Cities in Europe are amongst some of the most visited in the world, Paris, for example, sees more international visitors each year than the whole of Canada. While there are obvious reasons that tourists want to visit the older and more famous cities like London and Paris, there are some wonderful day trips from Paris. There are so many amazing cities in Europe that too often overlooked and only ever visited by the lucky few who are intrepid enough to venture to them. Here are some less travelled European cities that I’ve been told deserve a visit! Whilst you are going to some more of the non touristy spots, make the most of it with your accommodation as there are plenty of boutique hotels in Europe.
Popular for business travellers and diplomats. Visitors to Belgium usually bypass Brussels in favour of Bruges or Antwerp but there is something undeniably attractive about Belgium’s capital city. There are plenty of things to do in Brussels. Brussels is a city where beautiful buildings are left to fall into ruin and being referred to as ‘trendy’ is an insult! The real attraction in Brussels is the population of young hip things who are laid back and multicultural. Street signs come in three languages and you will be forgiven for your communicating in school level French mixed with a bit of German and some Swahili.
Only an hour from London. London is a fantastic city, no denying it, but in summer it can be stuffy. If you are in the UK in summer, head down to Brighton. On the south cost and one of the sunniest towns in the UK, Brighton has all the best bits of the UK. Vibrant night life, alternative entertainment, vintage shops galore and fish and chips are all waiting at Brighton. Summertime sees nightly beach parties happening, parades and if you’re there at the right time, Britain’s biggest Gay Pride event.
Architecture to put Western European cities to shame and a hidden night life that is virtually unrivalled make Budapest a must see city destination. What makes Budapest so special is its ability to turn even the most derelict place into a top night spot with the use of a few recycled pieces of furniture and empty yard or ‘kert’ as they are known in Hungary. Finding them can be difficult though and that is part of the fun. Look out for ugly looking metal doors with a bouncer standing by and you have probably found a ‘kert’. Step through the door and be transported to the most eclectic and inspiring bar you have ever seen.
If ever there was a city with a story to tell, it’s Bristol. Enveloped in the hills of South West England, it has its own unmistakable identity, carved out by passionate locals and spirited fans. Seek out world-class street art and follow the sound of live music flowing into cobbled streets. In walking boots or hot air balloon, on a bike or a boat, even stand-up paddleboard or kayak, Bristol is a lively yet laid-back city bursting with character ready to inspire you.
Madrid has really revamped itself in the past couple of years. Villa holidays Spain allow you to relax in your own space and then go out and explore. The Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums have all got bigger and better, while the centre of the city is smartening up with new boutiques, delis, cafés and gastrobars. It’s perfect for a culture-rich long weekend or city break, with great food and a lively atmosphere at night. Madrid may be cold in winter, it is one of Europe’s highest capital cities, after all, but the sky is usually blue and the sunshine strong enough to allow visitors to sit at a pavement café sipping a vermut.
There are mixed opinions on visiting Bucharest. Many people will advise you to pass straight through and spend as little time as possible there. However, I have been told to give Bucharest a chance. Some of the best castles in Romania are in Bucharest. Apparently, it is a grey city that can appear pretty depressing at first. Spend a day though, visiting down town covered markets where the happiest marker sellers will choose the freshest produce for you and charge only a few pennies for the privilege of a whole bag of produce. Head down to the Arabic quarter for shisha and chat over fresh mint tea.
Possibly the most exciting in Europe. Right now, Berlin is enjoying the renaissance that it never had. The centre of the European Art world and famously liberal, Berlin is magnet for creative typed and those of a more free living leaning. Still carrying some remnants of its past, Berlin stands on the border of Western and Eastern Europe while managing to remain completely individual and independent in itself.
Have you been to any of these places or have you any Europe travel tips? Where do you recommend in Europe?