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I was chatting with a few friends of mine and they asked me which cities in Europe I would recommend for a city break. That got me thinking of the cities I’d visited and I was soon rattling off a list of cities including tips on what to see and do. Due to the relatively short distances, it’s so easy to plan a Europe city trip for just a weekend or a few days. Furthermore, there are so many cities to choose from depending on one’s interests. Here are the European cities I recommended for a weekend break or for a few days:

18 Europe city trip ideas

I skipped famous cities like London, Paris, Barcelona and Rome. Instead, I settled for a mix of popular cities, some smaller ones, and several lesser-known cities. These cities are perfect for a (long) weekend getaway.

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Montpellier, France

1. Riga, Latvia

The capital of Latvia was one of the biggest surprises for me when I visited for the first time. Riga has a gorgeous historic centre, with atmospheric cobblestone streets, colourful houses, intriguing museums and a lively culinary scene. Just a short walk from the Old Town is the Art Nouveau district of Riga with simply stunning architecture. Air Baltic offers frequent flights to Riga from many European capitals so getting there is easy enough. Riga is perfect for a long weekend but if you have more time, I highly recommend venturing out to the countryside and the Baltic coast. Read more about things to do in Riga.

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The House of Blackheads in Riga’s Old Town.

2. Dublin, Ireland

Dublin is a delight, rain or shine. Stroll around the historic Trinity College (the home of the famous Book of Kells), party with the locals in Temple Bar, enjoy a pint at the Guinness Storehouse, gaze at the stately Georgian buildings on Merrion Square or shop on Grafton Street. Save some time to explore the Dublin coast (just a short train/bus ride away) with its picturesque villages, castles and seafood restaurants, or head up to the nearby Wicklow Mountains for stunning mountain scenery. Read about my self-guided Dublin walking tour.

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Trinity College

3. Bologna, Italy

Bologna is one of my favourite cities in Italy. Its historic centre is a maze of cobblestone streets, lined by gorgeous porticoes (arcades) and punctuated by bustling squares. Head to the top of the Asinelli Tower (one of the city’s famous twin towers) for amazing views of the city, wander the streets and markets, join the locals at aperitivo (‘happy hour’), tuck into a fabulous meal at one of Bologna’s many excellent restaurants or join a cooking class. If you have more time, head out to the nearby historic towns such as Ravenna, Dozza or Modena and the Motor Valley (think Ferrari, Lamborghini and Ducati). Read more about things to do in Bologna and the best places to visit in Emilia-Romagna.

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The leaning towers of Bologna.

4. San Sebastián, Spain

San Sebastián is a gorgeous coastal town in the Basque Country in northern Spain. The town is perhaps most famous as a foodie paradise, and rightfully so! Despite its relatively small size, it boasts a big variety of Michelin-starred restaurants and countless pintxos (tapas) bars which will have your mouth watering in an instant! Other fabulous attractions in the town include its beautiful Belle Epoque architecture, the beach fronting Concha Bay, the beach boulevard and Mount Igeldo (with great views of the town and Concha Bay). San Sebastián also had the distinction of being the European Capital of Culture in 2016.

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A panoramic view of San Sebastián.

5. Montpellier, France

One of my favourite cities in the south of France, Montpellier is a vibrant university city with elegant boulevards, a charming medieval quarter, excellent museums and amazing street art. It also has the Mediterranean beaches and the Languedoc vineyards at its doorstep! Explore the old town, look out for street art in the Saint Roch neighbourhood, spend an afternoon at a nearby winery, or laze on the beaches.

Read more about things to do in Montpellier and street art in Montpellier. I’ve also included this lovely city in an epic South of France road trip itinerary.

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A charming lane in the old town.

6. Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam is a bustling port city that has undergone a massive transformation in the past decade or two. Wander along the spruced up waterfront, visit Markthal (perhaps the most striking market in the country), enjoy world class exhibitions at one of the museums or just sit back on a harbour cruise. Read more about things to do in Rotterdam (includes a walking route).

