My Top 10 of Everything: Great 2-Centre minibreaks in Europe

2 for the price of 1 – well – not quite -but you know what I mean. Even 1 extra night on to a mini break can allow for a split destination. Not, of course, at the cost of madly tearing around, trying to fit double the sights in to a crammed itinerary but if you get a good offer on a destination you’ve already visited, its nice to add a new dimension to the trip ….

and especially when we get travelling again – you’ve rested long enough!!!!

So – what have I picked….. I’ve gone mostly for one major destination with an add on – anything from 40 minutes to 3 hours transfer time…. obviously, the closer together the better and with a direct link back to the original airport where possible…

1.Fly to Bilbao….

and even if you hate museums, you must visit the Guggenheim before exploring the Old Town and those wonderful Pintxos bars….

….and then head to

San Sebastian

for the famous La Concha beach and more amazing food!

Ah those pintxos!

Logistics….

There are regular buses from Bilbao to San Sebastian, taking about 90 minutes. There is also a train service but its slower. Coming back, there’s a direct bus service from San Sebastian to Bilbao Airport (80 minutes).

With a morning flight, you could visit the Guggenheim in the afternoon and enjoy the Old Town that evening and the following morning. Head to San Sebastian for the rest of your trip.

If you’ve an evening flight, then allow 2 nights in Bilbao…..

2.Fly to Brussels….

and join a walking tour around the Grand-Place and city centre before tucking in to frites, waffles, chocolate, beer….

….and then on to

Bruges

for those cobbled streets, endless canals, medieval squares and of course more frites, waffles, chocolate and beer!

Logistics…

The train between the cities takes about an hour. There is also a train service back to the airport from Bruges (allow about 2 hours).

You’d need 4 nights minimum for both cities. You could probably do it in 3, depending on flight times, but you really want time to just wander – especially in Bruges….

3. Fly to Bergamo….

and take the funicular up to the Old Town where you can stroll through the beautiful plaza, explore medieval buildings and enjoy the views……

…..and go on to

Milan

for the astonishing Duomo, the more astonishing Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and the even more astonishing aperitivos!

Logistics…

This is an easy one….you can take the train from Bergamo to Milan but we just went back to the airport (15-20 mins) and bought a return bus ticket from there to Milan. The journey takes about an hour.

We’ve flown in to Bergamo a few times and have stayed for 2 nights before moving on but that’s because our flight arrives late evening.

4. Fly to Vienna….

for those beautiful palaces, coffee houses and Klimt’s The Kiss

….and go on to

Bratislava

for more palaces, a wander through the old town and a gaze over the Danube.

Or…..

Graz

This is one I’m going to do some time – We saw a lot of posters for Graz when in Vienna – It looks like a lovely place for a night or two.

Logistics…

We did this mini break at New Year. Vienna is brilliant on New Year’s Eve. We’d 5 nights – 3 in Vienna and 2 in Bratislava but flights times were good – early morning to Vienna and home at night.

The train journey between cities is 1 hr 7 mins. Of course the trip could be done in reverse, if you find cheaper direct flights into Bratislava.

Vienna > Graz – 2 hr 40 min

5. Fly to Malaga….

where you can switch between the old town and the trendy promenade, celebrate the city’s most famous son – Picasso, and tuck into that great food!

….and continue on to

Granada

for the city’s masterpiece – the Alhambra – and for a great tapas scene

Or…..

Seville

to enjoy the beautiful architecture and monuments and experience a performance in this birthplace of Flamenco

Logistics…

I only discovered Malaga a few months before Covid. Its a beautiful city and makes for a great mini break on its own. One drawback is that, as a hub for holiday makers, it’s harder to get bargain flights.

The bus from Malaga to Grenada takes about 2.30 hrs. Malaga- Seville is slightly shorter at 2.15 hrs.

6. Fly to London….

for all those museums, shows, markets and shops

….before heading to

Oxford

where you can visit the colleges, wander the streets and the Covered Market and go punting on the Thames

Logistics…

Oxford is just about an hour from London by train. It’s a popular day trip from the capital, I know, but it’s a lovely place to experience for even one night.

7. Fly to Dublin….

Visit the Book of Kells and explore the Georgian Streets before sampling the best Guinness in the world – this is – after all- the home of the Black Stuff

and then head north to

Belfast

where you can visit Titanic and take a black taxi tour for amazing insight into the city’s historical conflict.

