The best bank holiday breaks in Europe

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Fancy a quick trip? Want to take advantage of the next Bank Holiday weekend? Here's our 11 top spots to consider – all of which take two hours or less from a major UK airport.

  • Some very short flights to beautiful sights
  • 11 great destinations within three hours of the UK 
  • Flights from Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester and London

1. Dublin

Shortest Liverpool to Dublin flight duration: 55 minutes

A small but vibrant city, Dublin is many travellers' first experience of Ireland, and its heady blend of history, culture and nightlife doesn't disappoint. 

Dublin's rich beer and spirits heritage offers an opportunity to explore some famous distilleries (both the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery are must-sees). For their family, there's the fantastic Dublin Zoo, the Glasnevin Museum and two famous cathedrals.

If you can make it beyond the centre, Wicklow Mountains National Park is a short drive south of the city, and boasts stunning walks and vistas.

2. Barcelona

London Gatwick to Barcelona flight duration: 2 hours

Barcelona is famous for its striking architecture, golden beaches and late night fiestas, but in recent years, it's become home to some of the most exciting restaurants, cafes, chefs and retailers in the world. 

Whether you're thirsty for a cold brew coffee or a refreshing craft ale, there's always somewhere tucked away among the quaint streets.

If you're in Barcelona for a breath of fresh air, there's surfing on the beaches and hiking in the mountains. Of course, the many parks – including the famous Park Güell, designed by modernist architect, Antoni Gaudì – offer great opportunities to stretch the legs.

3. Copenhagen

Shortest Manchester to Copenhagen flight duration: 1 hour 55 minutes

If you're lucky enough to fly into Copenhagen on a clear day, you'll be instantly struck by the colour and beauty of its buildings.

You may catch a glimpse of Copenhagen's famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park, which is nestled in the heart of the city and is the second oldest of its kind in the world. It's a great place to take the kids for an afternoon of fun.

To see as much of the city in as little time as possible, catch a boat from the Nyhavn waterfront and enjoy a tour of the harbour, as many of Copenhagen's most iconic features lie on its banks.

4. Salzburg

Shortest London Gatwick to Salzburg: 1 hour 55 minutes

Music fan? Salzburg is the city for you! Visit Mozart's birthplace on Getreidegasse, now a museum to his music and life. Next, check out the famous steps in the gardens surrounding Mirabell Palace where the Von Trapp family sang 'Do-Re-Mi' in The Sound of Music.

After you've worked up an appetite, there's only one thing to satisfy it: a Mozartkugel. A core made from marzipan, nougat and pistachio is coated in delicious chocolate and wrapped in gold foil. First sold in the late 1800s, these delicious treats are named after Salzburg's most famous son.

5. Oslo

Shortest Edinburgh to Oslo flight duration: 1 hour 45 minutes

Located at the head of the Oslofjord, Norway's capital has a number of great attractions dedicated to the nation’s seafaring heritage, including the Viking Ship Museum and the Fram Museum. The latter contains a record-breaking wooden polar explorer.

If you're lucky enough to visit Oslo while the sun is shining, a walk through the Vigelandsparken is a must. Alternatively, the Oslo Opera House is an impressive and fascinating building, both inside and out.

One of the top ten cleanest cities in the world, Oslo is a breath of fresh air to tourists who've travelled Western Europe’s more familiar capitals.

6. Berlin

Shortest London Luton to Berlin flight duration: 1 hour 45 minutes

Berlin is arguably one of the nightlife capitals of the world, but if you're visiting for culture, you won't be disappointed.

Berlin's long history has been fraught with political upheaval, tragedy and war, especially in the last 100 years, but Berliners don't shy away from their past. The Jewish Museum, Allied Museum and Berlin Wall Memorial all contain fascinating exhibitions about wartime Berlin.

Despite its troubled history, however, Berlin has also helped to nurture some of the most significant artists and art movements of the last century. Visit the Bauhaus archives for spectacular design and the Museum Berggruen for breathtaking masterpieces.

7. Nantes

Shortest London City to Nantes flight duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Nantes is a city where the old and new are celebrated equally.
For a taste of the old, explore the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, which has recently been restored to the glory of its former years. It takes pride of place right in the heart of the French city.
And the new? Check out the 40-feet-tall Great Elephant, a mechanical wonder that plods around the city, carrying a viewing platform full of tourists on its back and spraying the occasional pedestrian with water from its trunk.

8. Basel

Shortest London Heathrow to Basel flight duration: 1 hour 35 minutes

A city in three countries, Basel is situated on Switzerland's border with both France and Germany, and has suburbs in all three.

With three countries to choose from, it's no surprise that Basel has a rich history and some fascinating tourist destinations, from the Museum of Cultures to the Music Museum.

9. Innsbruck

Shortest London Gatwick to Innsbruck flight duration: 2 hours

What makes Innsbruck really stand out is its vicinity to Hintertux – one of the only ski resorts that's open year round. 

A two-and-a-half-hour train or three-and-a-half-hour bus journey from Innsbruck, Hintertux is one of the Alps' busiest ski destinations during the off-season.

If you think you might be tempted to pop over to Hintertux for some skiing or snowboarding (or even tobogganing), make sure your travel insurance includes winter sports.

10. Prague

Shortest London Luton to Prague flight duration: 1 hour 50 minutes

Prague, the city of a thousand spires, is known for it's baroque architecture, red-roofed buildings and Gothic churches.

The capital of the Czech Republic has a number of must-see spots, including the astronomical clock (the oldest one still in operation), the Jewish Quarter, Prague Castle and Golden Lane – where medieval alchemists supposedly attempted to turn common metal into gold.

11. Jersey

Shortest London Luton to Jersey flight duration: 1 hour

Instead of going to mainland Europe, why not visit one of the UK's many islands?

Occupied by Germany during World War II, Jersey retains many of the naval defences and bunkers that the German military used to defend their stronghold on English shores.

Want to see the history of the occupation in cloth-form? The Occupation Tapestry Gallery is for you. The tapestry was woven by the islanders to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jersey's liberation.