With so many vibrant and enticing continental cities right on our doorstep, it’s not always easy to choose a destination for your next break away. We’ve done the hard work and compiled a list of our top 5 favourite cities to spend the weekend without breaking the bank.
Sitting majestically on the River Danube, Budapest really is a tale of two cities. Buda, with its rolling hills and air of grandeur, sits on the western bank, while the pancake flat, yet vibrant and cosmopolitan Pest sits to the east. The two are linked by the magnificent Chain Bridge, flanked by imposing stone carved lions. There’s a wealth of culture and history to explore on both sides of the river, warranting much more than a single weekend. This city will have you coming back for more. During the day, visit Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Fed by natural hot springs, this is the largest medicinal bath Europe. It’s the ideal place to rejuvenate and take time out from exploring the hubbub of the city. After sunset, explore the city’s Ruin bars. Situated mainly in the old Jewish Quarter, innovators have revamped these crumbling pre-war buildings and transformed them into bohemian drinking holes rivalling the coolest bars in Europe.
Relatively new on the European tourist trail, Riga is gaining rapidly in popularity since budget airlines made flights to the city incredibly affordable. And we’re glad they did, as the Latvian capital is not to be missed. A blend of twisting spires, imposing gothic architecture and cosmopolitan cool, Riga pulls it all together to deliver the perfect weekend getaway. Fans of street art don’t want to miss Pērkons Saule Daugava. This huge 800 square metre piece of graffiti was commissioned in 2014 when Riga was awarded the European Capital of Culture. Don’t forget to visit Livu Square, the historical centre of the city. Adorned by day with beautiful flower beds and quaint cafés, after sunset it transforms into a plaza of trendy pubs and bars where the merriment continues until sunrise.
Majestic Barcelona, perched on the edge of the Mediterranean sea, offers both the excitement of the city and the relaxation of beach life. Get inspired by the looming art nouveau architecture and visit the famous Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece. The Unesco World Heritage site is still under construction to this day, giving visitors the opportunity to witness history in the making. The artist has many other works on display throughout the city, but perhaps the most impressive is The Park Güell. Ascend the stairs past incredible Hansel and Gretel style architecture and take in the expansive views of both city and sea.
Prague has long since shaken off its reputation of stag dos and cheap beer (although the beer is still cheap!). The queen of central Europe, this city is steeped in old world charm to make your steps through the cobbled streets feel like a living fairytale. You can stroll for hours through the Old Town, scale the steps up to the monumental Prague Castle and take in the expansive views of the red roofed city. Cross the magnificent Charles Bridge and be tantalised by the melodies of the street musicians. Visit the famous Wenceslas square and bask in the contrasting flavours of old and new Bohemia. Don’t miss the chance to spend a long hazy summer night in one of the many outdoor beer gardens, where you can share a table with the locals and drink merrily into the evening.
Often overlooked due to its proximity to the nearby resorts of The Costa del Sol, Malaga is in fact a bustling cosmopolitan city that combines the rich traditions of Andalucia with the glitz and glamour of modern Spain. Pablo Picasso was proud to call this city his home. You can visit the Museo Picasso Málaga which houses an incredible 285 works by the artist. Climb the steps of the Alcazaba, a Moorish palatial fortress steeped in ancient history. From the top you can view the city’s sleek and stylish port, filled with upscale restaurants and boutique designer shops. Reward yourself after a long day of sightseeing and sample an extensive array of authentic Adalucian tapas, paired of course with the delectable wines of the region.
With daily low cost flights to these incredible locations, an unforgettable weekend is well within reach. So pack your bags, grab a guidebook and tell your boss you’ll see them on Monday.