The travel-rule landscape is shifting before our eyes right now, but with the vaccination and booster rollouts continuing apace worldwide, stress-free holidays all round should be back with a bang next year.
And with that in mind, Time Out has ranked the 16 best city breaks in Europe for 2022, these emerging destinations picked ‘because of their excellent food, culture, nightlife and community spirit – the things that have always made Europe’s cities such great places to be’. Time Out adds that ‘in these climate-conscious times, the list also features only places that are easy to get to by train and bus’.
The No1 spot in the list is taken by Arles in France, with Brno in the Czech Republic second and Sheffield flying the flag for England in ninth place. Scroll down for the lowdown on all 16 destinations.
1. Arles, France
A street in Arles. The city ranks number one in Time Out’s guide to the best city breaks in Europe for 2022
Gold medal winner Arles is known for being ‘the city where Vincent van Gogh completed his legendary sunflower series in the 1880s’, Time Out reveals.
Today, it’s home to the largest street market in Provence, and is the region’s Capital of Culture for 2022.
According to Time Out, the city’s highlights include Luma, ‘a buzzing new arts district packed with multimedia exhibitions and art installations’, Les Rencontres de la Photographie festival, and the Carrieres des Lumieres, which is ‘an immersive art experience in a quarry’.
2. Brno, Czech Republic
A view of the hilltop Spilberk Castle in Brno, which was voted the second-best European city to visit next year by Time Out
Time Out says that Brno ‘has repositioned itself as a post-industrial science and tech hub with a reinvented food and drink scene featuring everything from contemporary international at Element to Vycep na Stojaka, a modern take on a trad pub’.
Those planning a visit next year are in luck – in 2022, ‘The Industrial Project’ will celebrate Brno’s manufacturing tradition, with several former industrial buildings opening to the public for the first time, the guide reveals.
It adds that Kaznice, a Habsburg-era prison, is also being redeveloped and will host events in the summertime.
3. Kaunas, Lithuania
Pictured is the Pazaislis Monastery and the Church in Kaunas, which has been named the European Capital of Culture
According to Time Out, there is ‘no better time’ to visit bronze medal-winner Kaunas than in 2022, as it has been named the European Capital of Culture.
The guide reveals that the city will host a year-long programme of more than 1,000 events to celebrate, including exhibitions by Yoko Ono, William Kentridge and Marina Abramovic, among others.
It says: ‘Make sure to discover the rest of the delights the city has to offer, like its hundreds of modernist masterpieces, along with the M.K. Ciurlionis Museum of Art (dedicated to the musician and symbolist painter) and the frankly bizarre Devils’ Museum.’
4. Odense, Denmark
A street in the old quarters of Odense, which Time Out describes as a ‘perfectly formed’ city
‘Just 90 minutes by train from Copenhagen, Odense is small but perfectly formed.’
So declares Time Out of the Danish city, which is ‘home to the brand-new architectural wonder that is the Hans Christian Andersen Museum’ – an attraction that ‘brings to life the story of the fairytale author and the worlds he created’.
The guide adds: ‘A new light railway is under construction and due to open in spring 2022, connecting the city’s beautiful old quarters and vibrant newer neighbourhoods.’
5. Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Ljubljanica River runs through Ljubljana. Visit next July to soak up the atmosphere at the city’s annual jazz festival
Cyclists are in luck – in 2022, the Slovenian capital is hosting Velo-City, a summit aimed at ‘encouraging cycling across the continent’, Time Out reveals. It adds: ‘For more casual riders, bike hire in the city centre is free.’
There’s plenty in store for music fans, too. According to Time Out, Festival Ljubljana, ‘complete with world-renowned classical virtuosos’, will return after a Covid-induced hiatus. The guide adds that there’s also a jazz festival every July, and ‘the city is turned into a stage’ during the Ana Desetnica street theatre festival.
Elsewhere around the city, Time Out notes that ‘restaurants are encouraged to use local ingredients, so meals often include freshly picked veg and produce from urban farms’.
6. Oslo, Norway
Pictured above is the historic harbourside Bjorvika district in Oslo, which is currently undergoing a revitalisation
Ranking in sixth place is Oslo, where ‘the revitalisation of the historic harbourside Bjorvika district is well under way’.
Time Out says that visitors will encounter the brand-new Munch Museum – which is now open to the public – and the ‘world-famous Opera House’, complete with its own urban beach, Operastranda.
‘For foodies, Oslo’s dining scene now features Via Village, a buzzing new food court, just a few minutes from the Aker Brygge area,’ the guide notes, adding: ‘For those visiting in the summer and beyond, the long-awaited new National Museum will open in June and take the crown as the largest museum in the Nordics.’
7. Turku, Finland
Above is Ruissalo island in Turku. The city – nicknamed the ‘Paris of Finland’ – is Finland’s oldest city
According to Time Out, Turku – Finland’s oldest city and historic capital – is often referred to as the ‘Paris of Finland’ for its abundance of cafe terraces.
Next year will see the return of festivals like Archipelago Sea Jazz and Ruisrock, the guide reveals.
Time Out adds: ‘The city is also a leading light in sustainable tourism, with the city running electric boat trips, nature excursions and food tours that showcase the finest local produce. That all forms part of Turku’s plans to become carbon-neutral and “zero waste” by 2040.’
8. Valencia, Spain
Plaza de la Virgen in Valencia. Time Out says: ‘This year, Valencia has been designated not only European Capital of Smart Tourism but also World Design Capital’
Time Out says: ‘Back with a (literal) bang in 2022, Valencia will once again host the Las Fallas festival to kick off Spring with bonfires, fireworks, parades and parties throughout March.’
