European small countries: best city breaks?

Read about these European small countries & smallest microstates in Europe to learn why they are great for city breaks & how to get there.

If you want to find a destination for your next perfect city break or a cool mini vacation, consider these small European countries and microstates. I will show you why they are ideal destinations for a memorable getaway. From picturesque towns to cultural experiences and cool places to stay, these small countries are well-suited for city breaks.

Because of their size you will be able to explore an entire country in one long weekend, if you wish so. Or, you might just stay in one place and enjoy it without a hurry (my personal favorite way). You can always return back to explore some more.

Some of these small countries are well known, and others are hidden gems you would be happy to learn about.

I also explain how to get there with different options.

Let's see which are the smallest countries in Europe by size.

Alonga Travel the author smiles behind her laptop in her mobile rooftop office in Portugal over
Alonga Travel the author smiles behind her laptop in her mobile rooftop office in Portugal over

Hello, I am Tatiana—historical architecture addict fascinated with beautiful old buildings and discovering best places in Europe to go. Check out my travel tips on Alonga Travel and reviews of the best European destinations and city breaks. They are the result of my slow travelling explorations. Let's connect on social media!

A few iconic images & a custom sign: 'European small countries for best city breaks'
A few iconic images & a custom sign: 'European small countries for best city breaks'

Updated February 2024

10 smallest countries in Europe

Here are 10 smallest European countries by area:

1. Vatican City: 0.49 square kilometers (0.19 square miles)

2. Monaco: 2.02 square kilometers (0.78 square miles)

3. San Marino: 61 square kilometers (24 square miles)

4. Liechtenstein: 160 square kilometers (62 square miles)

5. Malta: 312 square kilometers (122,000 sq miles)

6. Andorra: 468 square kilometers (181 square miles)

7. Luxembourg: 2,586 square kilometers (998 square miles)

8. Montenegro: 13,812 square kilometers (5,333 square miles)

9. Slovenia: 20,273 square kilometers (7,827 square miles)

10. North Macedonia: 25,713 square kilometers (9,928 square miles)

Out of this list, the first 7 countries on the list are also called one-state countries.

Let’s look at all one state countries in Europe in more details to find out why they can be perfect European city break destinations.

European city states

European city-states, also known as microstates or ministates, are small independent countries in Europe. They are unique because they are typically focused around a single city and have smaller populations compared to other European nations.

However, the term microstate doesn't have a strict definition and mainly refers to any very small country.

While these nations are centered around a single city, the main focus and hub of activity , they may also have smaller towns or districts within their territories.

Though independent, the microstates work closely with their larger neighboring countries.

The six smallest European countries by size are often considered the prime examples of microstates - Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City. With the exception of Liechtenstein, which was formed in the 17th century, these microstates date back to the first or early second millennium. This alone makes visiting them very exciting!

7 microstates in Europe

1. Vatican City

2. Monaco

3. San Marino

4. Liechtenstein

5. Malta

6. Andorra

7. Luxembourg

Now let's  find out why these one state countries in Europe can be perfect European city break destinations.

Vatican City

Vatican City is the smallest independent country in Europe with a population of around 1,000 people and one of the best European destinations to visit. Despite its size, it has its own currency, and a famous small army of 100 Swiss Guards, wearing colorful uniforms. The city even has its own license plates for vehicles.

Vatican City developed near the burial site of Peter the Apostle, who was crucified upside down. St. Peter's Basilica was built over his grave.

Modern day Vatican City is the spiritual center of the Roman Catholic Church. It also the residence of the Pope and the headquarters of the church.

why Vatican City is a perfect city break destination

Vatican City is a perfect city break destination because it has everything you want to see in a small area. In just over 100 acres, you can explore amazing artwork and architecture without feeling rushed. Vatican.

I personally love the grand architecture and unique energy of Saint Peter's Square. There is just something about it (and everyone I know agrees on this, regardless of their religious views). You can relax at the fountains of St Peter's Square and people watch.

Within Vatican City, you can visit St Peter's Basilica, which is not only religiously important but also a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.

