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There a few key destinations which will instantly spring to mind when most people think about a city break; Paris, Rome and Amsterdam are just a few of the most popular. However, if you’re looking for a fresh spin on the city break, then we’ve listed our top 10 alternative destinations for you to try.
The capital cities are of course a massive tourist draw, with sites to see and culture to soak up. We have to remember though, that most countries in Europe have a rich history with many of the cities outside the capital still offering many activities, sites and still offering great food and drink. See our choices below for the top alternative city break destinations located in a familiar Country.
If your idea of the perfect city break is amazing food, architecture and a young atmosphere, then Bologna is the place for you. Most visitors to Bologna go for its beautiful religious architecture, but the university town has a whole host of fantastic restaurants and a range of events happening all the time, for example the Bilbolbul international comic festival which takes place every November.
Granada is the city break destination that just keeps giving. Spend your days relaxing on the beach, eating delicious tapas, exploring the Spanish/Muslim architecture, soaking up the young atmosphere or skiing! The city is right next to the Sierra Nevada, the highest point in Spain, which not only provides spectacular views, but also allows visitors to Grenada the chance to enjoy winter and summer all in one day.
Just over 6 hours away by Eurostar, Marseille is a fantastic alternative city break destination to the more traditional (and busy) options. Explore Quartier du Panier, the city’s oldest area, for fantastic shops, cafes, galleries and architecture like the Nôtre-Dame de la Garde. For a younger side of Marseille, head for places like the Friche La Belle de Mai, which offers a rooftop bar and open air cinema.
Home to the 2006 Winter Olympics, Turin has since been through an urban revival, which has seen the contemporary, architecture and design scene blossom throughout the city. Not only is the city utterly charming and stunning, but it also gave us the first saleable hard chocolate, and displays the ‘Shroud of Turin’, a cloth bearing the image of a man (which Christians believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus).
Most people wouldn’t immediately consider a city break in a cold destination, but Reykjavik really is an amazing destination, and in one weekend you could tick a few things off your bucket list. Firstly, the Northern Lights can be seen from Reykjavik (best time of year is January to March) and specialist tours are readily available and very affordable. Secondly, a visit to the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle are a must to truly understand Iceland’s natural beauty. Thirdly, the city itself is full of kind people, amazing bars and restaurants plus great shops.
Malta is a beautiful destination, but is capital really is a sight to behold. Built by the Knights of St John in the 16th century, the walled city has some must see sights, including Fort St Angelo (the city’s oldest fort) and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a burial complex cut into the rock. In 2018 Valletta will be crowned ‘the city of culture’, so there is also a whole host of bars and restaurants to explore – make sure you try some delicious and traditional pork or rabbit dishes.
If you are looking to save some money, and see a city unlike the traditional Paris, Rome or Berlin then looking further afield to eastern Europe might be the best choice you could make. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far then Eastern Europe is a great choice with generally cheaper accommodation, food and drinks to be had.
The capital of Slovenia is considered a hidden gem for many, due to the beautiful historic buildings in the Old Town (including a castle and the St Nicholas Cathedral), captivating streets and amazing views of the mountains. However, Ljubljana is also a great destination for adrenaline fuelled activities, including skiing (in the winter months), white water rafting, hiking and mountain biking.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
If you’re passionate about history then Sarajevo is an excellent option for you. The city was a flash point for the First World War, and also went through four years of war and the devastating siege of Sarajevo. The Tunnel of Hope and Galerija 11/07/95 museums both attempt to explain the city’s violent history, and are well worth a visit between the many art galleries. Explore the cobbled streets, and take plenty of breaks to sample traditional coffee and pastries.
Wroclaw is Europe’s 2016 ‘city of culture’, and with the eclectic mix of operas, concerts, galleries, theatres and post-punk communes, it isn’t hard to see why. However, the city also has an interesting past which is well worth exploring, including the old town’s beautiful bridges and parks, plus Cathedral Island which is full of gothic architecture.
If you want to experience a difference culture, then Marrakech is a fantastic option which doesn’t involve a long haul flight (under four hours from the UK and easily accessible from Spain). The old town and souks really are an assault on the sense, with so many people, stalls, sights and smells to take in. Make sure you haggle before you buy anything (they expect it), stick to your route and don’t be led astray by ‘helpful’ local guides. However, the most important thing to do in Marrakech is to wander the streets and take everything in.
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