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Copenhagen city break
Destinations & Inspiration

Planning a weekend away? Here’s the 11 best European city breaks

Ellena Morgan
By Ellena Morgan - 11 minute read

Copenhagen city break, Denmark

Best for: design junkies

Copenhagen city break

When you think of stylish European cities, many will gravitate towards Copenhagen, Denmark’s chic capital. Why is that? It's simple – if the Dane’s are really outrageously good at one thing, it’s design! Our top picks for a style fix would include drooling over the sophisticated pieces of mid-century furniture in The Design Museum, marvelling at the 19th century architecture of Palmehus, Copenhagen’s botanical garden in the city centre, or visiting HAY’s newly renovated flagship store. Our advice? Buy as much as you can cram into your carry-on.

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Florence city break, Italy

Best for: a cultural break

Florence city break

As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Fierenze is one of Europe’s greatest art cities. Home to iconic sculptures like Michelangelo’s David, plus frescoes by Giotto and Ghirlandaio and canvases by Botticelli and Bronzino, you'll be spoilt for choice as to where to start your cultural trip. All that art will require some much-needed breaks, so enjoy a little caffeine shot with an espresso in the Piazza della Signoria, and don't forget to take a stroll along the Ponte Vecchio.

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Fancy a culture trip? Check out our top picks for Europe’s 5 most artistic cities

Lisbon city break, Portugal

Best for: trendy travellers

Portugal city break

It’s no secret that hot-spot Lisbon has established a reputation for being one of the best European city breaks in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why. This coastal capital is spread across steep cobbled hills lined with pastel-coloured buildings adorned in signature Portuguese tiles. We’d recommend paying a visit to to the trendy district of Príncipe Real where you can take a trip to a moorish castle turned hip shopping centre Embaixada that’s full to the brim with unique boutique stores. Once you’re retailed out, rest your feet with a coffee and pasta de nata in the leafy park Jardim do Príncipe Real. Or if you’re after a drink with a great view, then head to Lx Factory to enjoy vibrant street art and a wide range of tasty food and drink options.

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Fancy a trip to Lisbon? Check out our blog on the best places to visit late summer

Barcelona city break, Spain

Best for: the best of city and sea

Barcelona city break

Looking for a European holiday destination that will enable you to combine lounging around on the beach with a mix of city adventures? Then the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region Barcelona is your best bet. The city is instantly recognisable due its famous Gaudi architecture, while its southern Mediterranean position means that you’ll enjoy plenty of sunshine compared to some of the chillier northern European cities. We’d recommend paying a visit to Gaudi’s most famous (unfinished) work; Sagrada Família. The immediate area surrounding this spectacular church isn’t the most captivating, so once you’ve finished gawping at this impressive architectural wonder, head straight to the coastal district of Barceloneta to enjoy a drink from one of the many xiringuitos (beach bars). It’s definitely the best way to watch the sun set.

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Paris city break, France

Best for: unbeatable romance

Paris city break

It’s a classic cliché, but you really can’t beat a romantic city break to Paris. As the perfect destination for a couples weekend away, it’s undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Europe. Start by heading to the less touristy and ultra-cool neighbourhood of Le Marais. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris, this bohemian area is filled with quirky cafees, lively restuarants and vintage shops. If you’re after a bite to eat, Marché des Enfants Rouges is the ultimate foodie heaven, as it boasts a wide variety of street food options. Looking for something a little more romantic? Then pull out all the stops, and book a table at La Tour d'Argent for a decadent evening, or for dinner with a showstopping backdrop, Le Girafe offers unbeatable views of The Eiffel Tower.

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Amsterdam city break, The Netherlands

Best for: a car-free city break

Amsterdam city break

For many people, Amsterdam conjures up images of rowdy backpackers and stag-dos – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, this charming city has shed its scandalous reputation, and instead has emerged as a creative hub filled to the brim with cosy coffee shops (no, not that kind), elegant boutiques, galleries, and delectable eateries. All set within an 8km radius (with a large chunk of that being the leafy Vondell Park), Amsterdam is a delightfully welcoming city that’s easy to navigate by foot - though if you’re only there for a couple of days, we’d recommend following the locals by hopping on a bike, so that you can really make the most of your short European break. If you’re up for a day trip out of the city, you can cycle to the picturesque seaside town of Zandvoort, travelling through Zuid-Kennemerland National Park and the medieval heart of nearby Haarlem.

