Time Out, the global media and hospitality brand that helps people explore and experience the soul of the city, has revealed its list of the 16 best city breaks in Europe for 2022. The list features official capitals of culture, lesser-known second cities and the under-the-radar destinations that will host some of the biggest festivals and openings of the year.
As vaccination and booster rollouts continue apace worldwide, Time Out believes that in 2022, travellers will rediscover a passion for city breaks, especially with this set to be a year packed with big new cultural openings and many huge festivals returning. Time Out’s network of 16 expert local European editors and writers picked these emerging destinations because of their excellent food, culture, nightlife and community spirit – the things that have always made Europe’s cities such great places to be. In these climate-conscious times, the list also features only places that are easy to get to by train and bus.
Caroline McGinn, Time Out’s Global Editor-in-Chief, says: “For the past 18 months, travellers have largely explored closer to home, with trips to the countryside especially popular, but in 2022 we’re predicting that the city break will make a triumphant return. Where else can you order an espresso, pop into a museum, taste a local liqueur and go out out? Whether you’re looking to hit a blockbuster festival or visit a new museum opening, we hope our list will provide some much-needed travel inspiration this winter.”
Read the full list at www.timeout.com/europe/things-to-do/best-city-breaks-in-europe
- Arles, France
Known for being the city where Vincent van Gogh completed his legendary sunflower series in the 1880s, Arles is also home to the largest street market in Provence, and is the region’s Capital of Culture for 2022. Highlights are LUMA, a buzzing new arts district packed with multimedia exhibitions and art installations; the Carrières des Lumières, an immersive art experience in a quarry; and Les Rencontres de la Photographie, a festival featuring pop-up bars, food trucks and world-beating photography exhibitions.
- Brno, Czech Republic
The Czech second city has repositioned itself as a post-industrial science and tech hub with a reinvented food and drink scene featuring everything from contemporary international at Element to Výčep na Stojáka, a modern take on a trad pub. In 2022, The INdustrial project celebrates Brno’s manufacturing tradition, with several former industrial buildings opening to the public for the first time, along with Káznice, a Habsburg-era prison, which is also being redeveloped and will host events in summer.
- Kaunas, Lithuania
There is no better time to visit Kaunas than 2022, as it has been named European Capital of Culture, with a year-long programme of more than 1,000 events to celebrate including exhibitions by Yoko Ono, William Kentridge, Marina Abramović and more. Make sure to discover the rest of the delights the city has to offer, like its hundreds of modernist masterpieces, along with the M.K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art (dedicated to the musician and symbolist painter) and the frankly bizarre Devils’ Museum.
- Odense, Denmark
Just 90 minutes by train from Copenhagen, Odense is small but perfectly formed. It’s home to the brand-new architectural wonder that is the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which brings to life the story of the fairytale author and the worlds he created. A new light railway is under construction and due to open in spring 2022, connecting the city’s beautiful old quarters and vibrant newer neighbourhoods.
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
In 2022, the Slovenian capital is hosting Velo-City, a summit aimed at encouraging cycling across the continent. For more casual riders, bike hire in the city centre is free. Restaurants are encouraged to use local ingredients, so meals often include freshly picked veg and produce from urban farms. For music fans, Festival Ljubljana, complete with world-renowned classical virtuosos, is back after a Covid-induced hiatus. There’s also a jazz festival every July, and the city is turned into a stage during street theatre festival Ana Desetnica.
- Oslo, Norway
The revitalisation of the historic harbourside Bjørvika district is well under way, with the brand-new Munch Museum now open to the public, right next to the Deichman Bjørvika Library and the world-famous Opera House (complete with its own urban beach, Operastranda). For foodies, Oslo’s dining scene now features VIA Village, a buzzing new food court, just a few minutes from the Aker Brygge area. For those visiting in the summer and beyond, the long-awaited new National Museum will open in June and take the crown as the largest museum in the Nordics.
- Turku, Finland
Often referred to as the ‘Paris of Finland’ for its abundance of café terraces, Turku is Finland’s oldest city (and historic capital). With a big music scene, next year sees the much-anticipated return of festivals like Archipelago Sea Jazz and Ruisrock. It’s also a leading light in sustainable tourism, with the city running electric boat trips, nature excursions and food tours that showcase the finest local produce. That all forms part of Turku’s plans to become carbon-neutral and ‘zero waste’ by 2040. Want to get there by greener means yourself? The city is easily reachable via train (from Helsinki) and ferry (from Stockholm and Tallinn).
