Seven of the best cultural mini breaks in Europe
Weekend mini breaks in Europe are perfect if you’re looking to unwind, take in some cultural sites and tuck into some local cuisine. We’ve picked seven fantastic city breaks that have it all – from medieval centres, cutting-edge art museums, shopping and breath-taking scenery.
Shopping, Mozart and medieval delights.
This Austrian city is nestled in the eastern Alps surrounded by three towering peaks. The Unesco-listed Old Town, dating back to the middle ages, is separated by the the River Salzach from the new town – where most of the residents live.
For incredible views head to the remains of the medieval Hettwer Bastion where you can see over the river to the bell towers and domes of the Old Town. Climb the stone steps to the 11th-century citadel or follow the stone trail that rolls west over the wooded hills for two lovely walks.
Other highlights include shopping in the narrow passageways of Goldgasse (full of antique stores), the Salzburg Cathedral where you can see Renaissance paintings by Donato Mascagni and the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at Mozart Geburtshaus.
Fly direct to Salzburg from Heathrow.
Markets and museums.
In the centre of the striking medieval city centre of Zagreb is the main market square of Dolac – there’s a market here that’s been running since the 1920s where you can find local honey and cheese to feast on. Spend your first day just wandering the ancient streets and discovering the hidden gems of the city – including picturesque squares, gorgeous little restaurants and quaint shops.
Take a trip to the Moderna Galerija for Croatian art of the 19th and 20th century, with works by Zlatko Bourek and Milan Steiner. Or visit the Muzej Mimara which showcases pieces by Veronese, Van Dyck and Renoir and the Atelier Mestrovic boasts the sculptures of Mestrovic.
Perhaps the most unusual and interesting attraction is the Museum of Broken Relationships – opened in 2010. It holds totems of ruined romances such as the champagne cork that would have celebrated a wedding if the bride had not caught her fiancé cheating on her.
Fly direct to Zagreb from Heathrow.
The Alps and outdoor activities.
Set dramatically between the dizzying heights of the Alps with Mont Blanc glistening in the distance – Grenoble enjoys great museums, delicious eateries and is a perfect jumping off point to the delights of the mountains.
Take a cable car ride to the Bastille for panoramic views, visit the Museum of Grenoble for its collection of European art and the Museum Dauphinois for ethnographic and historical artefacts.
And don’t forget while you’re here to get out into the awe-inspiring alps – there’s hiking in summer and a range of snowy activities in winter.
Fly direct to Grenoble from Heathrow.
Archaeological sites and great cliff walks.
When in Shannon, you simply must visit the stunning cliffs of Moher for sweeping views of the oceans and dark rugged land. Afterwards wander The Burren – with its huge cracked pavement of glacial-era limestone and neolithic burial sites.
For a taste of medieval life head to the Bunratty Castle – a living museum of the Middle Ages featuring dungeons and a great dining hall where visitors can enjoy banquets and entertainment.
For a day trip you can go dolphin and whale watching at the Shannon Estuary or take a ferry to Inisheer – where you can enjoy the stunning scenery on bike.
Fly direct to Shannon from Heathrow.
Salt mines and fairytale beauty.
The legend goes that Krakow was founded after the defeat of a dragon – there’s certainly a mythological atmosphere about the city's beautiful streets and squares. Wawel Castle is a must-see and the Old Town is full of alluring architecture, lofty churches and fascinating museums.
If you like the sound of a day trip away from the capital check out the incredible Wieliczka salt mine with its underground chapels and lakes or the green and gorgeous Ojców National Park that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale.
There’s also plenty of delicacies to tantalise your tastebuds – including goulash, pierogi (polish dumplings), hot and sour soup, herring (there’s lots of herring and it’s delicious) sauerkraut and hot stews served in a bread bowl with a bread lid so you can eat your bowl! We won't argue with edible crockery!
Fly direct to Krakow from Heathrow.
The Rhine, art and gothic architecture.
All attention is on the Marktplatz in the Old Town in Basel – this is where you’ll find markets selling local delicacies and the bright red Basel Rathaus. Step into its pretty courtyard to see the wall paintings, restored from 1608-11 originals. And you can’t miss Basel Minster – the gothic cathedral with twin spires that pierce the skies.
Head to the Beyeler Foundation for modern and contemporary art and Kunstmuseum for regional art. Or for some fresh air take a stroll along the Rhine – when it’s warm enough locals take to the waters for an afternoon of swimming. However, no matter the time of year it’s beautiful.
Fly direct to Basel from Heathrow.
The Highlands and River Ness.
Running through the heart of the cultural capital of the Highlands is the broad and shallow River Ness. In the summer visitors gather for monster hunting at nearby Loch Ness – but it’s worth a long afternoon walk just for its beauty.
The Old Town features 19th-century Inverness Cathedral, the 18th-century Old High Church and an indoor Victorian Market where you can buy food, clothes and trinkets. To learn about Highland history visit the contemporary Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.
Inverness is the ideal point to head up into the Highlands where dark imposing mountains meet wide skies and an abundance of sparkling lakes.
Fly direct to Inverness from Heathrow.
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