10 Relaxing City Break Ideas for Your Next European Getaway

A view towards boats and colourful buildings in Copenhagen's Nyhavn waterfront district

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Across Europe, there’s an enviable choice of cities – I’m pretty sure Europe was made for the city break! But, if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re visiting a busy destination.

Luckily, you don’t need to shy away from a city break if you want something a bit more relaxing.

It’s true that some of the big capitals might not be right for a relaxing city break, but – I promise there are plenty of others that will be perfect.

So, if you don’t want a chaotic trip glued to Google maps and battling with traffic – keep reading! Here are some of the best ideas for a relaxing city break in Europe. 

1. Dubrovnik, Croatia

The first relaxing city break on the list is Dubrovnik. Jutting into the sparkling waters of the Adriatic, sunny Dubrovnik doesn’t feel like a city at all. If you’re a history lover (or a fan of Game of Thrones) this picturesque UNESCO city needs to be on your list!

You’ll be able to spend your stay in Dubrovnik exploring cobbled streets, walking the city walls or taking in views from the top of Mount Srd. You can also relax at the beach if you want to top up the tan – Banje Beach is a pretty spot with views across the Old Town.

Just be sure to travel off-peak to avoid the worst of the crowds.

RELATED: 6 Best Alternative Destinations to Visit in 2024

A view across the sea towards the Old Town in Dubrownik

2. Montpellier, France

Often overshadowed by glitzy Nice and Cannes, Montpellier is a laid-back gem that’s perfect for a relaxing city break. Oozing with old town charm, this is a walkable city and one that boasts a pedestrianised historic centre.

During the day, you’ll be able to peruse independent boutiques, get your art fix at a number of galleries, and soak up the sun at one of many pretty cafes.

If you want the beach, you can do that from here too – hop on a tram and you’ll soon be on the sparkling southern coast.

A grand golden arch with a French flag in Montpellier

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

As the country of hygge, it’s probably no surprise that Denmark’s capital is a great choice for a relaxing city break. With a culture focused on mindfulness, simplicity and appreciating the good things, Copenhagen is a low-key and laid-back city.

Easy to explore by foot – but best seen by bike – you’ll find lots of museums, galleries and cosy cafes to enjoy during your stay.

Make sure you visit Rosenborg Castle and Tivoli Gardens. And don’t miss a relaxing canal tour to experience the city from the water.

4. Valletta, Malta

When you think of Malta, you probably picture package holidays with gloriously golden beaches. And while that’s definitely true, the capital Valletta is a wonderful choice for a city break, too.

For such a small city, there’s plenty to see and do – but you won’t be rushed to take it in. Filled to the brim with 16th-century elegance, this cosy city is postcard perfect.

Key attractions include the breathtaking St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Grandmaster’s Palace and the Upper Barrakka Gardens where you can sit back and take in the views.

A quaint, cobbled and narrow street in Valletta, framed by golden buildings

5. Venice, Italy 

An artist’s paradise and an architectural gem, Venice is a beautiful spot for a relaxing city break.

As a destination that’s unique, romantic and thoroughly enchanting, there’s a lot to love if you visit. It’s also entirely car-free, so your days can be spent cruising the canals by gondola, exploring the maze of pretty alleyways and leisurely checking off landmarks.

And if you’re worried about crowds? Venice makes a lovely winter city break if you want to travel off-season when the streets are a little calmer.

TIP: For somewhere to stay, consider a hotel in Mestre. This suburb is just 10 minutes by train and saves the stress of lugging suitcases across Venice.

READ MORE: Is Venice Still Worth Visiting? (11+ Pros & Cons)

6. Krakow, Poland

Whether you visit in winter when the city’s in snow, or you enjoy the rays of summer, Krakow is always a winner. This picturesque city has charm aplenty with its UNESCO Old Town, cobbled streets and grand squares.

While you’re here, you’ll be able to visit the Jewish Quarter, head to the majestic Wawel Castle and spend the evening in a lively jazz bar.

TIP: For somewhere to eat, don’t miss Cafe Camelot – it’s a gem close to the main square. We went there multiple times it was so good!

7. Seville, Spain

In southern Spain, you’ll find Seville – a sultry city with fairytale architecture and sun-washed plazas.

If you travel in summer, you’ll be able to visit the big attractions like Real Alcázar and the historical Plaza de España in the morning, before a leisurely siesta to avoid the afternoon heat.

If you love nightlife, Seville will tick all the right boxes, too. Boasting balmy evenings, your nights can be spent discovering flamenco, dining alfresco and drinking sangria at one of many bars that spill across the city.

Majestic buildings at Plaza de España in Seville on a clear sunny day

8. Bruges, Belgium

Pocket-sized Bruges feels like a fairytale but has more than enough to keep you entertained. As a small and compact city, it’s a lovely place to leisurely explore – you’ll want to take in the Market Square, canals and the tranquil Lake of Love. 

In addition to the city’s UNESCO-listed Old Town, there’s also great shopping and food – from Michelin restaurants to trendy brunch and dinner spots. You’ll also be able to try Belgium’s famous craft beer, chocolates and waffles!

Christmas is extra special in Bruges, too. It’s an enchanting time for a city break thanks to its picturesque market stalls and magical festive atmosphere.

9. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana has to be one of Europe’s prettiest capitals – this small and sweet city is a maze of pastel buildings set alongside the River Ljubljanica.

In this city, it’s all about the atmosphere, so you can enjoy soaking up the vibes, chatting with locals and hopping between cafes and bars.

Known for its music scene, you’ll find plenty of festivals and events throughout the year, too. Plus, the city boasts parks and green spaces that are perfect for a picnic or leisurely stroll.

If you want a trip out of the city, Lake Bled is also close by.

A bridge crossing a river in Ljubljana

10. Porto, Portugal

Often overlooked in favour of Lisbon, Porto is an amazing city break that needs to be on your radar.

Packed with history and culture, Porto’s old town is one of the oldest in Europe – and it’s a really pretty one at that.

Despite its hilly terrain, this is a city that’s compact enough to be walkable, so you can spend your trip scouring historic landmarks, hunting street art and visiting cellars to sample Port.

If you have extra time, a day trip to the Douro Valley is perfect for a nature fix.

The metal arch Dom Luís Bridge across the river in Porto

Inspired for your next city break? Europe offers so many unique ideas for a relaxing city break. If you’re yet to visit these cities, make sure you add them to your list!

READ MORE: 14 Most Romantic Places in Italy

READ MORE: Best Cities to Visit in the UK

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