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Budapest city break, Hungary

Best for: a pampering break

Budapest city break

Hungary’s capital Budapest is in fact two cities – Buda and Pest. Split by the River Danube, the hilly Buda and flat Pest are connected by the striking 19th-century Széchenyi Chain Bridge. The main hub of the city lies in Pest, which is filled with delicious street-food spots, grand, gilded cafés, cosy retuarants and major shops and boutiques. Alternatively, head over to Buda, and you'll find the impressive Buda Castle and some of Budapest’s best-known thermal baths, including the golden Széchenyi and Gellért. Since being established by the Romans, these baths have continued to play an important part of daily life for Budapestians. Treat yourself to a host of treatments in these spas, or simply enjoy a soak while taking in the stunning architecture and city views.

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Oslo city break, Norway

Best for: outdoorsy types

Oslo city break

Of all the Scandi capitals, Oslo often feels like it’s left off the top spot compared to its stylish siblings Stockholm and Copenhagen, but we can confirm that it’s got heaps of appeal for those looking for a city break with an extra edge. The city itself is compact and can easily be explored in a couple of days, making it the perfect place for a short break – however what makes Oslo stand out as a great European holiday destination is that it’s nestled conveniently between mountains and sea. Want an even greener escape? Then we’d recommend a day trip to the charming seaside town of Drøbak. You can catch a bus, but for even more fun (and to get closer to nature) consider catching a boat which only takes 1.5hours. As an additional bonus, you’ll also benefit from a closer look at WW2 fortress Oscarsborg en route.

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Dublin city break, Ireland

Best for: a little tipple

Dublin city break

Often voted as being one of the friendliest cities in the world, Dublin has an undeniable charm with its down-to-earth atmosphere and even more down-to-earth locals. Wander the cobbled ancient streets and you’ll stumble across one of the 750 pubs that can be found in Ireland’s capital. When you’re not taste-testing local brews or whipping up your own Guinness, you can soak up the city’s abundance of stunning Georgian architecture, rifle though treasures at George’s Street flea market or marvel at Ireland’s largest cathedral St Patrick’s. In short, we think Dublin makes for one of the best European city breaks you could ask for.

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Pssst! Is Dublin taking your fancy? Then check out our travel guide to Ireland

Stockholm city break, Sweden

Best for: island hopping

Stockholm city break

There aren’t many cities where locals would recommend exploring the city by boat, but Stockholm is just that. Spread across over 30,000 islands and islets, this city is best seen and experienced from the water. Our top picks would include meandering over to the old town of Gamla Stan with brightly spice-coloured terrace buildings and Djurgården island that’s filled with incredible musums, including the historic Vasa Museum that focuses on warships, plus Nordiska museet for Swedish décor and fashion, Skansen museum of Swedish life through the ages, and of course the unmissable ABBA museum. If you’re looking for more greenery, we'd suggest heading further out to the charming island of Grinda, where you can enjoy lush forests, kayaking and of course a Swedish sauna.

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Edinburgh city break, Scotland

Best for: architecture lovers

Edinburgh city break

Whether your taste is gothic or modernist, there’s a building for every architecture lover in Edinburgh. The best place to start your trip is with a visit to the iconic Edinburgh Castle. Nestled on a volcanic outcrop that has been occupied since the Iron age, this fortress is a mixture of architectural styles, with some of the highlights being St. Margaret’s Chapel from the 12th century (the oldest part of the castle to-date) and the spectacular 16th century Grand Hall. If you’re up for a steep walk, head to Arthur’s Seat to enjoy panoramic views over the turreted skyline or Calton Hill to see Nelson Column, The Dugald Stewart Monument and the Parthenon-inspired National Monument of Scotland, all in one place! You’ll also enjoy views over the new and old town of Edinburgh, the ultra-modern Scottish Parliament Building and the wild Scottish coastline.

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Pssst! Fancy a trip to Scotland? Then check out our travel guide to Scotland

What are your personal recommendations for the best European city break? Whether the destination is mentioned in this list or not, we’d love to hear it! Simply head to our community travel recommendations Google map where you can share your ultimate travel finds and your local recommendations! If you’d like to find your next home swap, you can sign up here and enjoy two weeks of membership absolutely free! You can also join our friendly Facebook groups to connect with other home swappers, or if you’d like to chat about all things home swapping, then our friendly Customer Service team are always on hand.