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The 16 best city breaks in Europe for 2022

Got time off and want to explore the continent? These are the best city breaks in Europe for food, nightlife, and more

Edited by
Huw Oliver
Contributors
Time Out editors
&
Time Out contributors
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Despite the chaos that seems to be making itself worryingly comfortable in Britain’s airports, city break season is well and truly upon us. There are few things more refreshing than a weekend in a new place, and enchanting Europe is filled with small cities that are perfect for a whistlestop tour. The best city breaks in Europe tick all of the boxes, even creating some brand new categories and subsequently ticking them off too. You can’t beat a city break.

We’ve consulted our local experts in major cities across the continent to nominate the places they reckon we should be visiting this year. Everywhere from France to Bosnia and Herzegovina is covered, with special events and thrilling experiences around every corner. Here’s what they came back with. We’ll see you in the queues…

Best city breaks in Europe for 2022

Arles, France
Photograph: Iwan Baan

1. Arles, France

The breakout star of Arles (Provence’s 2022 capital of culture) is LUMA (pictured), a buzzing arts district packed with multimedia exhibitions and art installations. The pinnacle is Frank Gehry’s impressively high tower, made of 11,000 metal panels designed to evoke Vincent van Gogh’s starry night (the painter completed his legendary sunflower series in Arles in the 1880s). Another must-visit is the Carrières des Lumières, an immersive art experience in a quarry where works by artists such as Cézanne and Kandinsky are projected onto the immense limestone walls.

The perfect day: Amble through medieval alleys surrounding the Roman amphitheatre, then pig out at the largest street market in Provence. Round off your day at the zero-waste restaurant Le Réfectoire

Plan your trip: Visit July to September during Les Rencontres de la Photographie for pop-up bars, food trucks and world-beating photography exhibitions. —Alex Ledsom

Brno, Czech Republic
Photograph: MoLarjung / Shutterstock.com

2. Brno, Czech Republic

Although sandwiched between Prague and Vienna, self-confident Brno is no middle child. Once a powerhouse dubbed the ‘Moravian Manchester’, the laidback Czech second city has repositioned itself as a post-industrial science and tech hub. But you’ll find plenty of clues to Brno’s layered past at a clutch of offbeat underground attractions, including the mysterious brick cisterns at Žlutý Kopec, communist-era nuclear bunker 10-Z, and the ‘Denis’ bomb shelter under the cathedral. The food and drink scene is reinventing itself too, from contemporary international at Element to Výčep na Stojáka, a modern take on a trad pub.

The perfect day: After breakfast at Café Momenta, head up to Špilberk Castle and grab lunch at Cafe Placzek. Explore the historical centre before dinner at Atelier Bar & Bistro and a nightcap at Rotor Bar.

Plan your trip: The Industrial project celebrates Brno’s manufacturing tradition, with several former industrial buildings opening to the public for the first time in 2022. Káznice, a Habsburg-era prison, is also being redeveloped and will host events in the summer. —David Creighton

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Kaunas, Lithuania
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Kaunas, Lithuania

Back in the 1930s, few places felt as happening as Kaunas. In the interwar period, with Vilnius occupied by the Polish, this smaller, central city was named the temporary capital of Lithuania. Embassies opened all over the shop. Artists flocked here in droves. The city became the unofficial home of modernist architecture. But then it was forgotten, left to wither during the Soviet era and surpassed again by Vilnius. In 2022, however, that is changing, as the city is crowned European Capital of Culture. An astonishing 1,000 events were planned to mark the occasion, and it has provided the ideal opportunity for visitors to discover the city’s existing delights, 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.

The perfect day: Kick off with coffee at Vagabond, then pick up a free ‘Modernist’s Guide to Kaunas’ and take in strangely alluring sights like the central post office, the Romuva cinema and Sugihara House: the former Japanese embassy that is now a museum dedicated to a diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. When it’s dark, mingle on the terrace of Kultura Kavine and get involved with karaoke at Dzem.

