When it comes to enjoying the perfect weekend getaway destination, there are a myriad of locations around the world that likely will spring to mind. However, for those of you fortunate to live in Europe, the list of possibilities is endless. Europe epitomizes everything there is to love about a quick and easy weekend getaway, with cheap flights, awesome public transportation and the convenience to hop between countries in a heartbeat. Whether you are located in a country that is part of the European Union or perhaps in the UK, we want to share some of the best weekend getaways in Europe based on our experiences.
Let’s start with a caveat that I think is important to emphasize before we dive into our list of 10 epic destinations. There are countless locations across Europe that could easily have made its way on our list but realistically, if you choose to follow our recommendations, we don’t believe you can go wrong. At the end of this post, we are going to encourage you to share your top 10 destinations across Europe and it will be interesting to see which of ours make your list.
Best Weekend Getaways in Europe
In addition to including some of the most popular European cities that I think would likely appear on many “top 10 lists”, we also want to introduce a couple of lesser known gems because they deserve just as much attention as their more popular counterparts. From delicious cuisine to historic architecture, from rich culture to ancient history, Europe well and truly has it all and to be able to experience all of this and more across a series of weekend getaways is the ultimate dream for any aspiring traveler.
Of course, if you are fortunate enough to be able to spend longer in each of these destinations…go for it! But if not, please check out some of the highlights in each of these destinations and don’t worry, you will always have the opportunity to return again in the future. Here is a list of our top 10 destinations in Europe that we think are the perfect place to enjoy that perfect weekend getaway:
- Barcelona, Spain
- Berlin, Germany
- Budapest, Hungary
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Oslo, Norway
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Riga, Latvia
- Strasbourg, France
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Warsaw, Poland
Europe is blessed to have such a well developed infrastructure that allows people from most European countries to be able to access each nation in a short time. For those that choose to fly with one of the many low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet or Whizz, you will soon realize that the no-frills experience is well worth the sacrifice as your credit cards certainly won’t take much of a hit when traveling from one country to another. Alternatively, why not utilize the awesome train service if you are looking for a quick and convenient getaway that is within a couple of hours of your home.
The beauty of European travel is that you have the flexibility to experience as you so desire – dependent on budget, time, and preference, you can visit a myriad of destinations and enjoy an epic 48-72 hour getaway. Let’s take a look at why we think the following ten destinations are ones that should be at the very top of your bucket list…many I am sure you would likely have thought about yourselves, while there may be one or two that are surprising yet intriguing!
Frequently recognized as Spain’s “second city” after Madrid, Barcelona is the perfect location to enjoy a weekend getaway enjoying stereotypical Spanish tapas and exploring the inherent beauty of the cosmopolitan capital of the Catalan region of the country. For those of you that love art and architecture, Barcelona is perhaps one of the top cities not only in Spain but across Europe for experiencing a plethora of historic buildings, artifacts, and art displays.
Two of the most iconic that weekend visitors should experience are the Sagrada Família, a large Roman Catholic basilica that is still unfinished 135 years after being started, and Park Güell, a public park system full of gorgeous gardens and architectural elements. Both of these landmarks are inspired by the work of Catalonia’s most infamous architect, Antoni Gaudi and are perhaps the most infamous locations in Barcelona. As examples of Gaudi architecture, these are certainly breathtaking designs.
If you only have 48 hours in Barcelona, we strongly encourage you to consider the “Hop on, Hop off” bus which is a great way to explore all of the iconic landmarks – ranging from the home of Barcelona FC, the spectacular Nou Camp stadium, the Olympic park which hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics and many more iconic attractions.
After a long day exploring the best of Barcelona, head to the Old Town of Barcelona to explore more architectural ingenuity and sample a collection of tapas, stereotypical of life in Barcelona. If you have enough time, consider taking a Barcelona food tour to enjoy a sampling of Spanish cuisine options.
A weekend getaway to Germany’s capital city of Berlin offers the perfect opportunity to sample stereotypical German beer while exploring some of the iconic landmarks associated with this location. Take a moment to learn about the history surrounding the Berlin Wall while reading stories of locals who suffered for years during the “divide” between East and West Germany. Head to the heart of Berlin to visit Checkpoint Charlie, the most infamous crossing point between what was considered two separate cities – West and East Berlin.
