Destination

6 European City Escapes Perfect for a Weekend

There are countless European cities and towns to top a traveler’s list of continental adventures—many quintessential for a weekend getaway. So many fascinating details comprise the historical aspects of Europe’s greatest cities, showcased throughout museums, galleries, and impressive landmarks dotted across the continent. Add in some interesting gentrification, modern cultural amusements, and spice it up with a whole lot of contemporary fixings, and these six cities skip to the beat of their own drum. Whether you’re a budget traveler or a big spender, the following cities welcome almost any budget and propensity.

6. Rome, Italy

“Rome wasn’t built in a day” couldn’t be more sincere. The legendary city practically bleeds history through incredible, ancient buildings, beginning with the Forum. To the west is Capitoline Hill, to the east the renowned Colosseum, and the south is celebrated for the Baths of Caracalla and Palatine Hill. The backdrop along the beautiful River Tiber sets scenes for days of old and unbridled romance: you’ll find ancient Rome, Vatican City, endless cathedrals, and the Renaissance capital of Raphael and Michelangelo. Make time for the trendy shops, lively café culture, and fashionable restaurants—it’s all just one big, modern and delightful dichotomy. If you’re in Rome for history, forgo the car and relish instead in the pedestrian center where most famous ruins and buildings are clustered or hop the metro, ditching the dizzying traffic jams. Slip into Rome’s Mediterranean tempo while perusing the historical legacies and 21st century pleasures.

Rome, Italy

5. London, England

Incredible diversity, pulsing energy, centuries-old history, and innovatively impressive, London is England’s most progressive city. The Thames River carves through London like a snake, flanked by attractions both exciting and scenic. Head to central London to the most famous sites, including galleries, museums, and legendary landmarks but relax in the fact that, when the busy pace is overwhelming, there is a wide choice of green spaces to unwind, like pretty Hyde Park. Take pub culture by the horns—there’s no better place to pub hop—and sample some of the beautifully diverse, ethnic restaurants along with local English favourites. “Mind the Gap” as you venture onto the city’s renowned Tube, and enjoy affordable and convenient transportation. Take a twirl on the London Eye, crane your neck at Big Ben, and revel in the arts at Tate Modern—it would take years to soak this city up in its entirety.

Top Cities 2013 - London

4. Florence, Italy

Rolling hills, cypress trees, and olive groves come to mind when conjuring landscapes surrounding Florence in Italy’s Tuscany region. This is where you won’t just explore a piazza, you’ll experience it while settling in for an unforgettable meal or remarkable wine. Fans of art from the Renaissance shouldn’t miss this haven of period pieces, best seen at the Uffizi Gallery Museum. The Arno River passes through, setting the scene for a different mood from sunup to sundown while slender streets give way to historic palaces, towering cathedrals, and busy piazzas. As romantic as it all is, fashion is as fundamental in Florence as the arts are; both Roberto Cavalli and Gucci were born in the city, breaking bread with the well-dressed wealthy amid the wine-fueled cocktail parties in the hills. Fashion doesn’t rule the roost though; there’s plenty of history, great nightlife, and sights for non-Fashionistas to enjoy too.

Florence Cathedral

3. Munich, Germany

Crowds flock to Munich for Oktoberfest—the best destination for the Autumn celebration—and are equally enthralled with its beautiful, summertime setting, yet Munich can be enjoyed in any season. This Bavarian capital is party central, supremely conveyed when in the Old City (Altstadt), when every square is filled with people eating, drinking, and enjoying life. The beer gardens and local Hofbräuhaus are typically German, brimming with revelry. Sophistication and culture is as much a part of Munich as the merriment is, evident throughout a prominent arts community, gastronomic endeavors, and mercantile joys. Less gritty than Hamburg or Berlin, Munich’s central core is lively and enchanting, where the chime of church bells entrances and the streets are fitted for people over cars. Safe, clean, and somewhat rustic, visitors can walk or cycle the English Garden, shop, eat, and drink in the Gärtnerplatz, then cruise on over to the traditional farmer’s style Viktualienmarkt.

Marienplatz Munich

2. Barcelona, Spain

Catalonia’s capital city is drenched in history while featuring so many modern twists, it’s downright mind-boggling. Barcelona is one of the most thrilling cities in the world, hitting on just about every interest, from family fun to some pretty wild nightlife. The spread of attractions is incredible: Gothic architecture, vibrant markets, lovely beaches, and pumped up nightlife. Galleries and world class museums exhibit cultural highlights along with a full roster of music and theater performances. If you haven’t heard of Gaudi, look him up immediately. His jaw-dropping, magically styled buildings are literally unlike anything in the world. Every shopaholic gawks at what’s on offer throughout popular retail avenues of Passeig de Gracia and Placa de Catalunya while casual souvenir seekers love unusual shops along Las Ramblas, a colourful pedestrian avenue. From the Gothic district to the endless collection of famous Spanish tapas restaurants, there’s something here for everyone.

Park Guell Barcelona Spain

1. Prague, Czech Republic

The capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague, is one of the world’s most breathtaking cities. One sweeping look and Prague administers a scenic trance with its incredible skyline, soaring stone buildings, and cobblestone streets. The pull of the gardens and Renaissance palaces inside the Little Quarter (Mala Strana) seem extra magnetic for the riverside location and museums of modern art, along with fantastic bars and restaurants, colour this district with charisma—just south is pub-laden Smíchov. The 14th century Charles Bridge carves through; a spectacle and hotspot overlooking lazy and exquisite Vltava River, and the perfect spot to admire Prague Castle. Wandering aimlessly is how to really see Prague in its glory of mazy courtyards and cobblestone streets, always pulling you in for a little more. Walk through Old Town where unanticipated gardens, old school pubs, and pleasant cafes eat into hours, especially through neighborhoods like Bubeneč and Vinohrady.

Prague
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