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Photograph: Barry Kelly for Time Out

The 18 best city breaks in Europe for 2024

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
&
Grace Beard
Written by
Time Out contributors
&
Liv Kelly
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The city break continues to rule in 2024. According to ABTA, city breaks overtook beach holidays as the UK’s favourite type of trip last year – and travel booking site Opodo has reported that nearly half of all trips taken in 2023 were between two to four days. Long live the long weekend, eh?

When it comes to cramming in the best food, nightlife and culture in one whistlestop weekend, Europe really does spoil you for choice. Of course, there are the classics – Rome, Amsterdam, Paris – but the continent is packed with lesser-known second cities and more obscure cultural capitals that make for the ideal affordable city break in 2024. 

From gastronomic delights and cultural cubby holes to all-hours party hotspots, Europe’s best city breaks tick all the boxes. But with so many options, where should you head? Well, we’ve narrowed it down for you: in our list of Europe’s best city breaks, everywhere from France to Bosnia and Herzegovina is covered. See you out there!

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Amazing European city breaks for 2024

Porto is nothing short of postcard-worthy. If you’re not drinking in views of the Douro Valley, you’ll certainly be drinking something here – head to one of the riverside port houses for a wine tasting or grab a port-tonic at one of the many glorious rooftop bars. As well as being gorgeous to walk around, the city is also packed with quaint bookshops, old-school cinemas and tinned fish. Plus, it’s soon to be home to Portugal’s second Time Out Market. Watch this space.

📍 Porto’s very best things to do
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A former Victorian fishing village turned party town, the seaside city of Brighton is now most notoriously associated with a love of brunch, coffee and vegetarian food. Sure, Brightonians still love to party – the city’s annual Pride celebration is the biggest of its kind in the UK – but the charming pebbled beach, quaint North Laine shops and lovely pubs make for a cracking getaway destination that's not all about the night out (though there is a great selection of bars to keep the night going, if the mood takes you).

📍 The best things to do in Brighton
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Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer
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Tbilisi, Georgia
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Tbilisi, Georgia

Packed with whimsical architecture and steeped in fascinating history: what more could you want from a European city break? Tbilisi, situated at the heart of the historic Silk Road trading route, is one of the world’s oldest capitals – making it the perfect destination for a dose of culture. Medieval churches? It’s got ‘em. A factory turned into a shopping and eating hot spot? Absolutely. Incredibly delicious local wine? Top us up.

📍 The best things to do in Tbilisi

A Mediterranean melting pot that’s been bubbling for an astonishing 2,600 years, Marseille’s been drawing an increasing number of visitors in recent years. Though it once had a slightly rough-edged reputation as a town of sailors and gangsters, these days Marseille is better known for jaw-dropping vistas of its calanques, beaches of every shape and size, world-class museums and some of France’s (and Europe’s) most spectacular rooftop bars. It’s an ancient, fascinating and alive city.

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🌊
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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. 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 ideal for energetic cyclists in search of valley views. After several local initiatives to clean up the surrounding lakes and rivers, now you’ve got a destination embracing all that Bosnia’s most beautiful river has to offer. 

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John Bills
Writer, Time Out Travel
Valletta, Malta
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Valletta, Malta

Valletta might be the smallest capital city in the EU, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty, history, food, nightlife and so much more. Plus, Malta boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year, meaning you’re almost guaranteed a warm weekend break in Valletta. Explore the city’s sandstone-paved streets, chow down on pastizzi (a type of Maltese savoury pastry) and soak up the sun on the steps of Cafe Society, a bar with alfresco seating and a unique view of the Grand Harbour.

📍 The best things to do in Valletta
🏝️ The best beaches in Malta

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Milan has shed its industrial image in recent years and created a more sustainable metropolis with a ‘green lung’ surrounding it. Big events like the famous Salone del Mobile furniture fair take over Milan with lively art installations and events open to design pros and the public alike, while the city also plays host to marvellous music festivals like the Milano Summer Festival. Plus, it’s home to Isola, named one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods in our annual ranking this year.

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Cosmopolitan but traditional. Sophisticated but edgy. Fun but chill. From the glorious Guggenheim and the bridges that criss-cross the Nirvión river to the refined old town – and not forgetting, of course, a city’s worth of drool-worthy pintxos to sample – Bilbao is a city of contrasts. Over the past few decades, the city has been completely transformed, evolving from the industrial heart of Spain’s Basque region to a fascinating cultural hub.

📍 The best things to do in Bilbao

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Brno, Czech Republic
Photograph: MoLarjung / Shutterstock.com

9. 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.

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David Creighton Contributor, Czech Republic

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. Also check out 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. 

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Rob Martin
Correspondent, Time Out Manchester
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Tampere, Finland
Photograph: Visit Tampere

12. Tampere, Finland

It might be the world’s sauna capital and Finland’s second-biggest city, but Tampere is still very much an overlooked gem. The city might not stay under the radar for much longer, mind you: thanks to the buzzy student population and recently opened tram line, it has the energy of a place that knows it’s about to become the next big thing. With an eclectic culture scene, menus packed with locally foraged food and dozens of traditional wood-heated saunas to relax in, Tampere makes for an ideal city break – visit before the saunas get too cosy.

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Kaunas, Lithuania
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. 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. Still basking in the afterglow of being European Capital of Culture in 2022, the city has tonnes of delights from its hundreds of modernist masterpieces to the M.K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art (dedicated to the musician and symbolist painter) and the frankly bizarre Devils’ Museum.

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Huw Oliver
UK Editor

A jewel of the rugged Atlantic coast that’s brimming with Irish charm, Galway makes for a cracking getaway. This small but mighty west Irish city is nestled among glorious scenery and is only a stone’s throw away from the Cliffs of Moher, but has bags of good art, good food and good craic, too. It's a very walkable place, so wander around and drink in its bounty of independent shops, pubs and restaurants. To get a taste of the city’s thriving art scene, plan your visit around the International Arts Festival in the summer.

📍 The best things to do in Galway

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Glasgow has always been cool, but the Scottish city has seen something of a glow-up over the last few years. West End is home to a mixture of families, students and artists, and is packed to the brim with bookshops and vegan cafes. But the city’s artsy side isn’t only concentrated in one neighbourhood: Glasgow’s ever-growing creative community, in part made up of students and grads from the prestigious Glasgow School of Art, means you’ll never be short of cool galleries and arts events. For something delightfully nerdy, visit this year for the 82nd World Science Fiction Convention.

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Barcelona, Spain
Photograph: Shutterstock

16. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is a classic when it comes to European city breaks – and for good reason. It tops Spain’s roster of great destinations in so many ways, with an abundance of magnificent architecture, great nightlife, and Michelin-starred restaurants. Head to the (almost, almost finished) Sagrada Familía and sit back in awe, or wander down La Rambla and sample whatever delicious Spanish delicacy is thrown at you. Time Out Market Barcelona is set to become an exciting addition to the city, with our local editors’ picks of the city’s very best food and drinks, all under one vibey roof.

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Trikala, Greece
Photograph: Georgios Kritsotakis / Shutterstock.com

17. 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.

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Heidi Fuller-Love
Contributor, Mediterranean
Turku, Finland
Photograph: Inspired By Maps / Shutterstock.com

18. 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).

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Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London
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