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The interior of the Markthal (or Market Hall)

7. Munich, Germany

Famous for its annual Oktoberfest, Munich offers a lot more as a city break destination. Explore the Altstadt (Old Town) and the iconic Marienplatz, visit one of the top-notch museums or theatres, enjoy a pint at one of the city’s famous biergarten, and browse around its colourful markets. Read about a wondrous road trip from Munich to the castles of King Ludwig II.

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Marienplatz, Munich

8. Valletta, Malta

Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, smack in between Sicily and the African continent, Malta is an island of amazing historical and natural attractions. The capital, Valletta, is a beautiful town situated on a peninsula between two stunning harbours. Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is surrounded by imposing walls, is packed with atmospheric streets, grand historic buildings, bustling squares and shops that made me reminisce about my childhood days. Malta is small so it doesn’t take much time to get around the island. Go for a sailing trip (don’t forget a stop at Camino and its Blue Lagoon), visit the many Malta UNESCO Heritage Sites scattered across the island, watch the fishermen at work in the colourful village of Marsaxlokk or enjoy some beach time! Read about things to do in Malta.

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Valletta is the capital of Malta. Built on a peninsula between two stunning harbours, Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town is packed with atmospheric streets, grand historic buildings, bustling squares and shops.

9. Sevilla, Spain

Sevilla (or Seville) is an incredibly beautiful city in southern Spain. Packed with historic buildings (such as the breathtaking Cathedral, the exquisite Alcazar Palace and the grand Plaza de España), bustling squares, leafy parks and countless cafés, restaurants and terraces, Sevilla is perfect for a city break. Oh, and you have to experience a flamenco performance! There’s so much to see and do that a long weekend isn’t sufficient. Plan a longer stay, take your time exploring the various neighbourhoods and delve into the city’s colourful history. Read more about things to do in Sevilla, and about the historic architecture in Sevilla.

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The Plaza de España now houses government offices and the Seville City Hall.

10. Budapest, Hungary

The capital of Hungary is often referred to as the ‘Paris of the East’ and it’s not hard to see why. With its stately buildings, broad boulevards and beautiful bridges crossing the Danube River, Budapest has some similarities with its French counterpart (though to be honest, the city doesn’t need the comparison to stand out). Gawk at the impressive Parliament Building on the banks of the Danube, take the funicular up to the Royal Palace, soak in the thermal waters of one of the many historic baths, join the fun at Szimpla Bar or have a meal in one of the most beautiful cafés in the world. Read more about things to do in Budapest.

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The Parliament Building in Budapest.

11. Palma de Mallorca, Spain

The capital of the island of Mallorca, Palma is a historic seaside city with a stunning historic centre. The first thing most visitors will see as they approach the city is the magnificent Cathedral of Palma, La Seu. This is Palma’s top attraction, but spend a day or two strolling around the compact old town and you’ll discover many historic monuments and gorgeous architecture. Sit back, relax and experience the laidback Mallorcan lifestyle at a café or restaurant. Read more about things to see in Palma de Mallorca and about the eclectic architecture of Palma de Mallorca.

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Plaça Major is one of Palma’s main squares.

12. Hamburg, Germany

This cosmopolitan harbour city is one of my favourites in Germany. Hemmed in between the harbour and two lakes, Hamburg boasts stunning architecture, a vibrant nightlife and a classy culinary scene. Join a harbour cruise, stroll around the UNESCO World Heritage Speicherstadt, grab a fish sandwich at the Fischmarkt or climb to the top of St. Michael’s Church for magnificent views. If you’re a fan of toy trains and airplanes, you have to visit Miniatur Wunderland! Read more about things to do in Hamburg and things to see in Lubeck, a historic city near Hamburg.

