When somebody says they are going on a trip to Europe nobody would question you if the thoughts running around your head were off the romantic tourist hotspots like Paris, Rome and Prague.
But the true beauty of Europe is often found beyond the boundaries of these huge cities, in the small country towns or the hidden gems of lesser travelled countries. And many of these places are perfectly suited to a short getaway of a couple of days.
We have been fortunate to experience some amazing places on our European road trips but we wanted to discover new places as well. So once again we reached out to our travel blogging friends and asked them to tell us about their best place in Europe for a short getaway.
Brugge, Belgium with Sam from Travelling Sam.
Brugge sits within the Flemish Region of Belgium and has been made famous by its winding streets and romantic canals. Even Hollywood has based films in this iconic Unesco World Heritage site (the medieval market square).
The town is a great setting for a long weekend away. Catering to families, as much as it does to romantic couples, with various museums and incredible architecture. The cobbled streets and old buildings are interlaced with characterful canals providing a unique charm, especially when the sun goes down and the lights come on.
It may be a cliché, but as you are in Belgium, no trip here is complete without visiting the multitude of chocolate and waffles shops lining the cobbled streets. Belgian chocolate is a perfect holiday gift for any loved ones back home, that’s if you don’t eat it all first!
The crowning glory is a 13th Century Bell Tower, which provides fantastic views over the whole of the town and is a must for any trip to Brugge. As with most places in Europe, it is easily accessible by public transport with a main train station just outside of the Old Town; an easy walking distance away from multiple accommodation options.
Dubrovnik, Croatia with Anne from Travel the Globe 4 Less.
Dubrovnik is a medieval mystery. Founded 1300 years ago by Greek refugees, its labyrinthine passageways reveal boutique stores, chic drinking holes, upmarket restaurants and tempting gelaterias, all remarkably well preserved despite the test of time, earthquakes and shelling by the Serbian army in the 1990s.
It is easy to lose yourself among creeping wisteria, twisted vines stretched between doorways and dangling laundry. The walled city is the largest in the world and its terracotta tiled apartments, villas and communal buildings are a photographer’s dream. The views from the city walls are like a scene from a fairytale and of course, diehard fans of Game of Thrones may find the city vaguely familiar.
It is just three hours from the UK and during summer, many regional budget airlines fly direct to the city’s airport just 13 km south of the town. This makes it an easy destination to visit for a weekend away. Two full days will allow you plenty of time to roam the medieval centre, and take a flying visit to the summit of Srd Mountain for panoramic views. The journey by cable car takes just 4 minutes and the views are sublime.
Two days may be enough to see the sites, but prepare to find yourself under Dubrovnik’s spell before you leave. I came away charmed and enchanted and planning to return. The only downside is that the secret is well and truly out of the bag and prices are high, but these tips may help you save money in Dubrovnik.
San Sebastian, Spain with Paul from A Luxury Travel Blog.
The best place we had a short break recently was in San Sebastian on the Bay of Biscay. Not only were we staying in one of the best suites in one of the city’s top luxury hotels (the Bette Davis Suite at the Hotel Maria Cristina) but the city has such a relaxed vibe about it that it’s hard not to love the place.
Beaches are within walking distance and there are many places of cultural interest. It’s a great city if you love good food too – we did a pintxos tour which is something I would highly recommend. You’ll also find some of the most world-renowned restaurants in San Sebastian, many with Michelin stars.
Lisbon, Portugal with James from Portugalist.
In 2012, I spent a long weekend in Lisbon. It’s one of the best short breaks that I’ve ever taken, so much so that it convinced me to move there!
There are many reasons to love Lisbon. Firstly, the weather: with over 300 days of sunshine, you can visit almost any time of the year and expect good weather. This is essential when you’re on a short break, as poor weather can affect your ability to see a city properly.
Secondly, it’s incredibly affordable – the cheapest capital city in Western Europe. Your money will go considerably further here than it will in other European capitals like Dublin , London , Rome, and Paris. Drinks cost a couple of Euros, and dinner can be bought for less than €10 per person.
