City breaks can be just as rejuvenating as a beach holiday. But Europe’s capitals aren’t always your best option for a stress-free escape.
London, Paris and Rome are famed for tourism, crowds and high prices. If you’re looking for somewhere a little less obvious, try these off-the-radar city breaks instead.
Packed with vibrant culture, food and nightlife, these nine urban escapes offer all the perks of city life with smaller crowds and lower price tags.
9. Poznan, Poland: For colourful architecture and underground raves
Poznan is one of Poland‘s most underrated cities. From the colourful houses of its picturesque old town to the techno raves held in underground clubs, it has a little something for everyone.
After visiting the historic cathedral located on an island in the fork of the River Warta, you can learn about its history at the interactive heritage centre, Brama Poznania.
Make sure to sample some of the region’s signature wielkopolska cuisine, a love letter to root vegetables.
8. Munich, Germany: For hiking, biking and river surfing
The first city of Germany’s Bavaria, Munich is the perfect place for people who don’t really like cities that much.
The city is well set up for urban cycling, while its nearby mountains are ideal for hiking enthusiasts. You can even surf in the Isar river – exercise that will come in handy after you’ve been sampling the local baked goods and beers.
The annual Oktoberfest is of course the city’s busiest time of year, but Munich is also ideal for a quiet getaway. Sometimes called Millionendorf (village of a million), the city has a quiet and local atmosphere where everybody knows their neighbours.
7. Cork, Ireland: For stargazing and whiskey
Ireland’s second city is central to the green, lush surrounding county of the same name.
Take some time to relax in the tranquil Fitzgerald Park or stargaze at Blackrock Castle observatory. Whiskey lovers will enjoy the Jameson experience and Rebel City Distillery, while culture buffs should check out the Cork Opera House and Crawford Art Gallery.
6. Gdansk, Poland: For milk bars and market squares
This port city adorns Poland’s Baltic coastline and boasts some of the country’s most beautiful architecture with churches and market squares galore.
Why not grab a traditional meal at one of Gdansks’s ‘milk bars’ and admire the city’s signature brightly coloured buildings as you stroll along the beautiful waterfront.
5. Lyon, France: For good food and good wine
Decorated in murals and home to many beautiful buildings, Lyon is a must visit.
Embedded at the junction of Rhône and Saône rivers, the city is the birthplace of modern cinema. It is also a stalwart of French cooking, with both the Lumiere brothers and the ‘Pope’ of French cooking Paul Bocuse originating in the city.
Although a destination in its own right, Lyon is also the perfect base to explore the national parks and vineyards of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France.
4. Leipzig, Germany: For art and culture
One of the jewels of eastern Germany, Leipzig has been a culture hub for the arts since the Middle Ages.
Today, the city boasts the Museum of Fine Arts and Forum of Contemporary History to draw discerning culture-lovers. Equally discerning party-goers will want to explore Leipzig’s legendary techno scene, which rivals that of Berlin.
A must-see is the former garment producing district of Lindenau where dilapidated warehouses have been turned into art spaces.
3. Porto, Portugal: For heritage, nightlife and pastel de nata
Looking out onto the North Atlantic ocean, Porto is the home of port wine production. Its vibrant nightlife and UNESCO listed medieval Ribeira district draw tourists of all ages to the city.
A sightseeing cruise down the Douro River is the perfect way to soak up a beautiful Portuguese sunset. Don’t miss out on sampling the signature Pasteis de Natas.
2. Glasgow, Scotland: For street art and culture
This port city on the river Clyde might be in the frozen north of the United Kingdom but a bit of Scottish hospitality will warm you up.
A former industrial heartland, Glasgow is now a cultural hub, home to the Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet.
Clydeside Distillery is be another one for the whisky lovers. Fans of the beautiful game will love the Scottish Football Museum and everyone can enjoy the gorgeous artwork on offer along the Glasgow mural trail.
1. Manchester, England: For converted warehouses, theatre and nightlife
Britain’s undisputed northern capital has culture, nightlife and food to cater to every palette. It is truly a city for all seasons (because the weather is equally bad all year round).
Manchester has chased in on its industrial heritage like nowhere else and Victorian warehouses and canals can be spotted all over the city.
Soak up the city’s vibrant theatre scene at the Lowry or Royal Exchange. Visit the Museum of Science and Industry or People’s History Museum to learn about the city’s political and industrial past. Then party into the night in the Manchester’s historic Gay Village.
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