4 City Breaks in Europe you Should Try this Weekend – Last Minute City Breaks

4 City Breaks in Europe you Should Try this Weekend

Why not be spontaneous and surprise your loved one with a short break in one of the following cities this weekend? It is a wonderful way to see a city and take in the important sights. A weekend in a European capital is not as expensive as you may think at all and a complete change of scenery does wonders for anyone. Just choose a destination and take off this weekend!

Table of Contents

 Amsterdam

Barcelona

Rome

Venice

AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam Break

Amsterdam dates from the 13th century and is like a living museum.  With its laid back atmosphere and aura of history it is a perfect city to chose.  The best way to see the center is on foot and most of the museums like the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum are located around Museumplein Square.  Take a stroll through Vondelpark which is close by and see the beautiful tulips or other flowers in season.  There are often free concerts here in the summer to enjoy.  Bicycles are the best form of transport to explore the narrow streets and canals.  Anne Frank’s house is well worth a visit, a 17th century canal house – best visited in the afternoon to avoid queuing.  Visit the 17th century Royal Palace in the heart of the city and admire the beautiful architecture.  Stop for a Heineken beer in Leiden Square and be entertained by the street artists, or just watch the people passing by.  Take a night canal cruise to view the city at its most enchanting.  Last but certainly not least, is the famous red light district – Rossebuurt.  As prostitution is the oldest profession, so too, this district is the oldest in the city with its 14th century layout of streets and canals.  It is worth a visit but leave the kids at home!

Where to Go

The Dam Square

Dam Square is Amsterdam’s beating heart and an emblem of the city’s great history. Dam Square’s most important monument is the famous Royal Palace, with its magnificent facade and excellent sculptures. In addition, the Square is a peaceful and excellent spot for you to have a rest after roaming around Amsterdam.

Useful information

Location: Dam Square is approximately 750 meters – a 10 minutes walk – south of the “Centraal Station”, the city’s main transportation hub. The Dam Square is the home of several other wonderful sights, like National Monument, Madame Tussaud’s Scenerama, the New Church etc.

The Magere Brug

Amsterdam is the city of bridges – it has more than 1000. Still, “Magere Brug”, the “Skinny Bridge”, is the most famous. At night lights illuminate the whole construction, transforming it into this rather romantic sport, ideal for lovers and photographers. Constructed at the end of the 11th century over the Amstel River, the Magere Brug’s is a “must see” sight for short city breakers that visit Amsterdam.

Useful information

Location: 1018 EK   Amsterdam.

The Jordaan district

Serving first as the city’s working class centre, The Jordaan district is now one of the most popular areas in the city, inhabited mainly by students and businessmen. Most visitors prefer the famous converted warehouses, the canals, the cafeterias and the city’s famous art galleries.

Useful information

Location: the Jordaan district stretches from the Brouwersgracht, just west of Centraal Station, continues to the Canal Ring between Prinsengracht and Lijnbaansgracht and ends at the Leidsegracht. The area north of Rozengracht is the more touristy and commercial section though the quieter area south is no less scenic.

The Rembrandtplein

The Rembrandtplein is Amsterdam’sfood and drink centre, while its cafes and pubs attract thousands of visitors that wish to explore the city’s “notorious” nightlife. Local Dutch pubs offer their clients genuine Dutch tones and rhythms, while the district’s central park gives visitors the opportunity to rest after roaming around the city. Rembrandtplein is also just the place for purchasing jewelry and souvenirs.

Useful information

Getting there: just take tram 9 from the Central Station; the stop has the same name and is always announced before arriving there. In case you fear you won’t hear the announcement, look for a large Rembrandt statue along with a video screen. From the city’s west, tram 14 passes through Rembrandtplein.

The Leidseplein Square

The Leidseplein is Amsterdam’s entertainment paradise, full of restaurants, clubs, cafes and cinemas.

Useful information

Getting there: take trams 1, 2 or 5 from the Central Station that all lead to the Leidseplein stop, In case you want to go there from another part of the city, remember that trams 7 and 10 can also take you there. If you are moving on foot or by bicycle, just find and follow Leidsestraat, which will eventually lead you to the Square.

