5 Alternative European City Break Ideas for 2024

Paris, tick. Rome, tick. Barcelona, tick. So you've visited many of the big European cities on your travel list but you're now ready to discover some of the more understated, but equally as impressive cities on the continent. Now is the perfect time to start planning for 2024, and to consider some of the alternative, but equally as impressive, European cities. We're providing you with 5 alternative European city break ideas for 2024 and once you've chosen where you want to go, you can start planning your trip with our FREE Digital Travel Planner.

Our Editor Jessica Ruth Gibson has personally visited each destination within this guide and has written a dedicated city break guide for each one. All photos featured are her own. Follow the links for the individual city guides.

5 Alternative European City Break Ideas for 2024

1. Athens, Greece

Great for: hidden rooftop bars, cafe culture and ancient history

In my opinion, Athens is one of the most underrated city break destinations in Europe. It’s a fascinating city that has a great contrast between old and new. The ancient ruins are a striking backdrop to many of the cities’ modern and trendy rooftop bars. Another bonus of an Athens city break is that you’re likely to get sunshine and plenty of Vitamin D (something we are all craving in the UK).

My top things to do in Athens include visiting the Acropolis, exploring the backstreets of Anafiotika, street dining in Plaka and hunting for treasure in Athens Flea Market.

Read my Ultimate City Guide to Athens 

2.  Bern, Switzerland

Great for; slow travel, boutique shopping and history

Many people do not realise that Bern is the capital of Switzerland and is a key location for Swiss politicians. It is a also the birthplace of Albert Einstein. Bern is a great city break option for people who want to explore a new city at a slower pace, without any hustle and bustle. Bern is a small city and the vibe is very laid back. The distinctively turquoise Aare River runs through the heart of Bern, so imagine relaxed riverside dining and boutique shops a plenty.

My top things to do in Bern include exploring the old town, visiting the Albert Einstein museum, climbing up to the Rose Garden, going swimming in the Aare River and climbing the 222 steps of Bern Minster.

Read my blog A City Break Guide to Bern, Switzerland 

3. Bilbao, Spain

Great for; modern art, ancient old towns and amazing street food

Of all the amazing destinations in Spain, Bilbao doesn’t get nearly enough air time. As it’s in the North of Spain, good weather isn’t guaranteed. However, this once industrial Spanish city is now a hub of art and foodie culture. Bilbao is famous for being home to the Guggenheim Museum and is also well known for its Pintxos (a style of Tapas synonymous to the Basque region of Spain).

My top things to do in Bilbao include visiting the Guggenheim, doing a food tour of the old town (Casa Viejo), visiting the Ribera food market, going for drinks in the Plaza Nueva and catching the funicular up to Mount Artxanda.

Embarking on an extended stay in Bilbao promises an immersive and authentic experience. Picture waking up in a charming Spanish abode, delving into local culture, and exploring hidden gems at your leisure. Embrace the Spanish rhythm, from savoring paella in local cafes to wandering through historic cobblestone streets. Find your perfect apartment to rent in Spain and make these alternative breaks an unforgettable part of your travels this year.

Read my 48 Hour Guide to Bilbao 

4. Salzburg, Austria

Great for; stunning viewpoints, classical music and Austrian tradition

Salzburg is a historical Austrian city and is well known for being the birthplace of composer Mozart and the filming location for The Sound of Music. As a big Sound of Music fan, I was totally captivated by the city. Salzburg is full of picturesque streets, pastel coloured buildings and fascinating Austrian traditions. The streets are full of live music and many of the locals wear traditional Austrian clothing such as the Dirndl.

My top things to do in Salzburg include visiting the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, The Fortress Hohensalzburg (where they originally wanted to film Game of Thrones), The Museum of Modern Art and ordering a ‘Hugo’ cocktail (a delicious Austrian cocktail).

Read my blog posts 11 Reasons to visit Salzburg and The Ultimate Guide to Graz, Salzburg and Innsbruck

5. Lisbon, Portugal

Great for; castles, fortresses, colourful buildings and good wine

I have such fond memories of our city break to Lisbon and would definitely return in a heartbeat. With its wide boulevards, pastel coloured houses, vintage trams and winding cobbled backstreets, Lisbon is a city of effortless European charm. It’s built upon 7 hills, providing visitors with spectacular panoramas from every angle of the city. There is a slice of history around every corner and the quaint piazzas and al fresco eateries set the scene for the romantic city-break you’ve always dreamt of.

My top things to do in Lisbon include visiting Castello de Sao Jorge, exploring the colourful coloured streets of Alfama, going up the Torre de Belem and visiting Pasteis de Belem for the best Pasteis de Nata (Portugese custard tarts).

Read my City Guide to Lisbon 

Do you know about the Schengen Area?

All destinations featured within this guide are part of the Schengen area of Europe. The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries that have abolished border controls between each other. These include France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Poland, and Scandinavian nations, but not the U.K. and Ireland. Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway are not in the EU but are inside of the Schengen Area.

From 1st January 2021, British travellers do not need a visa and will be able to stay in most EU countries for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. If you are visiting the Schengen area from any other county outside of the EU, click the link in the above paragraph to see if a VISA is required.

What are your travel plans for 2024? Will you be heading for a beach break or a city break first? We'd love to hear what destinations are on your wish list.

Jessica Ruth Gibson is the Founder and Editor of Travelista and an award-winning travel content creator of 10 years. She lives in York, UK with her son and has travelled to over 50 countries; her favourites being Italy, Canada and Vietnam.


  • Ahh I’ve been searching for fun weekend city breaks for 2024 and this popped up – I’ve always wanted to go to Athens but never been. Think I’m defo gonna have to finally add it to my list!

    C x
    Lux Life London

    • Ah love to hear this Catherine! Athens is such an underrated city break destination. We love it there! Glad it’s on your list now 🙂 Be sure to follow our Athens guide if you go.

  • Considering a trip to Europe, but we are concerned about crowds in the :typical destinations. Thank you for providing alternative options. Each city sounds wonderful.

  • I would give anything to be exploring a new city now! Hopefully soon, until then reading things like this definitely helps!

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