The Vatican Museums offer access to the beautiful Vatican Library and rooms filled with treasures. The Sistine Chapel is famous for its ceiling frescoes by Michelangelo and holds valuable and unique art collections.

And of course, you should also enjoy Rome as well, while staying in the Prati area of Rome ( you can’t stay inside Vatican City itself). Prati is the grand and modern neighborhood, adjusted to Vatican on one side and west side of the Tiber River, across from the Centro Storico area, behind Castel Sant'Angelo.

Prati area

Prati is nother reason why Vatican city is a great destination for a quick get it away, as the streets right outside the Vatican City, they are so fun and romantic! There are plenty of restaurants outside the Saint Peter's colonnades with cozy settings and outdoor seating.

It is easy to get to Vatican City as it's located within Rome. Fly into Rome, take the metro to Ottaviano-San Pietro station. From there, it's just a 5-minute walk to St Peter's Square. BTW, did you know that Rome is one of the cheapest cities to fly to from the US?

Vatican City provides a compact sightseeing experience where you can appreciate iconic landmarks and history without feeling rushed. Vatican City is a perfect gateway and one of the best city breaks destination in Europe (or the world).

St. Peter's Square glowing in lights & a custom sign: 'Vatican for a city break'
St. Peter's Square glowing in lights & a custom sign: 'Vatican for a city break'

Monaco

Monaco, located on the stunning French Riviera, is a small country that is perfect for a city break. It is famous for its luxurious lifestyle, elegant architecture, huge yachts and stunning seaside views

Monaco is a city-state with 4 districts that essentially functions as one city. While Monaco may not have traditional smaller towns, its four districts within the city-state are distinct and each possesses its own unique charm and attractions.

Monte Carlo is the most famous part of the Monaco. Known for Monte Carlo casinos, posh shops, and fancy events like the Formula One Grand Prix. It attracts celebrities, jet-setters, and avid gamblers from around the globe.

Monaco has other interesting attractions like the Palais Princier, where the Prince of Monaco lives. You can see the Changing of the Guard there. The Cathédrale de Monaco is a beautiful church where Princess Grace is buried. The Oceanographic Museum is on a cliff and has lots of marine life. You can also explore the streets of the La Condamine district or relax on Larvotto Beach.

Even if you only have time to visit Monaco's Marina and Monte Carlo (you can go inside), you will spend a lovely day watching yachts and admiring the luxury and sophistication. However, you can also squeeze in a visit to Eze village and Eze botanical garden nearby (where you can take a short bus ride).

Monaco has renowned restaurants that offer exceptional dining experiences. Le Louis XV - Alain Ducasse is a top choice with its Michelin three-star status and exquisite French cuisine. Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo is also popular, known for its innovative dishes and outstanding service. For a unique taste, try Blue Bay, which combines Mediterranean and Caribbean flavors and holds a Michelin star. Another option is Elsa, located at the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel.

Just be prepared that Monte Carlo is not cheap. In fact, it’s quite expensive, but you’ll only stay there for two days, right?;)

With some many attractions and points of interest on such a small territory, Monaco is one of the best city breaks destination in the world.

How to get to Monaco

You can arrive on your yacht😊

If that’s not an option, you can fly into Nice and take a 1.5 hour, €10 bus to Monaco. Or, you can take a bus from Menton, another lovely city break destination.

Monaco marina & a custom sign: 'Monaco for a city break'
Monaco marina & a custom sign: 'Monaco for a city break'

San Marino

an Marino is more than just its capital city, the City of San Marino. While most tourists flock to this picturesque hilltop city, the largest town in the country is actually Dogana, which is part of the Serravalle municipality.

Dogana, meaning Customs House in Italian, is a vibrant town located in the northeastern corner of San Marino, close to the Italian border. It is the most populated place in the country, with around 7,000 residents calling it home.

If you're planning a visit to San Marino, Dogana serves as the main entry point for those coming from Italy. Interestingly, despite its name, there are no official border checks between Italy and San Marino when you pass through Dogana.

