Europe’s most laidback capitals

Tuesday, 27 September 2011 9:55 AM

City breaks can bring fun, excitement and adventure and make a long weekend feel like a week long, however sometimes they’re hectic, crowded and stressful and we feel like we need another one as soon as we’ve come back! So, we’ve scoured the cities of Europe to find you the continent’s most laidback capitals so you can relax, unwind and come back from your city break feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

The pint-sized Maltese capital of Valletta is charming and quaint. While the island of Malta may get busy during the summer and is synonymous with party holidays, Valletta still retains its laidback attitude with most of the nightclubs and beaches being located elsewhere on the island.

It’s a beautiful city of domed churches and delightful architecture, surrounded by rocky cliffs and glittering waves. History is packed into every square inch of this capital city and what could be more calming and laidback than ambling around the city’s museums stopping for coffee and Italian delights at the city’s huge number of pretty cafes.

While maybe not the first choice on everybody’s list for a city break, Belgium’s capital makes for an intriguing city break. It’s been labelled everything from odd to elegant, lacklustre, to boasting a melting pot of cultures.

But none of this really matters when you’re after a peaceful city break. Brussels has a casual atmosphere where locals love nothing more than whiling the day away in one of its many street side cafes. So, sit back, relax and appreciate this city’s love of fine food, by sampling from its chocolate shops, excellent restaurants and fine wines.

With its beautiful archipelago littered with tiny islands and small sail boats bobbing in and out of them how could anyone not feel relaxed in Sweden’s charming capital? There are plenty of opportunities to get away from it all in this city. Just look out across it’s skyline of butter and burnt orange buildings with the sparkling sea and string of rocky islands beyond and you’ll instantly feel relaxed.

Stroll around the labyrinth of cobble stone streets in the old town of Gamla Stan perusing the shops and boutiques and stop for dishes of ice cream. When you mix this beauty with the friendliness and helpfulness of its residents you’ll see that Stockholm truly is a relaxed capital.

Austria’s capital gives off an air of relaxed elegance with its graceful architecture and wide boulevards. Almost half of the space occupied by the city of Vienna is given over to parkland and with so much green space; one can’t help but slow down and chill out. It’s the perfect city for picnics, cycling or strolling down the refined river Danube. The city even has its forest on the city limits where you will feel like you’re not even in a city at all.

The Viennese also know how to entertain themselves in a relaxed and poised way too, with beautiful art and summer nights filled with locals nibbling on canapés and sipping fine wines in elegant courtyards. And what could be more tranquil than a trip to the opera or a concert to listen to the sweet sounds of Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven or Schubert.

Lithuania’s quirky capital is sure to calm the senses with its UNESCO World Heritage charm and city dotted with narrow streets and beautiful parks. And since the city is not that well known with tourists yet, you’ll find it quiet and not at all crowded.

The city is full of Renaissance and Baroque architecture and old hidden courtyards where you can relax with a drink or explore art galleries and artists’ studios.

So, why not think about one of these laidback capitals for your next city break? Places where you can chill out and relax rather than rush around a hectic, crowded, tourist strewn city in a mad weekend dash.


One of Berlin's Christmas markets

Europe’s top ten Christmas markets

The Christmas season is officially upon us and it’s time to get into the Christmas spirit. What better way to get into that festive feeling, than organising a short break to one of Europe’s best Christmas markets? Here’s a list of our top ten favourites to get you started.

Unusual hotels abound in Europe

Feature: Europe’s most unusual hotels

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sleep in an igloo? Or how about a 1970s jumbo jet? All this and more is now very possible due to a growing number of unusual hotels opening up all over the world. From treehouses to caves...

Tallinn in the snow

Cities that look better in the snow

While London may ground to a halt when the white stuff begins to fall and end up with piles of brown slush on the sides of the road, there are some cities that just look better in the snow, covered with a dusting of sparkling white. From the romantic spires of Tallinn, to chocolate-box Salzburg backed by the snowy white Alps - here are our favourites.

Stockholm in winter

Best winter city breaks

Some cities just do winter better than others. They know how to wrap up warm, have fun in the cold and make the most of the snow. They’re prepared; don’t come to a standstill with the smallest scattering of snowflakes and know how to do winter in style. Here is our pick of the best winter city breaks.

The world's happiest nations

The world's happiest nations

If you want to have a happy life, then go to the Nordic countries and stay away from Central African ones, according to the new World Happiness Report released by Columbia University’s Earth Institute on Monday.

Half term city breaks

Best city breaks for February half term 2013

Now that Christmas and New Year are well and truly over, our minds are set on the next chance for a getaway – the February half term. With just under three weeks to go, it’s time to start planning, so just where are the best city break destinations to take the family in February?

New Abba Museum opens in Stockholm , Sweden

New Abba Museum opens in Stockholm

Abba fans can finally relax as a new permanent Abba exhibition is to open today in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, celebrating the works and lives of the legendary Swedish pop group.

Valletta, Malta

Valletta in Malta named European Capital of Culture 2018

Previous winners include Athens, Paris, Liverpool, Glasgow, Florence, Prague and Madrid, making Valletta the smallest capital ever to enjoy this accolade.

Coffee with a local in Amsterdam


This week is in Amsterdam drinking strong black coffee with local Machteld Ligtvoet, who gives us tips on some of his favourite local haunts – including where you can go to find one of the best views of the city.

Top five alternative Christmas markets

Alternative Christmas markets

Forget the likes of Germany and Eastern European favourites, Budapest, Krakow and Prague this year and why not head to some alternative Christmas market destinations for something a little different this festive season?