The most exciting cities to visit in Europe for a cultural break
There are so many incredible European cities to visit, whether you want to return to old favourites or find new ones to love – and these are our pick of the best cities in Europe for 2022.
With short flight or train times and easy journeys, breaks to Europe’s great cities are the perfect option for mini-breaks and longer holidays, especially when you want to be immersed in culture and history. There are also lots of destinations to choose from for people in search of a food-focused trip, or for those who will enjoy history-packed walking tours.
As the saying goes, Paris is always a good idea and Rome never gets old, but there’s so much more to Europe than these grande dames. If you loved Lisbon, you’ll adore Porto, with its port warehouses along the waterfront, medieval alleys and winding Douro backdrop.
Enjoy a city break with a difference and visit Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital named after its steaming hot springs. Or head to the very edge of the continent and Istanbul, for its magnificent Ottoman architecture, fabulous food scene and boat trips down the Bosphorus.
Read on for Country Living’s pick of the best cities to visit in Europe in 2022…
Covid-19: Check the latest guidance from the government before travelling.
Where to stay: For an equally regal retreat, book the palm-lined Hotel Alfonso XIII, commissioned by a king in 1929 and still playing host to royalty (including the Hollywood kind).
Where to stay: For a hotel with history, book Six Senses Kocatas Mansions, which spans two waterfront mansions once home to an Ottoman Empire minister.
Where to stay: There are no shortage of grand palazzos in the city, but to live like a Medici member, stay at Il Salviatino a little outside of the centre and enjoy the frescoed ceilings.
Foodies should flock to San Sebastian, undoubtedly the gastronomy capital of Europe, thanks to its constellation of Michelin stars, including a trio of restaurants with three stars each. And if you prefer something more laid-back than formal fine-dining, you’ll enjoy the fun pintxos crawls that are part of everyday life in San Sebastian – pitstops with a tasty bite in each bar. The Basque Country bay is so pretty, it could pass for a miniature Rio de Janeiro.
Where to stay: Both aristocrats and epicures have been enjoying Hotel Maria Cristina for a century, the perfect place to relax after all that indulgence and with a view of the Bay of Biscay to boot.
Portugal’s second city, Porto is growing in popularity and is a great option if you’ve already experienced Lisbon. It’s also one for the wine lovers out there, with port warehouses lined up along the river and the full-bodied reds of the Douro region available everywhere. In fact, wine is celebrated around here so much that it even appears in the spa treatments.
Where to stay: There are lots of lovely hotels to choose from, including enchanting villas out in the Atlantic-facing suburb of Foz – but for the best city-centre perch to enjoy all that Porto has to offer, it has to be the Yeatman.
Where to stay: A little out of the city centre, the beachfront Sun Gardens is where to stay to wake up with the Adriatic in front of you – and Villa Dubrovnik is another sea-edge sanctuary on the rocks.
Where to stay: Stay close to the action at Boutique Hotel Sablon, which may have a 16th-century façade but has been thoughtfully renovated inside – and it’s conveniently located between the Market Square and the Zand area.
Where to stay: Amazing views of the harbour await up in the Barrakka Gardens. For more, head to the terrace of Iniala Harbour House, which has one of the finest views in the city – and you’ll be able to enjoy it with a bucket of ice-cold champagne.
Mallorca may have its beautiful beaches to lounge on and mountains to hike, but its capital Palma is not to be missed – especially for a glimpse of its golden, Gothic cathedral, looming above the edge of the bay. Visitors can ride the old wooden tram down to Soller, for lunch on the edge of its marina. Other things to experience include Bellver Castle, Almudaina Palace and the lively Lonja fish market. And it’s a city that can be enjoyed all year round, since temperatures rarely drop below 18 degrees.
Where to stay: Stay close to the cathedral by checking in at seafront El Llorenç Parc del Mar, which references the city’s Moorish past with courtyards and carved doors.