Europe is filled with opportunities for travelers. Sure, everyone would like to have a few months or a year to really travel around and explore the continent in-depth, but that is not a practical or realistic option for most people. Luckily, there are plenty of European destinations that lend themselves perfectly to a weekend-long itinerary. Even with only a two or three day trip, it is possible to explore one aspect of a city in depth or to get a taste of a destination’s most attractive attributes.

Looking for the perfect European destination for a weekend break? These places should be near the top of your list.

Paris

Eiffel tower, Paris

Photo: papalars / Flickr

Paris is arguably the most popular urban destination in the world. With gardens, nightlife, culture, museums, amazing restaurants, and famous sights, there is certainly no shortage of options for a weekend-long itinerary. The city lights and the Eiffel Tower will certainly be on most people’s sightseeing agenda, but it is also possible to simply wander the charming, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of the city. In these districts, you can experience the real Paris – spending your weekend in quiet cafes, local art galleries, neighborhood eateries, and independently-owned specialty shops.

Norway

Reine, Norway

Photo: SveterCZE / Flickr

Norway can be an expensive place to visit, so it is an ideal destination for a shorter (rather than longer) vacation. This Scandinavian country has something for everyone. The cosmopolitan charms of Oslo, as well as its welcoming and user-friendly vibe, make it a great spot for a weekend getaway. Yes, the capitol city offers a good introduction to Scandinavia, but Norway’s most attractive attributes are found in its rural areas. Some of Northern Europe’s best ski slopes are located here, as are stunning fjords and rugged coastline that are perfect for nature-loving sightseers. And, of course, Norway is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.

Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

Photo: (Mick Baker)rooster / Flickr

Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast features centuries of history, stunning Mediterranean landscapes, and an exciting mix of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and nightlife. Basing yourself in the cities of Split or Dubrovnik means getting access to the sailing, kayaking and other water-sports of the Adriatic while also being able to enjoy great hotels, shopping, restaurants, and the almost legendary nightlife of this region of the Balkans. Compared to many of Europe’s top destinations, Croatia is quite reasonable from a price standpoint. A weekend break on the Adriatic is within reach even for people on a tight budget.

Lisbon

Lisbon, Portugal

Photo: rstml / Flickr

Lisbon is another European destination that boasts attractive surroundings and reasonable prices. It is easy to fill up a couple of days on your itinerary with exciting activities and attractions. Getting a true taste of Portugal’s capitol means wandering the historic Alfama and Bairro Alto neighborhoods, strolling along the ocean-front, and browsing through museums that celebrate the colorful past of this seafaring nation. Of course, the rustic cuisine, charming fado music, and independently owned shops really make this a great place to explore for a weekend (and a great city to return to again and again).

Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Photo: Shadowgate / Flickr

Scotland is a land of rugged natural beauty, culture-rich cities, and thousands of years of history. Edinburgh boasts one of Europe’s most well-kept castles, the best up-and-coming restaurant scenes in the UK, and an array of theaters, live music venues and energetic nightlife spots. Rural destinations such as the Scottish Highlands, known for their rugged beauty and charming small towns, are equally attractive and are worthwhile for people who want their weekend break to focus on getting out of the city and into the beauty of nature.

Barcelona

Sunrise, Barcelona

Photo: Nick Grosoli / Flickr

Barcelona is one of Europe’s great cities. This Spanish metropolis boasts a prime location on the Mediterranean coastline, stunning museums, an astonishing array of restaurants, and plenty of other accessible attractions. The nightlife scene here is considered one of the best in Europe, with world-class nightclubs and plenty of atmospheric places for a quiet drink. Pedestrian-friendly boulevards like the famed La Rambla and the historic old quarter sections of the city mean that you don’t really have to have a set itinerary, you can simply wander and enjoy the unmatchable vibe that makes Barcelona such a great place to visit again and again.

Have you recently enjoyed a weekend break in Europe? Where did you go and where does it rank on our list of the best destinations for a weekend break in Europe.

Josh Lew
Josh Lew
Josh Lew has traveled widely in Asia and the Americas. He has contributed to popular travel sites like Gadling and Brave New Traveler and currently writes a weekly travel column for MNN. His work has also appeared on the websites of CNN and Forbes Magazine.

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