Europe is the king of weekend breaks. Home to five of the ten smallest countries in the world by area, it is easy to cover a lot of ground in a small amount of time in Europe. In fact, one team managed to get through 19 European countries in just 24 hours. Of course, you probably don’t want to do this as you won’t actually have time to see anything.
A weekend break is a great way to experience a place. You’re there just long enough to see the highlights but not so long that you start to get bored. But, remember that time is of the essence. To make the most of a weekend break I recommend planning an itinerary before you go. This saves you valuable hours that you might otherwise spend aimlessly wandering, looking for something to do.
Create an outline of things you want to see and do. If you don’t stick to it, that’s fine! Sometimes the best adventures occur when you spontaneously go off-script. A schedule is just a handy back up to have so you don’t feel like you are wasting time.
Does a weekend break sound good right about now? Here are some of Europe’s top spots for a well-deserved 48 hour trip.
Let me start by saying that Cork is gorgeous. It has a rustic charm that permeates every street corner and an easy beauty, which photos do not do justice. From the colourful houses that line the riverfront, to the rolling fields that stretch out to the coastline, you are going to want to photograph every inch of this thriving city.
If you’re a city-lover, Cork has all kinds of goodies in store. St. Patrick’s Street is the best place to start. From there you can make your way to the Blarney Castle. Those headed for the castle, be sure to kiss the Blarney Rock once you’re there. This magical rock is said to bestow eloquence on those who kiss it.
For a more sobering experience, the Cork City Gaol is an interesting place to spend a few hours. Finally, spend some time in the fresh air in Fitzgerald’s Park or the garden of the Ballymaloe Country House Hotel.
Dresden is perfect for travelers who want to pack a lot into a short timeframe. The city is walkable and filled with stunning architecture and a mixture of traditional and modern German features. Simply walking around the city, past the Procession of Princes, the Zwinger Palace and the Theaterplatz, is an adventure in itself.
Other things to do in Dresden include visiting its collection of museums (the City Museum and War Museum are particularly good), and spending time in one of the city’s saunas. A word to the wise: these saunas are often mixed and often nude so you’ll need to throw your inhibitions out of the window if you want to enjoy them.
Teeming with ancient monuments and rich relics and artefacts, Athens is a city that needs to be visited in the flesh to be fully understood. It was here that ancient civilizations rose and fell and here that the mighty acropolis stands guard over its citizens. To best experience the iconic acropolis, hike to it before daybreak and watch the sunrise from its enclaves.
Most of you are probably aware of how mouth-watering Greek food is. Unfortunately, a weekend break won’t be enough to try everything – even if you spent the whole time eating. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a good go anyway. La Plaka is a foodie neighbourhood in the city that feels distinctly un-Athenian. Its abundant foliage and narrow streets give it a small town feel that can’t fail to charm.
The air in Lisbon thrums with energy both night and day. The streets that run through Portugal’s capital are simultaneously elegant and lively. Hit these streets and make your way to Torre de Belem – this should be the first you thing you do in Lisbon. The tower is magnificent and rivalled only by the nearby São Vincente de Fora church.
In addition to everything you can find in the city, Lisbon also makes a great base for day trips. The beaches of Cascais and the dream-like village of Sintra often appear high on traveler’s itineraries. Cabo da Roca is also a favorite thanks to its dramatic cliffs and picturesque scenery.
London is a really big city so if you only have 48 hours to visit then you should choose just one section to explore. Hot on the list at the moment is East London, comprising Shoreditch, Hackney, Dalston and a bunch of other edgy, hipster areas. There are fewer tourists here than in Central London and you’ll get a more unique taste of the city.
One of the things that stands out most about East London is its abundance of independent eateries. Forget about big chains, this part of the city is all about going back to basics and offering fine, artisanal dishes. Wander through Box Park or Spitalfields Market for some excellent street food and drink trucks.
Have longer than 48 hours?
If you’re lucky enough to have weeks or even months to travel around Europe, you should definitely consider traveling by train – check out Explora Mum’s post all about how to survive, and thrive, as a family traveling Europe by train – loads of awesome intel and inspiring info.