10 Of The Best European City Break Destinations

How do you choose where to go next? I’m all too aware that there’s a whole world out there to explore, and so little time to see it all in – and I know I’m not the only one who internally freaks out about this.

Choosing just one place to spend your hard-earned holiday savings and precious annual leave is like trying to choose just one chocolate to eat from a big, posh box of assorted choccies (although why restrict yourself? Eat the whole damn box, I say).

My favourite way to squeeze as much travel as possible in to my lifestyle is to plan and book lots of weekend-long European city breaks. Short distances mean less time wasted on the plane, and Europe is so diverse – from cosmopolitan cities like Paris to icy nights lit by the Northern Lights in Sweden. You don’t have to go long-haul to have an adventure!

You could put the decision in fate’s hands, using Flight Centre’s Travel Name Game to tell you which city you’re destined to travel to based on your name. Sounds a bit random? I thought so too, but the data used in the tool is based on actual bookings made by Flight Centre’s customers. Science, lads. I got Denpasar, so if anyone wants to send me on a trip to Bali, I’ll be over here with my case packed…

Best short-haul European cities for your next trip

I’ve put together a list of what I think are the 10 best places in Europe for a short trip based on how long it will take you to get there, how much it will cost and how much you can pack in to one weekend. These are all places I’ve actually been, so you can trust that I wouldn’t send you anywhere that I haven’t personally tried out for size!

Bucharest

Beautiful Bucharest

Romania isn’t everyone’s first choice when planning a European city break, but edgy Bucharest is slowly easing itself on to every keen traveller’s radar. It’s got fabulous food, a mishmash of architectural styles that will stop even those who don’t have the faintest interest in buildings in their tracks, and perhaps most importantly – it’s cheap! You can delve into the remnants of the communist regime’s effects with a tour of Bucharest’s abandoned buildings or visit one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. Whatever interests you, Bucharest probably has it – and you’ll have the privilege of surprising people by travelling to a place relatively off the beaten path.

Flight time from London: 3 hours 15 mins


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Read my list of reasons to visit Bucharest


Vienna

Schoenbrunn Palace Vienna grounds privy garden

Between the never-ending Schoenbrunn Palace and the mosaic-covered, gothic Stephansdom, Vienna is a city filled with grandeur. The best part is, some of the biggest attractions are absolutely free – just look up! The City of Music will captivate you with its song, and sitting at a table on Graben with a schnitzel and a cocktail is the height of European cool. In two days, you can pretty much cover all of Vienna’s best bits – including the State Opera House and the Spanish Riding School. Go in summer and spend a full day at the Summer Palace or visit just before Christmas for magical markets.

Flight time from London: 2 hours 20 mins


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Check out my guide to a weekend in Vienna


Budapest

Budapest architecture

Did you know that Budapest is home to what’s commonly referred to as the Most Beautiful Cafe in the World? I didn’t either – until I saw it for myself. Budapest is hugely popular with Brits for city breaks, and it’s obvious why. The reflection of that gorgeous parliament building gleams over the Danube in a stand-off with Fisherman’s Bastion, there are outdoor thermal baths you can frolic in and let’s not forget the ruin pubs – perhaps one of the most unique drinking spots in Europe. Budapest also has ample bridges for your cute little love locks, which let’s face it is one of the main reasons couples go on a European city break, right?

Flight time from London: 2 hours 25 minutes


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Read my 3 day Budapest itinerary


Rome

Rome two day itinerary

Ah, Rome, the home of La Dolce Vita. The city where aperitivo hour is religion, walking everywhere is a given and leaving at least a few pounds heavier is unavoidable – and completely encouraged. No trip to Rome is complete without wrapping your lips around all of the following things: a steaming bowl of cacio e pepe, a gelato cone and the rim of an Aperol Spritz. Bellissimo.

What people seem to forget about visiting Rome is that you can fit two countries in to one weekend – or one day in fact – with a visit to Vatican City.

Flight time from London: 2 hours 30 mins


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Read my guide to having the best weekend in Rome (and Vatican City)


Malta

Malta in one day must-sees: Balluta Bay

Not just a city but a whole island, you can easily see Malta’s highlights in one weekend. The much-photographed Azure Window may be gone, but there’s plenty left to entice you to Malta for a weekend away in Europe. The island oozes with the sights, sounds and smells of the Mediterranean, from brightly coloured fishing boats bobbing in Balluta Bay to the clip-clop of a horse-drawn carriage carrying tourists through Valletta, one of the world’s smallest capital cities. Despite the small scale, you could spend a lifetime wandering the streets of Malta’s Three Cities, which just so happen to be seriously Instagrammable. Be sure to order a couple of pastizz at lunchtime, and delve in to ‘the strip’ in Saint Julian’s to see a different side of Malta at night.

Flight time from London: 3 hours 10 mins


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Read my guide to seeing the best of Malta in 24 hours


Berlin

Berlin street art bicycles

Berlin’s edge has led the city to the top of the leaderboard for young creatives internationally, giving the German city an eclectic vibe that offers something for every type of traveller. Immerse yourself in history, go searching for street art and party all night and all day – whatever you want from a city break, you’ll find it in Berlin. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but the free walking tours are usually excellent for seeing the main attractions like Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate – just don’t do them in February, like I did!

Flight time from London: 1 hour 55 mins


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Read my guide to two days in Berlin on a budget – winter edition!


