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Top European City Break Destinations

Published on: September 9, 2014

Planning a city break for the autumn is a fantastic way to keep the summer holiday spirit going as temperatures drop.

With so many amazing cities in Europe, each with its own charm, there really is a city break destination to suit all tastes. With so many to choose from here our top picks of the must see cities in Europe!

Paris, France

A classic city break destination, Paris is quick and easy to get to either by Eurostar (takes around 2 hours 16 minutes from London St Pancras Int’l) or by plane (takes around 1 hour 15 minutes from London Heathrow).

Must see sights include:

  • Eiffel Tower – built for the 1889 World Fair, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. 325 metres tall, the third floor offers a breath-taking view across the city
  • Louvre Museum – formerly the residence of France’s kings this museum opened more than two centuries ago now houses over 35,000 works including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
  • Notre-Dame de Paris – the geographic and historic heart of Paris, the cathedral took two centuries to build is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture 

Tip: Many cafes post three tiers of prices: one for standing at the counter, one for sitting indoors and one for sitting outside. Though sitting outside tends to be most costly, you can sit as long as you wish and watch the world go by – a true Parisian pastime!

Barcelona, Spain

Combining the relaxed and sunny charm of Mediterranean cities with the cultural and design credentials more readily found in Northern European cities, Barcelona is a convenient 2 hour flight from London.

Must see sights include:

  • Casa Batlló – an apartment block dramatically remodelled by Gaudi in the early 1900s. Most of the building and the roof terrace are now open to visitors who can appreciate Gaudi’s swirling interiors and woodwork. Book tickets online to avoid queues
  • Sagrada Familia – a work in progress, this cathedral was started by Gaudi at the end of the 19th Century. Amazingly detailed both inside and outside, the interior features a forest of pillars reaching up to the roof to create a dream-like effect
  • Camp Nou Experience – the home of Barca FC. along with the Sagrada Familia, this is the most visited attraction in Barcelona and offers tours of the pitch, the visitors changing rooms, the tunnel, the commentary boxes and the museum

Tip: Always avoid shops, restaurants and bars along Las Ramblas as prices can be very high, however it’s a great area to walk through and soak up the atmosphere amongst the crowds.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam takes around 1 hour 15 minutes to reach from London by plane and offers visitors a unique experience in a city where life as remained authentic despite tourism.

Must see sights include:

  • Amsterdam canal ring – the city old centre is formed of canal rights, walk though these canal streets or alternatively take a trip by boat to experience the sense of space and peace created by the canals
  • Rijksmuseum – one of the largest museums in the Netherlands this museum has a fantastic collection of 17th century Dutch Golden Age masterpieces including Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch”
  • Van Gogh Museum – housing around 200 paintings and 550 sketches, this is the biggest collection in the world of Van Gogh’s works

Tip: Amsterdam is a city in which the bike rules. Avoid walking on or standing in bike lanes, which are clearly marked with a bike symbol, and when you hear a bike bell get out of the way as quickly as possible!

Dublin, Ireland

Designated a Unesco City of Literature, Dublin is accessible in just 1 hour and 15 minutes by plane from London and offers elegant Georgian architectural, robust pop culture and great museums and galleries.

Must see sights include:

  • Guinness Storehouse – Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction, find out all you could want to know about the Guinness dynasty and the famous stout itself. Top off your experience with a visit to the rooftop Gravity Bar which offers a 360-degree view of Dublin and of course a complimentary glass of Guinness!
  • Temple Bar – a network of small streets, squares and lanes slotted into the area between the southern embankment of the River Liffey and the thoroughfare of Dame Street. Temple Bar is home to a clutch of important cultural attractions and plays host to regular seasonal festivals
  • Dublin Castle – founded in 1204 Dublin Castle was the main centre of English and British rule in Ireland for 800 years. Today it houses a number of free museums

Tip: The city is fantastic for aspiring photographers with its Georgian architecture and unique decorative flourishes to be found in unexpected places.

Rome, Italy

A city steeped history where classical ruins and early Christian places of worship are found alongside Renaissance palazzos and Baroque fountains, Rome is a 2 and a half hour plane journey from London.

Must see sights include:

  • Colosseum – this is a must see attraction and arguably Rome’s most famous classical ruin. Inaugurated in 80 AD, this massive arena seated well over 50,000 people. Visitors can now visit the underfloor passageways where gladiators and wild beasts made their entrance
  • Doria Pamphilj Gallery – art collection of the aristocratic Doria Pamphilj family, a magnificent collection displayed in the stunning palazzo
  • Domus Romane – recently excavated home of a well-heeled late Roman. Computer graphics are used to transform the gloomy spaces into bright reproductions of a Roman dwelling

Tip: Respect meal times, especially lunchtime as most restaurants and bars will close in the afternoon. Lunchtime is usually 1pm to 2pm.

Other European cities to consider

  • Berlin, Germany – One of the most stimulating cities in Europe, Berlin offers something for everyone with plenty of history, a fantastic party scene and family friendly greenspaces
  • Nice, France – The glamourous capital of the Côte d’Azur has a reputation for scandal making it an exciting place to visit!
  • Bruges, Belgium – This picturesque city boasts canals, chocolatiers, Belgium beer and medieval charm with plenty to do and pretty much everything a short walk away

If you’re heading off on a European city break make sure you pack a my Travel Cash Euro Currency Card to get great exchange rates, 1% cashback on purchases, no ATM fees* and more. Plus you could get up to £10 extra travel money when you order or top up before 21 September 2014 – find out how to claim your cashback.

*Some ATM providers may apply additional surcharges.