Weekend breaks and escapes are the soul food that inspire productivity and invigorate the escapist spirit between those long weeks of work and routine.
Often in easy to reach yet sought after destinations that provide the perfect opportunity to explore new horizons and delight in mini-adventures – be it with a group of friends, family, or your partner. Discover ancient and modern history in Rome, soak up the endless charms of London or marvel at the slick architecture in Oslo. Take coffee and cake in the elegant cafes of Paris, meander along the lively Dutch waterways, get insight into Gaudi’s genius in Barcelona or meet for drinks at The Temple Bay in Dublin – the options are endless.
The BusinessClass.com guide to the best locations for a European weekend break:
London’s instantly recognisable city skyline features old and new, its bright red buses, black cabs and Thames bridges adding to the tidal flow of people. The city’s scale and variety is almost endless with a myriad of attractions including museums, parks and riverside walks. Comprised of 32 thriving boroughs, each with its own distinct character, you’ll have the choice of hip Dalston, colourful Notting Hill and vibrant Soho – among many more. London’s rich history and royal lineage will enthuse the history buff, with shopping in high street stores and organic markets equally satisfying. Standing nearly 310 metres tall, the Shard is one of tallest and most recognisable buildings in the city.
Tea at TĪNG restaurant in the Shangri-La Hotel on the 35th level of the building offers arguably the best views across the city, with the Thames River and St Paul’s Cathedral immediately below. Take in a show, be it at West End or a night at the Shakespeare's Globe, which will transport you into a whole new theatrical dimension. There’s no shortage of coffee-shops – independent or franchises – many with comfy couches to linger. A spin around the London Eye and a visit to Madame Tussaud’s are always a good idea. If there for the weekend only, the secret will be to select a few activities rather than trying to do everything at once.
Where to stay: The Wellesley - a Luxury Collection Hotel
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Dublin, Republic of Ireland
A small city with a huge heart, Dublin is energetic and proud, the people charming and the history plentiful. The capital of the Republic of Ireland, it’s most significant buildings include Dublin Castle, dating to the 13th century, and the imposing St. Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191. With perfectly landscaped parks such as St. Stephen’s Green and Phoenix Park, offering a welcome inner-city escape to nature. The Long Room at Trinity College's Old Library holds the collection's 200,000 oldest books, including the Book of Kells. Whiskey is an ancient tipple extricable to Irish culture and there are well-established and newer distilleries in the city with tasting rooms to drop in to. Similarly, the Guinness Storehouse experience is wonderful with an interpretive centre that spans multiple floors in a massive interactive and immersive tribute to the story of Dublin’s best-known export.
The pedestrian Ha'penny Bridge, built in 1816 and one of the oldest cast-iron bridges in the world, and the most popular point to cross the river. Iconic Georgian doors that line the main roads are painted in bold shades of red, green, and yellow. Temple Bar, which is at the centre of Dublin's nightlife, is a busy riverside neighbourhood. Spread over cobbled pedestrian lanes, this is where pubs, restaurants, quirky boutiques, and traditional folk music have come to promote the area as Dublin's cultural quarter.
Where to stay: The Merrion
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Edinburgh, famed for its festival and varied architecture is Scotland's compact, hilly capital. Looming over the city is Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers. Arthur’s Seat is an imposing peak in Holyrood Park with sweeping views, and Calton Hill is topped with monuments and memorials. Start your sightseeing in the historic medieval Old Town, where some of the best Edinburgh attractions can be found, or go shopping on Princes Street before dining out in Edinburgh’s world-class restaurants. The elegant Georgian New Town has an array of gardens and neoclassical buildings. You're never far from cultural attractions in Edinburgh.
If you want to experience the bustling Edinburgh Fringe - the world's largest open access arts festival - make sure to visit in August when the city comes alive with the performers and shows from around the globe. Don’t be alarmed by the one o’clock gun salute fired daily since 1861. On the Royal Mile, is the Scotch Whisky Experience. All visits start with a swirling, bubbling barrel ride through a replica distillery and before you know it you've become part of the whisky making process.