Third, it’s a fairly compact city and walkable city. This means you won’t spend the majority of your break on public transport, trying to get from tourist attraction to tourist attraction. Most are either in the centre of the city, or in the nearby neighbourhood of Belem (a short tram ride away). Come visit Lisbon, and see what makes this city such a great destination for a short break!
Helsinki, Finland with Evan from Pretty Wild World.
Dubbed as the “Daughter of the Baltics,” Helsinki has often been overlooked by travelers scared that the city will drain their funds because of its reputation for being expensive. I beg to differ, but I don’t deny that it is costly to live and travel to and around Finland.
However, this shouldn’t scare anyone off as there’s always a way to explore Helsinki for a long weekend or a short break. Despite being costly, there are tons to see in Helsinki from urban city life to exploring its vast nature.
Since this infamous capital is relatively small in comparison to other European capitals, there is still a lot to see and do in Helsinki such as visiting it’s beautiful museums, walking its beautiful neighborhoods, and taking short day trips outside the city and explore another town just an hour commute from the city center.
My best advice is to tackle all the usual touristic things in one day as Helsinki is easily accessible by foot and the public transport of up par. On the second day, take a day pack and explore Nuuksio National Park while reserving the third day to explore Porvoo, a neighboring town just 45 minutes by bus.
Lake Garda, Italy with Margherita from The Crowded Planet.
I live in Milan, in northern Italy, and one of my favourite destinations for a short break is Lake Garda. Italy’s largest lake is only about 2 hours drive from my house, and it makes for a wonderful short break destination.
One of the things I like best about the area is that it’s truly a year round destination – there are so many things to do in Lake Garda, especially for adventure-lovers, that you can visit over and over again and never do the same thing twice.
For example, summer is a great time to hike, sail or go windsurfing, whereas spring and autumn are the best periods for rock climbing, via ferrata and mountain biking. It rarely snows as the climate in Lake Garda is quite mild, but those who visit in winter can enjoy wonderful Christmas markets!
Marseille, France with Kemkem from Next Bite of Life.
Marseille, the beautiful port city located in the South of France is second only to Paris in size. It is an amazing destination for a city break, Beautiful sights coupled with great mediterranean weather and cuisine, it’s easy to find something to like.
Must see places in Marseille include:
- Chateau D’If – Set on an island about a 20 minute boat ride from the Old Port, this former prison was made famous by Alexander Dumas in the “Count of Monte Cristo”. It is a fascinating look into the past at what was a last stop for French Aristocrats.
- Notre Dame Basilica – Beautiful church constructed with Golfalina stone with a Romanesque crypt. I suggest taking the tour with the petit train which leaves from the Vieux Port. The view from the top is simply stunning.
- Longchamp Palace – Home to the museum of Art, it is a beautiful palace with amazing stained glass windows and a huge park popular with the locals. It is a gorgeous place from which to glimpse everyday French life.
- Vieux Port (Old Port) – Once a gritty and dangerous area, it has been transformed to one of the most picturesque spots in the city. Cafes, hotels and restaurants are in abundance. Try some delicious fresh caught seafood prepared at the moment right at the port.
Piran, Slovenia with Kate from Our Escape Clause.
It’s hard to imagine a better place for a weekend getaway than Piran, Slovenia: this tiny coastal town is entirely walkable and oozes charm from every corner. In just a few days, it’s easy to explore the bulk of Piran and walk away feeling refreshed.
There are only a few things that you “have” to do while in Piran: make time to climb the town walls above the city to get an amazing view of the peninsula below, go for a swim in the clear waters behind town on the side of the city opposite the marina (and revel in the fact that a few simple phrases are all the directions required in a place so small!), and eat
plenty of delicious meals while facing the water.
We loved Piran’s adorable streets, picturesque town square, churches, marina, and most of all, we loved the laid back nature of the little town. Our days in Piran passed lazily and peacefully: a swim, an afternoon gelato, and a dinner with a view of the water were an easy and happy pattern to fall into, and we left feeling completely relaxed at the end of our short stay.
Cappadocia, Turkey with Al from Sojournalpix.
