Looking for city breaks in Europe? Here are 20 city break ideas that will make for the perfect weekend away.
One of the things I love the most is going on city breaks – from the classic 2-night city break to the perfect 3-night longer weekend. And with short flight times from the UK (the longest I am suggesting is only 2h30), it really makes it a breeze.
I have gathered 20 of my favourite European weekend break blog posts – some are older than others, but as you know, I am all about the timeless classics. I hope you enjoy this selection which will make for really lovely European weekends away.
20 of the Best City Breaks in Europe
1. Seville, Spain
Sevilla is one of my favourite Spanish cities and it really makes for the perfect weekend break. With a fascinating history stretching back to the 8th century BC, rich local culture and plenty of different things to see and do, you can hand-pick a selection of activities to last a couple of days and enjoy the incredible atmosphere that this city is known for.
With more direct flights from the UK than ever, Seville lends itself to a perfect 3-night break. Arrive in the morning and enjoy at least two full days before having to catch a flight back home again, with the airport’s location close to the centre of the city making it easy to make the most of your time in Spain.
The weather is amazing (I remember going in November and enjoying 20°C temperatures) which is why the city is known as one of the sunniest in all of Europe. Spring is one of the most popular times to visit before the heat of the summer really sets in, but even in the winter the weather will still be relatively mild. Also, there is something pretty special for sherry and Iberian ham lovers.
Must do: go on a private food tour with Shawn.
2. Florence, Italy
I recently returned to Florence after 10 years and had a fantastic 3-night long weekend. One of Italy’s most famous cities, the cradle of the Renaissance is the perfect location for a romantic break or a trip filled with history where you can feel like you’ve stepped into the past as you walk through the streets.
We chose to stay outside the city centre (which added to that ‘holiday’ feel) and believe it or not, we avoided most of the crowds whilst visiting in the high season. The food wasn’t bad either 😉
Florence is a great location if you want to enjoy both a taste of the Italian countryside and a more cosmopolitan environment. There are plenty of villas, vineyards and farmhouses just outside the city, allowing you to make the most of the Florentine attractions and then retire to the peace of the Tuscan hills at the end of the day.
Must do: book a ‘beat the crowds’ early access tour to the Accademia.
3. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is my hometown and I never get to go on the perfect city break – because of all the friends and family I need to see. But I actually almost want to go back in secret and enjoy a perfect weekend break in Portugal’s capital.
I would say that a 2-night city break in Lisbon would give you a good taste of what else you could visit next time. Modern and historic culture combine in a brilliant array of sightseeing spots, museums and galleries and wonderful places to eat, along with the selection of wineries that are famous across the continent.
Lisbon is built over a series of hills, so you’ll need to be prepared to walk a lot when you visit for a city break. It’s also on the coast, making it an ideal destination for a summer holiday if you want to spend time by the beach.
Must do: get to the top of the Rua Augusta Arch for amazing views
4. Bath, England
One of my favourite UK destinations, Bath, is perfect for a visit any time of the year. It’s only 90 minutes by train from London, so easy to add on if you are coming to the Uk’s capital for a longer holiday and want to add on a weekend trip to somewhere new.
A 2-night city break in Bath will be enough to enjoy the famous baths (one of which you can have all to yourself) and plenty of shopping. It’s one of Britain’s best locations for a wellness break, with a great selection of spas, luxury hotels and outstanding places to eat and drink.
Bath is also a great city for history, with lots of examples of architecture that have stood the test of time. It was also once the home of famous British writer Jane Austen, and there is now a centre dedicated to her time in the city along with a Regency-style tea room.
Must do: Book the Cross Baths.
5. Madrid, Spain
I have a LOT of love for Madrid; a city I got to call home for a few years. I feel it is underrated when it comes to European city break destinations and I love getting emails from readers saying how much they enjoyed it.
Madrid is often overlooked in favour of nearby Barcelona, but this location has just as much going for it. As the largest city in Spain, there is a huge range of choices when it comes to places to stay, things to do and attractions to see.
There’s a historic feel to the graceful stone architecture and close-knit neighbourhoods, but Madrid’s infrastructure is very modern, which makes it an easy place to get around on public transport. With the airport close to the city centre, you can arrive in the city and get straight on with your short break.
Must do: shop and dine at Salamanca district.
6. Tallinn, Estonia
When we chose to spend a weekend in Tallinn, it really was quite the wildcard – and a bet that paid off. We loved the historic city centre and were very surprised by the vibrant Baltic food scene, which is unlike any other culinary experience you’ll find in this part of Europe.