Dogana has its own unique charm and atmosphere. You’ll also find some good local restaurants with delicious meals there.

Where to stay in San Marino

Deciding where to stay in San Marino? For a lively atmosphere with more amenities, and cheaper hotels, pick Dogana. It's the most populated area with lots of hotels, restaurants, and shops.

If you want to get more of authentic ambience, choose the City of San Marino. You will have more time to spend exploring charming architecture, narrow streets, and amazing hilltop views during both sunset and sunrise.

Getting to San Marino

Getting to San Marino from Rome or Milan takes some time, though. You can take a 3.5 hours train from Rome to Rimini, a city in Italy that's nearest to San Marino. The best way to get to San Marino is to fly in Bologna, then take 56 minutes train to Rimini. From there, you can easily catch a bus or taxi to reach San Marino, including Dogana.

The trip from Rome to San Marino is usually around 4-6 hours, but if you stay for an extended weekend holiday, San Marino will be a cool destination in Europe for you and a lovely getaway. Fly into Bologna for the fastest way to get there.

The famous castle San Marino & a sigh: 'San Marino for a city break'
The famous castle San Marino & a sigh: 'San Marino for a city break'

Liechtenstein, a cool Europe destinations?

Liechtenstein is a small landlocked country is a cool destination in Central Europe. It offers some very awesome things to see, like castles, unique museums, wine, skiing places and much more.

Liechtenstein, formed in the 17th century, is bordered by Switzerland and Austria, has a size of 160 square kilometers and a population of around 38,000.

It has been a constitutional monarchy since 1862, with power shared between the reigning Prince and the democratically-elected parliament. The country's economy is strong and well-developed, attracting international businesses with its advantageous tax policies and business-friendly environment.

Why Liechtenstein is a great destination for a city break.

Liechtenstein is one of the best city break destinations because it has a lot to offer for your visit.

The capital city of Vaduz is a charming town with a beautiful castle, museums, and art galleries. The country is also known for its scenic beauty, with the Rhine River flowing through it and the beautiful and impressive Alps in the background.

You can enjoy hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities in the mountains. Malbun Ski Resort is a popular winter destination.

Wine enthusiasts should plan a summer trip to Liechtenstein’s vineyards for a taste of the best wines of the region.

If you are looking for entertainment, Grand Casino Liechtenstein is a popular option.

What to visit

You should visit the famous Vaduz Castle ( the picture above), a beautiful castle located on a hilltop overlooking the city of Vaduz and the lash green (or white in winter) valleys and mountains.

This castle is the official home of the Prince of Liechtenstein. It is not open to public and you can’t go inside. But you can still visit the castle from outside and admire its beautiful old architecture and stunning location.

Also, a visit to the medieval Gutenberg Castle in Balzers is a must. The 12th century castle hangs on a hilltop overlooking the Rhine Valley and there is a museum inside to visit.

Culture enthusiasts can also check out Liechtenstein National Museum, it has some interesting displays.

Or, go to The Walser Museum in Triesenberg, an interesting cultural museum that shows the ethnographical collection of the Walser people who settled in Triesenberg in the 13th century. The main building in itself is an architectural marvel, a 400-year-old Walser house.

Small Liechtenstein has picturesque attractions, exciting traditional Alpine architecture of its cozy hotels and restaurants, and easy access to nearby countries.

Old round castle & a custom sign: 'Liechtenstein, cool Europe destination'
Old round castle & a custom sign: 'Liechtenstein, cool Europe destination'

Speaking of architecture. You already had a chance to explore 2 breathtaking castles. But don’t miss Triesenberg, a pretty picturesque town known for its traditional Alpine architecture.

The Alpine architecture in Triesenberg is a blend of olden and modern architecture. It has loots of wooden decoration elements, which creates a great contrast that is fun to look at.

If you want to explore more than just Liechtenstein, you can also visit the nearby town of Appenzell in Switzerland. It's known for its charming old town and tasty Swiss cheese.

Another option is to head to Bregenz in Austria, where you can enjoy the stunning Lake Constance and watch a performance at the iconic floating stage of the Bregenz Festival.