What to eat

Amsterdam offers its lucky visitors numerous food choices and unique culinary experiences. Here we have gathered some of our favorites:

  • Bitterballen: crispy meatballs usually served with mustard. They are the most popular pub snacks and you can find them anywhere in Amsterdam.
  • Thick Dutch fries: there also namedpatat” or “frites” on menus, and they are usually served in a paper cone slathered with tasty toppings.
  • Raw herring: we know, it sounds odd, but try it, it is great.
  • Kibbeling: battered and deep fried morsels of white fish.
  • Oliebollen:deep fried sweet dumplings, often with bits of fruits, dusted in powdered sugar.
  • Ontbijtkoek: a ginger cake that is truly delicious with some butter on it.
  • Stamppot: a traditional dish made of potatoes mashed with other vegetables (like sauerkraut, carrot, onion and kale).
  • Snert: split peas, pork, celery, onions and leeks.
  • Stroopwafel: stroopwafel is made of two thin waffles connected by a layer of sweet syrup.
  • “Poffertjes”: a traditional Dutch batter treat that looks like fluffy pancakes, characterized by a distinctive light, spongy texture. They are usually served with powdered sugar and butter, and occasionally with syrup or advocaat.
  • Tompouce: cream – filled, featuring a layer of smooth pink icing on top.

As for drinking, there is no need to mention anything. Hundreds of different types of beers are waiting for you in Amsterdam.

BARCELONA

Barcelona Break

A weekend in Barcelona is ideal for seeing most of the top attractions the city has to offer.  Stroll around the Old Town, Ciutat Vella, there are three areas:  El Gotico, El Born and Barceloneta, all are filled with history and each have their own character and flavour.  Passageig de Gracia is the best shopping street in town but is also lined with modernistic buildings of interest for the architecture.  There is a small garden at the end of the street called Jardins del Palau Robert where you can sit and decide where to go next in lovely surroundings.  Caso Batllo is the most famous landmark of the city, a very modern building which looks beautiful at night.  Visit Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, an amazing Gaudi masterpiece with incredible views of the whole of Barcelona from its towers.  Get there early in the morning (8-9 am), in order to avoid queuing for hours.  Les Ramlas is the best known street in this beautiful city, with small churches, street markets and buildings which should not be missed.  Montjuic Castle is the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the city.  Lastly, the Magic Fountain or Font Magica is a place of enchantment with water, colour and music.

Where to Go

“La Sagrada Familia” Church

The most unique characteristic of the famous “La Sagrada Familia” church is not that it is not just that it was designed by the famous architect Antoni Gaudi, but that its construction actually has not yet been finished, despite the fact that it begun as early as 1882! According to Spanish authorities, the Church will finally be completed in 2016.

Almost anyone that has been to Barcelona has visited this great monument, and there is no reason for you to prove an exception. Of course, admiring its impressive towers from outside is free, but do your best to visit the interior too. Just arm yourself with patience, as hundreds of visitors form long queues outside its gates every single day, especially during the summers. For those of you who hate waiting and have no problem with spending a bit more than usual, “Priority” tickets are available and will save you a lot of time and sweating.

Useful Information

  • Address – Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013.
  • Official Website – sagradafamilia.cat
  • Nearest Metro – Sagrada Familia L2 & L5
  • Telephone Service – (34) 932073031

You can get your tickets or relevant information here. “Priority” tickets usually cost 15 Euros per visitor. The church is open almost any day of the year, but be aware of certain annual religious events that won’t allow you to see the interior.

The “Font Mágica” Fountain

The Font Magica Fountain is an utterly marvelous blend of water, light and music. Constructed in 1929, it attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. During the winter, you can admire the show only during Fridays and Saturdays – but that’s usually no problem for last minute city breakers, since Fridays and weekends are usually the most suitable days to travel abroad. In the summer, shows are usually organised throughout the whole week, except Mondays.

Useful information

  • Address – Reina Maria Cristina, 08038, Barcelona
  • Website – bcn.cat/fontmagica
  • Nearest Metro – Espanya L2

Entrance is free throughout the whole year, except certain days when special events take place.

Las Ramblas street

If you have not walked La Rambla, then you haven’t seen Barcelona’s most characteristic icons. The talented Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca once said about La Rambla: “It is the only street in the world which I wish would never end.” Starting at Plaza Catalunya and ending at the Columbus Monument, La Rambla is considered one of the most joyful places to have a stroll around the globe.

