Tired of having to deal with the crowds of the Colosseum or the queues to ascend the Eiffel Tower? Well, perhaps it’s time to seek out alternative city destinations in Europe for weekend breaks, which are often overlooked in favour of the lure of European capitals such as Rome and Paris.
Not only will this help you escape the tourist masses, less popular cities tend to be cheaper and friendlier, while also giving you the chance to try something completely new.
Go away ready to be pleasantly surprised rather than bracing yourself for days of frustration and annoyance. For a break with a difference, consider the following.
Swap Berlin for Munich
Berlin attracts everyone from mature history enthusiasts right through to young hipsters, with its numerous attractions, including the Reichstag, unbearably busy in the spring and summer months. On the other side of Germany, Munich offers history, great food and wine, and contemporary culture all without the crowds and high prices of the capital.
The biggest city in Bavaria, Munich boasts more than its fair share of historic gems, including the Old and New Town Halls, the royal avenues and squares and, a little outside of the centre, the majestic Nymphenburg Palace.
Sitting comfortably alongside these historic attractions, Munich is also home to numerous celebrated examples of modernist and contemporary design, several world-class museums and art galleries, and a globally-famous football team. However, if it’s a break from the tourist crowds you’re after, be sure to avoid late September and early October, when thousands head to Munich for its annual Oktoberfest.
Exchange Rome for Verona
The Eternal City’s many attractions are famous the world over, and therein lies the problem. In the summer months, queues for the Vatican, the Colosseum and the Forum can be unbearably long, while prices in and around the centre are always much higher than the rest of Italy.
In comparison, Verona offers the chance to enjoy everything for which Italy is celebrated – good food and wine, high culture and a rich heritage – in relative peace and quiet, and all without breaking the bank.
Highlights of the city, which is located in the north of the country, include a Roman amphitheatre, which is used to stage opera performances over the summer months, the narrow streets leading off the grand Piazza Erbe and, of course, Juliet’s Balcony, linked to Shakespeare’s famous romantic tragedy set in Verona.
As well as being home to numerous examples of Roman and mediaeval architecture, Verona is also famed for its hearty cuisine, with tourists able to join the locals in enjoying traditional dishes for a fraction of the cost of Rome’s best restaurants.
Switch Barcelona for Malaga
The Catalan capital of Barcelona is well-known for its modernist architecture and its frantic nightlife, with both making it a hit with millions of holidaymakers each year.
By contrast, the Andalucian city of Malaga gets relatively few tourists, despite it being within easy reach of some of Spain’s best and boasting a picturesque old town and vibrant bar and restaurant scene.
Highlights of the compact old town include the Cathedral of the Incarnation as well the Castle of Giabrafolo and the Church of St James. The city’s history can also be discovered in the Fine Arts and Archaeology Museum and the Museum of Wine.
However, it is the beaches of the Costa del Sol that attract most people to Malaga. Thanks to its location, the city enjoys a pleasant sub-tropical climate and, while this makes it a hit with foreigners, it remains distinctly Spanish, unlike certain other places along this stretch of coastline.