Fun weekend break in Europe
Weekends are sacred. It’s the only time that you can forget about work for a while and simply think about enjoying yourselves. And one way of doing that is planning a quick getaway to nearby cities. Whether you are on a mission to shop until your pockets are empty, embark on a cultural immersion, or drink a glass of wine or two at a nice restaurant, Europe will never disappoint. We’ve listed down five of our favorite weekend destinations this fall:
One of Europe’s most romantic cities, Venice’s uniqueness lies in its narrow alleys and canals, singing gondoliers, and centuries-old buildings.
Autumn is the most ideal time to visit Venice especially in the months of September and October. That’s when the hot Italian summer gives way to cool breeze and longer days, the sun setting much later. Enjoy the time spent here with a glass of fine local wine at one of the al fresco restaurants located along the canals. Coming here at this time of the year also means bumping into less tourists, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful views and museums without having to wait in line.
Venice is a very expensive city. If you are on a tight budget, skip the gondola rides. You can still enjoy the Italian city’s famous canals by simply walking around. When dining out, choose a restaurant that does not have loud gawkers outside their doors. You might want to forget shopping for a while. But if you do have money to spare, do indulge yourself with a leather product or two as Italy is well-known for that.
Book your hotel outside the city proper because they tend to be more affordable. You might have to forego rooms with a view for the meantime. But if you can afford it, book a room with a terrace overlooking the Grand Canal.
Venetians take the vaporetto (water buses) to get around the city for good reason. It is an inexpensive way to get around Venice. Follow their lead and enjoy a sightseeing of old buildings lining the Grand Canal without spending too much. Take the vaporetto to visit islets like Murano, famous for its glass-making industry and Lido Island, the summer haven of locales.
If you go during the tail-end of winter, usually on the last week of February or first week of March, you might find yourself right smack in the middle of the grand Venetian carnival. So make sure to pack your masks, capes, hats and what have you.
Brussels is easily reachable by car or train from France, The Netherlands, Germany or Luxembourg. It is also a short plane ride away from other European countries. With two international airports serving this city, plane tickets are very affordable especially if you book well in advance.
The capital of the European Union is home to unique architecture as well as a vibrant cultural scene.
Like the rest of Northern Europe, Brussels can be a bit chilly during autumn so bring your trench coat and a pair of good walking boots to blend in with the fashionable Belgian crowd. Although, you will probably be spending a lot of time indoors checking out museums and palaces.
Start your day early by hunting for some antique treasures at the popular Sablon Antiques Market at the Palace du Grand Sablon. Sellers from all over Belgium and sometimes from neighbouring countries come here to sell family heirlooms like Chinaware, all sorts of jewelry, silverware, pre-loved mink and fur coats and other designer bags and shoes.
For art enthusiasts, head over to Royal Museums of Fine Arts. Meanwhile, those who are interested in the European Union political landscape can go to the Parlamentarium (The European Parliament’s Visitor’s Center).
No one leaves Brussels without visiting its famous Atomium, an iconic building originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, located outside the city proper. Near the Atomium is a big park where you can relax after a long day’s sightseeing. To reach Atomium, take the metro via Heizel station.
Geneva is another very expensive city. But if you want to sample some of the world’s best chocolates, check out luxury watches, and experience one of Europe’s great shopping hubs, this is the place to be.
There are lots of things to do in the city that are for free. It only involves a lot of walking as well as dropping by Lac Leman, the lake that stretches from Geneva to its neighbouring country France. The boardwalk along the lake is a good place for running or walking in the morning or even at noon.
At the Jardin Anglais (English Garden), located at the back of the Flower Clock, you can have your lunch while enjoying the view of one of the largest fountains in Europe, Jet d’Eau. This after window shopping along Rue du Rhone and Marche, Geneva’s famous shopping streets.
Through a short bus ride, you can go to another park, Conservatoire and the Botanical Gardens. Here, you indulge in a leisurely, quiet afternoon with only the birds singing and the flowers blooming as company. You can even take a nap in the middle of a rather busy city.
At Lac Leman, you can book a boat ride around the lake.
Watch enthusiasts can learn more about the long history of watch making in Switzerland by visiting the Patek Philippe Museum on Rue de Vieux-Grenadiers. The three-story complex chronicles the turbulent beginnings of the early watchmakers, the Huguenots, who escaped persecution in France and ended up in Calvinist, Switzerland.
To save money, you may want to skip wining and dining at expensive restaurants. Instead, look for affordable Asian restaurants like Kwai restaurant located along Place de Cornavin.
Among the cities in this list, Budapest is my favorite. It rivals France and Italy when it comes to beautiful architecture. It also competes with Germany when it comes to fantastic river views and thermal baths. You can experience all these without having to break the bank.
You can choose from a variety of activities: Go on tours of old castles, museums and historical buildings; take a river cruise along the Danube, shop at the Central Market, walk along the Chain Bridge or have a picnic on Margaret Island.
But for a truly Budapest experience, don’t miss experiencing the city’s famous thermal baths which you can opt to do indoors or outdoors. It is one of the favorite pastimes of the locals especially during winter.
Join a pub crawl, an activity that takes tourists to different bars located in abandoned buildings. Just make sure you won’t drink too much palinka or the local equivalent of vodka.
Not many tourists know of Budapest’s "underground" attractions. This is for those who want to know more about the history of the city. Tourists are led to cellars, underground caves, museums, and hospitals, among others.
Prague, Czech Republic
Visiting Prague during autumn lets you have that feeling that you’ve just entered the land of fairytales. I remember standing at the Charles Bridge on a misty afternoon and seeing Prague’s gothic cathedral looming in the distance. The sight was enchanting and eerie at the same time.
To experience local flavor, try Prague’s world-famous pilsner and kozel beers paired with some utopence (pickled sausage) or knedliky (dumplings). They won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Watch a ballet or an opera at the grandiose State Opera House. But book in advance. Come in your best cocktail attire to blend in with the locales.
If you are not into cultural shows, maybe a puppet show at the National Marionette Theatre will interest you. Prague is the unofficial capital of puppetry in Europe and the puppet masters here offer one of the funniest versions of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The ticket can be a bit expensive though. For souvenirs, head to the Old Town where you can find shops selling typical Czech puppets.