There are so many fantastic destinations in Europe that getting away to recharge your batteries has never been easier. We’ve rounded up 12 of the most luxurious city breaks in Europe, with our friends at Scenic, to help you choose the best options. Scenic, the luxury cruises and tours specialist, know a thing or too about luxury. From gourmet dining to their unique “space-ships”, every detail is taken care of – there’s even a personal butler to unpack your luggage! With so many cities in Europe, we’ve focused on those that are easily accessible from international airports, offering a range of attractions, fine dining and a luxurious element.
Luxurious City Breaks in Europe – Budapest
This city is one that you’ll want to return to time and time again. From trendy “ruin pubs” to stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it really has it all. For a luxurious weekend, take a stroll around the Castle district of Buda but consider staying in Pest for the vibrant nightlife. Budapest has more thermal springs than any other capital city, and some historical spas like the Gellert and the Széchenyi where you will see people playing chess in the water. However some of these can be a little tired around the edges. One that combines history with a stylish decor is the UNESCO World Heritage listed Racz Spa, built on the site of a medieval healing spring by the Omorovicza family.
This pearl of the Renaissance oozes Italian flair, with famous museums such as the Uffizi and hidden gems such as the Vasari Corridor. The passage connecting Palazzo Pitti with Palazzo Vecchio is not normally open to the general public but can be visited by booking a private tour. For one of the best views over the city, walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo via the Folon Rose Garden, with its artistic sculptures by Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon.
Many Germans consider Hamburg to be their favourite city and it’s easy to see why. With the 160 hectare Alster lake right in the centre, it has a huge range of activities for all the family to enjoy. The locals flock to the upmarket suburb of Blankenese and its beach when the weather warms up. The nearby Hotel Louis C. Jacob is a haven of calm, with a 2 Michelin starred restaurant overlooking the Elbe river. For a luxurious evening out, head to the world famous Opera House for a night of ballet or music.
One of Switzerland’s most charming cities, Lucerne is incredibly picturesque. Its compact size makes it an ideal place for a city break and you can explore most of it on foot. Stay at trendy Chateau Gütsch for the unparalleled views over Lake Lucerne, then venture into town via the hotel’s funicular. Many visitors don’t realize that Lucerne actually has two wooden bridges, the famous Kapellbrücke and the equally attractive Spreuerbrücke. Kids will love Verkehrshaus, the Swiss Museum of Transport, Switzerland’s most popular museum. The Gletschergarten or Glacier Garden is also fun for its mirror maze.
You may be surprised to know that Monaco is a city, given its diminutive size. However, it certainly punches above its weight, with some fabulous attractions like the world-famous aquarium. Enjoy the freshest seafood at Les Perles de Montecarlo, run by two marine biologists whose lab you’ll see indoors. Of course, no trip to Monaco would be complete without visiting the casino!
The city of love needs no introduction. Famed the world over for its incredible architecture, fine dining and luxury shopping, it’s one of the most in demand city breaks in Europe. Easily reached by plane or the Eurostar, it’s a quick trip into the centre and then you’re spoilt for choice…From the luxury boutiques of Place Vendome to the gardens of Les Tuileries and the macarons at Ladurée on nearby Rue de Castiglione, there’s a lot to cram in. Take time to explore some of the hidden gems too, such as the Passages, picturesque covered arcades.
The Czech Republic capital is best explored on foot, particularly the historic centre, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Don’t miss the Astronomical Clock, which is 606 years old. If you have older children with you and are feeling brave, it can be fun to explore the centre via Segway. The Charles Bridge is a must-see for its baroque statues, and continuing the baroque theme, there are many classical music concerts in former palaces to enjoy.
This may seem like a surprising choice as one of the top city breaks in Europe, given that infrastructure here is still relatively basic. However, there are several new luxury apartments like Black Pearl, a practical choice if travelling with a family. These days, luxury is all about the experiences anyway and there are many interesting attractions to see during your city break. For a delicious lunch in stylish surroundings, Grillmarkaðurinn, meaning Grillmarket, is hard to beat. This Sun Voyager statue may look a lot like a Viking ship but apparently it isn’t!
If you have limited time and want to avoid the crowds, the best way to see Rome’s main attractions is by enjoying a private tour that allows you to skip the queues. Whether for St Peter’s and the Vatican or the Colosseum, it’s a huge time saver, and in the case of the latter you’ll get to walk where the gladiators once did. Rome is just as interesting for its hidden gems, however – like the Orange Garden or the Villa Medici which both have fantastic views over the eternal city.
The capital of Andalusia in Spain is one of our favourite city breaks in Europe, with Moorish architecture and permanently good weather. You shouldn’t miss the Real Alcázar, Seville’s Royal Palace, or the Cathedral which are both UNESCO World Heritage sites. For a breath of fresh air, have a wander around Maria Luisa Park and Plaza de España, the site of Expo 29. If you’re looking for a luxury hotel with lots of character, Las Casas de la Judeira is a good choice. It’s actually 27 townhouses, connected by peaceful courtyards. For dinner, Taberna del Alabardero is located in a 19th century palace and easy to reach from the centre.
This noble city is awash with palaces, a reminder of its aristocratic past. The Winter Palace, formerly the residence of the Russian monarchs, is one of the most famous. If you have time, make sure to also visit both The Alexander Palace and Catherine Palace, a 30 minute train ride from the centre. Just remember to wrap up warm if travelling in Wintertime, when temperatures can reach minus 6 degrees.
The capital of Austria is utterly charming, and famous for its artistic legacy. Beethoven, Mozart and Gustav Klimt all called this place home. The Spanish Riding School is a Viennese icon – housed in a beautiful building, it’s another UNESCO World Heritage site and the only institution worldwide to have practiced for more than 450 years. When you need a break from visiting the city’s Imperial palaces, refuel with a delicious chocolate Sachertorte at Café Sacher.
So there you have it, our favourite luxurious city breaks in Europe.
Have you been to any of these and which cities would you add to the list?