Plan your trip: Since January 22, the city has been hosting a year-long events programme to celebrate being named European Capital of Culture. Exhibitions by Yoko Ono, William Kentridge and Marina Abramović have grabbed the headlines. —Huw Oliver

Odense, Denmark
Photograph: H.C. Andersen’s House, Laerke Beck Johansen

4. Odense, Denmark

Just 90 minutes by train from Copenhagen is dinky, charming Odense. The brand-new architectural wonder that is the Hans Christian Andersen Museum is an affectionate tribute to the fairytale author. With its inventive biographical exhibits – including theatrical imaginings of his memoirs and inanimate projects that come alive (much like in his stories) – this thoroughly fun museum would no doubt have delighted the Danish master. A slick light railway built across the city opened in spring 2022, making the beautiful old quarters and vibrant newer neighbourhoods much easier to hop between.

The perfect day: Settle in at Hotel Odeon for swift access to the train station and the picturesque Old Town. Head to Lalou for an early bev, then grab dinner at the historic Sortebro Kro, where you can expect seasonal treats like scallops and roe deer with berries, plus impeccably classy service.

Plan your trip: ASAP. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum opened on December 1 last year and has been packed out ever since. —Alex Hayward

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Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sat in the northwest corner of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bihać is all about the magic of the Una River. New eco-friendly accommodations such as Japodski Otoci and Eko-Selo Natura Art offer adventure and restoration in equal measure, while the bike route from the centre of town to the remains of Sokolac Fortress is now open for energetic cyclists in search of valley views. Add several local initiatives to clean up the surrounding lakes and rivers, and you’ve got a destination embracing all that Bosnia’s most beautiful river has to offer.

The perfect day: Wake up among the islands and sculptures of Japodski Otoci before exploring the waterfalls of Una National Park, ending with food and drinks at the gorgeous riverside restaurant Kostelski Buk.

Plan your trip: The weather starts to cool at the beginning of autumn, the perfect time to explore the majesty of Una NP. —John Bills

Ljubljana, Slovenia
Photograph: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock.com

6. Ljubljana, Slovenia

When it comes to green stuff – in every sense of the word – it’s hard to beat Ljubljana. In June 2022, the Slovenian capital hosted Velo-City, a summit aimed at encouraging cycling across the continent. Of course, casual riders can hire bikes in the city centre for free. Restaurants are encouraged to use local ingredients, so meals often include freshly picked veg and produce from urban farms. This is a great place for music fans, too: Festival Ljubljana – where you’ll find world-renowned classical virtuosos on the bill – is back after a Covid-induced hiatus. 

The perfect day: Spend the morning at Cukrarna Gallery, housed in a huge renovated sugar factory that once acted as a flophouse for impoverished artists. Grab Vietnamese food at Dobro Jutro, then catch some live music at Križanke, a monastery-turned-arts-venue.

Plan your trip: Head to Slovenia in the summer and autumn for glorious sunshine and a load of big city festivals. Festival Ljubljana takes place throughout the summer and autumn, and the sunrises are magnificent. —Sophie Dickinson

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Turku, Finland
Photograph: Inspired By Maps / Shutterstock.com

7. Turku, Finland

With its abundance of café terraces, Turku is often referred to as the ‘Paris of Finland’. But the country’s oldest city (and historic capital) has a distinct vibe of its own. It is big on music for a start, with fabulous festivals throughout the year. Turku is 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).

The perfect day: Walk the length of the River Aura from Turku Castle to District VI, stopping off for lonkero (gin and grapefruit soda) on the floating boat bars before winding up at Kaskis for a seasonal, ethically sourced tasting menu that won’t totally break the bank (unlike many similar establishments in Helsinki).

Plan your trip: There is no bad time to visit Turku, but a bit of decent weather doesn't hurt. The city’s warmer months are typically May to September. —Ed Cunningham

Inverness, Scotland
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Inverness, Scotland

If you’re keen on exploring the Highlands, Inverness is the ideal base to kick off your trip. Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Culloden Battlefield are all nearby, but the capital of the Highlands also has plenty going on itself. The Eden Court theatre will draw some of the UK’s top comics throughout 2022. The Gathering Place, meanwhile, is a new public artwork created by artists Sans Façon and architects KHBT. Right on the banks of the River Ness, the curved, Clasach-stone pier offers a place for quiet contemplation.