Where to stay: The Glasshouse
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The French capital is a must-see city for any lover of art, fashion, history and romance. In Paris shop the biggest designers on the Champs Élysées and take in the view from the top of the iconic Eiffel Tower. Add to that the intriguing history, cobbled walkways and graceful bridges along the River Seine. With stately museums, centuries-old churches and blocks of Rococo- and Neoclassic architecture, Paris is further enhanced by the ancient trees, glowing streetlamps and statues. Linger in The Louvre, constructed in the 12th Century and previously a royal citadel that is now home to the world's great artistic masterpieces, not least Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
Visit Musée d'Orsay, Marvel at the Arc de Triomphe, pay respects to the Unknown Soldier, search out Monet’s Water Lilies at Musée de l’Orangerie and climb the many steps of Sacré-Cœur to make a wish. The French National Collection includes works by Van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Cezanne, and Gauguin. One should also visit the prestigious Modus Art Gallery to satisfy the love for contemporary art. Soak up the simple pleasure of meandering through the various arrondissements, stop for a glass of fine French wine or an espresso at one of the art nouveau cafes' with their wicker chairs perfectly placed for people watching.
Where to stay: Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel
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Legend has it that Rome was founded by twins Romulus and Remus in 753 BCE. Located on the banks of the Tiber River and spread over seven hills, it was the areas around Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill that would become the centre of the impressive Roman Empire. Unique is the ministate of Vatican City, of which the pope is the head of state. Covering an area of just 44 hectares, taken up mostly by St. Peter’s Basilica and St Peter's square, known for the ‘Urbi et Orbi’ speeches by the pope. For many visitors to Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel’s beautiful ceiling frescos by Michelangelo are the highlight.
The many ruins and excavations of the Forum Romanum and the Colosseum gives you an impression of the times, and an understanding of how gladiators did battle in this enormous Roman amphitheatre. The Pantheon, which is now a church, has its characteristic round, open roof and is one of the best kept buildings from Roman times. While the Via Appia takes you back in time along one of the oldest roads in the city. The excellent cuisine, nightlife, culture, shopping and laid back atmosphere are just a few of the reasons why the phrase la dolce vita is synonymous with Roma and it’s easy to see why Italy’s capital is one of the most visited in the world.
Where to stay: J.K. Place Roma
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Oslo is Norway's capital and largest city, with 700,000 citizens in the city proper and about 1.5 million inhabitants in greater Oslo is the heart of Scandinavian heritage. Found in the East of the country in the Oslofjorden fjord, it extends over an inlet of the Skagerrak strait. Spaciously laid out and surrounded by green hills and mountains, the greater city includes 40 islands and 343 lakes. A breath of clean, fresh air, the city brims with culture and history. Best known for its amazing natural landscapes, phenomenal fjords, and delightful sauna houses, the immaculate streets and amazing architecture beckon discovery Famed tourist attractions include Vigeland Sculpture Park and the Oslofjord.
About half of the city has been reserved as urban green spaces and the rest for art spaces, coffee shops and slick stores. One of the top attractions is the Viking Ship Museum which houses three original ships in great condition. More than 1000 years old, at least one of the ships was captained by a woman and you can view her Chinese silk material and jewellery boxes. Surrounded by mountains and sea, this compact, cultured and pristine city has a palpable sense of reinvention – and the long summer nights mean there’s plenty of time for revelling in it.
Where to stay: Hotel Continental
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Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The village charm of Amsterdam is but one of the many reasons to visit this beautiful city that impresses with sights, sounds and aromas that speak to the senses. With an array of historical and cultural attractions, Amsterdam retains an unmistakable identity and charm. The 165 canals are protected in a UNESCO canal ring, and with more bridges than Venice seeing Amsterdam by boat offers a completely unique perspective and a chance to gaze out at the crooked architecture and people watch from the water. Many of the streets are pedestrianised and about half the population cycles everywhere, meaning less cars and a most charming ambiance. Adding the carefully planned urban wonder, there are many parks that you can stroll in. Vondelpark is the biggest and most famous of these and has bars, restaurants and regular concert events.
