Top 10 Autumn city breaks
Summer may be over – but autumn is a great time to spend a weekend in an exciting European city. If you fancy a few days soaking up some continental culture, trying delicious cuisine and wandering around quaint old towns, then there are plenty of alluring destinations to choose from.
And with the high season over, not only are there fewer tourists around, but accommodation and travel costs are cheaper too, meaning you can pick up some great value last minute deals. Temperatures are often less intense than in the summer months, hence for many travellers it’s the ideal time to gallivant around Europe. So take a look at our top ten list of European cities, as one of them is bound to get that wanderlust flowing!
1. Granada, Spain
Set against the backdrop of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains, this Andalusian city is breathtaking. Boasting an Arabic quarter, a stunning old town filled with authentic flamenco shows and Spain’s most visited building – the Alhambra Palace – there is plenty to keep you busy over 48 hours. And after exploring the winding, maze-like streets, head to one of the bustling bars where unlike the majority of cities in Spain, the tapas are free.
2. Krakow, Poland
Poland’s second city is full of cobbled streets, timeless courtyards and magnificent architectural monuments. The historic centre is the pride of Poland thanks to its former Jewish Quarter and the 14th century Gothic Wawel Castle. Bike tours of the city are popular and there are some legendary beer cellars to explore. Or stop at the Krakow Chocolate Factory to indulge your sweet tooth after a day of sightseeing.
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3. Basel, Switzerland
They say Basel has one of the best preserved old towns in Europe, bursting with quirky bars and world-class restaurants. It’s also rich in culture and architecture – with over 40 museums to look around and some of the best art collections in the country. The city’s oldest collection is housed in the Kunstmuseum Basel, while modern works can be found at the Schaulager. Straddling the borders of Germany and France, Basel is spread around the Rhine – so a boat tour of the city is an enjoyable way to get your bearings.
4. Alesund, Norway
Twice voted the most beautiful town in Norway, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a picture-perfect harbour packed with turrets, spires and cobbled squares. Set on the Hjorund and Geiranger fjords – it is ideal for long walks and hiking – and looks like a setting for a fairy tale. One of the best walks is to the top of Mount Aksla, where you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable panoramic view. Other weekend activities include: spas, boat trips and cycle tours, or you can sample the delicious local fare in the town’s restaurants, pubs and cafes.
5. Vienna, Austria
November and December are a popular time to visit this magical destination thanks to the Christmas markets, roasted chestnuts and mulled wine on offer. Vienna has an eye-opening array of architecture, such as the State Opera House, the Hofburg Palace and the Gothic St Stephen’s Cathedral. Exploring the city centre by foot is a must to discover buzzing restaurants, Viennese street food and a cosy wine bar or two. Your only problem will be finding time to fit everything in!
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6. Florence, Italy
One of the most beautiful Italian cities owing to its stunning Renaissance era architecture, Florence is up there with Europe’s most civilised weekend destinations. You’ll find a vibrant restaurant scene, unusual shops and lively piazzas. Culture vultures can watch opera at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale or see what exhibitions are on at the arts centre Palazzo Strozzi. And after a long day, end your sightseeing by dining al-fresco in one of the city’s colourful squares.
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7. Budapest, Hungary
The Hungarian capital is inexpensive compared to the majority of Western European cities, and has plenty to keep you entertained over two or three days. Highlights include a relaxing river cruise, exploring the Castle Quarter, visiting the impressive Hungarian Parliament Building or watching world-class opera and ballet at the prestigious Hungarian State Opera House. And if that sounds like too much hard work, you can soak away your troubles in the lavish Gellert Thermal Baths or the ancient Kiraly Baths.
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8. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is a pretty medieval town and is nicknamed ‘Little Venice’ due to its large amount of canals. Exploring on foot is a pleasurable way to discover the quaint streets which are packed with old stone bridges over the canals. You can also take a boat ride, climb the Belfry (a bell tower), eat a Belgian waffle from a street vendor, hire a horse drawn carriage and visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Beer and chocolate are two of Belgium’s national passions, so a trip to the city’s brewery or one of the handmade chocolate factories is a must.
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9. Stockholm, Sweden
It’s almost impossible not to have a fantastic weekend in Stockholm! You could amble around the ancient, winding streets of Gamla Stan, marvel at its old buildings and Royal Palace, or spend a few hours in one of the city’s museums such as the Skansen and Moderna Museet. Film fans can visit during the Stockholm Film Festival (November 6-17), while fans of Sweden’s most popular export – ABBA – can lose themselves for a few hours in the ABBA museum. And don’t forget to visit the city’s most prized possession, the 380-year-old warship Vasa.
10. Bratislava, Slovakia
This charming city has it all and is small enough to explore over a long weekend. Its picturesque old town features narrow lanes, historic buildings and is jam-packed with hidden bars and shops. Overlooking the centre is Bratislava Castle, which has two museums within its walls and is a fascinating place for history buffs. For an out of this world experience however, why not sip a cocktail or enjoy dinner from the UFO Restaurant, which sits 95 metres over the Danube River and offers some of the best views in Europe.