Europe’s best kept secrets

01/04/2015

When it comes to taking a long trip or multi-centre holiday, the sheer size and diversity of Europe makes it the ideal continent to explore. Of course, with so many different countries located close to each other, the continent boasts some of the finest capital cities in the world.

But while the likes of Paris, London, Rome and Barcelona will always rank highly on any traveller’s bucket list, there are so many other places to visit on a trip around Europe.

From secluded coastal towns, to over-looked second cities, here are some of the best alternative cities to visit in Europe.

Sintra

But a stone’s throw away from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, Sintra is a coastal gem that boasts a fascinating history as well as gorgeous scenery. The town is known for its incredible fine dining options as well as its artistic roots. Indeed, many Romantic writers and artists called Sintra home during the eighteenth century.

It is perhaps best known for the colourful castle-like structures that dominate its impressive skyline and indeed the cultural landscape of the municipality has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status because of its picturesque beauty.

Due to its location, you could quite easily visit both Lisbon and Sintra in one trip, spending a few days soaking up the culture of each. Sintra is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital and enjoy the lush scenery of the Atlantic coast.

Lyon

Often over-shadowed by Paris, Lyon is a remarkable city in its own right with a foodie scene that rivals that of the City of Light. It was once an industrial superpower, but now, after a great deal of regeneration, Lyon has become a cultural hotspot with a red-hot nightlife and an array of incredible museums.

The dock area, straddled by the waters of the Rhône and the Saône, is one of the hippest areas in the city which now boasts the Confluence science museum and a number of top restaurants and bars.

As well as the nightlife in the area, one of the best ways to see the city is on foot, and there are many walking tours that take in the city’s major sights and attractions. Don’t miss the Musee des Beaux-Arts, St-Jean Cathedrale,  and the architecture on the Vieux Lyon’s Traboules.

Krakow

Poland’s second largest city is the proud owner of Europe’s biggest market square as well as a delightful Old Town that contains a number of impressive churches and intriguing museums. As well as this, the magnificent Wawel Castle is a must-see for all visiting this city.

And while the Old Town is certainly a place of great beauty, it is also one of the best areas in the city for drinking and eating. There are literally hundreds of or restaurants, bars, cafes, and pubs strewn around these quaint streets.

For music lovers, Krakow is renowned for its many jazz clubs with Harris Piano Jazz Bar, Jazz Rock Cafe and Piec Art all putting on regular live gigs in the evenings.

Hvar

This small island town on the Dalmatian coast is the perfect place for an active holiday by the sea. While Hvar will become very busy over the summer, it’s still relatively quiet up until the peak season with the spring weather still nice enough to enjoy a dip in the sea and not overbearingly hot.

From the town's charming harbour you can quite easily hire a water taxi and visit the nearby Pakleni islands, which are wonderfully devoid of cars and covered in verdant pine trees. Hvar is also famous for its watersports scene, which is ideal for active types.

Being located on the coast, the seafood here is absolutely incredible. Fresh platters of fish, octopus and shellfish are a popular dish with both locals and tourists and you can be assured it has come straight out of the sea.

Cologne

With so many amazing things to see in Cologne, it’s a wonder the German city doesn’t come higher on more people’s city break list.

The most impressive building has to be the cathedral which stands out from the rest of the skyline in an imposing manner. This twin-spired behemoth looms large over the city’s skyline and sets the bar high for Cologne’s architecture.

From churches, to Roman-style walls to avant garde offerings, the city seems to have been affected by so many different design types which have helped create on of the most intriguing cityscapes in Germany.

For nightlife, the many raucous beer halls of the Altstadt section of the city offer a great insight into the drinking culture of the German people.

Rotterdam

Although Amsterdam often steals the limelight when it comes to Dutch city breaks, nearby Rotterdam certainly gives the capital a run for its money when it comes to nightlife and entertainment.

Whether you are strolling through the quiet areas like Delfshaven or the lake-filled Het Park, or hitting the clubs in the centre of the city, Rotterdam by the water is one that demands to be explored properly.

The ominously-named Blaak Market is one of the biggest and most varied in the Netherlands and sells everything you can think of. For museums, check out the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, which boasts one of the largest collections of Dutch and European art on the continent.

Combine a few, or tell us your own ideas

We are always willing to listen to your ideas when it comes to designing a European multi-centre holiday, after all it is your trip. If you want to visit a number of these cities, or include some of your own, we will do our best to come up with an itinerary that works for you.

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