The perfect day: Wander around the Victorian Market and grab something to eat at one of its independent cafés, then head up to Inverness Castle for some properly excellent views. Later, cosy up with a pint at the Black Isle Bar and try one of their signature wood-fired pizzas.

Plan your trip: Visit in July to enjoy the return of the mighty, family-friendly Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival. The 2022 line-up includes Nile Rodgers & Chic and Ibibio Sound Machine. —Arusa Qureshi

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Valencia, Spain
Photograph: Ionov Vitaly / Shutterstock.com

9. Valencia, Spain

Valencia is back with a (literal) bang in 2022. This sun-splashed city on Spain’s Mediterranean coast was lit up once again by the full pyrotechnic power of Las Fallas festival (pictured), while nearby La Tomatina, the ‘world’s biggest food fight’, will also return. 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. Travelling around Spain? A new line from the high-speed, low-cost AVLO train service operates a Madrid-Valencia route with tickets starting from €7.

The perfect day: Stroll or bike through the Turia Gardens to the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences before a wood-fired paella lunch at beachside Casa Carmela. Come evening, hit the lively Russafa barrio and try the Agua de Valencia cocktail at La Bella de Cadiz.

Plan your trip: Visit in June for long, sunny days without the height-of-summer crowds. —Robert Kidd

Sheffield, England
Photograph: Eleanor McMillan / Shutterstock.com

10. Sheffield, England

A city once synonymous with coal-blackened buildings and industrial churn, Sheffield is now more familiar with another colour: green. It 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. It’s no wonder people are flocking there, with a 12 percent rise in Londoners moving to live in the city. 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.

The perfect day: Try breakfast at South Street Kitchen, housed in the Brutalist landmark Park Hill, then grab a coffee from FoundryTamper or Albie’s. Later, we’d go for cocktails at Public, an underground former public toilet, then eat at Joro if we’re feeling flush. Afterwards, it’s off to Hope Works for a dance.

Plan your trip: Sheffield is hosting three group matches and a semi-final of the 2022 UEFA European Women’s Football Championship in July. Why not explore the city while taking in a match or two? —Daniel Dylan Wray

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Trikala, Greece
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Trikala, Greece

Birthplace of hashish-inspired protest music rebetiko and home of the popular Mill of Elves Christmas market, under-the-radar Trikala in northwestern Thessaly is Greece’s first official ‘smart city’. Green in all senses of the word, this tree-shaded spot is topped by its Byzantine castle and crisscrossed by the trout-filled Lithaios River. With a bike-sharing scheme and a slew of new cycle paths, it’s easy to get around – and when summer temperatures soar, there are pitstops where you can pick up (free) water. It also has the country’s first driverless buses.

The perfect day: Stroll along the mansion-fringed alleys of Varousi, then lunch on traditional treats in Trikala’s revamped farmers’ market. Up for a big one? Perhaps surprisingly for such a small place, you can stay out till very late at the Kripti Bar, in the city’s former red-light district.

Plan your trip: Go in August for the three-day Tsitsaneia folk festival dedicated to composer Vassilis Tsitsanis. —Heidi Fuller-Love

Oslo, Norway
Photograph: Franco Francisco Maria / Shutterstock.com

12. Oslo, Norway

The Norwegian capital is growing fast – but the most exciting part of town is the historic Bjørvika district. The revitalisation of this harbourside area is well underway, with the brand-new Munch Museum now open to the public, right next to the Deichman Bjørvika Library and the world-famous Opera House that now has its own urban beach, Operastranda. The city also has a buzzing new food court, VIA Village, with its nine street-food hatches located just a few minutes from the Aker Brygge area. And then there’s the long-awaited new National Museum, which opens in the summer (and will be the largest museum in the Nordics).

