TOP IDEAS FOR YOUR NEXT EUROPEAN WEEKEND BREAK
Art, Food, Glamour, Fun and Culture – Europe has it all!
Maybe you’re looking for a winter city break, or one of Europe’s romantic getaways for couples? Or perhaps you’d rather just avoid the crowds and be privy to some of Europe’s better-kept secret escapes.
Whatever your short trip preferences, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite destinations for mini holidays abroad and also a couple of weekend breaks in Europe that you might not have considered before.
If you’re looking for European weekend trip ideas, you’ve come to the right place!
Our 10 Best Weekend Getaways in Europe You’ve Not Thought of Yet…
Whether you intend to lose yourselves in cobbled streets, world-class art or the best bowl of pasta you’ve ever tasted, a well-chosen short break abroad can be the escape you so need. But we choose weekend breaks in Europe for different reasons and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. So whether you’re in the planning stages or just after some inspiration let us see if we can entice your with some of our favourites…
1. COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
The perfect European city break for families, Copenhagen is an easy recommendation from us. Transport from the airport is first off quick and easy – a consideration you have to make when you’re visiting a city with kids. But then there’s the world-famous theme park right in the centre of the city, Tivoli Gardens, and the flag-ship LEGO store on the famous pedestrian street Strøget.
Other highlights of Copenhagen include the many museums (some of the best curated interactive exhibitions we’ve ever seen!), boat trips on the River Nyhavn, children’s theatres playing out local hero Hans Christian Anderson’s best bits, and the chilled-out street food market, PapirØen, on Paper Island.
Stay at NH Collection right on the water for captivating river scenes. The hotel has family rooms as well as interconnecting rooms for that extra bit of privacy, plus the breakfasts are great too.
But Copenhagen isn’t just the perfect place for families, we think it makes for a great city break in Europe for food lovers. 14, that’s FOURTEEN, Michelin-starred restaurants, more than a handful of food halls to eat at and many, many more excellent choices for Danish scran. Thank goodness it’s only your luggage that gets weighed at the airport!
If you are in town for the food then we recommend staying at the Coco Hotel – a small boutique hotel right out of a Wes Anderson film, and the most attentive staff. It’s right on the edge of the Meat-Packing District, an area of trendy bars and restaurants where many chefs are cutting their teeth on the food-savvy punters of Copenhagen. Go to War Pigs, Kødbyens Fiskebar and Tommi’s Burger Joint – don’t say we never told you!
We wrote more about our Copenhagen experience here.
2. PALMA, MALLORCA
The beautiful city of Palma, Mallorca, has been a firm favourite of ours for 12 years.
Most visit Mallorca in the form of an all-inclusive beach break and the only connection to Palma they make is the coach transfer out of there! But seeing as the airport is right on your doorstep, Palma makes for another easy European city break that barely takes any organisation.
The Romans, Arabs, Greeks and Phoenicians have all managed to tattoo themselves into the grain of Palma and this eclectic mix of world powers makes for a very interesting scene. And a beautiful one too. Palma is one of the prettiest cities in Europe we think, with every different area turning up another picturesque square or ornate building.
For more inspiration on how to fill a weekend and all of the best places to eat and drink, check out our post here. But rest assured, a trip to Palma will be one of slow meanderings, excellent tapas, drinks on roof-tops with amazing views and excellent shopping! The temperate climate of Spains best Balearic means that even in the shoulder seasons and winter months Palma can feel like a warm hug.
Hole up at one of the most beautiful squares in Palma at Hotel Cort and spend your evenings sipping Mallorcan wine under the ancient olive tree downstairs. This is a city break of slowness and always leaves us relaxed and renewed, ready to face the world again!
3. BILBAO, SPAIN
Sticking with Spain but feeling like a different world, let alone a different country, Bilbao is an attack on the senses. In a good way, of course. The Basque culture has often been sketched as rebellious and spirited, and this is more than apparent in the lively city of Bilbao! I’m not saying expect a fight with a local, I’m saying they don’t do things like everyone else, and it certainly is refreshing. If you fancy a weekend trip in Europe of stimulating proportions where your viewpoints are challenged and new passions are planted, Bilbao will accomplish all of that.
