Europe’s Top City Breaks
Europe is truly diverse continent with loads of cities ready to be discovered. From the great classical cities, to sunny holiday destinations, up-and-coming spots and exotic new places, Europe has it all! If you’re looking for a new place to discover on your next city break read below for our list of Europe’s best city breaks:
1. Paris, France
Also named the City of Light and the Capital of Fashion, Paris is known internationally for being one of the most romantic and beautiful of all cities in the world. It also boasts of being the city with the second highest Michelin-awarded restaurants and of being home to some of the world’s most luxurious fashion and cosmetics brands. With a rich history and beautiful natural beauty, a large part of the city including the River Seine has been garnished as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Must-see city landmarks include the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, the Château de Versailles, the Grand Arche de la Défense, the Sacré Coeur and the Moulin Rouge. Paris also boasts of numerous art galleries and museums that cater to every visitor.
2. Barcelona, Spain
The lively capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is a city with plenty to offer to its visitors. Its exquisite art, culture and beauty constantly awe tourists year after year. Just the fact that it is the only city in the world to have 9 UNESCO World Heritage buildings is enough of a reason to visit it.
Barcelona has something for everyone. Sports fans will love the guided tours of Camp Nou, the numerous museums dedicated to sporting achievements, and the wide range of venues available to practice sports such as tennis, golf, riding, and sailing, among others. Arts and culture lovers will be amazed by the splendid architecture in the Gothic Quarter, the La Sagrada Familia, Picasso Museum, Casa Museu Gaúdi, Juan Miró Foundation, and many other museums and galleries.
Other widely known landmarks include Las Ramblas street where all the best restaurants and live music and entertainment can be found; Park Guell by Gaúdi; the Modernist buildings on Passeig de Gracia; Montjuic hill, which features a number of parks and attractions as well as a great view of the city; and Tibidabo Hill, perfect if you are travelling with kids.
3. Rome, Italy
Known as the Eternal City for its unrivalled rich history, Rome has consistently been a top destination for tourists from all over the world. The capital of Italy is the third most visited European city with an average of 7-10 million visitors every year. A number of the famous attractions found within the city walls are also some of the most visited in the world such as the Vatican Museums (4.2 million tourists every year) and the Colosseum (4 million visitors every year).
With the city’s founding dating back to 753 B.C., its history spans over more than 2,000 years so you will be sure to find a copious amount of beautiful historical sites within its historic centre, garnished as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the most popular tourist attractions include the Trevi Fountain, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Campo de’ Fiori, to name just a few.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
The capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is also known colloquially as the “Venice of the North” due to its enchanting canals, beautiful architecture and over 1500 bridges. As a vast European city, it is divided into seven main districts which offer something to every kind of visitor. Whether you are prefer the charm of a European city, to explore culture and history, or to enjoy an exciting nightlife – you’ll find it all in Amsterdam.
Main attractions in the city include its historic city centre (one of the largest in Europe), the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, a number of charming churches and synagogues, Vondelpark, the Red Light District, and a ride on the Canal Bus.
5. Budapest, Hungary
The capital of Hungary, Budapest sits on the River Danube which divides it into two with the Buda on the West side and Pest on the plains to the East. The city has become a more popular tourist destination in recent years especially within the younger demographic. However, its beautiful landscapes and charming architecture are recognised all over the world and have nicknamed the city the “Paris of the East”. Its beauty and historic relevance was further recognised when it was garnished as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the cultural and architectural significance of the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue.
As with any European capital, Budapest offers plenty of sights for tourists to explore, although these are mostly concentrated on Castle Hill on the Buda side and in downtown Pest. Popular attractions include the Royal Palace, the National Gallery, the Fishermen’s Bastion, the Matthias Church, the Lion’s Courtyard and many scenic gardens and terraces. Margaret Island also provides a perfect afternoon resting spot with its beautiful gardens and views. In the downtown area you will be able to find the Parliament Building, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and the Jewish Quarter with a museum and synagogue.
6. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and sits right on the margins of the Atlantic Ocean. The seven hills that surround it coupled with the proximity to the water provide tourists with some unique scenic landscapes. Its architectural gems and easy-going attitude have made Lisbon a popular tourist destination in recent years.
Established in the 12th century, the city of Lisbon offers plenty for its visitors to see and do during their stay. Some of the most popular attractions include Cristo Rei (similar to the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro), the Tram 28 which takes you through some of the city’s most quaint neighbourhoods, Santa Justa Elevator where you will be able to get a panoramic view of the Old Town, Castelo de São Jorge, Jerónimos Monastery, and Lisbon Botanical Gardens. Some interesting districts to discover include Rossio, Belém, Príncipe Real, and Alfama – all of which have their own unique charm and historical relevance.
7. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is Turkey’s cultural and financial hub. Its location on both sides of the Bosphorus (the strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea) creates scenic views and turns the city into a physical and cultural link between Europe and Asia. Its large population makes it Turkey’s most populous city and one of Europe’s and the world’s largest cities as well.
The city’s ancient past (it was originally established some 8000 years ago) has produced a city rich in cultural and historical monuments. Most local attractions can be found in Sultanahmet district, or the Old Town. Here, you will find famous sites including Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and the Hippodrome. Other points of interest include Galata Tower, the views of the Golden Horn, and the views from the Asian side of the city. Kids may have some fun in Miniaturk, a miniature park in the city with models of the Ottoman Empire. A shopping trip in the Grand Bazaar is also a must!
8. Venice, Italy
Internationally acclaimed for its beauty, architecture and artworks, the stunning city of Venice is actually composed of 118 small islands connected by canals and bridges. The entirety of the city in addition to the lagoon, which encircles it, have both been garnished as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its surmounting beauty has also drawn numerous directors to use it as the backdrop to their films, The Tourist with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp being the most recent.
Although the city is quite small, it has perfectly concentrated all of its beauty, history, churches and monuments within its canals. When you hop on a Vaporetto (water bus) on the Grand Canal just before sunset or take a ride on a Gondola, you will be able to enjoy the city’s beauty and charm in full bloom.
While exploring the city, make sure you see St. Mark’s Square, where you will find numerous other historical monuments such as the stunning Doge’s Palace and the 11th Century St. Mark’s Basilica; the 17th monument to the Virgin Mary, Santa Maria della Salute; and the Accademia Gallery where you will find some of the city’s most prominent art collections. The most picturesque bridges include the Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto Bridges.