How to get to Liechtenstein

Getting to Liechtenstein is convenient. If you're flying, the closest international airport is Zurich Airport in Switzerland. From there, you can take a scenic train ride through the Swiss Alps, passing by beautiful lakes and pretty villages.

If you prefer driving, the country is easily accessible from its neighboring countries.

Where to eat

For dining in Vaduz, try the traditional dishes at Restaurant Adler. They serve specialties like Käsknöpfle with crispy onions or Riebel, a cornmeal dish served with apple sauce.

For a more upscale meal, Torkel or Restaurant Marée in Triesenberg are great choices, offering delicious local food with amazing views.

Where to stay in Liechtenstein

For accommodation, consider staying at Hotel Residence or Hotel Schatzmann in Vaduz. They provide comfortable rooms and convenient access to attractions.

In Ruggel, Landgasthof Rössle is a good option.

If you prefer a cozy mountain lodge setting, check out Berggasthaus Sücka in Triesenberg. It's a unique and unforgettable place to stay during your mini-vacation.

Liechtenstein guarantees a memorable city break experience with its beautiful attractions, proximity to other countries, delicious food, and comfortable accommodations. It has everything you need for an unforgettable getaway.

Malta

Malta is a tiny island nation located in the Mediterranean Sea. It has a capital city Valletta is also the cultural center of the country. Malta is an amazing city break destination. 

Malta is a wealthy small country and it has a strong economy. This is because of of its banks and the money it gets from tourists.

As a place to visit for a short trip, Malta has a lot to offer.

Valletta, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a lot of history and beautiful buildings. You can walk around the narrow streets, see the impressive St. John's Co-Cathedral, and visit the Grandmaster's Palace.

Malta is known for having different cultures mixed together. This means that the food, language, and traditions are influenced by lots of different places.

If you like nature, Malta has pretty beaches and countryside with hills and valleys. You can go for walks and bike rides there.

Even though Malta is small, it has a lot of historical places and nice towns. For example, you can go to Mdina, an old city with medieval buildings.

There is also Three Cities, which are three cities by the water that have a lot of architecture to show for Malta's history and there are lotsof boats.

Because Malta is in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, it's easy to go to other countries or islands nearby. You can take a ferry or a short flight to places like Sicily or Tunisia.

Like Luxembourg, Malta is a safe place and people are friendly. Many people in Malta speak English, so it's easy to talk to them.

Malta has a lot to offer despite its small size. It has history, culture, beautiful nature, and it's in a good location. It's a great place to visit for a quick trip.

Colorful houses on Malta & a custom sign: 'Malta for a city break'
Colorful houses on Malta & a custom sign: 'Malta for a city break'

Andorra

Andorra is a small independent nation, landlocked country in the eastern Pyrenees on the Iberian Peninsula, covering an area of 468 square kilometers. It shares borders with France to the north and Spain to the south.

It was established by Charlemagne and came under the authority of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Urgell in 988. It became the present-day Andorra in 1278. The majority of the people in Andorra are closely connected to the Catalan ethnicity and identify themselves as such.

Andorra is a perfect city break destination because it’s small and easy to get around, while it has many attractions and activities for a busy and pleasant weekend.

When visiting Andorra, make sure to explore its capital city, Andorra la Vella. The city is known for its picturesque streets lined with shops and boutiques. You can spend hours exploring the countless stores, finding everything from luxury brands to local crafts.

Don't miss the chance to visit the historic Casa de la Vall (the pic above), a beautiful 16th-century house that now serves as the seat of the Andorran Parliament. Its impressive architecture and rich history make it a must-see attraction.
One of the highlights of Andorra is its stunning natural landscapes. The country is surrounded by regal mountains, making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. You can find many exciting hikes there, with hidden valleys and mountain lakes along the way.

Andorra is also a great winter destination with its renowned ski resorts for skiing and snowboarding.

After hitting the slopes, enjoy the unique Spanish and French influenced cuisine.

