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11 of the best European city breaks to take right now

Whether you're after historic town centres, post-industrial clubbing or foodie capitals, Europe has everything to offer. Here are the best city breaks to take right now

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Europe is home to some of the world's most amazing cities. Whether you fancy a city break amongst the historical waterways of Venice, the well-trodden cobbled streets of Edinburgh or even something called the 'floating forest' of Rotterdam, this side of the world has you well and truly covered. To help you choose your perfect European city break from the many on offer, we've rounded up the best of the bunch.

RECOMMENDED: The best city break hotels

Europe's best city breaks

Best Euro city breaks - Aarhus - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Aarhus - 2017

Aarhus

Yes, Copenhagen is Scandinavia’s epicentre of cool, but this year Denmark’s chilled-out second city is the place to head to. Aarhus is one of the European Capitals of Culture 2017, and it’s hosting a series of events to celebrate, from concerts to screenings to exhibitions. Besides that, there are pretty cobbled streets, a slick waterside cultural venue, Dokk1, and the Aros Art Museum, with its trippy rainbow walkway.

Pretend you’re a local: Grab a bite at Aarhus Central Food Market, the city’s new indoor street food space.

Best Euro city breaks - Barcelona - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Barcelona - 2017

Barcelona

Over the summer, Barcelona turns into music festival central, with the likes of Primavera Sound, Sonar and Cruilla all keeping the city up late. But the hottest ticket this year is Enigma, a theatrical new dining experience from culinary gods the Adrià brothers. And because they ask diners not to share photos online, it’s managed to remain enigmatic for now.

Pretend you’re a local: If Barca’s beaches get too crowded, try the wide stretches of sand at Vilanova i la Geltrú, which is less than an hour from the city.

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Best Euro city breaks - Athens - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Athens - 2017
© EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

Athens

Greece’s financial woes seem to have sparked a new wave of creativity in the capital, which has now become one of the world’s top cities for street art. Local outfit Alternative Athens can show you the best murals around, after which you can head indoors to continue your culture fix at the just-opened National Museum of Contemporary Art.

Pretend you’re a local: Hungry? Make your way to Athenian favourite Ariston, in Syntagma, for a hearty savoury pie.

Best Euro city breaks - Reykjavik - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Reykjavik - 2017

Reykjavik

Reykjavik has long been a gateway to Iceland’s natural attractions, but now the city deserves attention in its own right. Hip hotels are popping up nineteen to the dozen, including Ion City and Canopy, and the dining scene is better than ever thanks to the likes of Matur og Drykkur and Dill.

Pretend you’re a local: Icelanders love to float in geothermal pools; join them at the great council-run one in the suburb of Seltjarnarnes.

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Best Euro city breaks - Venice - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Venice - 2017

Venice

Word on the canal is that La Serenissima is going to start charging a fee to visit its historic city centre, so now’s the time to go if you want to save a few of your hard-earned euros. Over summer, don’t miss the international art exhibition, Biennale Arte, held in the outlandish international pavilions of Giardini del Biennale – around which you’ll find plenty of crowd-free canals to stroll along.

Pretend you’re a local: Take a vaporetto (water taxi) to the islands of Giudecca to experience a slice of Venetian life away from the tourist tat.

Best Euro city breaks - Berlin - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Berlin - 2017
© Tumar/Shutterstock.com

Berlin

Europe’s late-night party capital is also an incredible place for a cultural break – and it’s just got even better. The Frank Gehry-designed Pierre Boulez Hall, which opened in March, may not look as outlandish as some of the architect’s other creations (ahem, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao), but it’s got a fascinating mission: to be the continent’s best venue for Middle Eastern music.

Pretend you’re a local: For slightly lower-brow musical entertainment, head to the amphitheatre in Mauerpark on a Sunday afternoon to enjoy a spot of open-air karaoke.

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Best Euro city breaks - Warsaw - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Warsaw - 2017
© RAndrei/Shutterstock.com

Warsaw

If you’ve exhausted Berlin’s nightlife, try Warsaw. The Polish capital’s Praga district has a similar vibe to Kreuzberg, with its dive bars, alternative clubs and independent galleries, and is regularly named one of Europe’s hippest neighbourhoods. Plus the city has a beautiful Old Town, with great restaurants and river beaches in summer.

Pretend you’re a local: Explore the huge roof garden on top of the university library – then check out the poster art museum inside.

Best Euro city breaks - Paris - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Paris - 2017
© Stefano Ember/Shutterstock.com

Paris

Tourism in the French capital has undoubtedly been dented by the recent terror attacks, but if you’re undeterred now is a great time to show solidarity with our neighbours across the Channel. It remains one of the world’s most beautiful cities and you’ll find smaller crowds at world-class attractions such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, not to mention lower rates on hotel rooms. Vive la France!

Pretend you’re a local: Go treasure-hunting at a flea market; Les Puces de Saint-Ouen is the biggest and best known.

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Best Euro city breaks - Rotterdam - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Rotterdam - 2017

Rotterdam

The Netherlands’ second city is packed with striking modern architecture, from its cool and colourful Markthal to the weird and wonderful Cube Houses. And this year it’s getting even more unique attractions; a ‘floating forest’ of trees planted in huge buoys has just sprung up in Rijnhaven port; launching in summer 2017 is a floating park built from recycled plastic; and Rif010, a canal-turned-wave pool, offers a chance to surf, canoe and scuba dive.

Pretend you’re a local: Hire a bike and experience the city on two wheels.

Best Euro city breaks - Edinburgh - 2017
Best Euro city breaks - Edinburgh - 2017

Edinburgh

Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe celebrate their seventieth anniversaries this year, and they’re marking the occasion with special talks, performances and screenings. Soak up the festival vibe in August, when spaces all over the city become temporary venues and the Royal Mile is packed with performers desperate to get their flyers into your hands and your bums on their seats. Sound too hectic? Visit another time to explore the medieval city centre, see the castle and climb Arthur’s Seat with (slightly) smaller crowds.

Pretend you’re a local: Catch a bus to the seaside village of Portobello for a walk along the beach and some proper fish and chips.

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