Tallinn has a rich cultural scene and a central Old Town that is one of the best-preserved Hanseatic town centres in the world. There’s a modern aspect to the city as well, where you’ll find most of the luxury hotels and plenty of great places to go shopping.
This is a great city destination if you want to enjoy the coast on your trip, as Tallinn overlooks a bay and is lined with sandy beaches and beautiful promenades. Visiting in the summer means you can enjoy this side of the city to its fullest, but it’s a lovely place to walk at any time of year.
Must do: after-dinner cocktails at secret bars.
7. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague holds some special memories for us as it is where I first met Mr O. We went back 10 years later on a city break to actually add some romance to those memories.
Famous for other types of travel, we felt that Prague delivered well for luxury travellers. Spas and five-star hotels are plentiful, with lots of options for luxurious evening activities from cocktail bars to a visit to the opera.
The city is often described as looking ‘fairytale’ which adds to its appeal as a top destination for a romantic break. The architecture is iconic and pretty unique to this part of the world and looks beautiful no matter what month you visit.
Must do: book a Flytographer session because the views can really be amazing.
8. Paris, France
Paris is the obvious classic European city break destination – and one that gets better every time we visit. I am due a return and very much looking forward to it.
The flight from London to Paris is just about an hour and I think I need some more of that Parisian (almost) rudeness in my life right now. It’s also very easy to get to via Eurostar, placing you right in the centre of the city on arrival and ready to get out and explore.
Many people criticise Paris for being ruined by tourism, but you only need to look past the generic recommendations to discover what it is that has given this city such a famous reputation. Disappear down side streets, spend an hour in a pavement cafe and explore the shops and galleries that are away from the busy areas, and you’ll soon understand why France’s capital city is such an ideal European city break destination.
Must do: spend a morning at La Grande Epicerie.
9. London, United Kingdom
I couldn’t do a round-up of my favourite European city breaks without including London – the city that has changed my life not once, but twice. I do not live in London (I live just outside Henley-on-Thames in the British countryside, an hour from the city centre) but I am in town at least twice a week for work and to play, of course.
London has something for everyone depending on which part of the city you visit; there are attractions for history fans, art lovers, theatre fanatics and travellers who enjoy seeing a city through its nightlife. There are train connections from all parts of the UK and multiple airports near the city, making it easy to visit wherever you come from
If you want a quintessentially British experience, opt for afternoon tea at a hotel and then a trip to a museum or art gallery. There are plenty of iconic sightseeing spots in the city centre, as well as a wide range of brilliant attractions a little further out and east to reach on the Underground.
Must do: enjoy afternoon tea at one of the classics. And book WAY in advance.
10. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest was one of the best weekend breaks we had in the last couple of years – I stupidly did not know that the city was so pleasant to the eye and how friendly the locals were. I would like to return shortly as the city offers a very good variety of luxury hotels to try, so watch this space for reviews!
The culture and architecture of Budapest ooze opulence, which is why it’s such a great place for a luxury weekend break. It’s also one of the best European cities for a spa break, with a range of options that include neutral thermal baths as well as traditional spa facilities.
If you enjoy sightseeing then there are an abundance of places that you can visit in Budapest, but you’ll also have a great time if you just relax in the city and take your time enjoying whatever is on the itinerary. It’s best to visit between April and September before the weather gets cold, but Budapest in December can be magical if you enjoy the snow.
Must do: visit the ruin bars.
11. Oslo, Norway
This is another city I did not have any experience of, so everything was brand new. It made the list of the best city breaks in Europe thanks to the food and the culture, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for something a little different.
With a compact city centre, Oslo was very walkable and came with unexpected delights such as fresh seafood and waffles. And gin. The gin was an outstanding highlight.
Oslo is quite a modern city, although the architecture in the centre does have some 19th-century Neoclassical highlights. The beautiful Oslofjord is very close however, so if you’re craving more classic Scandinavian scenery you won’t have to travel far to find it.
Must do: walk the rooftop of the Opera House.
12. Dublin, Ireland
I visit Dublin at least every other year for a weekend. It’s a great city, and I love it in particular for the shopping, the whiskey and the fact that it’s such a compact place that makes it ideal for just a short visit.