Where to stay

Here are some places to stay in Andorra that are worth considering:

  • HOTEL PLAZA, a 5-star hotel is located in the heart of Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra for a comfortable stay with a massage

  • Eurostars Andorra, located on Avinguda Meritxell, one of the main shopping streets in Andorra la Vella.

  • Beautiful, yes surprisingly affordable Hotel de l’Isard, located on Avinguda Meritxell, the main shopping street in Andorra la Vella

    Andorra is a perfect city break destination because it’s small and easy to get around, while it has many attractions and activities for a busy and pleasant weekend.

Beautiful brick tranditional house on Andorra & a custom sign: 'Andorra Casa de la Vall'
Beautiful brick tranditional house on Andorra & a custom sign: 'Andorra Casa de la Vall'

Luxembourg

Luxemburg is a small nation of about 2,586 square kilometers. Luxembourg City is the country's capital and largest city. It is a significant economic and cultural hub.

Despite its small size, Luxembourg has one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, making it one of the wealthiest nations globally. This is mainly due to its strong financial and banking sector, low taxes, and stable economy.

Luxembourg is a fantastic city break destination for several reasons.

It has a charming and picturesque capital city with lovely architecture and a rich history. You can explore the old town with its narrow cobblestone streets, visit the grand Ducal Palace, and enjoy the beautiful views from the famous Adolphe Bridge. Or take a trip to very picturesque village of Clervaux.

Luxembourg offers a diverse cultural experience. As a multicultural country, you can enjoy a blend of influences from German, French, and Luxembourgish cultures. This is reflected in the local cuisine, which offers a delicious fusion of flavors from these different traditions.

It has incredibly beautiful natural landscapes, countryside, pleasantly looking hills, and picturesque valleys, where you can hike or bike along the many trails.
Luxembourg's convenient size allows you to easily explore the entire country in a short amount of time. You can visit other charming towns, such as Echternach or Vianden, where you can discover some historical sites.

Furthermore, Luxembourg's location in the center of Europe makes it an excellent base for day trips to neighboring countries. You can easily hop on a train and visit nearby cities like Brussels, Paris, or Cologne, expanding your city break experience even further.

Luxembourg is a safe nation. The locals are friendly, and English is widely spoken, making it easy to communicate.

All these makes Luxembourg a great small country for a cool city break.  

So, so far I have covered 7 mini-states. The compact size of these countries makes them ideal for city breaks, as it allows travelers to easily explore all areas.

There are also 3 countries that are not microstates, but small enough to be included in the small countries in Europe list, that are also wonderful city breaks destinations. Let's look at them as well.

colorful buildings in old town & a sign: 'Luxembourg, a fantastic city break destination'
colorful buildings in old town & a sign: 'Luxembourg, a fantastic city break destination'

Montenegro

Montenegro, an incredibly picturesque small country, sits along the Adriatic Sea in the Balkans region of Europe. With its 5,333 square miles it's about the size of Connecticut but with rugged mountains and long beautiful coastlines.

Montenegro is great country for city breaks: it has it all. Read my other post on all the reasons to visit Montenegro

Montenegro is fast becoming a major vacation destination, as more and more tourists visit to enjoy its beaches and natural breathtaking scenery.

Montenegro is also known for its beautiful mountains and National parks. Read my post about my bus ride from Bosnia to Montenegro to see pictures  of the northern part of Montenegrin canyons you will see on that picturesque bus route.

Kotor, Montenegro’s prettiest town, is a great destination for a short getaway.  It looks like it came straight out of a fairytale with its ancient old town and tall mountains as a backdrop. Read about things you can do in Kotor in my other post.

Kotor is located on dramatically pretty Bay of Kotor. Words are not enough to describe its beauty, so read my other post about it.

Budva, the second most popular city, is probably the best city to live in Europe with its great climate, lively local atmosphere and incredible stretch of beaches. Budva is also a great fun to visit even for a short city break as well. I spent 4 months in Budva in 2023 and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Another less known but amazing  smallish town Ulcinj, Montenegro, is perfect for a short getaway or a long weekend vacation. Ulcinj' main attractions are closely connected to its history.  You can get there on a 2 hours bus ride from Podgorica. Alternatively, you can fly in Tivat airport, and take a 3-hours bus from there, or get a taxi (around 50 euros). 

