Last Updated on 11 July 2021
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The best city break destinations in Europe…
Are you wondering where to go for a city break in Europe? With an abundance of pristine beaches where clear waters lap the shores, perfectly-preserved Old Town quarters that resemble the setting of a children’s fairytale book, beautifully warm summer days, vibrant nightlife with a mix of chic restaurants and bustling bars, stunning scenery, and rich histories and cultures, Europe has city break destinations to suit everyone!
But with so many wonderful destinations at your fingertips, it can be overwhelming when choosing where to go for your European city break. So to cure your travel overwhelm and provide you with all the inspiration you need, here is list of the best summer city break destinations in Europe! Along with some well-loved locations, you’ll find some alternative European city break destinations that you might not have heard of until now (especially #6)! And some of these city breaks allow for easy regional and international day trips to other countries too! So, in no particular order and without further ado, I give you the best city break destinations in Europe…
1. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mostar is the first of the unusual European city break destinations on this list. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mostar is famed for its tall arched bridge (Stari Most) from which elite divers take the leap of faith into the crisp blue waters of the Neretva River below. In the quaint cobbled-streets which lay either side of Stari Most, you’ll find the most charming Old Town laden with Ottoman influence. Mostar is one of the unique places in Europe where east collides with west. You can see eastern influences wherever you look, such as in the trinkets sold on the market stalls and in the food served in the restaurants!
Tip: If you are travelling on a budget, then eastern Europe is going to be your best-friend. For useful hacks on how to make European travel more affordable, check out these tips for cheaper travel in Europe!
You’ll find a population of quirky Millhouse restaurants in Mostar which line the cliff-side of the Neretva River, making Mostar one of the best city break destinations in Europe for foodies. Here they serve all kinds of Balkan favourites (like Ćevapi – a grilled minced meat served in a local flatbread). And if you fancy a day away from the city swimming beneath waterfalls, then you won’t have far to drive! Located ~50km from Mostar you’ll find the stunning Kravice Waterfalls and it’s turquoise waters. And the cherry on top… Mostar is one of the cheapest city break destinations in Europe given it’s abundance of budget accommodation and affordable eateries!
How to get to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Due to the frequency of flights and good public transport around the Balkans, the easiest way to reach Mostar is to fly into the Croatian city of Dubrovnik and then transfer across the border by bus. You can fly into Sarajevo and transfer to Mostar by train or bus also.
2. Valletta, Malta
The baroque capital city of Malta island makes for one of the best weekend breaks in Europe. Valletta is a walkable city that can easily be explored on foot given it’s relatively small size. But as they say, the best things come in small packages. And there is no shortage of things to keep you busy for the duration of your short city break here.
Tip: Generally, accommodation can be a little more expensive in Valletta than in the surrounding towns. So why not investigate whether booking an apartment in St Julian’s or Sliema and using the ferry back and forth to Valletta for your city break could save you some money?
One of the best things to do in Valletta is to go on a self-guided walking tour of the city, to explore the many narrow lanes, squares, statues, fountains, gardens, viewpoints, and historical buildings that the city has to offer. The beautifully warm weather makes Valletta one of the best summertime city breaks in Europe. But don’t discount visiting this hidden gem in the winter either… Believe it or not, Valletta is one of the best Christmas city breaks in Europe, and is especially magical during the festive season when the streets are illuminated with colourful lights and festive cheer fills the air!
How to get to Valletta, Malta: Fly into Malta Airport and then transfer to Valletta using eCabs. The driving distance from Malta Airport to Valletta is just ~8km (~5 miles). If you chose to stay in a nearby town such as Sliema or St Julians, then you can get to/from Valletta by ferry.
Read more: Are you looking for a day by day itinerary for Malta? Then be sure to check out this 5 night itinerary + unbelievable trip costs!
3. Antwerp, Belgium
Belgium is famous for many things; most notably chocolate, beer and waffles! And its second largest city is no exception to the rule! With a busy dockyard and a vibrant nightlife, Antwerp is a cosmopolitan city and the capital of the diamond trade! But don’t be fooled into thinking that Antwerp is just an industrial portside city… In amongst all the hustle and bustle, there is a maze of medieval streets, architectural delights and historical landmarks to explore! Antwerp is one of the best city break destinations in Europe for anyone looking to enjoy art, shopping, food and history, all complimented by a lively nightlife!
