself from the sun.
Evening: For your last night, head to Restaurante Contrapunto Les Arts for dinner, located in the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia with stunning views of the iconic City of Arts and Sciences.

Day 1

Morning: Go for a walk or run along Barceloneta Beach – the most distinguished beach in the city – and grab a coffee at one of the many beachside cafes before work.
Evening: Check out the Barcleoneta neighbourhood by night and enjoy dinner at La Cova Fumada, a famous tapas bar offering traditional tapas in a former winery.

Day 2

Morning: Start work early to finish early.
Afternoon: Close your laptop and make a bee-line for Park Güell. This stunning Unesco World Heritage site is like no other park you’ve seen, designed by Gaudi, its colourful mosaics and panoramic views of the city are the perfect way to end a working day.
Evening: Squeeze in for dinner amongst locals and tourists alike at El Xampanyet, a cosy spot known for its delicious cava and tapas.

Day 3

Afternoon: Take a break and wander through the Gothic Quarter, the historic centre of the old city of Barcelona, stopping for lunch and coffee at the historic Café de l’Òpera.
Evening: Enjoy a relaxing dinner in with fresh ingredients from La Boqueria, the famous food market in the heart of the city.

Day 4

Morning: Start work early to finish early.
Afternoon: Head up to the beautiful Montjuïc Castle and Gardens, which offer stunning views of the city and the sea, a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets.
Evening: Savour a dinner of fresh seafood and paella at Can Solé, a local favourite in the Barceloneta neighbourhood.

Day 5

Morning: Start work late and visit the world-famous Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece, to see the progress being made on this unfinished and awe-inspiring cathedral.
Evening: Take a leisurely walk or run along Passeig de Gracia and order a pizza for delivery from Pizzeria Da Nanni Barcelona.

Day 6

All day: Take a day trip to the nearby Montserrat Monastery, a breathtaking Benedictine abbey located in the mountains about an hour outside of Barcelona.

Day 7

Morning: Start the day with coffee and breakfast at Brunch & Cake, a trendy cafe known for its delicious brunch dishes.
Afternoon: Spend the afternoon at the Picasso Museum, which houses an extensive collection of the artist’s works.
Evening: Enjoy a dinner of Catalan cuisine at La Pubilla, a farm-to-table restaurant with a cozy atmosphere.

The best of the rest

Those cities located the furthest from London tended to perform poorly on the ranking, with all three cities in the US, India and Pakistan landing closer to the bottom of the pile when it comes to suitability for a working holiday. Apart from the obvious journey time to reach these destinations and the potential issues of being in a vastly different time zone, each has other criteria where they struggle to make the grade.

Pakistan has the lowest cyber security score (64.88) of all the countries on the list and its three cities, Lahore (14.09 Mb/s), Karachi (12.5 Mb/s) and Faisalabad (7.1 Mb/s) take the bottom three spots for internet speed. All three cities also struggle to compete on the amount of green space they have to offer.

For India, although scoring amongst the highest for cyber security (97.5), internet speed in all three cities (Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai) is relatively low in comparison to other cities on the list, with Delhi having the fastest at 58.76 Mb/s. Similarly, all three cities offer much less in the way of green space compared to other cities on the list.

With the cost of living high in the US, this translates into poor scores for all three cities (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) when it comes to the average price of an Airbnb per night, with LA being the most expensive city on the list at £206.55.

If keen to travel further afield and take that working break outside of Europe, Delhi (34th) or New York (37th) are the best international destinations for work and play, according to the research.

Conclusion

Choosing the right destination is crucial for a successful working holiday. It’s important to get the balance right so that you can comfortably tackle your work and make the most of your surroundings whilst finding time to relax.

It’s essential to do your research and check all the necessary requirements before embarking on your adventure. Individuals should check with their employers, company policies, and relevant authorities to ensure that they are allowed to visit and work in the country they’re interested in. Other important considerations include tax implications, passport requirements and health insurance.

Methodology

1.The countries included in the research are the top 20 Leading countries visited by residents of the United Kingdom as reported by Statista.

2. The three largest cities by population were identified for each country using World Population Review.

3. The area in KM2 for each city was collected from Wikipedia/Google search and rounded to the nearest whole number.

4. Each destination’s work friendliness and holiday friendliness was assessed using a total of 10 criteria, selected for their relevance to the two categories.

5. For each criterion, city-level data was collected where possible. For some criteria, country-level data was collected and the scores for these criteria were given less weight in the final scoring and ranking of the cities.

6. Data for each of the 10 criteria was collected from the sources listed below. For a small number of exceptions where data was unavailable, an alternative data source was used (see full data set for details).

7. The no. of green spaces was adjusted by population and the no. of 5* rated attractions and available supply of Airbnbs were adjusted by area in KM2 to account for the difference in the size of the cities. Each city was then scored on each criterion and ranked accordingly.

8. Data was collected between 27-31 March 2023.

9. You can download the full dataset here.

Data Sources

Distance from London (Miles) – Google Maps
Internet Speed (avg. Mb/s) – https://www.bandwidthplace.com/location-index/
Cyber Security (Global Index score) – https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-d/opb/str/D-STR-GCI.01-2021-PDF-E.pdf
No. of Green Spaces – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/
Avg. cost of Cappuccino (GBP) – https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/
No. of 5* rated Attractions – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/
No. of Sunny Hours per year – https://weather-and-climate.com/
Available Supply of Airbnbs (previous month) – https://analytics.alltherooms.com/
Avg. Airbnb price per night – https://analytics.alltherooms.com/
Avg. cost of one-way ticket on Local Transport – https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/
State of Remote Work report – https://owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work/2022

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