Logistics…

The Dublin – Belfast train takes about 2hrs 15mins. – The Aircoach from Belfast to Dublin Airport takes about 1 hr, 45 mins. One night would be enough in Belfast – if you arrive in to Dublin on a morning flight, you could head straight to Belfast, do Titanic in the afternoon, take a taxi tour the following morning and have a good walk around before getting an evening train back to Dublin. for the rest of your stay

Note – Belfast uses sterling while Dublin is part of the EU. Northern Ireland issues its own bank notes – avoid being stuck with leftovers since they are not accepted in the rest of Britain and can be difficult to change at banks back home.

8. Fly to Amsterdam….

where you can explore the city by canal cruise and bike, enjoy some fabulous museums and tuck in to an Indonesian Rijsttafel (Rice Table)

….and move on to

Gouda

where you’ll discover more than cheese (although you have to visit the cheese market(Thursday mornings). There are more canals to enjoy, a wealth of historical buildings to gape at and lovely alleyways to explore. And don’t forget to sample a stroopwafel (syrup waffle)!

Logistics…

The Amstedam – Gouda train takes about 55 mins.

9. Fly to Lisbon….

and climb to Castelo de Sao Jorge for great views over the city. Munch on a Pastel Nata and ride the number 28 tram though the narrow streets before heading to Bairro Alto for the bars, restaurants and Fado.

…and then head for

Cascais

for a day or two on the beach. Enjoy the marina at sunset and dinner in the alleys in the old town

Logistics…

The train takes just 40 minutes.

It typically takes about 90 minutes to get from Cascais to the airport – train back to the city and the Aerobus from there to the airport.

10.Fly to Hamburg ….

and explore the neighbourhoods and nightlife. You’re in for a busy time, trying to fit in over 50 museums, 45 theatres, and around 100 music venues and clubs.

….and go on to

Bremen

for its lovely old squares, Becks beer and its famous musicians!!

Or…..

Lubeck

Here you can refresh your school history about the Hanseatic League and enjoy some great marzipan!

Logistics…

Hamburg is a great spot for your Christmas Markets. The train takes 70 mins to Bremen and just 45 mins to Lubeck.

Small Stuff

Remember that a place even just an hour away is really going to take a half day transfer, allowing for transport and relocating to accommodation….

A multi city trip involves a bit more planning. You’ll need a more detailed itinerary and there will be less time for spontaneity.

The best way to get to know any city is to join a walking or cycling tour, preferably on the day of arrival.

Prebook the major attractions if you can – the Last Supper(Milan), Titanic (Belfast) Book of Kells (Dublin), Alhambra (Granada)

Check up on specific events – can you get to Gouda for the Cheese Market on Thursday mornings? / are museums closed on Mondays or Tuesdays? – and try fit your schedule accordingly.

Some of the above combinations can be done in reverse when both cities are served by airports – check all options before you book anything. But – remember that cheapest mightn’t be best, time wise.

42 thoughts on “My Top 10 of Everything: Great 2-Centre minibreaks in Europe

    1. Me too…especially if I’ve been there before …..love to add something new on….. Hope plans are going well Lissy…. count down time!

  1. Something for us for the future ..great ideas. Instead of staying all the time in a touristy city it’s good to explore a town not too far away

      1. Yes me too..when we went to Seville for three nights we took a train to Jerez and had a lovely tour with a local taxi driver who couldn’t speak English

  2. What a good idea for a post – apart from anything else, it’s a chance to recall those excursions which we might have forgotten. One comment on your first one – how unbelievably wonderful are the pintxo bars in Bilbao…the experience of drinking and nibbling your way round the old centre is fabulous in its own right, just walking into the bars and seeing the displays is terrific. I loved it! (though I have to play it down a bit because I was on a blokey football trip and Michaela wasn’t with me!)

    1. A great spot for a blokey outing Phil!!! We were in San Sebastian for a family birthday gathering … similar thing but maybe less rowdy!!!… brilliant craic. I loved those bars!! And it was early September so the summer crowds had disappeared. I’d go back just for the Pintxos..

  3. Great idea for a post and excellent suggestions, some of which I’ve done (Lisbon and Cascais, for instance).

    A few further thoughts – if you take the Eurostar from London to Brussels you can use the train ticket to travel anywhere in Belgium for free providing you do so within 24 hours of arrival. So you can overnight in Brussels and then branch out – I recommend Ghent as an alternative to Bruges 🙂 We’ve also combined Pisa with the Cinque Terre, and you could very easily do Berlin and Leipzig, although we visited them both separately. And as alternatives to Oxford from London I would suggest Bath or Brighton (not that Oxford isn’t lovely, I’m just offering further options!!)