Tip: If you fancy a trip longer than a weekend and the freedom of the open road then Antwerp makes for a wonderful stop on any Europe road trip itinerary!
At the heart of Antwerp Old Town is the picturesque cobble-stoned Great Market Square (Grote Markt), where you will find a row of 16th century guild houses, the renaissance Town Hall decorated with colourful flags, the Cathedral of Our Lady, and Brabo Fountain. You can enjoy the extravagant array of architecture and medieval aura of the Great Market Square from one of the many cafes that line it. Or if you fancy a bit of adventure, one of the best ways to explore Antwerp is by bicycle, given its abundance of cycle paths and lanes!
How to get to Antwerp, Belgium: Fly (or take the Eurostar) to Brussels and transfer from there to Antwerp by train.
4. Rome, Italy
One of the top city break destinations in Europe, Rome is undeniably a busy place but with good reason. An open air museum with a collection of some of the worlds best architecture from the Roman period, a magical essence permeates the busy streets and grand Piazzas of the city! There is no shortage of things to do in Rome to fill a weekend break (and more). And it’s a fantastic European summer destination for those looking for rich history, endless sightseeing opportunities, retail therapy, and mouth-watering food (with so many carbs)!
In Rome, old and new sit side by side in perfect harmony and the contrasts are really quite astonishing… Chaotic Italian traffic zooms around the outside of the Colosseum which has stood in all it’s glory since 80AD… Flocks of tourists crowd around the Trevi Fountain in awe of it’s beauty and toss coins into its waters hoping their dreams and wishes will come true… And Gelato shops and cafes line the edges of lavish historic squares like Piazza Navona.
How to get to Rome, Italy: Rome has two airports – Rome Fiumicino and Rome Ciampino. It’s likely that you will land in Rome Fiumicino if you’re flying with a larger airline, as this is the main international airport. From Rome Fiumicino, you can use the Leonardo Express train to get to/from the city. From Rome Ciampino, you can use an airport bus to the nearby train station of Ciampino and then transfer by train into the city.
5. Zadar, Croatia
Another of the alternative city break destinations in Europe on this list is Zadar. Lesser known than the Dalmatian hotspots of Split and Dubrovnik, Zadar is a peninsula city with it’s very own Romanesque Old Town where ruins and remnants are evident throughout. Although a historic port, Zadar is an artsy city where old is intertwined with new. Zadar has a unique Sea Organ which plays the most soothing musical tunes when the waves of the Adriatic Sea flow into its pipes. And next to the Sea Organ there is an outside solar-powered dance floor (the Monument to the Sun) which comes alive with vibrant colours when the sun goes down!
Zadar has a wonderfully calm aura which sweeps through the marble streets, lanes, and alleyways of the Old Town, making it the perfect place to sit and enjoy a cold Ozujsko (Croatian beer)! Although there’s no shortage of things to do in Zadar, if you fancy a day trip during your European getaway there are two notable natural wonders of Europe situated close by – Plitvice Lakes and Kornati National Park. So if you’re in search of a Croatian city break that is cheaper than Dubrovnik but still has copious amounts of history, beauty and Dalmatian charm, then why not spend a few days in Zadar?
How to get to Zadar, Croatia: The best way to reach Zadar is to fly into Zadar Airport. Then transfer to the city centre by private transfer or airport bus.
6. Victoria (Ir-Rabat), Gozo
You may not have seen Victoria on any list of the best city break destinations in Europe before, and you may not even know where it is. So let me shed some light on that for you, because Victoria is certainly one of the most unusual European city breaks on this list. Victoria (known locally as Ir-Rabat) is the capital city of Gozo island, which is Malta’s sister island and the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago.
Tip: If you chose a city break in Valletta (Malta’s capital and best city break #2 on this list), you can do a day trip to Gozo to experience Victoria. Sea Adventure Excursions offer these sightseeing trips. They go via Comino Island for swimming in the enchanting blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. And their boat has a slide and glass bottom – who could resist?
Taking the centre stage of Victoria and the crowning glory of Gozo is the Citadel; an ancient fortification which served as sanctuary from attacks throughout the years. One of the best things to do in Victoria is to wander the Citadel where you will find quaint lanes, beautiful architecture (such as Gozo Cathedral) and stunning countryside vistas from the high walls. Outside of the Citadel in the streets of Victoria there is a sociable vibe with plenty of cafes, eateries and picturesque squares to enjoy. Victoria isn’t the easiest place to get to as it requires transferring by boat from Malta, but if you don’t mind the journey then it’s certainly a unique place for a European city break!