In the middle of the Anatolian Plain 750 kilometers from Istanbul lies this seemingly magical land called Cappadocia that has unique geological features formed by ancient volcanoes 10 million years ago which gave rise to strange rock formations sculpted by wind and water.
Early settlers used this soft volcanic soil to carve out houses, churches and even underground cities that extended hundreds of meters beneath the surface. We based our stay in Goreme with its famous cave hotels – your room is literally cut out of the soft rock conical protrusions that dot the whole town. It is a compact place that you can easily navigate to see the nearby sights like the Open-Air Museum which has well-preserved Byzantine churches and frescoes inside man-made caves dating back to the 10th century.
Then there’s Pigeon Valley and Pasabag with their panoramic views of “fairy chimney” rock formations that fill the whole landscape as far as the eye can see. Tours to the underground city of Derinkuyu where locals hid for months during numerous foreign invasions in the past and the stunning Ihlara Valley that looks like the Grand Canyon depart from here as well. It is also a perfect location for hot-air balloon flights because the view from the air of its otherworldly landscape is simply amazing! Many walking trails to explore the valley would satisfy your wanderlust to no end.
The short three days we stayed there was well worth it and would definitely be nice to come back once again.
Capri, Italy with Ana from Jaunting Trips.
The beautiful island of Capri is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, just off the Sorrentine Peninsula, in the southern part of the Gulf of Napoli. Ideal to visit in May, June and September, Capri is set up to be the perfect week-end getaway.
The easiest way to reach the island is via ferryboat from either Sorrento or Napoli. The starting point of your Capri experience is Marina Grande, from where you can either catch a boat tour around the island or you can start exploring on land.
Among the beauties you will experience on the boat tour are the colorful grottos: Coral Grotto, Grotta Bianca, Green Grotto with the most stunning emerald shades and of course gorgeous Grotta Azzura; the Faraglioni – the three rocky giants that give Capri its unique look and Marina Piccola, ideal for enjoying a day in the sun.
Returning from the boat tour, you can explore the two towns on the island, Capri and Anacapri (that literary means “above Capri”). They are absolutely charming, with lots of small boutique shops, restaurants and art galleries. You can reach Anacapri by bus, but if you are feeling up to the challenge, you can take the Phoenician steps. It might be a 45 minutes climb, but the views are totally worth the hike.
Moscow, Russia with Liza from Tripsget.
Moscow is a great place for a short break. I’ve visited the capital of Russia quite a few times, maybe 6 or 7, and most of these times just for a weekend or so.
Moscow is neither the most interesting city in Russia, nor the most beautiful one (St. Petersburg wins the crown), however, it has Kremlin and it is gorgeous and unique. And that’s already a good reason to visit Moscow. You can spend the whole day at the Red Square for sure, especially if you manage to get into the majority of museums.
The museums are really worth it – in Mausoleum you can see the mummified body of Russian revolutionary leader Lenin, in St. Basil’s Cathedral – amazing Christian Orthodox art and many more things inside the Kremlin and its Cathedrals.
Moscow is also a great place for foodies, especially if you like lavish and expensive places. Some of the restaurants in Moscow have gotten into the list of the best restaurants in the world, but in order to get a table there, you will probably have to call in advance (or to book online). Moreover, Moscow has plenty of parks and recreation zones that are worth visiting and it’s one of the most beautifully decorated cities for Christmas.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany with us.
After completing a six week road trip through Germany and some of its neighbouring countries there was one German town that stood out as the perfect place to spend a few days. And that town is the delightful Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
It is often said that the village in the original Pinocchio story was based on this fairytale town and once you start exploring the cobblestone streets and admiring the colourful half-timbered houses you will feel like you are walking through the pages of a children’s book.
This is a wonderfully preserved Medieval walled town with loads of character and it is also home to one of the most famous German pastry treats, the Scneeballen or Snowball. Especially popular at Christmas this tasty morsel looks like one of those balls made from thousands of rubber bands, but with strips of pastry, coated in numerous sweet options and it originated here.
Rothenburg is an absolute must visit on any trip around Germany, especially during December when the Christmas market is in full swing and the decorations make it even more magical.