One of the most spectacular German landmarks is the classical archway known as Brandenburg Gate which is located next to the Reichstag Building, home of the German parliament. If you are contemplating a weekend getaway to Berlin during late November or early December, this is the perfect time to experience the collection of Christmas markets that are typical throughout Europe at this time of the year.
Today, visitors to Berlin can experience the best of modern and historic Germany – it’s a city that offers the perfect blend of preserving the rich history while utilizing modern technology to allow the city to continue to grow and thrive in the 21st century and beyond.
Let’s head further east the beautiful city of Budapest, capital of Hungary for another epic weekend getaway to experience delicious local cuisine while exploring another myriad of historic landmarks. The Hungarian Parliament Building, located along the banks of the Danube River is one of the most spectacular of its kind across Europe. Appearing more like a presidential palace, this building is well worth visiting and you can even enjoy the sight of the Hungarian guards protecting this area.
A short walk from parliament along the banks of the Danube will lead you to one of the most poignant spots in Europe – Shoes on the Danube Bank. This memorial was created in 2005 and pays tribute to the Jews that were killed by militia in Budapest during World War II. As you pay your own personal tributes, take a moment and peer across the Danube to the other side where you can enjoy the sight of your next location worth visiting – Buda Castle.
Enjoy the excellent public transportation system in Budapest to make your way to the foot of Buda Castle and then enjoy a leisurely walk to the summit to Castle Hill. The views from the summit are spectacular across the city of Budapest and there are several spots where you can enjoy lunch, perhaps stereotypical Hungarian goulash or other local fare.
If you have time during your weekend visit, head to Heroes’ Square and then head inside City Park to explore the inherent beauty of Vajdahunyad Castle, a medieval style structure that dates back to 1896 but has an eerie feel to it as you walk around the grounds.
The charismatic Portuguese capital of Lisbon is undoubtedly a destination that should be on everyone’s radar for a weekend. Like many of the other leading capital cities across Europe, trying to experience the very best of Lisbon in as short as 48 hours can be challenging yet incredibly rewarding. Of course, visitors that only have a short time here shouldn’t try to experience everything in the nearby vicinity such as the breathtaking civil parish of Sintra that is just a short distance from Lisbon. Check out some of the best things to do during 24 hours in Lisbon.
A walking tour of Lisbon is perhaps the best way to enjoy some of the highlight attractions if you are short of time. Take a stroll through the historic neighborhoods that collecting create such an amazing city. Whether you choose to take a guided tour or perhaps prefer a self-guided stroll around Lisbon, there are plenty of landmark attractions you cannot afford to miss. Belem Tower is a medieval defensive tower and along with the nearby Jeronimos Monastery are two of the most important attractions in Lisbon.
The parish of Belem is home to the aforementioned iconic landmarks but also home to the infamous Portuguese dessert – Pasteis de Nata. This egg custard dusted with cinnamon is something everyone visiting Lisbon cannot leave without sampling…it’s likely that you will want to return for more! São Jorge Castle is an ancient castle dating back to the 8th century is well worth a visit but simply walking around the city will likely leave you wanting to return to Lisbon in the near future.
Ready to head to Scandinavia for a weekend getaway? Whether you prefer to go in summer or winter, the Norwegian capital of Oslo is definitely a perfect getaway location to enjoy 48 hours in the sun (or snow). The beauty of Oslo is that there are amazing things to experience all year round.
If you are planning a visit during the warmer months, head to Akershus Fortress to explore this iconic landmark before heading over to Aker Brygge to enjoy what we would consider the heartbeat of the city in terms of a wide collection of local (and international) eateries. Take a stroll along the promenade and admire Akershus from the other side, while this is also the perfect spot to hop on a local cruise to explore the Oslo Fjord.
For a little retail therapy, head to Karl Johans Gate which is the heart and soul of the best designer brands from across the globe that have a location in Oslo. This is also the main street that leads to the Royal Palace which is another spectacular architectural design worth visiting.
Another of Europe’s historical cities that is the perfect weekend getaway destination is the Czech capital of Prague. Conveniently accessible from pretty much anywhere in Europe, this central European city offers a vibrant collection of rich history, gorgeous architecture and stereotypical Czech cuisine.
The 14th century Charles Bridge is undoubtedly Prague’s pièce de résistance and is unsurprisingly the most popular landmark in the city. However, as you stroll along this bridge and admire the intricate details that are apparent on this majestic structure, you cannot help but glance towards the breathtaking Prague Castle that overlooks the city. The Old Town Square is a popular location for locals to showcase their skills and produce at the local market, especially during the seasonal festivities at Christmas.