      1. We were there only once a few years back for a family event – just one night but were pleasantly surprised – will definitely go back some day. There are actually lots of nice places from a London base ….

    1. That’s good to know about the train ticket – although we can get reasonable flights to Brussels or Charleroi from Dublin. I thought of Ghent all right – but if I’d been to neither I’d probably want to see Bruges first… Both Bath and Brighton would be great trips also.. Another is Copenhagen / Malmo. Cinque Terre is on my must see list….

  4. The prospect of planning and booking a multi-destination trip can be quite exciting and that’s why I love exploring Europe where another country very often in is just a short train ride away. You can easily start in London followed by Paris, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic and Austria and visit seven countries in a week or so. Two years ago when we were planning a trip to Nice, I was excited to find out that Monaco is just 30 minutes by train! Your wonderful travel photos makes me want to travel so bad! Aiva 🙂 xxx

    1. Me too!!! I’m just depressing myself!!
      That would be some week’s travel Aiva!!! London and Paris alone in a week would wear me out!!! Did you get to Monaco that time? I love watching TV progs about the place – it’s another world isn’t it…

  5. Brilliant ideas here Marie. I’d add Seville- Cordoba, Madrid-Toledo and Valencia-Cuenca if in Spain and Pisa-Lucca and Garda-Verona in Italy. But to be honest, I wouldn’t go anywhere if I were only there for a couple of days. I think one needs to get to know a city slowly. Two days minimum per city!

    1. You can’t do less than 2 days …. it would be better to stay in one spot with a 3 night break…. Great suggestions there…. I’ve never been to Valencia and don’t know the other place so I’m going to make a note of that. I’ve 3 nights paid up in a Cordoba hotel from last July…. reckon I won’t get there this summer either! I must get on to them and bounce it to 2022… Is it easy to get to Lucca from Pisa? – we’ve been there a few times but always with a car… We used to camp in Lazise on the lake and there was a bus stop right at the gate for Verona….. I did think of Venice- Verona… which is about 90 mins by train I think.. The possibilities are endless once we begin to think of them….

  6. I love this post, and some great ideas. I’ve done the Brussels/Bruges trip and the Hamburg/Luebeck combination but will definitely add more of these to the list! 🙂

    1. We were in Hamburg about 18 months ago but its been YEARS since Lubeck and Bremen so would love to do that again…. There are some great suggestions here in the comments Hannah …. add those to your list as well!!!!

  7. I’ll do them all!! As I read each one I changed my mind from wanting the trip before. Gouda sticks out as a must see for my cheese-loving taste buds:) Great post and I hope I’ll refer to it in the future when we plan to go somewhere:) Maggie

    1. You’ve a lot of catching up to do in Europe Maggie when you get going again…. You’ll have to relocate for about 6 months minimum!!!

  8. Such fantastic ideas! Love combining at least two or more cities when I am travelling somewhere new but only have a couple of weeks or less. Don’t like rushing things too much and these seem like great combos to stay awhile in both to enjoy what they have to offer.

    1. It can work as long as it isn’t two major cities – size wise – combined. Apart from London and Milan, most of those on the list are compact enough in the centre and walkable…. and not too far apart so not a lot of commute time wasted…. XXXMarie

  9. Thanks for this recap haven’t Ben to Lisbon great memories and more to explore. Was wondering if you have been to Vietnam would love to hear your take.

    1. No – but really hope to get there one day…. We were planning a trip for that region in ’09 – we’d about 3 weeks so opted for Laos and Cambodia and left Vietnam for another time – thought we’d be back there before now.. XXXMarei

  10. Great ideas for your fellow travellers Marie. This non-traveller would pretty much agree with Oxford and Belfast as secondary trips, especially by fast train. And, from my vast experience, I’d suggest Kinsale (from Cork) and Guernsey (from Jersey) as easy and very worthwhile day trips.

    1. Cork/ Kinsale is a lovely combo…. and just about a half hour distance.
      I know you can do Guernsey as a day trip – presume boat goes from Saint Helier? Is it worth a night or two stay over? I like the sound of that. Tom has mentioned Jersey a few times so I’d be interested in the combination. I told you before Roy I think that I brought my mum 6/7 years ago and we were washed out of it – I’ll never forget the rain … and I’m Irish! Between looking after my mother and being constantly soaked, I think I’m still traumatised! But I’m sure I’ll get over it some day and try again!!!

Leave a Reply to xlcrgirl Cancel reply