 

Dubrovnik

Three days in Dubrovnik: what to do on a short break in Croatia

Whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not, you’ll be enchanted by Dubrovnik. The old city walls provide a magnificent view of those iconic terracotta rooftops, and there’s an abundance of tiny islands within easy reach. Dubrovnik gets crowded (and pricey) in the summer months, so it’s best to plan a city break here out of season. Need to cool off? You’re never far from the clear waters of the Adriatic in Dubrovnik. You can even enjoy a Ožujsko with an enviable sea view at one of the city’s unique cliff bars.

Flight time from London: 2 hours 40 mins


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Read my Dubrovnik city guide


 

Edinburgh

Best European city break destinations: Edinburgh

Let’s not forget that we don’t have to leave the UK for a wonderful city break. There are plenty of vibrant cities closer to home, and my absolute favourite is Edinburgh. It’s my uni city so maybe I’m biased, but there’s something intoxicating about those grand old buildings, cobblestone streets and of course, that Scottish wit! Take a stroll down Victoria Street to the cosmopolitan Grassmarket, shop on Princes Street then refuel on Rose Street, and get your picture taken in front of Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh is at its craziest during the Fringe Festival, but it’s a fab weekend away any month of the year.

Flight time from London: 1 hour 25 mins


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Amsterdam

City break ideas from London: Amsterdam

Amsterdam isn’t just for horny stoners, I promise. The Netherlands’ unique water-based landscape and sunny attitude makes Amsterdam a perfect weekend getaway destination. It has the hustle and bustle of a big city without the hassle of getting around in one. You can hire bikes to ride along the canal and visit countless museums, including Anne Frank’s house. And if you wind up in a coffee shop after a long day of sightseeing? Well, you need to experience all of Amsterdam, right?

Flight time from London: 1 hour 15 mins


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Read my post about a weekend in Amsterdam


 

Benidorm

Best viewpoint in Benidorm

If it’s sun, sea and sangria you’re after, you can’t go wrong with Benidorm – and thousands of Brits choose the Spanish city for their summer holiday every year. The TV show didn’t do Benidorm any favours, but look a little further than the hotel pool bar and you’ll find the charming Old Town, quaint Spanish villages just 20 minutes drive away and of course, delicious tapas. A trip is what you make it, so save your pennies by booking a weekend in Benidorm and spend your time there doing what you love. Stick to all-inclusive if you’re just looking to unwind, or try a bit harder and seek out Spanish culture. You won’t regret it.

Flight time from London: 2 hours 35 mins


Search for hotels in Benidorm

Read my guide to having an alternative holiday in Benidorm


 

Want to stay closer to home? I also have a list of UK city break ideas.

Where are you lusting after most? And is there a European destination I haven’t been to yet that should be included in this list? Let me know so I can start planning a trip!

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This post is sponsored by Flight Centre but wanderlust is my own.

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10 best cities for a European city break

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15 Comments

  1. LuxeStyle
    September 13, 2017 / 8:11 am

    I haven’t been to Amsterdam for years but I remember really enjoying it there. My Mum’s always wanted to visit Vienna so I don’t know why we’ve never been x

    Jenny | LuxeStyle

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      September 13, 2017 / 10:06 am

      You should definitely go!

  2. September 13, 2017 / 6:08 pm

    I did the travel name game and it gave me Sydney, Australia. 🙂 How fun is that! I’m a small town traveler so from your list I’d pick Dubrovnik, but my flight time would be quite long as I live in the states.

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      September 14, 2017 / 1:49 pm

      I was hoping that the flight times from London could still be useful to anyone planning a Euro trip that starts in England 🙂 I’m curious – which is your fave small town you’ve been to so far?

      If you go to Dubrovnik, you should definitely check out the tiny islands just off the coast – Korcula in particular is dreamy.

  3. September 14, 2017 / 12:28 pm

    Forget short trips! This sounds like the ultimate European dream vacation to me! 🙂

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      September 14, 2017 / 1:47 pm

      Well I’m definitely not averse to a little Eurotrip! With a few more stops factored in, of course 🙂

  4. September 14, 2017 / 2:24 pm

    What a selection you’ve given us! I think I would choose Benidorm. It looks exotic and I love Spain.

  5. September 14, 2017 / 11:39 pm

    I was just planning my holiday for next year and you’ve given me some really good tips here as I’m traveling out of London. :p

  6. September 15, 2017 / 1:34 am

    Some of these places I have been to but most I haven’t! Thank you helping me create a new bucket list:-)

  7. September 15, 2017 / 1:16 pm

    My friend is paying Budapest a visit next month and she’s just been telling me how cheap everything is over there! I’ll let her know about the cafe.

  8. September 15, 2017 / 9:18 pm

    There’s so much to see in Europe. I always think I know this continent well – but there’s masses on your list I haven’t seen yet!

  9. September 15, 2017 / 9:32 pm

    Haha I just took the Name Game too and got Sydney. Anyone want to donate me a flight down under?!

    Loving this list anyway, Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in the world. I’d add Athens to the list – LOVED it. And Naples since that was my most recent discovery 🙂

  10. September 16, 2017 / 2:52 am

    Gorgeous photography! I’ve been to a couple of these – thanks for the inspiration on the others!

  11. September 16, 2017 / 1:08 pm

    There are a good few places on here that I’d absolutely love to visit that I’d never considered before! Romania sounds fab and so does Vienna. My travel list is getting far too long!!

    Olivia – The Northernist x

  12. September 18, 2017 / 1:04 pm

    Ha, that is cute about putting your name in 🙂

    These are some great cities, really want to get to Malta. Hopefully next year!