Don’t forget to sample the traditional Trdelnik, either as a savory or sweet option (in fact, why not sample both!) and you will be soon raring to head back to Prague for both Czech delicacies. The Czech Republic offers a collection of destinations that are the perfect weekend getaway, but Prague is certainly at the very top for a variety of reasons.
One of our surprise picks but certainly one that justifies its place on this list of weekend getaway hotspots, the Latvian capital of Riga is a hidden gem in Europe that is well worth visiting all year round. A self-guided walking tour is a great way to experience some of the best things to do in Riga including some of the highlight attractions including the House of the Black Heads, St. Peter’s Church, Freedom Monument and Riga Castle.
While flying into Riga is one option, visitors to the Balkan region may wish to take advantage of the incredibly cheap, yet ultra-modern Lux Express coach service which transports visitors between Balkan nations with high levels of comfort.
Although many may associate the Balkan nation of Latvia with a lesser known European destination, Riga is definitely a place that you will quickly fall in love with. If you are looking for a budget weekend getaway, there are not many cities across Europe that can offer such an amazing experience. One of the other benefits of Riga is its proximity to some of the other Balkan capital cities – Vilnius, Lithuania and Tallinn, Estonia are notable others that should be on everyone’s radar.
While the French capital of Paris is certainly a city you cannot afford to miss, we think that the second cities in France are equally spectacular. Head to the Eastern border connecting with Germany and visit the beautiful city of Strasbourg for a stereotypical French weekend getaway with a hint of German influence.
Strasbourg Cathedral is perhaps the focal point of the city thanks to its spectacular architectural design but there are plenty of other landmarks worth exploring around the city. Petite-France is a thriving neighborhood thanks to the well-preserved half-timbered homes, canals and cobble stoned streets that create a gorgeous landscape for locals and visitors to enjoy.
This part of the city is fully pedestrianized and perfect for visitors to enjoy shopping in the local boutique shops, meander through the collection of art galleries and of course, sample a baguette or other French delicacy in the local cafes.
Another of Europe’s hidden gems is the capital city of Estonia, Tallinn. Located in the Balkan region of Europe, Tallinn is a rather unique city given that it has preserved the walled, cobblestoned Old Town that epitomizes everything there is to love about Estonia. Whether you choose to visit in the heart of summer or prefer to enjoy Christmas in Tallinn, this city’s beautiful architecture and rich history awaits.
Visit the beautiful Tallinn Town Hall in the heart of Old Town and take a stroll to Toompea to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views across the historic city. Delicious cuisine can be enjoyed in one of the many local cafes scattered along the cobblestoned streets and for those fortunate to visit in December, you can enjoy what we consider to be some of the best Christmas markets across Europe.
Don’t forget to sample a warm glass of Glögg, a seasonal drink that is similar to mulled wine but with a slightly Estonian twist that makes this a unique drink you cannot help but fall in love with. 24 hours in Tallinn will give you the opportunity to explore plenty of the city but this is certainly the ideal type of location for that perfect winter wonderland getaway.
Poland’s capital city of Warsaw is another perfect example of the ideal weekend break destination, especially if you are looking to enjoy the contrasting experiences of a modern versus historic landscape. Warsaw epitomizes everything there is to love about a historic city, while also incorporating several 21st century, innovative structures that help create that modern environment we associate with many European cities.
The Royal Castle in Warsaw is a great place to start to learn about the history and heritage of this city via a guided tour. Warsaw’s Old Town is in the immediate vicinity to the castle and so is the perfect area to enjoy admiring the gorgeous architecture and perhaps sampling some of the infamous Polish cuisine such as bigos, kotlet schabowy, and pierogi.
Łazienki Park is home to the “Palace on the Isle” and this area of green space in the heart of Warsaw is a great place to getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life and relax.
10 unique cities but all perfect destinations for a weekend getaway. Whether you prefer a larger city for an action-packed weekend break or perhaps a lesser known destination, there are plenty of amazing options across Europe. We would strongly encourage you consider a city such as Riga or Tallinn but certainly the iconic destinations such as Prague and Budapest are equally spectacular.
Please share in the comments which European cities you would consider to be on your top 10 weekend getaways.