Known around the world as a foodie hotspot you could easily bar-hop for 48 hours and not even bother with a hotel! (Joke. We have a great recommendation for you later.) You see with every drink in Bilbao comes a ‘small plate’, or pintxos, as an accompaniment that’ll serve you well till the next stop. Usually a slice of fresh bread with a garnish you choose, the toppings have become more and more competitive in recent years. And it’s always fresh and local produce – Bilbaoans take their food very seriously.
They also take art and culture seriously too and your mini break could be quickly consumed by their world-famous museums, including the iconic Guggenheim. So make sure you make some time for the old town, Casa Viejo, especially Plaza Nueva. Some other great places you don’t want to miss are the La Ribera food market, Artxander funicular for some epic views, and the Azkuna Zentroa for some Philippe Starck craziness. Like I say, you’ll see things in Bilbao you won’t encounter anywhere else.
We’d recommend the area of Abando as your base. It’s a central spot for seeing all you want to see, plus it’s right next to the river for gorgeous evening walks and drinks, and it’s also more sedate than the old town and feels safer. The Radisson Collection hotel is absolutely stunning and if your budget stretches we would definitely recommend it. For something a bit more budget-friendly we love Hotel Abando for the location, modern fresh rooms and good coffee.
4. BERGERAC, FRANCE
When life is going so fast and you want to get off the hamster wheel for a weekend, head to Bergerac for a picnic. There’s no greater antidote than lunch from France’s pantry by the Dordogne River.
The first time we visited we arrived early evening, so we changed for dinner and headed straight out into the Vieille Ville (old town). It was just getting dark and all of the restaurants looked so cosy and inviting, the glow of candlelit diners in medieval half-timbered houses. It was like a scene out of some Disney film. Fast forward to Monday morning and we had settled well into our new nicknames, Belle and Gaston.
And whilst Bergerac is just a small historic French town, it has more than enough to offer for a weekend away. Predominantly famous for its wine, you could easily spend your short break sozzled in the name of cultural research. But, there are many more things to do in Bergerac other than drink wine. Sozzled or sobre you mustn’t omit the museums, markets and miles of countryside walks on the edge of town. A favourite of ours was the Tobacco Museum which unexpectedly filled us in on French Society and how tobacco changed the face of France.
We love the chilled-out old French vibe of Bergerac and highly recommend it for a European winter break since their winters are fairly mild. It has a cute little Christmas market too. And even though the airport resembles my old school hall, and the man who checks your bag also flies the plane, there are several budget airlines that fly to Bergerac. This makes it an easy option from most places in the UK and a cheap weekend getaway in Europe.
We stayed at Maison de Corinne – a beautiful old apartment down by the river with a kitchen to take advantage of all the local fare we bought and consumed! The exposed beams and French furnishings just added to the feel of being whisked away to an older and slower way of life that Bergerac so perfectly epitomises.
5. CORFU OLD TOWN, GREECE
Perhaps an unexpected entry onto our list of European weekend breaks, you may have written Greece off as too distant for a short break? Well fear not, Corfu can be reached in under 3 hours. In fact, in many respects, it’s almost Italy! I kid you not… a regular holiday destination for Italians, crossing the Med in ferries from Puglia, plus the fact the Venetians once ruled here and shaped the town of Corfu. I swear, if you were dropped from space and asked to name the place, you could actually be in Rome’s Trastevere district.
The airport is also a convenient 5-minute taxi ride from Corfu Old Town too, meaning that no time is lost in transfers and you can get stuck into exploring immediately. Whilst the island is famous for its beautiful beaches and coves made famous by The Durrell’s, the history of the island and the beauty of the architecture in its capital make it the perfect destination for a weekend break.
Skip the beach resorts and instead book a room at the beautiful Hotel Locandiera on one of the quieter streets in the Old Town of Corfu and enjoy the convenient location.
You will want to spend at least a day discovering the narrow cobbled streets of this UNESCO-listed old town. Get as lost as you can in the pedestrianised Jewish Quarter and peek your head into every church you pass – some being exceptionally beautiful. Walk the cape from the harbour around to the Old Fortress and finish on the Liston Arcade for a coffee on Europe’s second largest square. And if you’re lucky, there might even be a brass band playing or a game of cricket going on – a little nod to the fact Corfu was once a British protectorate. Come evening, watch the sunset with a Mastika Spritz (Prosecco and Mastika liqueur) on the rooftop bar of Hotel Arcadion, then head on over to Oinos kai Geuseis for some good Greek home cooking at this cute family-ran restaurant.
