20 Romantic City Breaks in Europe

Written by    Last updated: September 4, 2007

It’s just a short hop skip and a jump from the UK over to Europe, where gorgeous cities are waiting to be discovered! Whether you are a culture vulture kind of tourist, or you go for the nightlife, or you just like to wander the streets - there is something for everyone. Here is a list of must-see European cities so you can get inspired. Now go find that passport!

1. Amsterdam


Places to see: Van Gogh museum, Royal Palace, the Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt), the canal.
Things to do: Hire a bicycle, ride a canal boat.
What you need to know: Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and the country’s largest city. It is renowned for its 1,000 bridges linking the land between symmetrical canals lined with houseboats, and a host of art galleries. The rich merchant’s past of the city is reflected in the architecture of its buildings. Attractions include the Rijksmuseum, founded in 1805 which houses the best collection of 16th and 17th century Dutch masters in Europe, and the New Hermitage museum which is an extension of the famous palace in St Petersburg.
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2. Athens

Places to see: The Acropolis and Parthenon, the Theatre of Dionysos, Temple of Hephaestos, Tower of the Winds.
Things to do: Walk through the Acropolis and Ancient Agora.
What you need to know: While the Parthenon represents the ‘golden age’ of Athens urban planning, the Romans, Byzantines and Venetians also left their architectural legacy in the city. Beneath a skyline of elegant neoclassical facades and whitewashed houses, the historic Plaka quarter is a vibrant and colourful combination of antique shops, market stalls and pavement tavernas. Modern Athens, which received a face-lift in 2004 when it once more became the host for the Olympics, is also fascinating to explore.
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3. Florence

Places to see: Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Galleria degli Uffizi.
Things to do: Walk across the Ponte Vecchio to the Giardino di Boboli.
What you need to know: Florence is rightly viewed as one of Italy’s most atmospheric and beautiful cities. It contains a spectacular array of Renaissance art and architecture within its compact, vibrant centre. Florence also offers the finest culinary traditions of Tuscany, in particular its olive oil, meat dishes and Chianti wine.
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4. Barcelona

Places to see: Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia cathedral, Parc Guell, Tibidabo, the Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso).
Things to do: Ride the elevator at the Columbus Monument; visit the Nou Camp football stadium.
What you need to know: In a privileged position on the northeastern coast of the Iberian peninsula and the shores of the Mediterranean, Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain in both size and population. It is also the capital of Catalonia, one of the seventeen Autonomous Communities that make up Spain. The capital of Catalonia is unequivocally a Mediterranean city, not only because of its geographic location but above all because of its history, tradition and cultural influences. The documented history of the city dates back to the founding of a Roman colony on its soil in the second century B.C. Modern Barcelona experienced spectacular growth and economic revival at the onset of industrialization during the second half of the 19th century. The 1888 World’s Fair became a symbol of the capacity for hard work and the international outlook projected by the city. Culture and the arts flourished in Barcelona and in all of Catalonia; the splendour achieved by Catalonian modernism is one of the most patent displays.
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5. Berlin

Places to see: Postdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten Central Park, Charlottenburg Palace.
Things to do: Visit a café in Postdamer Platz at night.
What you need to know: Berlin’s history has been central to the modern history of Europe and it remains a hugely influential and vibrant city. The city, which had been split in two since the Second World War, was reunited when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and it now buzzes with an exciting nightlife, superb dining options and an array of fascinating historical buildings. Famed as a centre of the arts, Berlin has over 170 museums, including the Pergamon museum, which is rich in classical antiquity, and the Schloss Charlottenburg, the former summer residence of Queen Sophie Charlotte. More recent additions included Lord Foster’s transformation of the Reichstag parliamentary building.
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6. Budapest

Places to see: The Castle Hill, Parliament building, the Citadel, Peszt inner city.
Things to do: Climb the Gellert Hill for a panoramic view of the city.
What you need to know: With its diverse history, handsome architecture and rich cultural heritage, Hungary’s capital deserves its reputation as the ‘Paris of Eastern Europe’. The city sits on either side of a gentle curve in the Danube River, the Buda hills rising dramatically on the west bank while the Pest district marks the start of the Great Plain to the east. Buda, the older part of the city, has cobbled streets, Gothic buildings and the castle district to explore, while Pest is characterised by broad avenues, leafy parks and charming coffee houses. As a result of its countless thermal springs, Budapest is also a spa town with wonderfully elaborate bathhouses.
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7. Paris