Useful information

  • Address – La Rambla, Barcelona
  • Nearest Metro – Catalunya L2

Of course there is no entrance fee for La Rambla. Day walks are always safe in La Rambla – but be always aware of some pickpockets that prey on its streets and neighbouring Metro stations. Night and early morning hours require caution, especially near the harbour.

“Nou Camp” Stadium

Founded in 1899, the FC Barcelona is the living emblem of Catalan mores and values. Planning your short city break to Barcelona during an El Clásico match will prove a truly unique experience, especially if you can watch it inside the “Nou Camp”, the largest football stadium in Europe. The stadium offers visitors a special tour inside the facilities, including a museum dedicated to the club’s history.

Useful Information

  • Website – fcbarcelona.com
  • Address – Carrer d’Arístides Maillol, 08028
  • Nearest Metro – L5 Collblanc
  • Telephone Service – (34) 934963600

You can get tour and Museum tickets for around 23.00 Euros per adult and 18.00 Euros per child.

Barrio Gotico

The “Barrio Gotico” quarter is actually what remains of the medieval Barcelona. Developed around theRoman town of Barcino, Barrio Gotico is the oldest and most imposing part of the city, teaming with churches, plazas, markets and museums, including the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat.

Useful Information

Barrio Gotico is always open and free to visit. Best way to explore it by foot. Pickpockets are also quite active in this area, but generally it is safe to roam the streets during daytime.

Barrio Gotico is part of the Ciutat Vella district, stretching from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to Ronda de Sant Pere.

What to eat

Well, a short city break to Barcelona will prove an utter failure if just stick to your usual eating options. Catalonian cuisine is truly magnificent, so do not hesitate to try local delicacies and dishes.

Generally speaking, your meal options in Barcelona depend on the districts (“barrios”) you will choose to eat.

  • Tapas: our first memorable option is, of course Tapas, a wide variety of appetizers that are roughly divided into two categories, cold or hot. Tapas have become a distinct cuisine with almost innumerable versions.

Tapas can be made out of seafood, meat, eggs, nuts, cheese and local vegetables, accompanied by dips and spicy sauces. The only problem is finding what suits you best among an immense variety of tastes and ingredients.

  • Paella: Paella is a very popular rice dish of Valencian origin that is very popular in Barcelona.
  • Pan con tomate: a local bread recipe with tomato.
  • Amanida Catalana: a type of salad with cold meat.
  • Croquetes Casolanes: a type of croquettes, usually home made.
  • Gaspatxo: this a cold soup dish, made of vegetables.
  • Botifarra amb mongetes: this dish is made of grilled sausages and fried beans served with a special garlic sauce.
  • Fricando: a wonderful meat and vegetable stew.
  • Xai a la brasa: a dish of roasted lamb.
  • Mandonguilles: the local version of meatballs.

In case you are a coffee buff, you should try

  • Cortado: a type of espresso enhanced with milk.
  • Cafe con leche: a double espresso with lots of milk, served always in a large cup.

Wine is the most popular drinking choice during meals and one local type you should try is Cava, a sparkling wine that resembles champagne and is great with seafood and the majority of tapas. Beers are also very popular, with Damm’s various choices being among the most popular locally. Another local favorite is “Moritz”, a type of lager, and “clara” a mixture of beer and lemonade.

ROME

Rome

Rome – the “Eternal City”. Many would think that Rome would need at least a month to explore it properly – and they would be 100% right. But, a weekend in Rome can be equally fascinating – the secret is to decide in advance one or two of the city’s main attractions and devote your weekend just on them. After all, you have more than enough options. Rome is one of the most significant historic and cultural metropolises of the world. Once the most long lasting ancient European empire, Rome has been adorned with the riches of the world. Its centuries of supremacy are breathed in every neighborhood and piazza. Either in summer – Rome’s high season – or any other season, you can always find proper excellent accommodation – but if your budget poses a problem, prefer visiting the city either in the middle of August, during the holiday of Ferragosto, or sometime in the fall – especially if the rain and low temperatures do not bother you. Another great time would be the period from April to June, just after the conclusion of the Easter holiday, when most tourist are already gone and the mild weather is just perfect for roaming around the city’s sights.