For the rest of your mini-break, there are several places worth visiting by bus, which leaves from the Liston Arcade regularly. Check out the Mon Repos estate where HRH Prince Philip was born, and The Achilleion – a villa with a fascinating back story and amazing sea-front gardens. We would also recommend taking the bus to a little area known as Pontikonisi (we wrote about it here) for a dose of plane-spotting and a visit to Mouse Island, a Corfu little gem.
A little short-break reminiscent of a week’s summer holiday!
6. LAKE COMO, ITALY
“When you write the story of two happy lovers, let the story be set on the banks of Lake Como”
That one time James Bond actually needed to recover from some bullet wounds, he chose Villa Balbianello on the shores of Lake Como. So if it’s good enough for Bond and you haven’t visited yet, then what are you playing at?
Book yourselves into the balconied Olive Tree Lakeview apartment in the beautiful town of Bellagio and take in the mountain views across the lake. At the centre of the lake, Bellagio is the perfect base for visiting all of the worthwhile towns and villa’s via water buses but also the prettiest town in Como too. This particular apartment happens to be around the corner from our most favourite Pizzeria in the whole wide world.
If you’re flying to Milan you will need to take the train to the town of Como then either the bus or the fast boat up to Bellagio. Check out our weekend guide for Como here (and directions to the Pizzeria). And…Make sure you pack your headscarf and loafers, Bellagio is posh as.
7. FAZANA, CROATIA
Whilst the rest of the world is dipping its toe into Croatia via the Game of Thrones film set Dubrovnik, those in the know fly to Pula and drive the 10 minutes north to Fazana for a quieter weekend away in Europe.
The small fishing village of Fazana sits on the Croatian peninsula of Istria, just around the bend from Italy. It’s the perfect getaway for hikers and history buffs alike. You will need to hire a car to explore the region though.
The heart of Istria is a lush collection of fortified hilltop towns and vineyards, with plenty of breathtaking views out to the Adriatic from its hills. Whilst the west coast is peppered with old Venetian cities and towns, Opatija on the east was once a playground for the rich and famous and has an air of the French Riviera about it. Today though, it seems like the super-rich like to park their super yachts in the harbour of Rovinj – a town you will definitely not want to miss (a classier version of Dubrovnik if you ask me).
Although the Istrians don’t seem to brag about it, it’s quite remarkable how good the food is in this region of Croatia and we can guarantee your dining experiences will be the highlight of your holiday. Organic goes without saying, and the region is self-sufficient in most produce, including some world-class wines and truffles. But the hospitality is warm and inviting, and nothing is overpriced. In fact, if Istria was a science experiment my conclusion would be : The modest people of Istria know they probably live in one of the best regions of Europe but their humility stops them from boasting about it. Actually, would you mind if you just kept this secret between us?
We wrote about Istria here.
8. VALENCIA, SPAIN
If you asked ‘How would you describe Valencia?‘, forgive me for introducing a Spanish city by immediately referencing Japan, I just think it perfectly encompasses its flavour. You see, the Okinawans of Japan have a term they use that is said to be one of the secrets of a long and happy life… Yuimaru. And I think there is no better example in a European city than Valencia. Old meets new in a way that harmonises and enhances the Valencian experience.
Yuimaru roughly translates to ‘the spirit of cooperation’, particularly between old and young or new and old.
This is noticeably apparent in Valencia’s fine architectural specimens oftentimes interwoven with a funky piece of street art. And, when the sun goes down, there’s a strong sense of old partying with young and no one batting an eyelid at the age differences.
One beautiful tradition that I would readily steal from the Valencians if I ever became mayor of England is their version of afternoon tea. Around 5pm each evening the old folk walk out, arm in arm and dressed in their best, for Horchata and fartons, whilst all the tourists look on wondering what on earth is the special event. Just the celebration of life it seems, and the opportunity to dip a sugary churros (farton) in a milky drink (Horchata). We quickly adopted this custom and when we discovered the Horchata was made from Chuffa nuts (I kid you not) we renamed it ‘going out for chuffas and fartons.’
I mentioned the architecture… old town beauty of Moorish, Gothic and Baroque buildings are glued together in the streets with elegant graffiti scenes (this is the City of Arts after all) and futuristic buildings by the likes of Calatrava and Chipperfield are on every postcard.
Add to all of this wonderment the opportunity to visit a ton of free museums, eat paella in the town it was invented, see a real bullfight, and even spend a day at the beach, a weekend trip to Valencia is a veritable delight!
