City Breaks | 11 minutes

Top 10 Alternative City Breaks

It’s that time of the year where most people start to think about their next city break. Maybe somewhere you can disappear to for a weekend getaway that isn’t inundated with tourists? Or maybe you want to discover the next “go-to destination” before all of your friends? If so, we’ve compiled a list of alternative city destinations that you probably haven’t thought about adding to your travel plans but really should.

Been to Krakow? Try Wroclaw

Rynek in Wroclaw, Poland

Are you looking for an Eastern European city that isn’t swarmed with thousands of tourists? Wroclaw it is! Fewer tourists mean more snaps of this stunning medieval city and, whilst the city has been undiscovered by the mass influx of tourists for now, it’s definitely the alternative city to add to your travel plans as most tourists flock to nearby Krakow and Warsaw.

Wroclaw was named the European Capital of Culture in 2016 and on a visit here, you’ll soon discover why. Rynek the main market square is one of the most beautiful and largest market squares in Europe. Wroclaw also homes an exceptional flower garden which hosts open-air concerts and events and is the ideal space for relaxing on a summer’s day.

The Old Town is one of the city’s top tourist attractions but don’t forget a visit to Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island). This area is very picturesque and it represents the importance of religious symbolism for Wroclaw. A visit here will be relaxing and peaceful as you gaze around at the structural design which makes this city so distinctive.

One reason which makes Wroclaw such a unique alternative is what the city’s most talked about attraction is. No, it’s not your usual bustling market square or dazzling cathedral but for its dwarves. The Dwarves of Wroclaw are small, bronze, ornamental gnomes dotted cleverly around the city. Wroclaw’svisitors love to explore the city trying to find them all. Nobody knows for sure how many of these mini dwarves they are but there is an estimate of over 300 of these cute adornments scattered around the city. The dwarves are all unique with some carrying pizzas, socialising with one another to watching TV. These dwarves represent the city’s history and brings a smile to everyone’s face once they spot new ones on their travels.

At the end of your travel to Wroclaw, you should experience the Wrocław Multimedia Fountain – a light show which has to be seen to be believed. The light show is displayed on a waterfront screen and is projected by lights, lasers and animations. It really is the enchanting ending to your visit to Wroclaw.

Been to Prague? Try Riga

Bird's eye view of Riga in Lativa

Riga is ideal for your next Eastern European adventure. It’s the largest of the Baltic region and has been referred to as the ‘Little Paris of the North’, due to its magnificent buildings and little-cobbled alleyways. It’s steeped in history as the city had German, Swedish and Russian rule until the20th century before declaring independence and this is supported by Riga’s “Freedom Monument” statue. Riga’s stunning Art Nouveau infrastructure has won itself a place as part of UNESCO World Heritage. Since the fall of communism, the majority of buildings have been renovated giving the city a strong blended theme where modernity meets medieval.

St. Peter’s Church is the place to go to get panoramic views of the city where your view is be dabbled with red rooftops and cobbled streets. St. Peter’s Church is located in the Old Town where you can easily see the contrasts in infrastructure throughout.

Fun fact: Just outside St Peters church lies a charming statue with stacked animals (a donkey, dog, cat and rooster) called the “Town Musicians of Bremen” from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. People say that rubbing the noses of each animal on the statue will bring you good luck!

Riga has copious amounts of interesting architecture including “The Three Brothers” – buildings made by men rumoured to be from the same family in different centuries situated next to each other, “Cat House” – a bright yellow building with two cat statues on top of it and “The House of the Blackheads” which is one of Riga’s landmarks.

Been to Budapest? Try Istanbul

Istanbul in Turkey

Istanbul has been described as a city where Europe meets Asia. The city is spread across both continents and separated by the Bosphorus River – you will see the contrasts of both continents every corner you turn. With endless possibilities of what to see and do, Istanbul will soon become your favourite city break destination. 

Whilst in Istanbul, discover the buzzing Grand Bazaar, a shopping experience which is unique to Istanbul. This place will hit you with a unique sensory overload. Somewhere you’ll find treasure troves of gold and silver jewellery, aromatic spices and chic fabrics in a bustling setting. Many visitors love the excitement of the Grand Bazaar as they prepare to barter and haggle for their next beloved leather handbag or a jewel-encrusted candlestick holder. It’s probably the best place to get your fix of true Turkish culture.

A visit to the Haggia Sophia has to be on your list. It has been considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and the eighth ‘Wonder of the World’. It’s located near the Sultan Ahmed Mosque aka The Blue Mosque because it’s adorned with beautiful blue tiles throughout the building.

