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25 European city breaks with a difference – an awesome escape from the crowds

by Nick Trend, deputy head Telegraph travel

Nick Trend presents our expert selection of mini-adventures to enjoy on your next European city break, from Chopin’s manor house to the site of Napoleon’s final defeat.

City breaks are one of the great pleasures of travel, especially during the autumn when the cultural season kicks off again and the heat and crowds of summer abate. But sometimes things can get just a little too intense. You just want to engineer a change in pace and get out of the metropolis for a day.

Perhaps you are gasping for some sea air, or some countryside. Maybe there is a historic site that you have always wanted to see, or perhaps you just fancy a relaxing afternoon’s wine tasting in the vineyards.

I’ve done it myself twice already this year. A five-day stay in Munich was more than enough time to see the city sights, so half way through I jumped on a train heading north to Augsburg – about 45 minutes away – to explore a town I would never have visited otherwise. And then, on a short break to Salzburg, which I already knew well, I decided to head out and spend a sunny day in the ravishingly beautiful scenery around Leogang, 90 minutes’ drive into the mountains to the south. 

So, to help inspire you to add a refreshing new dimension to your city break this autumn our experts in 25 European destinations have come up with their suggestion for an excellent day out. It’s an inspiring selection – from the less-well-known such as Fryderyk Chopin’s idyllic manor house in the countryside outside Warsaw and the forests and mirror-clear lakes of the Nuuksio National Park 80 minutes from Helsinki, to the classic – the trip out to Pompeii from Naples or the Waterloo battlefield from Brussels.

Sometimes the journey can be almost as much fun as the destination. Most of the suggestions involve a short train ride, a chance to negotiate the local railway system – all the more enjoyable because you’ll be stepping into an empty carriage and travelling against the surge of the rush hour crowds. You might even be able to get out on the water. Two of our experts’ suggested excursions involve ferry trips – one from Istanbul to Princes’ Islands with their quiet coves lined with art nouveau villas and rustic fish restaurants, another from Budapest up the Danube to Visegrad, and the 15th-century palace of King Matyas.

So whether you see a day trip as a change of pace – a break from the ­tourist crush, or as a chance to see places that you wouldn’t otherwise get to, here is some inspiration from our specialists.

© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2020