It’s the perfect weekend break abroard for big groups since there’s so much to do and would meet anyone’s tastes. Plus, with mild winters it’s also a great choice for out-of-season : one of life’s pleasures is sharing a photo of yourself sipping coffee on a sunny beach promenade in January when you know everyone else is freezing their chuffa’s off at home.
Book a flight from London, Bristol, East Midlands or Manchester and make a reservation at the Vincci Palace Hotel only a two-minute walk from the tube stop, Colon, which is the direct line to the airport. It’s also perfectly located for everything else and on the right side of town for the beach and Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias too (Calatrava’s masterpiece). Alternatively, if you’re travelling as a group, the HQ San Vicente apartments are perfect – beautiful rooms and great communal areas to enjoy each other’s company including a rooftop terrace.
9. VERONA, ITALY
Verona…one of the most romantic weekend breaks Europe has to offer. The rumour mill has it that Shakespeare never even visited, despite its fair palaces and piazzas playing star roles in Romeo and Juliet. Total twaddle I tell you! The place has Shakespeare written all over it.
But even if you take Juliet’s tomb and balcony out of the equation (and please don’t – they’re at least worth a fly-by), it’s still so romantic. And nowhere else will you find quite the array of balconies! Every corner you turn they become more ornate and beautiful.
The Adige River curves a protective arm around the inner city, defensively shielding it from anyone who has the cheek to even suggest Verona wasn’t visited by Shakespeare. They don’t deserve to walk the walls at night and see Verona’s amber glow from its banks. Or sip thick Italian hot chocolate from Caffe Borsari and a glass of Amarone wine in Piazza Bra.
The colosseum-like amphitheatre dominating postcard scenes known as the Arena is probably Italy’s most famous place for opera singers to perform so check out the schedule before you go. And if you’re not into opera, the open-air venue has hosted many famous bands, it’s a pretty impressive setting.
Verona is a small city and fairly compact, perfect for wandering slowly and soaking it all in at a snail’s pace. It’s the kind of place I’d like to live one day but for now, weekend breaks will have to do. Trust me though, you’ll never want to leave.
- Stay at Hotel Milano for the romantic bedrooms and SPA facilities.
- Eat at Al Bersagliere for traditional local dishes created with love.
- Go shopping on Verona’s most fashionable street, Via Mazzini.
- Check out the frescoes in Piazza Erbe and take on a birdseye view from the top of Torre dei Lamberti.
If you’re only interested in ticking off landmarks then maybe Verona isn’t the best city break for you. But Verona is worth far more than the sum of its parts and when you absorb it the way I’m sure Shakespeare did, you absolutely believe this is the real city of love.
*Incidentally, flights to Verona often have some of the lowest prices, making it one of the cheapest city breaks around.
Our final choice for weekend breaks in Europe goes to the wonderful town of Alicante. Fed up of the British winter that was dragging on, we booked a short break abroard very last minute after checking the weather forecast and opting for somewhere we could sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy a beverage in March.
Now, I’m guessing the town of Alicante in Summer is a completely different place, full of football-shirt-wearing daytrippers from Benidorm. But in March it presented as the traditional little Spanish town that it actually is when it’s not taking advantage of summer tourists.
Unlike some Spanish bolt-holes that feel like ghost towns in the winter, Alicante actually shows its true face when the tourists go home. It has a university, a colourful history, a firm foothold in the foodie scene and a strong high street for shoppers. All evidence that Alicante can hold its own in the weekend break department!
Book yourself on a food tour (or take our free one here), drink cocktails with students in the Old Town, discover the picture-postcard rainbow streets of Santa Cruz, and look down on all of Alicante’s glory from the castle heights of Mount Benacantil. But most of all, stroll the promenades with a morning coffee in hand and the rays on your face, and eat local almond cake with horchata on the palm tree-lined terraces of Avenida de Ramon y Cajal. Alicante is one of the best winter city breaks Europe has to offer!
We stayed at the spa hotel Sercotel Suites del Mar. A sleek place on the marina with views from all rooms and excellent facilities in case the weather doesn’t work in your favour. We would definitely go back!
So there you have our choices – some of the best short breaks Europe has to offer! And with travel opened up again after covid and lots of places having benefited from a spruce-up, I’m sure we’ll be adding a few more to this list very soon! Click our subscribe button below and you’ll be first to hear of new posts.
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