Places to see: The Eiffel Tower, Louvre art museum, Notre Dame cathedral, Arc de Triomphe.
Things to do: Time your trip with Bastille Day and witness the magnificent fireworks along the Champs Elysees.
What you need to know: One of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world, Paris has captured the hearts and minds of travellers for centuries. From wide tree-lined boulevards and chic cafés, to outstanding museums and iconic monuments, the city is compact enough to be seen on foot.
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8. Venice

Places to see: Piazza San Marco, Murano (the glass island), the Venetian Lagoon, Madonna dell’Orto church.
Things to do: Take the Venice Gondola Serenade tour along the canal.
What you need to know: For centuries, Venice has inspired many of the world’s greatest artists and writers. Whether exploring it on foot or by boat, this romantic city is a constant inspiration with its grand palazzos and piazzas and its magnificent courtyards and churches.
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9. Vienna

Places to see: Museum of the History of Art, the Ringstrasse, Schonbrunn Palace, St. Stephen’s cathedral.
Things to do: Take a ride on the Riesenrad, an enormous wheel that provides excellent views of the city.
What you need to know: Vienna is a fascinating blend of the historic and the modern, with a wealth of grand architecture and a stunning musical heritage. There are some excellent examples of Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture and the Schloss Schonbrunn, summer residence of the Hapsburgs, is now open to the public and is particularly worth a visit.
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10. Cannes

Places to see: The Gulf of Mandelieu, La Croisette, Casino Croisette, Ile-Saint Honorat.
Things to do: Walk along the Allees de la Liberte; go for a swim on the riviera.
What you need to know: Synonymous with the rich and famous, Cannes is best known for its internationally acclaimed Film Festival and during the summer months is a top celebrity haunt. Located on the French Riviera, the city enjoys a Mediterranean climate boasting 12 hours of sunshine per day during summer while in winter the weather is mild. Its status as a fashionably chic city attracts both the rich and famous as well as regular holidaymakers.
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11. Reykjavik

Places to see: Thingvellir National Park, the Gulfloss waterfall, Northern Lights Inn, the Strokkur Geyser.
Things to do: Scoot across glaciers then relax and unwind at the famous Blue Lagoon spa. If you go in October you could catch the Iceland Airwaves music festival.
What you need to know:  Located in southwestern Iceland, Reykjavík has been called ‘the nightlife capital of the north’, as it has over 100 different bars and clubs, most of them not closing until 4:30 am at weekends and 1 am on weeknights. The Culture House, originally the Natural History Museum opened in 1909, has a number of interesting exhibits and many of Iceland’s national treasures on display.
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12. Antwerp


Places to see: The Diamond museum (Diamantmuseum), the artist Pieter Paul Reubens’ house (Rubenshuis), Antwerp Cathedral, Grote Markt.
Things to do: Buy a diamond, ride a tram.
What you need to know: this Belgian city is an absolute gem for tourists! Since May 2005, Antwerp’s underground water city called “The Ruien” is open to the public – you can take an unforgettable walk through the canals. Visit Diamondland if you ever wondered how diamonds are made, and for kids between the ages of 2 – 12 there is a fantastic Pirate’s Island to visit for hours of pirate fun! Don’t miss the Antwerp Zoo, which is one of the best and oldest zoos in Europe.
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13. Dubrovnik

Places to see: Daksa island, Lokrum island, Park Gradac, Porporela.
Things to do: Catch the sunset from Daksa island, walk up the SRDJ Hill.
What you need to know: Dubrovnik is one of the most popular destinations on the Adriatic Sea coast, in the country of Croatia. The best way to discover the city is by foot, and the entire Old City is a pedestrian-only zone. Take home a unique souvernir of Konavle embroidery, traditionally used on the regional costume from this area. True wine lovers will enjoy tasting the famous red wines produced in the region, made from Plavac Mali, the best-known variety of grape in the Croatian South.
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14. Lisbon