If it is museums and art that you seek, the Museum Quarter should be a priority. Find the famous Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk and the Van Gogh Museum, which houses over 1000 works by the artist. A visit to Anne Frank House is recommended. For authentic Dutch food make your way to the De Halen food hall and If shopping is your thing, the De Negen Straatjes are full of tiny boutique stores, while De Bijenkorf and De Kalvertoren are among the city’s largest department stores.
Where to stay: The Dylan
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Fashionable, leafy and full of historical charm, Munich is the capital of Bavaria and is best known for its medieval castles, internationally acclaimed breweries and the annual Oktoberfest. Rich in history and Bavarian traditions, there’s more to Munich than just beer. A place of wonder and culture, the city has bewitched visitors for centuries, inviting them to pause to appreciate the surrounding landscape of glistening lakes, snow-capped mountains, quaint countryside villages and Baroque skylines. Main attractions include Marienplatz. Amazing parks like the vast Englischer Garten run along the Isar River to offer gorgeous walks year round. Take a trip to the 1972 Olympic park with the BMW museum right next door. Visit the Englischer Garten and have a pint of beer from the Chinesischer Turm.
There are also great galleries like Haus der Kunst, for fans of modern art, as well as the fascinating Deutsches Museum, one of the largest science museums in the world. The cosmopolitan city is home to every cuisine imaginable, from street food markets to fine dining restaurants and Bavarian beer halls. Head to one of the traditionally decked out cellar restaurants like the Ratskeller on central Marienplatz, for hearty local cuisine and follow the scent of hops to find the world-famous Hofbräuhaus for a huge pint of lager and to be entertained by the local oom-pah bands.
Where to stay: Bayerischer Hof
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Capital of the autonomous community region of Catalonia and Spain’s second city, Barcelona is incomparable. Partly due to early-20th-century artists and architects like Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner whose unforgettable buildings form part of its defined character. Barcelona’s layout makes for easy access to all the top sites, with the Gothic quarter opening onto manicured gardens, and synonymous architecture making way to the beach-side promenade. The La Sagrada Família, a Catholic basilica and that Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí dedicated into the Holy Family, has been under construction for over 100 years. Another Modernist marvel designed by Gaudí, the Casa Batlló is a former townhouse constructed for the Batlló family in the 19th century. Its unusual curves and seemingly reptilian-like facade have earned it the nickname of the House of the Dragon.
The best and most iconic walking street in Barcelona, La Rambla, runs from the Plaça de Catalunya to the seafront. Museu Picasso and Fundación Joan Miró feature modern art by their namesakes. Ciutadella Park is Barcelona’s green lung and the city’s gathering point since its creation in 1877. For the best views of Barcelona, there’s the cable car up to Montjuïc. The food scene extends beyond the24 Michelin starred restaurants to hole-in-the-wall fish joints and no-frills tapas bars. Try botifarras, the locally made sausage snack, rustic bread rubbed with olive oil and tomato pulp, cheese, and cold cuts.
Where to stay: The Arts Barcelona
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Spain's central capital, Madrid is a city of elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks. It holds fine European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters, as well as Reina Sofía and Thyssen. The smaller Sorolla Museum and charming cultural centres such as the Matadero and Conde Duque, are continuously offering innovative exhibitions, concerts and tours. Walking around Madrid will bring you to the Royal Palace, the Plaza Mayor with 400 years of history, vibrant Puerta del Sol, and the famed Gran Vía full of shops – or the four tallest towers in Spain. In the heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby the baroque Royal Palace and Armory, displaying historic weaponry.
The city invites relaxing in the enormous green spaces such as the Retiro Park and other lesser-known yet equally charming parks like El Capricho. For retail therapy, find luxury stores on the Golden Mile, vintage establishments in Fuencarral, designer markets such as the Mercado de Motores, and craft workshops and bookshops over 100 years old. At dusk, seek out the city’s viewpoints and rooftop bars from which to take in the sunset with an obligatory Sangria. The nightlife in Madrid is legendary with live music that will have you dancing till sunrise.
Where to stay: The Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid
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