Dublin is an incredibly popular European city break destination, which means that it can get quite busy, especially during the holidays. There’s enough going on in the city however that it isn’t too hard to escape the crowds and discover hidden gems outside of the usual popular attractions; we followed recommendations from some of our Irish friends and weren’t disappointed!
Located between the mountains and the sea, it’s also possible to reach plenty of beautiful areas outside of the city on a day trip, from the pretty fishing village of Howth to the Wicklow Mountains. Or you’ll find more than enough to keep you busy without having to go too far from your accommodation, whether you’re after a holiday filled with culture, history, or gastronomic indulgence.
Must do: visit a whiskey distillery for a tour and tasting session
13. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is definitely one of the best cities in Europe for a luxury weekend trip. Straddling two continents on either side of the Bosphorus Strait, it’s a colourful metropolis that has plenty of options for luxury travellers, from hotels to outstanding restaurants and spas.
The location of Istanbul means that it’s a location that blends the east with the west in everything from the food to the architecture. Whether you’re looking to spend your trip sightseeing, shopping, or simply enjoying the hospitality of your hotel, there are plenty of options for all kinds of travellers seeking a holiday with a touch of luxury and indulgence.
I spent quite a lot of time in Istanbul when I was working as a marketing director, but still find something new to experience every time I return. It’s a magical city with plenty of brilliant hotels and restaurants, and whilst the traffic and public transport systems leave something to be desired, we always leave already excited to come back again and see more.
Must do: Visit one of the city’s spectacular religious buildings
14. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is one of Scandinavia’s most famous cities, making it an incredibly popular choice for a city break in this part of the world. I would strongly recommend it because of the Danish concept of hospitality, meaning that you’ll get outstanding service in any of the city’s luxury accommodation options.
We first visited Copenhagen in December which was beautiful, if rather cold, but it’s a great city for a short break no matter what time of year you come to stay. The brilliant array of architecture and iconic colourful buildings means that it’s a city that is best explored on foot, so Spring and early Autumn offer some of the best weather if you’re planning on a sightseeing tour.
Copenhagen is the perfect size to enjoy in just a weekend, or you can stay for longer and venture out to other nearby Danish towns and cities. It’s certainly a great place to go for art, culture and museums, but more adventurous foodies will also find plenty of wonderful restaurants.
Must do: Take a trip to The Design Museum to learn more about the iconic danish architecture you’ll see all around the city
15. Helsinki, Finland
Stylish and innovative, Helsinki is a city in Finland that sits on a peninsula right on the south coast of the country. It’s an incredibly pretty city thanks to both the natural landscapes surrounding it and the impressive architecture, and is the perfect place for a short but luxurious European city break.
I first visited Helsinki on a very brief trip in 2013 where I tried to cram as much sightseeing into a day as possible. There are plenty of things to see and do in the city which could fill at least a 4-day itinerary, but I enjoyed a stroll down the seafront area known as Kauppatori and then went on a boat trip to a nearby island fortress called Suomenlinna.
Helsinki is known for its design in particular, so it’s certainly a European city to visit if you’re a fan of impressive modern architecture and innovation. The shopping in the city centre is also excellent, and of course, the Finnish hospitality ensures that you’ll receive outstanding service in all of Helsinki’s cafes, bars and restaurants.
Must do: Hop on a ferry and visit one of the 300 islands that make up the Helsinki archipelago to experience a new side of the city for an afternoon
16. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular destinations for a city break, but with this reputation comes a barrage of generic recommendations of what to do when you visit. Alongside the coffee shops, canals and the infamous Red Light District, there are also plenty of experiences on offer that are perfectly suited for a luxurious holiday.
I’ve been to Amsterdam on luxury breaks numerous times and have always had brilliant experiences at the hotels I’ve stayed at, the bars I’ve visited and the restaurants whose food I’ve enjoyed. If you want to get a real feel for the city outside of the usual tourist traps, I’d recommend booking a private walking tour with an independent guide who can share their knowledge of the ‘real’ Amsterdam and tailor your itinerary depending on your interests.
If you’re after a city break destination that is great at all times of the year, Amsterdam is a great choice no matter when you’re visiting. From the beautiful sunshine in the spring to the exciting events of the summer, ideal sightseeing weather in autumn and the magical atmosphere in winter, this is a city that’s always worth a visit on a luxurious break.
Must do: Enjoy the independent food and culture scene at Westerpark, a series of converted industrial buildings now home to numerous eateries and arts venues.