Places to see: Caste of St. George, Igreja de Sao Roque, Aquesuto das Aguas Livres, Torre Vasco da Gama.
Things to do: Take a ride on tram 28 for a view of the entire city.
What you need to know: Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, lies on the northern banks of the River Tagus. It’s an ideal place for art lovers, hosting a multitude of museums on ancient and modern art. For those who like shopping, there is a fascinating flea market at the Campo de Santa Clara. The city is full of sunshine from May to October, with December to March being the rainiest months. Codfish is considered to be the most typical Portuguese dish, so be sure to try some!
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15. Malaga


Places to see: La Manquita Cathedral, Alcazabar fort, Malaga Castle, Paseo del Parque.
Things to do: Explore the Alcazabar fort and the top provides panoramic views of the city.
What you need to know: Malaga is one of eight provinces in Andalucia, Spain, and home to the famous holiday resorts of the Costa del Sol. If you’re in a party mood, visit Malaga in August, for the annual Malaga fair – an exuberant street party with plenty of flamenco and ‘fino’(sherry), commemorating the re-conquest of the city by Isabella and Ferdinand in 1487 – this party lasts for 10 days! Every October, the Picasso Foundation organizes a series of events to commmerate the birth of the brilliant artist here in Malaga on October 25, 1881.
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16. Monte Carlo

Places to see: Casino of Monte Carlo, Oceanographic Museum, the Exotic Garden (Jardin Exotique), Les Thermes Marins Spa.
Things to do: Plan your trip to coincide with the F1 Monaco Grand Prix.
What you need to know: Monte Carlo borders the French town of Beausoleil and is best known for its casinos and the Monte Carlo Rally, one of the longest running and most respected car rallies in the world.  The name Monte Carlo is of Italian origin and actually means ‘Mount Charles’, after the Prince Charles III of Monaco.
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17. Munich

Places to see: Mary’s Square (Marienplatz), Konigsplatz, English Garden, Frauenkirche.
Things to do: Climb the steps of the church of St. Peter to view the Alps, visit the Oktoberfest. A visit to the Hoffbrauhaus just off the centre is a must – for the Oompah Band and the huge beer glasses, it all creates a great atmosphere.
What you need to know: Munich is the capital and the largest city of the German state of Bavaria. It is located on the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. At the heart of this city is the Marienplatz where the glockenspeil chimes at lunchtime. There is stunning architecture, lovely parks on the outskirts, loads of shops for the ladies and the ‘spaceship’ football ground for sports fans. Just watch out for the bikes… they have right of way everywhere – even on the pavements… never walk in the cycle lanes as you will get squished!
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18. Nice

Places to see: The Matisse Museum, the Bay of Angels, the Cours Saleya, the Royal Palace (Le Palaise de la Prefecture).
Things to do: Walk along the Promenade des Anglais to gain a fantastic view of the Bay of Angels (Baie des Anges).
What you need to know: Nice is the second, after Paris, most popular tourist destination in France with 4 million visitors a year. And for a good reason – it offers everything from gorgeous sights to mild climate. Take a morning stroll through the flower market and fruit and vegetable market in Old Nice for a special experience. Climb up to the Observatory for spectacular views of the city. When you are ready for some lounging, choose from one of the 15 private beaches or 22 public beaches.
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19. Warsaw

Places to see: Royal Castle, Wilanow Palace, Lazienki Park, the Palace of Culture and Science.
Things to do: Walk along the Royal Route to see many major attractions of the city.
What you need to know: Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, is a top destination in Eastern Europe since the fall of communism. The symbol of the city is a Mermaid who, according to legend, protects the city against enemies. Her likeness can be found all over the city, even on trams and buses. Visiting the Lazienki Park is a must – a park and palace complex dating back to the 17th century. The tallest and most recognisable building in Warsaw is the Palace of Culture and Science, completed in 1955 as a gift from the Soviet people, representing the striking Socialist Realist architectural style.
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20. Zurich

Places to see: Grossmunster cathedral, Zurich Art Gallery, the Guild Hall (Zunfthaus zur Meiser), Zurich Schipfe.
Things to do: Walk along the Schipfe and admire the work of various street artisans.
What you need to know: Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich. It is an expensive place as far as eating out goes (and the fondue may be a bit of an acquired taste…) but if you’re a chocolate lover then this is the ultimate chocolate heaven. It’s the mountains and the pretty landscapes and Swiss chalets that make Zurich so beautiful and romantic.
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