Paris too crowded? What about Lyon as a city that’s no less cultured and romantic? Stockholm too expensive? Why not visit Gothenburg for its cool urban scene and amazing fresh seafood? We look at six authentic alternatives to the more obvious city break destinations.
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If you're a fan of Paris but want to try somewhere different, try a break in Lyon, France’s historic second city instead. You’ll find the splendid Musée des Beaux Arts
is second only to the Louvre (without the queuing) and the hearty, meaty Lyonnaise cuisine, served in authentic gingham-tableclothed bouchons
is arguably one of France’s best. UNESCO-listed Vieux Lyon, the old city, is a maze of narrow streets and intriguing traboules –
merchants’ secret alleyways that date back to Lyon’s 19th-century heyday as a hub of the silk-weaving industry, and used by the Resistance during the war. Many of Lyon’s buildings are Renaissance, and there’s even a beautifully preserved Roman amphitheatre on Fourvière Hill, contrasting with the stunning new urban renewal buildings in the Confluence district.
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As an alternative to pricey Stockholm, Gothenberg is cheaper, less crowded and home to some distinctive delights not available in Sweden’s capital. It’s a great city to amble round, with cobbled streets, Dutch-style canals and interesting shopping in the historic Haga district
, with its distinctive wooden buildings and café culture. The coffee’s better in Gothenberg too, with friendly, independent cafés serving Scandi pastries still in the majority. Seafood, fresh off the boats on the west coast is top-notch. This gets unloaded at the Feskekörka
(Fish Church), the best lunch spot in Gothenberg if you love shellfish. And if you enjoy properly scary wooden rollercoasters, Gothenberg’s Liseberg Amusement Park
knocks spots off the theme park in Stockholm.
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If you love Barcelona but fancy a change, why not take a city break in Bilbao – heart of the fascinating Basque country? Once an industrial heartland with some Gothic highlights, the arrival of the monumental Guggenheim Museum
transformed this city into a major player on the European art scene. It’s not all modern glass and steel, though – Bilbao also has a lovely old town, Casco Viejo, with paved streets and ornate, colourful balconied houses and boutiques for relaxed shopping. Basque cuisine is simple and delicious, based on salt cod, eggs, peppers and seafood. You must try pintxos
– delicious bar snacks of tasty morsels pinned to a slice of bread with a cocktail stick – just don’t call them tapas. And when ‘kaixo’ is the word for ‘hello’, you know you’re not going to get far with the impenetrable Basque language that’s as unique as Bilbao itself.
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Looking to visit an Austrain city that’s more compact and relaxed than Vienna? If so, UNESCO-listed Salzburg, could be your ideal mini-break. Salzburg looks as if it has been lifted from the pages of a book of children’s fairytales, with its backdrop of mountains, fortress perched on a cliff and delightful Baroque architecture. There’s plenty to explore – the historic narrow streets, traditional inns and Mozart’s birthplace in Getreidegasse, the vintage and antiques shops of Goldgasse and, as a contrast, the Museum der Modern
– for modern art lovers. As for Salzburg’s cuisine, you have to try the three S’s – schnitzel
before hitting the designer bars on the right bank of the River Salzach.
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Want to visit a German city with some real oompah-pah? Then you’ll find that Munich is a fun place for a city break – it’s surprisingly cosy, with a village feel, the parks and gardens are pretty and the noisy beer hall culture is hugely entertaining, especially during Oktoberfest
. At first glance, Munich’s buildings look old and well-preserved, until you realise the city was flattened in two world wars and painstakingly restored to its former 19th-century glory. The Bavarian Museum
is just about worth its one euro Sunday entrance fee, whereas The Munich Residence
, with the Crown Jewels, is fascinating. Food in Munich is rib-stickingly hearty – expect sausages, dumplings, pork chops and lashings of sauerkraut, with apple strudel for pud. And beer. Lots of beer.
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You’ve done New York’s Times Square, Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty at breakneck speed, and eaten your fill of overstuffed pastrami deli sandwiches. How about taking it down a notch and spending some time in America’s oldest city? With a skyline almost as beautiful as the Big Apple’s and with a boutique, villagey feel, relaxed Boston has a lot to offer for a city break. Follow the Freedom Trail
to 16 historically-significant sights, tour prestigious Harvard University
with an undergraduate guide, visit the Museum of Fine Arts
, one of the most important Impressionist art collections in the US, and cheer on the Boston Red Sox at a game in Fenway Baseball Park
. Boston’s food celebrates its immigrant heritage – from Sicilian cannoli to Irish stew, via ramen, empanadas and bánh mì. And if you want traditional New England clam chowder, there’s plenty of that too.