How to get to Victoria, Gozo: Fly into Malta Airport and then transfer to Gozo using the Gozo Channel ferry. This goes from Circewwa Harbour in the north of Malta to Mġarr in Gozo. Then, take a public bus from Mġarr to Victoria (Ir-Rabat).
7. Bruges, Belgium
Abundant with cobbled-streets that are lined with red bricked medieval step roofed houses, Amsterdam-style canals, horse and carts, and Gothic architecture, a weekend in Bruges makes for one of the best short breaks in Europe. It is a city which might trick you into thinking you’ve walked straight into the pages of a children’s story book.
Another walkable city, Bruges is one of the best city breaks in the world for those with a sweet tooth. It’s a playground for chocolate lovers, with it’s abundance of hand made chocolate shops that line the streets, and you’ll never be to far from a Belgian waffle either! The perfect way to explore the lanes, squares, canal-sides, and nooks and crannies of Bruges is to take yourself on a self-guided bicycle tour of the city!
How to get to Bruges, Belgium: Bruges is located a short drive from the ports of Calais and Dunkirk. If you are travelling from London you can take the Eurostar directly to Bruges. If you are travelling by air then you will need to land in Brussels and transfer by train to Bruges.
8. Split, Croatia
The largest city on the Adriatic coast, Split is one of the best European city break destinations for those looking for Romanesque sights, chilled coastal vibes and chic nightlife, all mixed with a healthy dose of Croatian sunshine. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and bustling port city where modern Dalmatian life charmingly intertwines with remnants of the Roman era, there is no shortage of things to do in Split to fill a short break!
Wandering through the Old Town of Split is a wonderful way to spend a few hours, exploring the many narrow lanes decorated with archways, marbled-squares and ancient ruins. A unique thing to do on a summers evening is to sit at the Peristyle of Diocletian’s Palace and enjoy the live music and cheer that fills the warm air. Diocletian’s Palace was constructed between the 3rd and 4th century and is the heart of the Old Town.
Not only is Split one of the top European city breaks because of the stunning Romanesque architecture that makes up the Old Town, but for it’s enchanting surroundings too. With crystal clear waters to the south, mountains to the north and Marjan Hill to the west, the landscape surrounding the peninsula city is breathtaking. And Split is ideally located to do day trips to nearby islands too (like Hvar or Trogir), giving variation to your city break.
How to get to Split, Croatia: Split Airport is located just ~25km (~16 miles) from Split. You can reach Split from the airport by taking the airport shuttle bus.
9. Marmaris, Turkey
Marmaris is a port city and popular resort located in the southwest of Turkey. You could argue that Marmaris is actually a town, but who are we to bicker over the finer details? Marmaris is not your traditional European city break, and is more for those who are in search of some sun, sea and sand with a large serving of hustle and bustle sprinkled on top. The landscapes surrounding Marmaris are enchanting, and consist of crystal clear waters, distant hills and forested mountains.
A mecca for sun worshipers and water sports lovers, Marmaris is the perfect destination if your European city break checklist consists of beaches, relaxation, buzzing nightlife, shopping and the odd day trip too (like to Pamukkale). One of the best things to do in Marmaris alongside wandering the bustling bazaar and swanky marina, is a day trip to the Greek island of Rhodes (another stamp for the passport)! And being located in eastern Europe, Marmaris is a relatively cheap travel destination too!
How to get to Marmaris, Turkey: Fly into Dalaman Airport and transfer to Marmaris by shared shuttle bus.
10. Innsbruck, Austria
If you love being in amongst the mountains, then a city break to Innsbruck should be at the top of your list. Although Innsbruck is Austria’s fifth largest city, it feels more like an oversized town and is small enough to get around on foot. With great public transport links and it’s own airport, Innsbruck is more than accessible for a weekend trip to Europe! You might disregard Innsbruck as a European summer city break destination, as it is a well known for it’s winter sports. But summertime is a wonderful time to visit too, when the surrounding alpine pastures are at their greenest!
In the Old Town you will find picturesque lanes and squares, lined with cobbled-streets and historic gems like the Golden Roof. If you fancy taking a day trip or two whilst you are in Innsbruck, perhaps catch the train the nearby storybook town of Hall, or take the ~100km drive to Krimml Falls. A scenic city with a backdrop of pine-cladded peaks and a regal feel, Innsbruck is perfect for those looking for a walkable destination with many historical buildings and landmarks, stunning panoramic mountain scenery, a picture-perfect Old Town, and plenty of retail therapy!
