With so many wonderful cities to explore on the continent, it’s no surprise that city breaks are becoming an increasingly popular kind of holiday. City breaks are a fantastic, cost-effective way to see a lot in a short space of time. Spending a few days in a city allows you to familiarise yourself with your surroundings, taking in its museums and landmarks, whilst giving you a taste of the local culture – and food!
Thanks to ever-improving rail and flight routes, continental Europe has never been so accessible and boasts a plethora of diverse, fascinating cities in which to while away a weekend. Although travelling is not possible right now, it won’t be long until we are all exploring again. To help get those feet itching again, we’ve picked our top five cities for a city break – enjoy!
Game of Thrones fans will no doubt recognise Dubrovnik’s stunning old town, which is by far the most beautiful in the Adriatic. Backed by sweeping limestone cliffs and flanked on three sides by the brilliant blue Adriatic, Dubrovnik’s setting is second to none. Rightfully known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, compact Dubrovnik is an ideal destination for a city break, with a range of fascinating day-trips available, including to neighbouring Montenegro and Bosnia.
Dubrovnik’s main draw is the UNESCO-protected walled old town, which was settled in the 7th century and has emerged through the centuries unscathed. The old town is accessible through four dramatic gates, and its cobbled streets are lined with cafés, restaurants, churches and museums, bunched around old squares and fountains. Its main thoroughfare is paved with marble that has been polished by the feet of millions of visitors over the centuries.
Find out more: Dubrovnik, Montenegro & the Dalmatian Coast
Budapest is one of Europe’s most exquisite cities, best known for its thermal baths and iconic Neo-Gothic parliament building. It’s a city of two tales, with the River Danube dividing hilly Buda from flat Pest, and old from new.
One half of the city enchants with its panoramic hillside dotted with opulent buildings; the other is a vibrant hub of hip bars, restaurants, museums, galleries and some of the city’s most popular and impressive thermal baths. With influences from the Romans, Magyars, Turks, Austrians, and Soviets, Budapest wears its diverse architectural history on its sleeve, with highlights including Buda Castle, St Stephen's Basilica and the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
Find out more: Prague, Budapest & Vienna
Known as the Frying Pan of Spain, Seville is best visited outside of the oppressively hot months of June, July and August, when temperatures get so high that many locals often leave the city. Those who do visit the glorious Andalusian capital will be handsomely rewarded: Seville, City of Flamenco and setting of Bizet’s Carmen, is home to a vibrant culture, an iconic Alcazar Castle, Spain’s oldest bullring and the River Guadalvir, up which Christopher Columbus once sailed. It is claimed that tapas originated at farmers’ bar in Seville, where bartenders would serve sherry with a small plate over the glass to keep the flies out. It wasn’t long before bartenders began serving small snacks on the plate, including cheese, ham and olives.
Find out more: Seville, Granda & Classic Spain
Tromsø is a popular city in the far north of Norway, a country of breath-taking natural beauty. A little over 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, this colourful city is a jumping-off point for tours of Norway's vast northern wilderness. It's a place of warm, welcoming bars and restaurants, dominated by the stunning, strikingly modern Arctic Cathedral with its vast, triangular stained-glass window. Visit beautiful Tromsø in the winter months for a chance to see the spectacular Northern Lights or make your journey in summer to experience the Midnight Sun, a time when night no longer seems to exist.
Find out more: Tromsø, Northern Lights and Arctic Adventure Break
Poland’s former capital, Kraków, is another compact city, seemingly purpose-built for exploring on foot. At its mesmerising heart is the great square of Rynek Glówny, medieval Europe’s largest such space, encircled by some breathtakingly beautiful buildings. Rynek Glówny is watched over by Wawel Hill, home to the former royal castle and the magnificent Gothic Wawel Cathedral, built on the site of an 11th-century original. South of the hill, bordering the Vistula River, is the Kazimierz district, the historic centre of Jewish culture down the centuries. You can also take several fascinating day-trips from Kraków, including to the UNESCO-protected Wieliczka Salt Mines and to poignant Auschwitz-Birkenau, a harrowing reminder of one of humanity’s darkest chapters.
Find out more: Spirit of Kraków
Rome city breaks are all about combining relaxation with culture, from strolling the gardens of the Villa Borghese to seeing some of the city’s most priceless ancient and modern art collections – as well as exploring the museums on the Capitoline Hill. Not to mention the world-famous Piazza Navona and Fountain de Trevi, the ideal ways soak up la dolce vita in Italy.
Across the Tiber lies Castel St Angelo and the Vatican City, where vast St Peter's Square is dominated by the dome of the Basilica. Enter the church to see Bernini's baldacchino before viewing Michelangelo's unparalleled frescoes and ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. There are hundreds of reasons to take an escorted tour of Rome with Newmarket Holidays: whether it’s history, art or delicious food that draws you, we’re here to show you the best that this city has to offer.
Find out more: Tuscany, Rome and the Amalfi Coast
When it comes to city breaks, cosmopolitan Berlin is hard to beat. As the largest of Germany's cities, both by land area and population, it has a bustle that never fails to provide its many visitors with a sense of excitement. Wandering through the city by foot is a great way to take it all in. Along with the lively atmosphere you'll find colourful street art, impressive modern architecture, and intriguing historic relics at almost every turn. With a great variety of trendy cafes dotted around the city, there are plenty of chances to refuel on a break from your stroll.
As you'd expect from a modern capital city, there is a wealth of things to do and see here. For history lovers in particular, Berlin trips offer an extremely packed itinerary. Much of the city's past remains on display today, not only housed in its numerous superb museums, but outside on the streets. From the glitz of the Golden Twenties to the turbulent times of the Cold War and World War II, it’s easy to get a real sense of the city's deep history. Those passionate about art meanwhile, are sure to be delighted with the city's vibrant scene, encompassing everything from art fairs, quirky galleries and performance art.
Find out more: Berlin Christmas Markets