Where to Go

The Flavian Amphitheatre or “Collosseum”

Erected by Titus, the Flavian Amphitheatre came to be known as “Colosseum” because of the colossal statue of Nero that used to occupy the location where the amphitheatre was built. This vast amphitheatre accommodated at least 55,000 seated spectators and was specially designed to host Rome’s spectacular gladiatorial and animal hunting shows.An emblem of Rome’s power and cruelty, it is considered one of the most important monuments in human history.

Useful Information

Entrance costs usually 12.00 Euros, including a short exhibition. Guided tours cost 20.00 Euros.

Circus Maximus

One of the most magnificent constructions facilities of ancient Rome, the Circus Maximus was once the beating heart of Rome, hosting the most popular sport of the Empire, chariot racing. It is estimated that it could accommodate almost 250,000 seated spectators. Nowadays, the Circus Maximus is a mere shadow of its glorious past. Stripped of its famous Egyptian obelisks and statues, it may look just as a plain field but, still, its shape and enormous dimensions inspire awe. Yes, the Circus Maximus is definitely worth visiting.

Useful Information

  • Nearest Metro – Circo Massimo (line B).
  • Other means of Transportation – Tram 3 and buses 75, 81, 118, 175, and 673 are also stopping nearby.

Pantheon

Pantheon is beyond doubt a magnificent architectural marvel, on of humanities greatest construction achievements. Serving at the beginning as a pagan temple and later used as a Christian Church and as a burial place of several prominent people, like Raphael, Pantheon means in Greek “for every god” – that is a Temple dedicated to the all gods of ancient Rome.

Useful Information

  • Address – Piazza della Rotonda
  • Phone Service – (39) 06 6830 0230

Entrance is free, even on Sundays, but if your short city break coincides with a public holiday, takes care to visit it in the morning. Its open for the public from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm, except for Sundays, which is 9:00 am – 6:00 pm.

The Vatican City

The Vatican City is actually a walled district of Rome of no more than half a km2 and the smallest state around the globe. Governed by the Pope, the Vatican State came into existence in 1929. Irrespective of your religion or personal beliefs, the Vatican City is a place you must visit during your short city break in Rome, thus having the chance to see up-close its world famous sights, like St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the famous Vatican Museums.

Useful Information

Official website – http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Home.html

The best way to learn as much as possible about the City’s rich history is by taking one of the numerous tours available. Bear in mind though that in order to ensure best service, you should book in advance.

One thing you must estimate carefully when planning to visit the Vatican city is time: you will need plenty of hours to see most of the sights and museums and, in case you want to see the Sistine Chapel, you must enter the Museums before 3:00 p.m.

Do not forget to bring all your papers with you – remember it is a different state.

What to eat

Italian food has conquered the world and we are sure you have eaten some of the most well – known Italian dishes over and over again. Still, it would be a mistake to believe you already know everything about Italian cuisine. Many Italian chefs claim there is no such thing as Italian food, because cuisine across Italy is regional and you can see totally different plates from one city to another.

Hence, Rome has its own gourmet secrets. Below, we list some of our favorites.

  • Carciofi alla Giudia: Artichokes are a favorite vegetable in Rome, used in many different recipes. One of the best is carciofi alla giudia, deep fried artichokes.
  • Cacio e Pepe: Spaghetti With Black Pepper and Pecorino Romano: pecorino Romano cheese and fresh black pepper are swirled with cooking water from the pasta to make it creamy.
  • Da Danilo: This is another classic Roman spaghetti recipe, made of pecorino Romano, fresh black pepper, guanciale(smoked pork jowl) and eggs.
  • Cesare al Casaletto: San Marzano tomatoes, guanciale, white wine, some onion and pecorino Romano.

VENICE

Venice

La bella Venezia, one of the most beautiful, bewitching cities in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year. Venice is a simply wonderful weekend city break option, considered by most Europeans as one of the most important cultural centres of humanity. Alive with monuments of immense charm, for the most part from the days when the city dominated the Mediterranean, Venice has been officially considered since 1987 a World Heritage site. Situated on the northwestern side of the gulf facing the Adriatic Sea, and with a mild Mediterranean climate, Venice can easily become your next weekend break destination any time of the year.  Once the beating heart of a potent naval empire, Venice gradually became a truly one of a kind environmental and architectural marvel, almost nothing like any other city in the world. The majestic panorama of palaces adorned with marble and works of impeccable art, the impressive towers, the splendid domes, and gondolas crossing the canals – a combination of wonders that are nowhere else to be found. Grasping anyone’s imagination simply by the sound of its name, Venice has been admired and loved as no other city in Europe – and is just a few hours away. Just pick a weekend in your calendar and make a present to yourself.