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Historic Speicherstadt in Hamburg

13. Graz, Austria

Graz is Austria’s second largest city and though it isn’t as well known as its other Austrian sisters like Vienna or Salzburg, Graz offers a tantalising mix of history, culture, arts/design and food to visitors. The historic city centre is compact, making it perfect for a leisurely wander to soak up the laid-back atmosphere. Venture up the Schlossberg (Castle Hill) for beautiful panoramic views, indulge in the local culinary scene or discover the cool design shops. Look beyond the city and you’ll find more places of interest such as the historic Eggenberg Palace and the South Styrian Wine Road. Read more about things to do in Graz and how to spend a few days in Graz.

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The Mausoleaum in Graz

14. Ghent, Belgium

This city in Belgium has a charming medieval city centre, lovely canals and amazing food. Situated between Antwerp and the famous medieval town of Bruges, Ghent effortlessly combines historic charm with contemporary flair. Spend a few days in Ghent exploring its atmospheric old town, discovering its amazing food and beer scene, browsing around its markets and antique stores or cruising along its beautiful canals. Read about things to do in Ghent.

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A leisurely canal cruise in Ghent.

15. Manchester, England

Perhaps most famous for its two world class football clubs, Manchester is somewhat underrated as a city destination. That’s a pity as the city has lots to offer, from top-notch museums and historical attractions to great shopping and culinary scenes, as well as a vibrant nightlife! Read about things to do in Manchester, the impressive Museum of Science and Industry and a walk along Oxford Road.

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Shambles Square is home to some of the oldest buildings in Manchester such as the Old Wellington Inn.

16. Utrecht, Netherlands

Utrecht is one of my favourite cities in the Netherlands to visit! It’s an absolutely beautiful city with some of the most picturesque canals in the country and a vibrant atmosphere, courtesy of its large student population. Read about things to see in Utrecht (includes a walking route).

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A great thing to do in Utrecht is sit at one of the canal-side cafés and watch the boats pass by.

17. Gdansk, Poland

This historic city on the shores of the Baltic Sea has a fascinating history, beautiful architecture and a wide variety of pubs and restaurants, making it an ideal for a short getaway. My favourite thing to do in Gdansk is to simply stroll around the Old Town, but you can also visit some of its impressive museums, go on a river cruise or enjoy the day at the beach in nearby Sopot. Read more about things to do in Gdansk, the historic architecture of Gdansk or my recommended bars in Gdansk.

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The City Hall of Gdansk and its impressive tower on Long Street.

18. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Ok, you didn’t think I’d leave out my home town did you? Haha! Amsterdam is always an excellent Europe city trip destination. There’s always something going on in the city’s cultural, arts and performing arts scenes. In addition, there are world-class museums, great shopping, a famous nightlife and a dizzying array of cuisines. Spend a few days simply soaking up the unique atmosphere by strolling around the gorgeous canals and exploring the small streets that crisscross the historic centre. Then head into the different neighbourhoods like the Jordaan, De Pijp and Amsterdam Noord (North) to experience the amazing contrasts. Check out my recommendations for things to do in Amsterdam.

Explore the historic towns near Amsterdam and in the spring, you can’t miss the tulip fields. Read more about day trips from Amsterdam.

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Singel canal in Amsterdam

6 Responses

  • Hi there,
    Wow, thank you! Glad you enjoy my posts and my city! 🙂
    Have a great trip in September and let me know if you need some tips.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  • I am so glad I found your blog. I visited Amsterdam last Fall and fell in love with your beautiful city. I’m returning in September for another visit and then going to several other European cities.
    Thanks for all the great information!

  • You make us wish we lived London (or Amsterdam) so we could go on one of these “quick” city breaks! We visited Hamburg for a few days on a Germany trip a few years ago. Still remember the best warm, creamy, cheese streudel with vanilla sauce we had with coffee in the Alster Arcades :-).

  • I haven’t visited all these cities but I have heard they are beautiful. I can personally confirm though that Bologna and Budapest are beautiful!

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