On top of that, La Tomatina, the ‘world’s biggest food fight’, will also return for the first time in two years, the guide adds.
It adds: ‘This year, Valencia has been designated not only European Capital of Smart Tourism but also World Design Capital, with more than 100 events lined up for the latter.’
9. Sheffield, England
Sheffield is flying the flag for England in ninth place in the Time Out ranking. Pictured is Sheffield Town Hall
One of three UK cities making the top 16, Sheffield ranks in ninth place. Time Out says that the South Yorkshire hotspot was recently crowned ‘the greenest city’ in the UK, thanks to ‘its 4.5million trees (more per person than any other city in Europe), 250 public parks and 52 square miles of national park’.
The guide reveals: ‘Combine the lush greenery – and proximity to the Peak District – with a vibrant city rich in culture, food and drink, and you have two kinds of holiday wrapped into one.’
And, football fans have something to look forward to, the guide adds – Sheffield is hosting three group matches and a semi-final of the 2022 UEFA European Women’s Football Championship in July.
10. Trikala, Greece
Trikala, pictured, is described as an ‘under-the-radar city’ by the travel experts at Time Out
Trikala, in north-western Thessaly, is Greece’s first official ‘smart city’, according to Time Out. It says that this ‘under-the-radar city’ is green ‘in all senses of the word: a tree-shaded spot topped by its Byzantine castle and criss-crossed by the trout-filled Lithaios River’.
The guide reveals: ‘It’s easy to get around with a bike-sharing scheme and a slew of new cycle paths – and when summer temperatures soar there are pit stops where you can pick up (free) water. It also has the country’s first driverless buses.’
Time Out recommends planning your visit for August when the three-day Ziria music festival ‘takes over Trikala’s ski slopes’.
11. Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The ‘magical’ Una River cuts through the city of Bihac – which Time Out says is a haven for nature lovers
Bihac is nestled on the banks of the ‘magical’ Una River, which Time Out describes as ‘Bosnia’s most beautiful river’.
The guide explains: ‘This is the perfect city break for nature lovers who want to take in scenic valley views: the bike route from the centre of town to the remains of Sokolac Fortress is now open and new eco-friendly accommodation such as Japodski Otoci and Eko-Selo Natura Art offer adventure and restoration in equal measure.’
12. Liverpool, England
Time Out declares that the nightlife scene in Liverpool, pictured above, is ‘one of a kind’
Liverpool is the second UK city to make the ranking, landing in 12th place. Time Out says that the city’s nightlife scene is ‘one of a kind – so it was no wonder the city played host to the UK’s first club night in a year, with footage broadcast across the globe’.
The guide adds: ‘Now it’s time for everyone else to discover it too, for either a night out at a “Baltic Triangle” club, or something bigger like Creamfields or International Beatle Week in August.’
As for upcoming events, according to the guide, 2022 will see the ‘welcome return of DaDaFest International, one of the world’s leading festivals of work by disabled, deaf and neurodiverse artists – a welcome reminder of what an inclusive place this really is’.
13. Rotterdam, Netherlands
Droves of tourists are predicted to visit Rotterdam next year, exploring its ‘incredible art museums and architecture’. Pictured is the city’s Oude Haven area
Rotterdam feels like it has a new lease of life after the success of Eurovision 2021, according to Time Out, with the city having undergone major renovation works in the run-up to the event.
The guide predicts many will be flocking there in 2022 to explore its ‘incredible art museums and architecture, and top-notch food and nightlife’.
It says: ‘Top of the list should be the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility housing 151,000 objects. Next, marvel at floating buildings including an office, a farm and even an entire street – all developed in response to the fact that 90 per cent of Rotterdam is below sea level.’
14. Milan, Italy
Milan is trying to shed its ‘industrial image’, according to Time Out. Pictured is the city’s historic Duomo di Milano cathedral
There’s plenty in store in Milan in 2022, Time Out reveals, with big events like the famous Salone del Mobile furniture fair returning in April, which will take over Milan with ‘lively art installations and events open to design pros and the public alike’.
Music is also on the agenda – Time Out says that in June and July, Stromae, Chemical Brothers and Green Day will play the Milano Summer Festival.
There are eco plans, too, the guide reveals: ‘In a bid to shed its industrial image and create a more sustainable metropolis, this northern Italian city continues to expand its parks and bike paths to create a “green lung” around the centre.’
15. Freiburg, Germany
Freiburg, pictured, is described as a ‘long-standing champion of conservation and sustainability’
Time Out says: ‘Taking the title as the sunniest and warmest city in Germany, Freiburg is also the gateway into the Black Forest: this well-known natural wonder is just a short hike from the centre.’
The guide describes Freiburg as a ‘long-standing champion of conservation and sustainability’, adding that the city is a ‘remarkable example of how “green living” and “urban sprawl” can go hand in hand’.
It adds: ‘Recent initiatives include a million-euro initiative to plant new trees and Dietenbach, a climate-neutral eco-district that is currently under construction.’
16. Inverness, Scotland
Inverness, pictured, is an ideal base for travellers that are keen to explore the Highlands, according to Time Out
The travel experts at Time Out laud Inverness as ‘the perfect base to kick off a trip exploring the Highlands’. From the city, visitors can explore nearby Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Culloden Battlefield.
Outlining the cultural events on the city’s horizon, the guide says: ‘If you want a side of culture, in 2022 the Eden Court theatre will host some of the UK’s top comics, along with productions of the “Jersey Boys” and Emma Rice’s “Wuthering Heights”.’
It adds: ‘On the music front, July sees the return of the mighty, family-friendly Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, with a line-up including Nile Rodgers & Chic and Ibibio Sound Machine.’
For more on the list visit timeout.com/europe/things-to-do/best-city-breaks-in-europe.