The perfect day: Brunch at the relaxed (and plant-based) KUMI Oslobukta, then wander the 9km-long Havnepromenade. In the evening grab a cocktail at the cosy, retro Andre til Høyre Bar.

Plan your trip: For the long-awaited comeback of Øya Festival, which takes place from August 9 to 13 2022. Headliners include Nick Cave, Gorillaz and Girl In Red. —Rodrigo Braz Vieira

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Rotterdam, Netherlands
Photograph: trabantos / Shutterstock.com

13. Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam feels reinvigorated after the success of Eurovision 2021. The city had undergone loads of big renovation works in the run-up to the 2020 event – only for it to be delayed a year (and with capacity severely limited). But the song contest put the Netherlands’ second city firmly on the tourist map, and no doubt many will be flocking here this year to discover its incredible art museums and dazzling architecture that’d light up any Insta feed. Where else but in Rotterdam could you visit the Depot, the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility housing 151,000 objects, or marvel at floating buildings, including an officea farm and even an entire street? And don’t even get us started on the amazing food and nightlife.

The perfect day: Start with lunch at Markthal, an architectural wonder that is home to 96 fresh produce stalls, before walking south across the famous Erasmusbrug and exploring Katendrecht, Rotterdam’s buzziest neighbourhood. End the day with dinner and drinks on the Witte de Withstraat (pictured) before catching some Dutch hip-hop or gqom at WORM.

Plan your trip: July sees the return of the city’s North Sea Jazz Festival, with the likes of John Legend, Lionel Richie and Alicia Keys on the bill. —Derek Robertson

Liverpool, England
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Liverpool, England

The nightlife scene here is funner and wilder and friendlier than anywhere else in the UK. Now it’s time for everyone else to discover it too. The venues of the Baltic Triangle pack out year-round, but you may want to head down in August for something bigger like Creamfields or International Beatle Week. 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.

The perfect day: Grab breakfast at Kash’s Kitchen, then take in an exhibition and coffee at The Bluecoat and wander through Albert Dock. In the evening, head to Sonic Yootha, one of the city’s best club nights.

Plan your trip: For the first time in 15 years, Liverpool will host the UK’s Turner Prize in October 2022. —Rob Martin

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Milan, Italy
Photograph: Florin Cnejevici / Shutterstock.com

15. Milan, Italy

Milan has made quite the comeback from the dark lockdown days of 2020. The northern Italian city continues to expand its parks and bike paths in a bid to shed its industrial image and create a more sustainable metropolis with a ‘green lung’ surrounding it. Big events like the famous Salone del Mobile furniture fair returned, 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.

The perfect day: Grab a typical Milanese breakfast (coffee and brioche) or a weekend brunch at Pavé bakery near Porta Venezia. Stroll over to the Porta Nuova area with its futuristic new buildings and square surrounded by a large park, then grab a drink along the always-busy canals of the Navigli district.

Plan your trip: Spring is the perfect time to visit before the oppressive summer heat descends. In 2022, the metro will be extended to Linate, which is the closest airport to Milan and was renovated during the pandemic. —Michelle Schoenung

Freiburg, Germany
Photograph: Ioana Catalina E / Shutterstock.com

16. Freiburg, Germany

Freiburg im Bresau is a remarkable example of how ‘green living’ and ‘urban sprawl’ can go hand in hand. The southwest German city has long championed conservation and sustainability, with several recent initiatives carrying this tradition onward, including a million-euro initiative to plant new trees and Dietenbach, a climate-neutral eco-district that is currently under construction. Revered as both the sunniest (and warmest) city in Germany, Freiburg is also the gateway into one of the country’s best-known natural wonders: the Black Forest, which is a short hike from the centre and makes a breathtaking day trip.

The perfect day: Start with a crisp Flammkuchen at Süden and take a walk along the Bächle (tiny twelfth-century canals) in the Altstadt. End the day with a pint at Hausbrauerei Feierling.

Plan your trip: Celebrate the grand opening of Luisenhöhe, a luxurious wellness resort just outside the city, in late summer 2022. —Nathan Ma

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