17. Belfast, Northern Ireland
When listing luxury holiday destinations, Northern Ireland is unlikely to be somewhere that you initially think of. But my experience of the city has meant that it’s a place firmly on my list of recommendations for places to visit that are great for a luxurious few days away from home.
When Mr O and I visited Northern Island we started our break in Belfast, then visited the seaside town of Newcastle and the quaint Ballygally in the south of the area. Not only did we enjoy plenty of delicious food and drink but also received some of the friendliest hospitality from the majority of the people we encountered, which further cemented our love for this destination.
Whether you’re after a lively city break or fancy a stay in a luxurious castle or hotel, there are plenty of options to choose from in Northern Ireland. The scenery is simply stunning along the coast and inland, making it a particularly good place for a romantic trip away if you want to treat yourself and your partner.
Must do: Visit the Titanic Belfast to admire the unique architecture of the building and find out more about Northern Ireland’s maritime history.
18. Mallorca, Spain
As the largest of the Spanish Balearic Islands, Mallorca has always been an incredibly popular holiday destination. With a heavenly Mediterranean climate and a vast range of beach resorts, it’s a wonderful place for a luxurious break that revolves around colourful local culture and absolutely stunning coastal scenery.
I’ve always been a big fan of visiting Palma in Mallorca, not only because of the shopping opportunities but because there are always plenty of things to see and do, along with numerous outstanding seafood restaurants which I would strongly recommend. If you’re visiting the island then I recommend that you hire a car, as this makes it easy to travel around the coast at your leisure and be flexible with your itinerary, which always makes for a more relaxing holiday.
Puerto Portals is another of my favourite locations on the island, especially the marina which is a wonderful place for an evening stroll if you enjoy admiring the impressive array of different boats in the harbour. Whether you decide to stay in one of the island’s luxury resorts or enjoy a break in a boutique hotel, Mallorca is a fantastic destination for an island holiday with plenty of luxurious little touches that will ensure you have an unforgettable experience.
Must do: Make time to sample some of the island’s delicious fresh seafood and finish your meal with a Spanish-sized G+T
19. Milan, Italy
I often find that people tend to forget Milan when it comes to naming Italy’s greatest cities, overlooking the country’s design capital in favour of more historic tourist favourites like Rome and Florence. I first visited on business trips and have since come to love it as a European city break destination, not only for the fantastic shopping opportunities but also because the food is brilliant and the architecture is very beautiful, in a way that is totally different from anything else you’ll find in Italy.
Milan is known as being the centre of business and commerce in Italy, giving the central districts an industrial feel that also means you’ll see plenty of design innovation in the buildings around you. It’s also famous as being the capital of fashion in the country, which is not only a treat if you’re a shopaholic but also if you want to be inspired by the outfits of almost every local that walks past you in the city’s most fashionable areas.
There are plenty of elements of Milan that make it a brilliant city for a luxury break, whether you’re visiting to experience the cultural attractions on offer or just to enjoy some serious retail therapy. There are modern hotels aplenty, many incredible restaurants and bars, and you’ve also got the Italian Lakes nearby if you fancy a day trip away from the hustle of one of Italy’s most prosperous cities.
Must do: Follow the Golden Shopping Trail along Via Montenapoleone, Via Spirito Santo, Via della Spiga and Via Sant’Andrea
20. Rome, Italy
Rome is one of the original European city break destinations; famed for its history, its architecture and its significance as the capital of Italy. It may not be the first destination that comes to mind when you’re looking for luxury however, but it’s a key contender on this list as a great place to visit for a short but indulgent trip away.
Some people might roll their eyes at the suggestion of Rome and dismiss it as a destination that is always heaving with tourists, but on my first visit I found this not to be the case. The neighbourhood of Trastevere in particular felt incredibly authentic and un-touristy when we spent the evening, and booking private, guided tours meant that we avoided large queues and got to find out more about the real stories behind some of the city’s best cultural attractions.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Italy without indulging in the local cuisine, and as the capital city of the country, Rome has plenty to offer culinary fans who visit. There are plenty of famous sites and monuments if you want to indulge in some classic sightseeing, but the city is so large that you can easily find enough to do in a single neighbourhood on a short break, and there’s truly something for everyone when it comes to deciding how to spend your time.
Must do: Book popular cultural attractions ahead of time and enjoy breezing past the queues and getting to admire museums, galleries and architecture in peace.
Have a great weekend and check out my travel hacks to make trips like these even easier.
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