weekend getaways in europe

Explore the charms of Toledo, Spain. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Broaden Your Bucket List: 5 Must-Do Weekend Getaways from Major European Cities

With its rich history and culture, Europe is one of the top vacation destinations in the world. The major cities are, of course, the hot spots for tourists, but using a big city as a home base means you have easy access to many incredible weekend trips.

Here are a few of the best options from five of the major European cities.

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Toledo, Spain

A short drive from Madrid, Toledo is known as the “City of the Three Cultures” thanks to the Christian, Muslim and Jewish influences throughout its history. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, there is a long list of sites to see here, including churches, synagogues, mosques and museums.

Santa María la Blanca is the oldest synagogue building in Europe (though now owned by the Roman Catholic Church) and Puerta Bab al-Mardum is the oldest gate in the city, dating back to the 10th century. It’s a long walk up to the Mirador del Valle, but you’ll be rewarded with expansive views of the entire city once you get there.

Fontainebleau, France

The quaint town of Fontainebleau has been a popular getaway for Paris’ elite for centuries. The big attraction here is the Château de Fontainebleau, which is comparable to Versailles in beauty and stature and is the only royal château to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries.

weekend getaways in europe
Travel to Fountainbleu, France and visit its lovely chateau. (Photo: Getty Images)

The castle has more than 1,500 rooms and is set on 130 acres of parks and gardens. Nature lovers should explore the surrounding forest, where there are miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding, as well as plenty of boulders drawing climbers from around the world.

In town, check out the old-fashioned carousel in the main square and the street market on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings. Try a pint of the local beer at Brasserie Pachamama or a bite of cheese at Fromagerie Barthélémy. Travelers with a sweet tooth should stop by the patisserie at Frédéric Cassel.

Yorkshire Dales, England

If your idea of a weekend getaway involves spending time outside exploring trails, waterfalls, picturesque villages and maybe even caves, you’ll love Yorkshire Dales.

weekend getaways in europe
The eye-catching Ribblehead Viaduct. (Photo: Getty Images)

Most of this area is a national park, but it’s also home to Skipton Castle, one of the best-preserved medieval castles in the entire country. Ruins dot the countryside, and the Ribblehead Viaduct is an impressive example of Victorian engineering that’s worth a photo op.

Spreewald, Germany

Called “the Green Venice,” Spreewald is a beautiful region south of Berlin that has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Explore the more than 200 small canals by boat or visit one of the 11 villages in the area.

weekend getaways in europe
Paddle on the Spreewald. (Photo: Getty Images)

Each town has a unique history and offers something special, whether it’s the salt spring in Burg, the medieval castle in Lübben or traditional festivals in Straupitz. There are also trails running through the beautiful forest.

Verona, Italy

You may recognize the name from the classic Shakespeare tale, “Romeo and Juliet,” but that’s not all this city beyond Rome is famous for. Due to its many historical buildings, Verona has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the ancient Arena di Verona is a must-see.

Similar to the Colosseum in Rome, the amphitheater in Verona is wonderfully preserved and still has its original seating and arches. Built in A.D. 30, large-scale opera performances are still held here today from June through September.

Shakespeare aficionados will love Casa di Giulietta, a museum dedicated to telling the tale of the real-life Romeo and Juliet who lived here in the 1300s. (Don’t miss Juliet’s balcony!) The shopping in Old Town on Via Mazzini is second-to-none, and if you want an authentic meal, order a dish with risotto or bigoli.