Europe is spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful cities, but if you want to escape the crowds on your city-break, there are plenty of alternatives to the popular favourites like Paris or Rome. Here are three little-known cities that you should definitely put on your vacation list:
Situated in the rightly famous region of Lombardy, Bergamo is a hidden gem. Featuring 14th-century Venetian walls and an extraordinary old town, you will get your history-fix in this ancient town without getting lost in the busy crowds. Set against the magnificent Alps, this city has it all: modern art galleries, historical sights, and a passion for coffee. If you fancy getting out into the atmospheric countryside, then Bergamo is ideally placed, just a short bus ride takes you up into stunning mountain scenery, complete with waterfalls and forests. Don’t forget snacks for the road – even something like a fruit smoothie (as TUI recommends) will keep you refreshed, energised, and ready to appreciate the sights. Or if you are feeling truly adventurous, hire some bikes and trek out to the local lakes for a picnic by the romantically-named Lake Iseo. Cycling tours around the Bergamo Alps are particularly recommended.
Do you want your fix of culture, food and history all in one place? Lille is the perfect stop, replete with walking tours, museums, and France’s second-largest art collection, this is a city to rival Paris. Populated by university students, its beautiful city centre is far quieter than many of Europe’s big cities, especially in the summer. This means you can enjoy your quintessential Lille dessert, the decadently chocolatey Merveilleux, in peace. Then wander around the Palais des Beaux-Arts, or marvel at the workmanship of the Renaissance stock exchange building. And best of all, if you exhaust Lille’s charms, you can pop over to Belgium for dinner, since it is only a short drive over the border from this charming city. Have a look through Lille’s extraordinary list of fine art exhibitions before you head out.
For a unique and personal city escape, try Budapest. This elegant European city is a busy mix of street food and opera, Turkish bathhouses and baroque architecture. Make sure you take advantage of the many hot springs found dotted all over the city, and pick a bathhouse that offers you an authentic and therapeutic pampering experience. Venture out into the sparkling night-life and experience Hungary’s music and dancing like a local by finishing off the night with a traditionally-fried Langos. Or if you feel the need to get away from the hustle of this busy city, then trek out to Margaret Island. This 2.5km long stretch of protected parkland sits in the centre of the Danube River and features medieval ruins and a famous fountain which spouts dancing water in time to classical music. The Neo-Renaissance Opera house is a must-see, with the 1200 seat auditorium famous for its acoustic quality. With tickets starting low, this is a cheap opportunity to see world-class opera.