9 of the Best Mediterranean Cities for a Summer Weekend Break

summer weekend break

When it comes to a summer weekend break on the Mediterranean, #TeamCoco has got you covered. More of us are making the most of our weekends and embracing shorter trips, especially in the summer. So whatever your style is, organized or spontaneous, we have you in mind with this list of Mediterranean cities that are fantastic for a summer weekend break.

What Makes a Great Summer Weekend Break on the Mediterranean?

Let’s set you up to maximize your time and not spend all of it in-transit and in airports. And since you’ll only have three to four days (or possibly less), going to a city that has beaches, nightlife, and culture, ensures that there’ll be plenty to do within one close area.

So we considered the following factors in determining the best Mediterranean city breaks:

  • The destination is a major city right on the sea
  • There’s city life, beaches, and history to enjoy
  • Non-stop flights available from major cities like London and Paris
  • Flight time options under 3 hours, preferably kept around 2 hours
  • Flight deals can be found for under €300 roundtrip

Time to take your pick and pack your bag!

# 1 – Barcelona

summer weekend break

Gaudi’s famous Park Guell in Barcelona. Photo by Daniel Corneschi on Unsplash.

The energetic city of Barcelona continues to be among the top Mediterranean destinations, especially for those of us who love art and architecture. It’s best known for over twenty Gaudi sites that will give you butterflies in your stomach (no matter how many times you’ve seen them).

But did you know about the latest Gaudi museum? For something new, make sure to tour Casa Vicens, the first home that Gaudi ever designed and which was still a private residence up until its opening to the public in late 2017.

Then enjoy the Barcelona favorites, like the ever-popular La Rambla and soak up the sun while people watching on the nearby sandy beaches. Whether it’s night or day, go savor the meeting of past and present as you wander the narrow, medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter. Here you can duck into little tapas bars or sit at quaint terraces for a vermút artisano (Spanish vermouth) or a copa de vino (glass of wine).

# 2 – Valencia

summer weekend break

Carrer del Serranos in Valencia.

Also on Spain’s Mediterranean Coast is the charming city of Valencia. Explore the old-world neighborhood of Barrio del Carmen and its historical sites such as the Longa de la Seda (Silk Exchange building), the Mercado Central (Central Market), and the Valencia Cathedral. Then ride bikes, or walk, through the beautiful Turia Riverbed Park to the modern architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences.

Travel Tip: Many museums, along with the Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart (Medieval towers), are free entry on Sundays.

And of course, enjoy any of the three city beaches – Las Arenas, Malvarrosa, or Patacona. Their bordering neighborhood of Cabanyal is also wonderful to explore.

Most of all, experience Valencia’s distinct, cultural traditions. Sip on Agua de Valencia, which is the incredible Valencian version of a Mimosa, have a traditional lunch of Paella Valenciana, and finish it off with a dessert of fartons (like, sweet, doughy breadsticks) dipped in the local, artisan drink of horchata.

# 3 – Alicante

summer weekend break

On top of the Castle Santa Barbara in Alicante.

One of Spain’s more underrated cities, Alicante can be an ideal Mediterranean city break. It’s wonderfully compact, with its beautiful beaches and modern marina right along its historic center. Similar to its fellow Mediterranean cities, its rich history as a port city contains layers of past civilizations.

Also at the very edge of the water and overlooking the city, is the impressive Santa Barbara Castle. Walk the beautiful grounds of the castle for spectacular views of the sea and city and a drink at the castle’s restaurant.

Appreciate the local cuisine and beautiful architecture of the Central Market of Alicante. And for an imaginative time, wander down the Calle de las Setas (street of the mushrooms), a restaurant-lined street decorated with large, colorful statues of bugs and mushrooms.

# 4 – Malaga

summer weekend break

A view from the castle of Alkazaba in Malaga. Photo by Elvis Bekmanis on Unsplash.

Teeming with a great city vibe and intriguing ancient history, Malaga is one of Europe’s oldest cities. Enjoy being in the company of its old-world architecture, then turn the corner and discover the amazing street art that is taking the city by storm.

Among the top things to see here are the Alcazaba, a large Moorish palace that has great views of the sea and the city. If you like the works of Pablo Picasso, who was born in Malaga, visit the Picasso Museum. There’s also the Gibalfaro Castle, the Roman Theatre, and the traditional Atarazanas Market where you can shop and savor local tapas and drinks. Finally, make sure to take in the architectural splendor of the Cathedral of Malaga (Catedral de la Encarnación).

When you feel like resting your feet, layout and enjoy the refreshing waters of one of Malaga’s three main beaches. There’s the Playa de la Malagueta, Playa de la Caleta, and Playa Pedregalejo.