A popular Turkish tradition to try is a visit to a Hamam. This is an indoor spa where you can experience a unique cleansing ritual and it is extremely relaxing. You are spoiled for choices for Hamams in Istanbul and it is the perfect end to a busy day.

Fun fact: Turkish Delight is known as Lokum in Istanbul and comesin a variety of different flavours including rose, hazelnut, mint and orange.Why not enjoy some with Turkish tea – a match made in heaven!

Been to Berlin? Try Hamburg

Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg has one of the biggest and busiest ports in Europe. They also have a Maritime Museum, a very famous fish market, and harbour cruises for visitors to enjoy making it a seafaring city. A different method of exploring Hamburg is by bike. Like the other German cities, Hamburg is bicycle-friendly and has copious cycle routes with flat terrains to get around. You can easily see the city in a day or two this way and I would highly recommend it!

St Pauli’s district is known for its football club and its insane nightlife but it also has a strong historical background. It was known as the sailor’s area and where The Beatles really strengthened their reputation and made a name for themselves back in the 60’s. Pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants surrounded by neon lights, striking graffiti and eclectic music adorn the streets and it is definitely worth a stop off on your trip. 

One of Hamburg’s other tourist attractions is Miniatur Wunderland. This is the world’s largest railway model system where tourists can admire miniature versions of cities and airports including the Austrian Alps, France, Italy, the USA and Hamburg itself. Bring the kids along or let your inner child run free as you wander around staring at the intricate details of each set.

Fun fact: There are more canals in Hamburg than in Amsterdam and Venice combined!

Been to London? Try Liverpool

Beatles statue in Liverpool, England

Liverpudlians pride themselves on their city and it’s no wonder why as it has been a centre for urban regeneration in the UK throughout the ages. Liverpool is a city with exciting events and attractions for everyone including a world-class sporting club, fantastic shopping outlets and musical memorabilia and museums to suit all ages. Its Merseyside location makes it ideal for weekends away and if you’re looking for an alternative to London then this is your next stop!

Liverpool prides itself as the home of the Beatles. The Beatles Story at Albert Docks tells its visitors the story of how the four infamous members became the legends they are today. In my opinion, this place is a must-see for any visitor. You can also visit the British Music Experience Museum which gives an interactive run through on British music and how it has evolved over the years.

If you’re a Liverpool FC fan, a visit to Anfield Stadium is a must. Get a closer look at the inside of The Reds dressing rooms, take a stadium tour that showcases the pitch and player’s tunnel and take a peek at the prestigious press room. There are numerous photo ops for their fans at the stadium so make sure to stick it on your list whilst visiting the city

Been to Amsterdam? Try Bruges

Canal in Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is your ideal picturesque medieval European town. With fairytale-like buildings and winding canals, it’s one of Belgium’s hidden gems.

The Belfry (Belfort) building is the most iconic landmark for Bruges located in the Markt square. When you clamber the 366 steps to the top, marvel at the views of this charming Belgian town. You could easily get lost admiring the quaint streets and architecture of Bruges as there is a multitude of things to see and do here. Bruges is known as ‘the Venice of the North’ with many different canals meandering throughout the town. After exploring on foot and feasting Bruges’ delicacies, why not enjoy a canal cruise through this charming village where you can relish these stunning sights from differentangles.

Bruges is home to the chocolate connoisseurs who pride themselves in producing the perfect smooth-tasting chocolate taste that we all adore. Visit the array of chocolate shops and museums as this is a real chocolate lovers’ dream! Also in Bruges is the world’s only chip museum, where you can learn about the history of French fries and sample delicious frites produced by chefs and obtain your own recipes and modifications for this classic food.

Fun fact: Did you know Belgium was the birthplace of French Friesback in the 1600’s?

Been to Barcelona? Try Seville

Seville is most commonly known as the birthplace of tapas and flamenco dancing. Seville is located in Southwestern Spain in the Andalucía region and has a warm climate all year round. It was voted the top destination to visit in 2018 and it has a great mix of something for everyone. It has amazing monuments and palaces to explore, a wide range of entertainment and leisure activities and a plethora of tasty cuisine to devour.

The biggest landmark in Seville is the Alcazar of Seville. This palace was home for numerous royal family members when they visited Seville. The Alcazar is one of the oldest palaces still in use and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You may recognise the palace from productions such as Game of Thrones and Star Wars. A tour of the palace will take your breath away as you marvel at the exquisite architecture and wander throughout the gardens and grounds.

Of course, a visit to Seville wouldn’t be complete without attending a Flamenco show. This folklore dance is a fiery, colourful and mesmerising routine which is the traditional dance in Spain. Seville actually has a Flamenco Museum where you can educate yourself on the history, culture and routine, interact with the exhibition and watch a live Flamenco show, all in the one building!

