These days, more and more Europeans have moved to another country than ever before. The success of the Erasmus program, the globalization of the job market and political events such as Brexit have encouraged this cross-border movement of young people. Thus, it is very normal for friends to live apart.
After nearly a year and a half of staying home it’s natural that the first thing we want to do once we’re vaccinated or restrictions are lifted is hug our friends. But if your bestie lives abroad, this can make things difficult, even in normal, pre-pandemic times. So why not plan a weekend getaway somewhere in the middle?
We’ve picked some vibrant cities for meetups and get-togethers. Go on, give me a hug!
If you’re based in Northern Europe—Tallinn, Estonia
This medieval gem on the Baltic coast has all the elements for the perfect escapade: it’s easily accessible, cheap (especially if you’re visiting from a Scandinavian country), and has great restaurant options and cultural activities.
The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with cobblestone streets such as Katarïna Käik, where you will find artisanal workshops in rooms dating back to the 15th century. Head to the Toompea Castle, which has been home to the government since the 13th century and currently houses the parliament. As for food options, you will be spoiled for choice: everything from wild boar, elk, herring and sprat sandwiches to Russian, Ukrainian and Central Asian cuisine awaits.
If you’re based in Central Europe—Nuremberg, Germany
Germany has one of the best railway networks in Europe, which easily connects its main cities to neighboring countries such as Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and Belgium. If you’re based in any of these countries, you’re in for a treat.
The picturesque city of Nuremberg was once the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, and all emperors lived in its Imperial Castle until the 16th century. You can still visit the castle and even stay in it, as its old stables have been transformed into a hostel.
Nuremberg is also home to the biggest museum of Germanic culture, the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, which opened in 1852 and features works by Dürer and Rembrandt. Don’t leave without trying the Nuremberg sausages and Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies).
If you’re based in Eastern Europe—Belgrade, Serbia
The “white city” is quite centrally located, so it’s easy to get there from most cities in its nearby countries. Don’t expect a pristine city with flawless classic architecture: much like Berlin, Germany, or Porto, Portugal, Belgrade’s charm resides in its grittiness. Its tumultuous past is reflected everywhere, in the mix of Socialist blocks and Art Nouveau buildings.
You’ll find plenty of things to do inside its ancient citadel, which contains a park, a military museum, a clock tower, a Roman well and an old Turkish bath. The fortress has been destroyed more than 40 times through the centuries, and what you can see today is the result of Austro-Hungarian and Turkish renovations.
Belgrade is known for its hospitable, warm locals, its vibrant nightlife and classic food. After a day of sightseeing, have dinner in one of its many floating restaurants on the Danube. Serbian food includes a lot of minced meat (grilled or in rolls), beans and sausages and cheese pies.
If you’re based in Southern Europe—Marseille, France
A lavish mishmash of French and North African influences, this cosmopolitan city is defined by one of the most dazzling bays in the world, and is blessed with 35 miles of coastline. Apart from the main points of interest, such as the Notre-Dame de la Garde and the Vieux Port (the old harbor), Marseille has the first museum that pays tribute to European and Mediterranean civilizations: the MUCEM.
The French city is also a sanctuary for skaters, as it has one of the best skate parks in Europe. As for its cuisine, expect fresh fish and iconic French staples such as ratatouille, bouillabaisse or madeleines. You can easily access Marseille by train from Madrid and Barcelona, from almost any city in France and Switzerland, and by bus from Northern Italy.
If you’re based in the United Kingdom or Ireland—Liverpool, England
If you’re Irish, chances are you have several friends living in London, so meeting them in a smaller British city with bus, train and ferry connections might be a better choice than heading to the bustling British capital. Liverpool is a maritime mercantile powerhouse and home to the most iconic rock band of all. Do we even have to tell you who that is?
Apart from its music and film scene, you’ll find plenty of gorgeous outdoor spaces such as Sefton Park, which boasts a Victorian glasshouse. Walk by the pier to admire the so-called “Three Graces:” the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building. Head over to one of the many traditional pubs for some grub such as a full English breakfast (Liverpool’s was voted best of the country twice); or switch it up at South Asian, Mexican, Greek, Middle Eastern or American venues.
Wanna go deeper? Check out our complete guide to Liverpool.