# 5 – Palma

summer weekend break

The Cathedral of Santa Maria in Palma. Photo by Anqi Lu on Unsplash.

Why not escape to an island capital city for a summer weekend break? Palma is the capital of the Spanish island of Mallorca and has great city life, beautiful beaches, and rich history.

There’s the magnificent Santa Maria Cathedral, a massive landmark of Gothic architecture that was started in the 13th century. Enjoy panoramic views from the Bellver Castle and tour the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, an Arab fortress that was later turned into a royal residence.

For some great time in the crystal-clear waters of the Med, enjoy any of the several beaches that line the city’s coastline. There’s also the lovely Paseo Maritimo, a seaside promenade known as the balcony of the Mediterranean, and the two stylish marinas of Port de Mallorca and Palma Cuarentena, where any boat-lover can appreciate the many high-end yachts.

# 6 – Nice

summer weekend break

Time on the beach in Nice. Photo by Oscar Nord on Unsplash.

Moving on from the Mediterranean cities of Spain, we venture over to the French Riviera and the splendid city of Nice. A vibrant blend of refined elegance and metropolitan vibe, it has no lack of exciting things to see and do.

It’s especially the ideal summer weekend break for art-lovers since it has the most museums in France, after Paris. The Matisse Museum and the Massena Museum are some of the most popular ones to visit.

Enjoy the beautiful landscape of green hills rolling into the sea and walk along the Promenade des Anglais when you’re not sunbathing on one of the many beaches lining the water. Then take in the brightly colored sights and fragrant scents of the Cours Saleya Markets, which feature a gorgeous flower market and delicious food market.

# 7 – Marseille

summer weekend break

A window view of historic Marseille. Photo by Adrien Siami on Unsplash.

Another French Mediterranean city to consider is the bustling port city of Marseille. It’s trading history continues today as France’s largest Mediterranean city with the country’s largest port for cruise ships and commerce.

Make sure to savor fresh seafood along the Old Port of Marseille. Walk along La Corniche, a path overhanging the sea that has small beaches and eclectic little neighborhoods along the way. Explore Le Panier, one of the oldest parts of the city that has charming stairways and romantic squares.

For museums, see the best of the old and the new by visiting the Marseille History Museum and the MuCEM with its stunning architecture. It’s also connected by a bridge to the Fort Saint-Jean, a 17th-century waterfront fort built by Louis XIV. Most of all, climb the hill to the impressive Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, which sits at the highest point of the city.

# 8 – Genoa

summer weekend break

The Piazza de Ferrari in Genoa. Photo by Claudio Meirana on Unsplash.

Genoa, nicknamed La Superba (the proud one), is one of Italy’s most underrated Mediterranean cities. Throughout history, it’s been one of the Mediterranean’s most important ports, is famous for being the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and in 2004 was named the European Capital of Culture.

While it may not be ideal for beaches (the best ones are a 20 to 30-minute drive away), there is plenty to still take in, from enriching sites to delicious cuisine. You can spend time in the beautifully preserved Medieval city center, which is the largest in Europe and home to several UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites.

Stroll down beautiful avenues like the Via Garibaldi and duck into one of its many museums. Of all the places you can tour, make sure to visit the Palazzo Reale, a gorgeous gold-gilded palace built in the 17th century.

# 9 – Palermo

summer weekend break

A view of Palermo. Photo by Yifan Liu on Unsplash.

The capital of Sicily, Palermo holds historical splendors and tastes. Which makes it no surprise that it was named Italy’s Capital of Culture in 2018. Not only can you still see the historical influence of the Greeks, Romans, and even Normans, but you can also discover marks left by the French, the Swabians, and the Spanish Bourbons.

Enjoy the social piazzas (squares) for great people watching. Notice the influence of Byzantine and Islamic architectural styles in the grand churches, many of which are UNESCO sites and free to visit. Shop for vibrant, local produce and other goods at one of the bustling markets, Vucciria, Ballaro, and Capo. Then relax on one of the sandy beaches of Mondello or Arenella, both of which are close to the city center.

Most of all, take advantage of Palermo being less sought-out and less crowded than the typical Italian destinations of Rome, Venice, and others. This makes it easy to feel like you’re having an authentic Italian experience.

Your Summer Weekend Break

The Mediterranean continues to be a hotspot for great travel destinations. Why not make it part of your travel wish-list? Now that you know of some of the best cities that make for an ideal summer weekend break, consider making it an unforgettable summer with these great shorter trips.

Caoilfhionn Rose

Caoilfhionn is a freelance travel writer who enjoys slow travel and avoiding landmarks in favour of diving into a destination's culture. Instagram: @CaoilfhionnRose

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