If you need another reason to go to Seville it has to be their festivals. The Semana Santa de Sevilla takes place before Easter and celebrates Holy Week. It includes extravagant parades and fiestas that take place all day and night to celebrate Christ. Another major festival in Seville is the Feriade Abril which takes place in April after Easter. This is a week-long celebration and a great time to visit and experience the real Sevillian culture. There are fairs which are adorned with lights, tents and people in traditional Andalusian costumes with activities such as bullfights and a large firework displays to mark the end of the week and its celebrations. It displays a lively and energetic atmosphere for both children and adults and really is an experience that you will never forget!

Been to Lisbon? Try Porto

Porto is a sea city and is Portugal’s second capital. It usually goes amiss when compared to Lisbon, but this city has its own characteristics which make it a must-see. For one, the stunning architecture in Porto is eye-catching with a distinct style using Azulejo tiling. One of the most iconic buildings with this style has to be Sao Bento rail station. It was designed in the 19th century by Jorge Colaço, which he spent over 10 years painting. The station is covered in blue and white ceramic tiles which depict the history of the city. You could easily spend hours in there staring at them all!

Port wine hails from Porto, and a visit to this city is incomplete without enjoying a glass of the good stuff either on its own or with your dessert (yum!). This wine is made in the Duoro Valley and is readily available throughout the city. For a day excursion, why not take a trip out to Porto’s wine cellars to take a fun tour to see how it is made and to take some souvenirs home for your family and friends.

Porto’s citizens known as ‘Tripeiros’ or ‘tripe men’ love their hearty dishes! One of the most iconic cuisines is the francesihna which is a gut-busting sandwich layered with meats such as bacon, pork, sausage and topped off with a medium-rare steak covered in cheese and beer sauce! Try it if you dare!

Fun fact: For the Harry Potter fans out there, there is a small bookshop called Livraria Lellos which apparently was the inspiration for J.K Rowling for her Harry Potter series. The architecture is so stunning and onelook at the winding staircase you’ll soon understand why!

Been to Paris? Try Nice

The French Riviera’s capital is a pleasant change from the hectic, bustling streets of Paris. With the mixture of energetic marketplaces, exotic climate, bustling promenades and interesting museums it really does live up to its name! Its location in the Cote D’Azur makes it a prime location for a weekend getaway.

Promenade des Anglais is the landmark of Nice. It’s a truly beautiful stretch where you can enjoy a stroll, hire a bike or roller skate for a more daring adventure! For a city break, Nice has exactly what you want. For those who are into museums and history, why not visit Musee Matisse or theMuseum of Modern Art? Maybe visit the scenic Cours Saleya? Where you are met with the blossoming bouquets of vivid flowers and an abundance of fragrance wafting through the air. You could also shop around on Avenue Jean Medecin or sample the irresistible French delicacies that Nice has to offer. If you are visiting Nice throughout the festival season a quick train ride will bring you to Cannes or Monaco where you can set your eyes on the rich and famous.

One of the most famous foods hailing from Nice is the Nicois Salad – this is made up of a mixture of salad leaves, olives, hard-boiled egg, tuna and anchovies. Perfect to tuck into when you are in this warm climate. Another alternative choice could be “socca” if a salad doesn’t float your boat. This isa crispy chickpea pizza-style snack with a soft interior. Yum!

Been to Rome? Try Florence

Cityscape of Florence in Italy

Ticked Rome off your bucket list? Or maybe you’re keen to explore the birthplace of the Renaissance? Or just shop for your next high-end purchases? The City of Lilies is renowned for its Art History and has a culture to really immerse yourself in.

One of Florence’s main attractions is the Uffizi gallery. For those who don’t know much about this museum, its home to the most popular Renaissance paintings in the world… and it’s also the busiest (make sure to book your tickets in advance for this one). Some of the most famous works include Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Caravaggio and Botticellito name a few! Another Florentine landmark is the Piazza del Duomo, where the city’s most famous buildings are located such as the Baptistery of San Giovanni, the Duomo and Giotto’s Bell Tower. If you haven’t visited this area then you haven’t visited Florence!

Your next stop has to be Piazzale Michelangelo where you can gaze in awe at the city who produced infamous artists. This spot is a favourite for tourists and locals alike to soak up Florence’s beauty in full. So if you’re on a quest for your next Instagram post, then this is the place to find it!

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite to eat, to sample the real Italian cuisine or simply searching for your souvenirs to bring home, a visit to the San Lorenzo market is not to be missed. This market is comprised of two separate markets – one outside and one inside and gives the real Florentine feel to its visitors.

So, which city will you be visiting first?

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