How to get to Innsbruck, Austria: You can fly directly into Innsbruck Airport and transfer to the city by train or bus.
11. Konstanz, Germany
Lapped by the waters of Lake Constance (Bodensee) and sitting immediately on the border with Switzerland, Konstanz is a University-city located in southern Germany. Konstanz has a perfectly-preserved medieval Old Town (known as Niederburg) which is lined with buzzing bars and historical buildings! Along with the Old Town, there are various other things to do in Konstanz to keep you busy during a short break, like wandering the tree-lined promenade and visiting the rotating statue of Imperia (an icon of Konstanz) at the harbour’s entrance!
You will likely see Zeppelins overhead here too, full of passengers admiring the views below! Being right on the border with Switzerland, you can do an easy international day trip on your city break to Konstanz, to the beautiful Swiss town of Stein am Rhein (just walk across the border into Switzerland and jump on a train from Kruezlingen which takes just under 30 minutes). And there are various other towns to be explored around Lake Constance too, like Meersburg!
Tip: If you are planning on doing a day trip from Konstanz to Stein Am Rhein or are going to be flying into Zurich Airport for your short city break, then take some Swiss Francs with you – they do not use Euros in Switzerland! There is a currency exchange at Zurich Airport and Kreuzlingen train station if all else fails.
How to get to Konstanz, Germany: The nearest airport to Konstanz is Friedrichshafen Airport. But as this is a smaller airport it’s likely to be more affordable to fly into Zurich Airport (Switzerland) and then transfer from there to Konstanz by train.
Read more: Do you want to visit some real-life fairytale towns? Then Germany needs to be on your travel bucket list. Here are some of the most beautiful small towns in Germany that you just can’t miss!
12. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik is by no means one of the unusual European city breaks on this list because of its sheer popularity. But this comes as no surprise given it’s picture-perfect appearance and claim to fame as the setting for Kings Landing in Game of Thrones! Encased in historic walls and perched high above the Adriatic Sea with a backdrop of lush mountains, Dubrovnik is a bustling city which is as pretty as a postcard. Inside the City Walls you will find a pedestrianized paradise full of marbled streets, quaint lanes, beautiful squares, historic buildings, and narrow alleyways.
One of the best things to do in Dubrovnik on any itinerary for Croatia is to stroll the City Walls late afternoon as the sun begins to sink into the horizon. If you want to incorporate another country or two into your European city break, then Dubrovnik should be high up on your list. Given it’s close proximity to other European borders, you can do some of the best Balkan day trips from here, to beautiful places like Mostar and the Bay of Kotor. So if you are looking for a summer city break in Europe which is full of historical sights, charming little bars and eateries, a jaw-dropping Old Town and the opportunity to travel that little bit further, then pop Dubrovnik on your bucket list for Europe!
How to get to Dubrovnik, Croatia: The main airport for Dubrovnik is located ~21km (~13 miles) from Dubrovnik city centre. The easiest and best way to get to Dubrovnik from the airport is by taking the shuttle bus. The shuttle bus takes ~30 minutes and stops at Pile Gate right next to the Old Town.
13. Prague, Czech Republic
Given that it looks like something straight out of a fairytale, Prague is unsurprisingly one of the top eastern European city break destinations. Known as the city of a hundred spires, Prague is abundant with Gothic architecture, cobble-stoned streets, and storybook charm! Located on the banks of the Vltava River, Prague is easy to navigate thanks to its extensive and cheap tram system. And if you are in the Old Town, there will be no need for public transport as Prague is one of the best walkable cities in Europe!
One of the best things to do in Prague in the summertime is to rent a bicycle and cycle along the banks of the Vltava River. And be sure to sit for a while on the northern shores of Střelecký Island for uninterrupted views of Charles Bridge! If you are looking for a city break in Europe which is cheap, has Old Town charm, stunning architecture, vibrant nightlife, storybook castles, and plenty to see, then a trip to Prague this summer might be your cup of tea.
How to get to Prague, Czech Republic: The main airport for Prague is Václav Havel Airport. The best way to reach the city is by bus or private transfer. Václav Havel Airport is located just a ~19km (~12 miles) drive from the city centre.