Ditch the tedious driving from place to place. Pick a base and explore on foot, bike or use public buses and trains in one of these European destinations for a city break.

1. Reykjavik

With just over 200,000 people, Iceland’s largest city is exceptionally tranquil compared to London or Paris. It’s a magical city, close to the sea, geysers, glaciers, waterfalls, thermal lagoons and lava fields. Downtown Reykjavik has everything you can aspect in a cosmopolitan city.

Lose yourself in Laugavegur, the main shopping street, lined with unique shops, cozy cafes and top-notch restaurants. Climb up to the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church for views of the city and its surroundings. Don’t miss Harpa, Reykjavik’s colored glass facade concert hall, one of the most beautiful and unique concert halls in the world. Check out the many museums, art galleries, and bookstores.

Reykjavik offers lots of nightspot options where you can enjoy a drink or two with the locals and fellow travelers. And if you’re there in winter, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Last but not least, before you leave for Keflavik International Airport, stop at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction. Enjoy a spa treatment and a dip in the mineral-rich hot water pool amidst the lava landscape.

For additional information read Reykjavik’s top 30 attractions.

2. Dublin

If you like pub culture, literature, and friendly locals, you’re going to love Dublin. Ireland’s capital is designated as the UNESCO City of Literature, boasting of literary figures like James Joyce (author of Ulysses), Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and Samuel Beckett.

When in Dublin, join the entertaining Dublin Literary Pub Crawl guided by two actors (hosts). Learn about the history, drink beer at several pubs frequented by the literary giants and a visit to Trinity College.

Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the Georgian architecture, hang out in cafes for a good cup of coffee (including authentic Irish coffee) and visit the Long Room Library in Trinity College. Equally impressive is the Guinness Warehouse tour.

The Long Room

3. Amsterdam

A network of canals wind through Amsterdam’s historic center, giving the city the beauty and ambiance like no other. Cobblestone streets, Dutch Renaissance architecture, and cafes by the canals make the Dutch capital an alluring place to be.

When in Amsterdam, board a canal boat for a tour of the city, visit renowned museums like Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, and to A’DAM Lookout for panoramic views of the city. To experience life on a houseboat, we recommend staying a night or two in one of the houseboats on the canals.

Before you leave for Amsterdam, read Top 20 things to do in Amsterdam.

4. Budapest

Whether you’re there for two days or a week, there won’t be a dull moment in Budapest. Located by the Danube River, Hungary’s capital is divided into two areas – the hilly Buda to the west and the historic Pest to the east. Make sure you take a river cruise for the best views of the parliament, Buda castle and the historic bridges, such as the Chain Bridge.

Danube River

Budapest offers plenty of options to dine alfresco or have coffee and eat pastries in old cafes. If you need some downtime and want full relaxation, head over to one of the natural thermal baths in the city. The city has over 100 natural springs and thermal baths.

5. Lisbon

For years, Lisbon, one of the oldest cities in the world was an underrated tourist destination. Not anymore. Many have discovered the monasteries, castles (including the 1,000-year-old Castelo de Sao Jorge), museums, and the many lookout points for panoramic views of the city.

There’s so much to see and do in this city of seven hills, but the most exciting thing about Lisbon is its food scene. From pastel de nata and coffee to salted cod dishes (bacalhau), there are endless options for dining and wining in Lisbon. There are streetside tables, cozy fado clubs, and more to explore.

6. Madrid

Tapas bar crawls and art museum visits are some of the things you should do while in Madrid. If you like nature and non-touristy places, don’t miss Madrid’s green spaces and old noble mansions. Check out El Retiro Park, Sabatini Gardens, and Casa de Campo Park. And magnificent mansions converted into museums like Cerralbo Museum, Sorolla Museum, Museum of Romanticism and Cervantes House Museum.

Cerralbo

Madrid is also known for its boutiques and cafes.

7. Prague

Prague is known as a beer capital and is home to hundreds of restaurants serving beer pairing dishes like delicious pork knuckles, roast duck, and unique Czech bar foods. This is perfect for anyone looking for a destination with good beer and fantastic food.

This medieval city is also ideal for anyone who is interested in Baroque architecture and wandering through the cobblestone alleyways.

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Photos and article by Claudia Looi

Mentioned in this post
  1. Reykjavik
    City in Iceland

    Reykjavik Iceland
  2. Dublin
    City in Ireland

    Dublin Ireland
  3. Amsterdam
    City in Netherlands

    Amsterdam Netherlands
  4. Budapest
    City in Hungary

    Budapest Hungary
  5. Lisbon
    City in Portugal

    Lisbon Portugal
  6. Madrid
    City in Spain

    Madrid Spain
  7. Prague
    City in Czech Republic

    Prague Czech Republic