- Valencia, Spain
Back with a (literal) bang in 2022, Valencia will once again host the Las Fallas festival to kick off Spring with bonfires, fireworks, parades and parties throughout March. Nearby La Tomatina, the ‘world’s biggest food fight’, will also return for the first time in two years. This year, Valencia has been designated not only European Capital of Smart Tourism but also World Design Capital, with more than 100 events lined up for the latter.
- Sheffield, England
Sheffield was recently crowned ‘the greenest city’ in the UK, with its 4.5 million trees (more per person than any other city in Europe), 250 public parks and 52 square miles of national park. Combine the lush greenery – and proximity to the Peak District – with a vibrant city rich in culture, food and drink, and you have two kinds of holiday wrapped into one. Prefer the green of a football pitch? Sheffield is hosting three group matches and a semi-final of the 2022 UEFA European Women’s Football Championship in July.
- Trikala, Greece
Trikala, in north-western Thessaly, is Greece’s first official ‘smart city’. This under-the-radar city is green in all senses of the word: a tree-shaded spot topped by its Byzantine castle and criss-crossed by the trout-filled Lithaios River. It’s easy to get around with a bike-sharing scheme and a slew of new cycle paths – and when summer temperatures soar there are pit stops where you can pick up (free) water. It also has the country’s first driverless buses. Head in August for the three-day Ziria music festival that takes over Trikala’s ski slopes.
- Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina
In the north-west corner of Bosnia and Herzegovina, you’ll find Bihać on the banks of the magical Una River. This is the perfect city break for nature lovers who want to take in scenic valley views: the bike route from the centre of town to the remains of Sokolac Fortress is now open and new eco-friendly accommodation such as Japodski Otoci and Eko-Selo Natura Art offer adventure and restoration in equal measure. Add in several local initiatives to clean up the surrounding lakes and rivers, and you’ve got a destination that is embracing all that Bosnia’s most beautiful river has to offer.
- Liverpool, England
Liverpool’s nightlife scene is one of a kind – so it was no wonder the city played host to the UK’s first club night in a year, with footage broadcast across the globe. Now it’s time for everyone else to discover it too, for either a night out at a ‘Baltic Triangle’ club, or something bigger like Creamfields or International Beatle Week in August. 2022 will also see the welcome return of DaDaFest International, one of the world’s leading festivals of work by disabled, deaf and neurodiverse artists – a welcome reminder of what an inclusive place this really is.
- Rotterdam, Netherlands
After the success of Eurovision 2021, Rotterdam feels like it has a new lease of life. Having undergone major renovation works in the run-up to the 2020 event – only for it to be delayed a year – the song contest put the Netherlands’ second city firmly on the tourist map. No doubt many will be flocking here in 2022 to explore its incredible art museums and architecture, and top-notch food and nightlife. Top of the list should be the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility housing 151,000 objects. Next, marvel at floating buildings including an office, a farm and even an entire street – all developed in response to the fact that 90 percent of Rotterdam is below sea level.
- Milan, Italy
In a bid to shed its industrial image and create a more sustainable metropolis, this northern Italian city continues to expand its parks and bike paths to create a ‘green lung’ around the centre. 2022 will see big events like the famous Salone del Mobile furniture fair (April 5 to 10) return, taking over Milan with lively art installations and events open to design pros and the public alike. More into your music? In June and July, Stromae, Chemical Brothers and Green Day play the Milano Summer Festival.
- Freiburg, Germany
Taking the title as the sunniest and warmest city in Germany, Freiburg is also the gateway into the Black Forest: this well-known natural wonder is just a short hike from the centre. A long-standing champion of conservation and sustainability, Freiburg im Bresau is a remarkable example of how ‘green living’ and ‘urban sprawl’ can go hand in hand. Recent initiatives include a million-euro initiative to plant new trees and Dietenbach, a climate-neutral eco-district that is currently under construction.
- Inverness, Scotland
The perfect base to kick off a trip exploring the Highlands, Inverness has all of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Culloden Battlefield nearby. If you want a side of culture, in 2022 the Eden Court theatre will host some of the UK’s top comics, along with productions of the ‘Jersey Boys’ and Emma Rice’s ‘Wuthering Heights’. On the music front, July sees the return of the mighty, family-friendly Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, with a line-up including Nile Rodgers & Chic and Ibibio Sound Machine.