You can also fly into Podgorica airport, then take bus to Budva (1 hour ride). Chose to stay in Budva or Kotor for your base. Or better yet, visit at least twice to make the most of everything Montenegro has to offer. 

Boats floating in front of an old town & a custom sign: 'Montenegro for a city break'
Boats floating in front of an old town & a custom sign: 'Montenegro for a city break'

Slovenia

Slovenia, a small country (20,273 square kilometers or 7,827 square miles), is located in Central Europe where the Alps meet the Mediterranean.

Slovenia has a long history and was ruled by many different empires over the centuries. This has led to an interesting mix of cultural influences in the country. It has a population of around 2 million people and gained independence in 1991 when it peacefully separated from Yugoslavia.

Slovenia has a diverse landscape that includes coastal areas, mountains, hills, valleys, and Karst geology.

Some beautiful architecture from different time periods still stands today. In the capital Ljubljana, sitting along the Ljubljanica River, you can see buildings with Italianate, Viennese, and Art Nouveau styles. Ljubljana has many things to offer and it’s one of the wonderful European cities to visit.

Ljubljana Castle sits high above the city. The most iconic structure in Ljubljana, the castle was built over 900 years, though the current building dates to the early 16th century.

Down in the seaside city of Piran, you'll find an old town surrounded on three sides by the Adriatic Sea. The narrow streets there are lined with medieval architecture and Venetian Gothic palaces and towers. Piran represents Slovenia's unique mix of central European and Mediterranean cultures. Piran makes for a great city break and a cool destination.

The medieval inland town of Ptuj also preserves historic buildings. You can find well-preserved Romanesque Rotovzh Castle and 10th century Parish Church of St George.

While Slovenia’s urban landscape is pretty, it has incredible sceneries as well.

Up in the country's northern region you can find beautiful Alpine valleys like Slovenia's finest, the Vrata Valley. The dramatic Julian Alps Mountain range has picturesque mountain lakes and trails ideal for hiking and climbing.

Down in the Karst region, unusual sinkholes and caves like Postojna Cave make for a cool destination in Europe to visit.

Slovenia offers a good blend of experiences: cultures, architecture, and beautiful landscapes and is a wonderful urban and scenic destination. This makes it a perfect city break destination. It is also becoming a popular wedding destination.

Old castle on the river & a custom sign: 'Slovenia for a city break?'
Old castle on the river & a custom sign: 'Slovenia for a city break?'

North Macedonia

North Macedonia, officially known as the Republic of North Macedonia, is a country located in southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula.

Be prepared, North Macedonia has its own currency - the denar. There are plenty money exchange places everywhere, but bring cash. Or, get money from ATM, but  be prepared to pay fees if you are from the US. Many European countries offer fees free ATM withdrawals. 

Its capital city is Skopje, but Ohrid is undeniably is the most beautiful town in North Macedonia. I spent 2 months there last summer and I couldn’t get enough of its beauty.

Ohrid is a cool city break and a very relaxing destination with many historical buildings and amazing lake views from everywhere. The cobblestone pavement alone is quite attractive.

You will also see many unique Orthodox churches and even a medieval castle!

You will find restaurants and cafes lining up every street. Food is an important part of the culture, and it’s delicious.

North Macedonia is also a cheap European vacation destination. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe. To read about other most affordable countries in Europe, read my other post.

You can fly into Skopje, Macedonia or Tirana, Albania and take 3-4 hours bus from there.

To conclude, there are some wonderful small but cool countries in Europe. All of them make perfect city breaks, since they are so small and easy to explore.

There are also several countries located across multiple continents, Europe and Asia at the same time. However, this ranking of the smallest European countries does not include these transcontinental nations.

Here is a link to learn about other destinations in Europe I have covered

I hope you found my post helpful for your city breaks planning. 

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