Where to Go

Grand Canal

The Grand Canal, or Canal grande in Italian, is the main water – traffic channel in Venice. There is no reason to visit the city if you don’t see its beautiful buildings and monuments while sailing down the Canal sitting comfortably in a vaporetti or, even best, a gondola.

Useful Information             

Waterbuses are the best way to move through the Grand Canal, and you can use various types of vessels:

  • The Vaporetto: a relatively small steamer boat, characterized by the famous outdoor seats that are so popular among visitors. Bear though in mind that the Vaporetti are usually crowded.
  • The Motoscafi, a much faster and modern vessel.
  • The Traghetti, small vessels that operate only during the day at certain points along the Grand Canal. Their main advantage is the low fee.
  • The Gondola, the traditional Venetian rowing boat, specially designed for the peculiar character of the Venetian lagoon. For centuries this type of vessel was the main means of transportation in Venice. Nowadays, they are the emblem of the city’s glorious past and operate mainly on the Grand Canal. Their fees are a bit more costly, but it is truly worth it.

You can get your tickets from ticket kiosks that you can find all around the city. Always buy them before getting on board because otherwise things can get complicated.

Piazza San Marco

“The drawing room of Europe” as described, according to some, by Napoleon,  is the principal public square of Venice, serving for centuries as the social, religious and political centre of the city.

San Marco Palazzo Ducale

The San Marko Palazzo Ducale was the duke’s palace ever since the 9th century.  The palace’s spectacular entrance, Porta della Carta, and its rooms that are full of wonderful paintings made by renowned artists like Tieopolo, Tiziano, Veronese, Bassano and Palma il Giovane, attract thousands of visitors every year.

Useful Information

  • Official website – http://palazzoducale.visitmuve.it/en/home/
  • Opening hours – from November 1st to March 25th, the Palazzo opens from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (last admission 4.30 pm) from March 26th to October 31st 8:30 am – 7:00 pm (last admission 6:00 pm).

Cannaregio – Ca’ d’Oro

The famous “Golden House” contains the Franchetti Gallery and is an excellent example of Venetian Gothic architecture dating back to the beginning of the 15th century. Now, serves as a museum, housing spectacular works of Tiziano and Tintoretto and others.

Useful Information

  • Official website – http://www.cadoro.org/?lang=en
  • Opening hours – Monday: 8:15 am – 2:00 pm, for the rest of the week, including Sundays, 8:15 am to 7:15 pm.

Ca’ Rezzonico

Ca’ Rezzonico overlooks the Grand Canal and now houses the Eighteenth Century Museum of Venice. The magnificent entrance hall leads to the large staircase on the ground floor.  Robert Browning, the renowned English poet bought the building and last private owner was the Baron Hirschel de Minerby. In 1925 the City Council turned it into a museum.

  • Official website – http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/home
  • Opening hours –  from April 1st to October 31st 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, while from November 1st to March 31st 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

What to eat

Venice is Italian, but has its own distinctive tradition regarding food, as most Italian metropolis. So, during your short city break in Venice, try as much of the following as possible.

  • Sarde in saor: Sarde in saor is actually a sweet-sour dish, made of fried sardine fillets marinated in vinegar, onions, raisins and pine nuts.
  • Baccala mantecato: Creamed dried cod, prepared by soaking, poaching and blending the fish into a smooth mousse seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Risotto al nero di sepia: Seafood-based risotto, made of squid, wine, onion, tomato and ink braise.
  • Risi e bisi: Venetian-style rice and peas, made of rice, pancetta, onion, butter, parsley and pea-shell broth.
  • Bigoli in salsa: Bigoli in salsa consisting of onions and sardines or anchovies is then used to accompany the pasta.
  • Fegato alla veneziana: Liver accompanied with the sweet, caramelized onions.
  • Mołéche: Small green crabs.

Fritole: Usually offered during the Carnevalefritole are sweet pastry fritters.