Europe can be a mixed bag when it comes to organizing weekend getaways. On one hand, it can be a glut of accessible attractions that lends itself perfectly to short escapes. Places like the Eiffel Tower, La Sagrada Familia, and the Tower of London are a geographical stone’s throw from each other.
On the flip side, picking one place over another can feel impossible. With so many desirable options, the question becomes, “Where should we go first?” The purpose of this post is to help people find an answer. We've come up with eight European destinations ideal for a well-earned weekend getaway.
The UK capital is one of the planet’s most popular tourist destinations, and for good reason. There’s history, culture, incredible architecture, and shopping opportunities galore. It boasts an electric atmosphere, a kaleidoscope of humanity, and endless things to see and do—all connected by an excellent public transport system that includes buses, the London Underground, London's Overground rail network, and those famous black taxis.
The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and the London Eye only scratch the surface of famous attractions there. Renowned museums, galleries, and green open spaces, most of which are free to enjoy, add to London’s appeal. Its food scene and nightlife are also second to none. Whether people are traveling for work or pleasure, getaway weekends in Europe don’t get much more exciting than a trip to London.
No list of weekend getaways in Europe would be complete without Paris. A short stay here provides an excellent introduction to another go-to capital city that’s big, bustling, diverse, and full of life.
Nicknamed the City of Love, Paris lives up to its reputation as a romantic vacation destination. The atmosphere is sultry and enigmatic, especially as the sun sets on its most iconic attraction, the Eiffel Tower. Yet the French capital is also a great place to go with friends and family. It’s cliché to say, but there is something for everyone. Expect catacombs full of skeletons, grand palaces with immaculate jardins, and art museums packed with famous paintings. There’s dazzling architecture, inspiring cathedrals, intriguing monuments, and much more.
In terms of logistics, Paris can feel daunting to navigate at first. It’s a sprawling place that lends itself to getting lost. Thankfully, the metro system is reliable and extensive, making it cheap and convenient to explore without a vehicle.
Barcelona is another modern metropolis that travelers seek out in droves. Unlike landlocked Paris, though, this city has the added perk of being coastal. After long days spent sightseeing, having access to the Mediterranean Sea and sandy beaches lined with bars is hard to beat.
However, the biggest attraction in Barcelona is La Sagrada Familia. This unique basilica has been under construction for almost 140 years. Its distinctive design was the brainchild of Antoni Gaudi, a famous architect whose influence is on show across the city. Seeing La Sagrada Familia’s ornate façade from the outside is a must. But don’t miss the opportunity to go inside. It’s an architectural masterpiece that will leave visitors in awe.
La Rambla, the Picasso Museum, La Boqueria Market, and the Gothic Quarter are a few other recommended stops for a weekend Barcelona itinerary. Get from A to B on foot or by metro. Sample the tapas, sip a Spanish beer, and watch the world pass by with the locals at one of the many bars that line the streets along the way.
Amsterdam is another European bucket list destination that people flock to every year. Trips involve exploring unique museums, frequenting novel coffee shops, and cycling sedately along delightful cobblestone paths and canals.
On that note, Amsterdam’s nickname is the “Venice of the North.” It’s famous for its postcard-worthy waterways lined with colorful buildings – all of which oozes charm. As for the city’s many museums, a few of particular note include the Heineken Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House.
In terms of getting around, Amsterdam is extremely bike and pedestrian-friendly. This makes the city more enjoyable to explore, and is also useful for weekend visitors who opt against hiring a vehicle. Furthermore, this popular destination is highly accessible. Anyone in London, for example, can travel directly to Amsterdam in less than four hours on the Eurostar train.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Italy spoils visitors with its historical sites, first-rate cuisine, glorious weather, and stunning landscapes. Case and point? Cinque Terre. Meaning “five lands” in English, this magical place comprises five ancient fishing villages perched on a beautiful stretch of the northwest coast. Expect colorful period properties, narrow cobbled streets laced with character, stunning views, beaches and marinas, and much more.
The villages interconnect with both rail and trail. Visitors with energy in their legs can follow age-old walking routes weathered by hundreds of years of footfall, overlooking Italy’s sun-kissed cerulean seas. Thankfully, the trains that run regularly each day make these magical villages accessible to almost everyone—and will make a big difference to anyone visiting for a weekend getaway.
Note that Cinque Terre isn’t as easy to get to as other destinations on this list. Going by train is arguably the best option. Trenitalia runs direct services to La Spezia from Pisa, Florence, and Rome. From there, the express train mentioned above travels between each village.
Venice is another unique Italian tourist destination full of history and charm. Its reputation precedes it, and words never do it justice. It’s a simple fact: Venice is unlike any other place on earth.
The capital of the Veneto region in northern Italy, it’s built on over 100 tiny islands, all interconnected by a complex canal network. There are no cars here. Venice is a city of boats and bridges. Visitors walk, take boat taxis, or get rowed from A to B by the infamous gondoliers in their iconic boats. Colorful Renaissance and Gothic buildings line cobbled streets and rise straight from the water; front doors open onto wooden moorings where the resident’s boat awaits.
Venice is as close as it gets to stepping back in time to a medieval world. The magic is in the atmosphere as much as the attractions. Yet there are many of those, too. Highlights include the wonderfully ornate Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge, and the Bridge of Sighs.
Rome is the pièce de résistance of Italy’s weekend getaway destinations. It’s easily accessible by train, plane, and road from most European destinations. Similarly, its excellent public transport system makes getting around cheap and convenient; regular buses and the metro take visitors to all major attractions. And there’s no shortage of those.
Millions of people descend on Rome to experience such ancient wonders as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon. Walking around these millennia-old relics is both surreal and unforgettable. The sense of history is tangible and profound. Then there’s Vatican City – technically an independent country in its own right, landlocked within Rome. Home to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the inimitable Sistine Chapel, it’s a must for any weekend getaway, despite the queues.
Of course, Rome also offers the usual big-city perks. Packed with bars, restaurants, and nightlife, visitors with no interest in history will still have a memorable trip.
Located at the southern tip of Croatia’s picturesque coastline, Dubrovnik feels a long way from some other European cities on this list—and not just in terms of geography. The place is tiny. Just over 41,500 people live in Dubrovnik, which pales in comparison to London’s population of 9 million. The result is a different vibe. Tourists don’t flock here for the buzz and excitement of a major metropolis. They go for its beauty, charm, and history; for relaxation and access to nature.
It’s striking, too. An ancient fortified city, it’s surrounded by thick stone walls that sit atop cliffs descending sharply into turquoise waters. Once upon a time, they protected the town from sea-borne attacks—often, funnily enough, from the Republic of Venice. Throw in the terracotta rooves of Dubrovnik’s old buildings and the entire place feels like something from a fairy tale. Small wonder it was used to portray “King’s Landing” in HBO’s series, Game of Thrones.
Sure, hiring a car for the long weekend opens the door to excursions into the surrounding area. But it isn’t necessary. The bus network in Dubrovnik is quick, reliable, and goes all over town. Taxis are also available. And don’t dismiss walking. Exploring on foot offers an intimate way to experience this stunning destination.
Plan the Perfect Weekend Getaways in Europe
Weekend getaways in Europe are as memorable and romantic as they sound. But planning them isn’t easy – in part because there are so many places to go. The paradox of choice rears its ugly head. With dozens of destinations holding equal appeal, picking one is a challenge.
Hopefully, this post full of getaway ideas will help anyone in this position make up their minds. Whether they pick London, Paris, Barcelona, Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre, Amsterdam, or Dubrovnik for their weekend escape, they’re guaranteed an unforgettable trip.