alternative european city breaks

The best alternative European city breaks

With their historic architecture, beautiful scenery and culture without the crowds — these European cities are perfect for a winter getaway that won’t break the bank

Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Venice; we’re all familiar with the customary run of European city breaks available to the modern city-breaker — and very beautiful they are, too. But where should the intrepid urban explorer direct his steps (or flight paths) if he’s in search of somewhere a little more off the radar?

With their historic architecture, beautiful scenery and culture without the crowds — our curation of charming European cities are perfect for a late autumn getaway that won’t break the bank. And, let’s face it, we might as well make good use of our EU passports for as long as they’re valid.

Syracuse, Italy

alternative european city breaks

With a 2,700-year-old pedigree, the ancient city of Syracuse is a must-visit destination for any history enthusiast worth their salt. Get lost in the winding atmospheric streets off the Piazza Duomo, and tuck into local Sicilian delicacies at the numerous family-run trattorias and gelaterias.

Make sure you:

Visit the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis to view the impressive 2,000-year-old Greek theatre where great classical epics were staged in their original format.

Perpignan, France

alternative european city breaks

Overshadowed by its more illustrious neighbour Barcelona, Perpignan is the perfect spot for the traveller wishing to sample Catalan lifestyle. Artist Salvador Dali was a big fan; he claimed the waiting room at Perpignan railway station was the centre of the universe, since it was where he found the inspiration for his best works.

Make sure you:

Climb the hill to the Palais des Rois de Majorque. Affording a spectacular view of the town, the palace was the seat of the Kings of Majorca who once ruled the Catalan region.

Kotor, Montenegro

alternative european city breaks

Renowned for its medieval architecture and Venetian-era walls, the town of Kotor is situated on the tip of the picture-perfect Boka Kotorska (Bay of Kotor) on Montenegro’s northern coast. This stylish jewel is fast becoming a new Riviera hot spot for the European smart set, but its historic Old Town remains off limits for cars. Perfect for those seeking a bit of peace and quiet coupled with a dash of cultural charm.

Make sure you:

Test your sea legs. To really appreciate Kotor’s beauty, get out on the water – hop on a yacht, or, if you’re feeling energetic, sign up for a Kayak tour of the bay.

Porto, Portugal

alternative european city breaks

Portugal’s second city is situated at the mouth of the Duoro River and remains most famous for its world-renowned fortified wine — which, incidentally, can be sampled by the barrel-full here. A haven for foodies, this elegant city boasts an array of architectural gems, including the magnificent Porto Cathedral, Clérigos Clock Tower and the Palácio da Bolsa.

Make sure you:

Try Francesinha, the local speciality sandwich consisting of strips of steak, cured ham and Linguiça sausage, topped with cheese and a beer-infused tomato sauce.

Gothenburg, Sweden

alternative european city breaks

A short hop over the North Sea by air brings you to Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg. Absent of the more cliquey attitude of the nation’s capital, this friendly city offers some exceptional restaurants specialising in west coast Swedish cuisine, and an array of uber-stylish shops – the perfect place to stock up on your Scandi menswear staples.

Make sure you:

Pay a visit to the excellent Grandpa store in Vallgatan. This independent retailer stocks an eclectic range of home-grown and international men’s and women’s apparel and lifestyle goods.

Looking for something closer to home? These are the best spots for an autumn staycation

Further Reading