Top 5 affordable boutique weekend city breaks in Europe

With summer now behind us and the Christmas break still a long way off, it’s time to plan a little autumn getaway. Here are our top 5 destinations for a city break – what to do, how to get there and where to sleep. Sorted.


1. Lisbon

Autumn is a great time to visit Lisbon, when the city is bathed in a lovely golden light and you’ll likely still be wearing short sleeves. Meander up the hills of this beautiful, if rather shambolic, medieval city – hopping on one of the infamous trams when your legs grow weary. Trawl for hidden gems at the city’s huge flea market Feira da Ladra. Day trip out to see the Sintra National Palace. Delight in incredible food and wine at some of the city’s fantastic restaurants (Cervejaria Ramiro and Solar dos Presuntos are our favourites). If you’re after a party, you won’t be disappointed – the bars in the Bairro Alto neighbourhood are vibrant and welcoming, with merrymakers spilling out into the pretty cobbled streets, glasses in hand. For something a little edgier, head to the Intendente neighbourhood or to the west of the city where an outpost of Shoreditch’s popular Village Underground has just opened. The city’s super clubs Music Box and Lux Frágil will see you through til dawn. There’s a laid-back yet pulsing energy to this city that you’ll find hard to resist.

Where to stay in Lisbon

1908 Lisboa – A beautifully designed boutique hotel in the achingly hip Intendente neighbourhood.

See our full collection of Lisbon hotels here


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2. Budapest

Hungary’s capital is a great destination for a weekend getaway – offering up all you look for in a city break and more. The architecture is perfect visual fodder for aimless wandering with it’s extraordinary blend of styles and, should the weather turn, there are plenty of wonderful galleries to lose yourself in – from the grand Hungarian National Gallery to plenty of smaller, contemporary options like Kisterem. There are great restaurants serving both traditional and more modern takes on Hungarian cuisine (we particularly like Bock Bisztró) and you can enjoy some surprisingly good local wine at one of the city’s popular wine bars. For something grungier, head to one of Budapest’s infamous ruin pubs – set up in the city’s abandoned buildings with furniture gathered from the street, these bars are not to be missed – we love Szimpla Kert for it’s unbeatable atmosphere. If you’re after a momento of your weekend away, there are some lovely boutiques to explore – the concept store Printa offers up some great design pieces (and a jolly good cup of coffee) or head to Ecseri Piac, a great fleamarket on the outskirts of the city for some bargain hunting. Perhaps our favourite treat of the city, however, are the thermal baths. From a restorative dip in the (supposedly) healing waters, to a wild night at one of the city’s ‘Sparties’ – these historic pools are really something special.

Where to stay in Budapest

Brody House – A luxe and stylish guesthouse with charming and creative quirks

See our full collection of Budapest hotels here



3. Seville

The Andalucían capital, Seville, is a lovely destination for an autumn city break. With temperatures still in the high teens, early twenties, it’s the perfect time to just wander around – enjoying the city’s spectacular architecture and exploring it’s winding, cobbled streets. Window shop in Plaza de Santa Cruz, take in the spectacular Cathedral Santa María de la Sede and then treasure hunt to your heart’s content at El Postigo arts and crafts market. The Alcázar is of course well worth a visit too, though you might want to book as it’s popularity has grown enormously since it’s star turn in Game of Thrones. Seville is the home of flamenco but bullfighting and tapas also feature pretty high on the agenda. For an evening of great food and a real buzz, head to the tapas stalls outside the back of the fish market in Calle Feria – as the fishmongers close for business, the market takes on a different vibe, with people spilling out into the street to enjoy a tapa and drink against the lovely backdrop of the Algaba Palace. You are spoilt for choice for things to do, see and eat in this wonderful city.

Where to stay in Seville

Casa de Colón– An chic and elegant boutique hotel near the city’s lovely Santa Cruz neighbourhood

See our full collection of Seville hotels here



4. Berlin

Berlin is a hugely popular city break destination and for good reason. From the cultural must-sees like the Reichstag Building to the Jewish Museum and the Berlin Wall to great restaurants, amazing clubs and endless hipster hotspots – you’ll be booking a return visit whilst waiting to board your flight back. The art scene in Berlin is worth a weekend visit alone – from the world-class galleries of the Kulturforum to the Mies van der Rohe designed Neue Nationalgalerie and the smaller, equally exciting, venues like Sammlung Boros gallery that’s set in a converted World War II bunker. Not forgetting, of course, the East Side Gallery – the world’s largest open-air mural collection (detail pictured). You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out in Berlin. We love Das Lokal for it’s low-key, local vibe; for michelin-starred delights, head to Hugo’s where you’ll enjoy haute cuisine with a killer view or, at the other end of the spectrum, Curry 36 for the best currywurst in town. Berlin’s nightlife is notoriously good and there is forever a new place to try but, if in doubt, head to Neukölln and bar-hop your way down Weserstraße, rolling on to Berghain in the wee hours (if you’re going big and can blag it). To cure your hangover, and see the city from a different angle, we’d highly recommend exploring the sights by bike – there are plenty of places to hire from and good bike lanes throughout the city. Oh, and make sure you pop into a Photoautomaten booth to get the obligatory black and white passport snaps. When in Berlin, eh?

Where to stay in Berlin

Hotel Zoo Berlin – A great value, central and fun hotel with buzzing rooftop terrace

See our full collection of Berlin hotels here


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5. Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities – a melting pot of East and West separated by the mighty Bosphorus – and the perfect destination for a weekend away. The weather in autumn can be mixed but, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up with glorious sunny days and far fewer crowds. For some traditional sightseeing, you can’t beat Istanbul’s offering – the Topkapı PalaceBlue Mosque, and the Basilica Cistern are all extraordinary. A lovely way to take in the city’s landscape is by boat – there are plenty of trips around but nothing more luxurious than a boat to yourselves and, if there’s a group of you, it shouldn’t even work out too expensive. Brace yourself for the Grand Bazaar which is huge and busy but well worth a visit, if only to pick up a little trinket to take home. If you’re looking to relax, you can’t beat a visit to one of the city’s legendary Hamams – Ayasofya Sultan Hamamı is probably the most spectacular or try Çemberlitaş Hamamı for something more traditional. Istanbul is increasingly becoming a real foodie destination with many of the world’s best chefs opening new restaurants in the city and local restaurateurs offering up exciting, modern twists on the traditional cuisine. Our top pick for dinner would be Beyti or if you’re after something a bit more high-end try Mikla which offers incredible views out over the city.

Where to stay in Istanbul

SuB Hotel Karaköy – Cool and comfy boutique hotel in an up and coming part of town

See our full collection of Istanbul hotels here

Roxane has a passion for budget boutique travel. From cheap and chic city boltholes or owner-run rural retreats in Europe to faded palaces in India and simple beachfront cabañas in Mexico - she believes that style doesn't always have to come at a price (and restaurants with plastic chairs, packed full of locals are invariably the best ones).