Hoping to escape for a city break? Don’t book anything yet. Whilst Europe is filled with well-known city destinations, there are some hidden gems that are often overlooked. You could find your next holiday destination and get away from the usual crowds of tourists.
Swap Paris for Reims
In 2018, Paris was visited by more than 19 million tourists, making it the most visited European city. It’s not surprising that some of the most popular attractions, from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, can get more than a little busy throughout the year.
If you’re looking for a quieter pace and space to explore, Reims could be just what you’re after. It’s a city that’s well-known for its champagne but it’s got the culture, history and art you may have been considering Paris for too, as well as restaurants serving classic French cuisine to enjoy.
For history buffs, Reims Cathedral should be high on your list of places to see. Every French King from 987 to Charles X in the 19th century was crowned here, it’s still as stunning and imposing today. It might not house the Mona Lisa, but Reims’ fine arts museum does boast paintings from Renoir, Monet and more, it’s set in a former abbey to add to the splendour too. Of course, you can’t visit Reims without touring at least one of the champagne houses.
The good news is that Reims is just an hour train journey from the capital. So, you can still tick off those must-visit attractions without much hassle.
Visit Padua instead of Rome
Rome is steeped in history and there’s something to see around every corner. It’s easy to see why tourists flock to the Italian capital. But the country has many other cities that are worth a visit too. Padua is one of them.
The medieval city-state has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Home to a prestigious university (Galileo was a faculty member here) the city is buzzing and vibrant during term time. The top attraction here is the domed Basilica di Sant’Antonio at the very centre of the historic old town. The largest square in Europe, Prato della Valle can also be found here. The 90 statues around the stunning water feature depict important historical figures from Padua. If you want to admire frescos, be sure to head to the Cappella degli Scrovegni; don’t be fooled by the exterior, the inside is filled with stunning art.
Padua is also perfectly placed for day trips too if you want to explore further. Venice is less than an hour by train, if you don’t mind a longer journey, Milan can also be reached with enough time to hit the main sites. If you want to escape the city for the day, Delta del Po and Grotte di Caglieron are worth a visit.
Try San Sebastian if you love Barcelona
Barcelona’s position on the beach makes it an attractive destination for those wanting to blend a city break with a chance to relax. If you’re looking for somewhere similar, San Sebastian is worth taking some time to research.
San Sebastian is surrounded by golden beaches and lush hillsides, perfect for when you want to escape. Aside from the beach, the old town is beautiful. The maze of cobblestone streets is easy to get lost around but it provides plenty of opportunities to soak up the culture. Sights to put on your itinerary include the City Hall, the Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro and taking a funicular to the top of Monte Igueldo for panoramic views.
The city might be small, making most of the attractions accessible on foot, but that doesn’t mean it lacks culture. There’s a huge array of events taking place throughout the year. One of the highlights is the International Film Festival taking place in September, whilst August is marked with street parties to celebrate Semana Grande.
Foodies will love San Sebastian too. From Michelin-starred restaurants to bars serving up tapas, you can expect fresh, local food to dig into. In fact, Lonely Planet names the city ‘Spain’s culinary capital’.
Switch Vienna for Salzburg
Salzburg might not be completely hidden, but if you ask someone to name a destination in Austria, it’s likely Vienna will be the first that springs to mind.
Salzburg is filled will art, culture and history, much like Vienna but on a much smaller scale, making it perfect for a mini-break. You can’t miss Hohensalzburg Fortress, perched on top of a hill, it’s easy to spot. The castle is 900 years old and today houses three museums, it’s easy to lose half a day here alone. But there are plenty of other attractions to fill your break with.
The city is known as the birthplace of Mozart so, as you’d expect, there are a few attractions in his honour. You can head to the famous musician’s birthplace, tour the most extensive Mozart library in the world (Bibliotheca Mozartiana) and watch a concert here. Mirabell Palace is also stunning and offers excellent views of the Baroque Cathedral, which is worth a visit too. Don’t forget to leave some time to simply wander the streets of the old town, it’s one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage sites.
For breathtaking views, along with some recent history, you should head to the Eagle’s Nest. You need to head over the border to Germany to get here but it takes less than an hour. The Third Reich era building offers incredible views of the Bavarian Alps and today acts as a restaurant and tourist site. If you don’t fancy the two-hour hike to get to the top, you can hop on a bus or use the lift buried in the heart of the mountain.