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Lesser known city escapes in Europe

20 June 2022

After months of hard work, you’re finally ready to take that well-deserved long weekend. And yet every time you bring this up, you’re offered the same list of suggestions on repeat - Paris, Barcelona, Rome. And while, of course, these cities have their treasures to savour, sometimes we’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path.

If you’re looking to switch things up for your next city getaway - here’s your chance. You can discover idyllic nature, historic landmarks, and rich cultural offerings, all while avoiding the high prices you pay for the most sought-after destinations. Here’s a selection of Europe’s lesser known gems just begging for a city getaway.

1. Sibiu, Romania

Romania’s Transylvania region may be best known as the home of fictional vampire Count Dracula, but in reality the area is so charming that it’ll quickly put any fears to rest. Located some 275km northwest of Bucharest, Sibiu is a picture-perfect town that feels like something out of a fairytale. The city is characterised by its distinctly mediaeval German architecture, the legacy of Saxon settlers who arrived in the 12th century.

The city's picturesque and walkable - the perfect setting for a relaxed city break. Romania is notoriously less expensive than most other countries in Europe, so you can enjoy treating yourself with the money you’ve saved by opting to enjoy all that Sibiu has to offer. Make sure to check out the Piata Mare, the Brukenthal National Museum, and the city’s historic Evangelical Church.

2. Duino, Italy

Italy is known for boasting a mind-boggling number of attractions worth a visit, so narrowing it down to one option is truly tough. However, for a lesser-known city that’s still guaranteed to take your breath away with its beauty, history, and rich culture, Duino makes for a spot-on choice. A charming settlement not far from Venice, Duino sits perched atop the impressive Karst cliffs of the Gulf of Trieste and is dominated by Duino Castle. The Castle itself sits right by the cliffside and sports a phenomenal view of the expansive Adriatic Sea. Best of all, Duino is easily accessible from both Venice and Milan, so you can make a quick trip without worrying about complicated travel.

3. Utrecht, Netherlands

Utrecht is the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands, and arguably the most picturesque. The city features many historic sights, owing to its ancient city centre and High Middle Ages architecture. Since the 8th century, Utrecht has been the religious centre of the Netherlands, so as you can imagine, it is packed full of beautiful churches and collections of artefacts. With nearby Amsterdam grabbing so much of the tourism sector’s attention, Utrecth remains a largely untapped gem when it comes to a culture-rich city escape.

4. Tbilisi, Georgia

Tblisi is the capital and largest city of Georgia, nestled along the banks of the Kura river. Tbilisi was originally founded in the 5th century by the Iberian king Vakhtang I, and has played an instrumental role in the geopolitical history of the Caucasus region ever since. Owing to its position on the crossroads between Europe and Asia, and benefiting from its proximity to the Silk Road trade route, Tbilisi has served as an important cultural centre for the interaction of Eastern and Western culture. The city is practically overflowing with cultural landmarks, and boasts a broad range of architectural styles ranging from mediaeval to neoclassical, Modern, and Stalinist. Plus, if going somewhere affordable is a priority for you, Georgia is one of the cheapest destinations you can find in Europe.

5. Killarney, Ireland

The west of Ireland is famed for boasting a plethora of quaint villages and stunning historical buildings, and the town of Killarney is one its crowning jewels. The town sits upon the northeast shore of the stunning Lough Leane, Killarney has played an important role throughout Irish history - particularly in ancient times. The town is filled with old stone churches and castles, and is surrounded by the rugged green of Killarney National Park. What’s more - Killarney is perfectly situated on the famous Ring of Kerry driving route, making it the perfect base for a daytrip into nature.  

6. Locarno, Switzerland

Ticino, Switzerland’s small, Italian-speaking canton is located at the south of the country on the border with Italy, and is home to the charming town of Locarno. Best-known for hosting the annual Locarno film festival - during which the city’s population increases fourfold - Locarno is a Swiss town with a twist. The strong Italian influence makes for a rich blend of cultures you’ll never forget. Enjoy walks throughout the town, soaking up the quintessential central European atmosphere, all while surveying the epic mountain scenery that hugs the parameters of the town.

A trip to the European continent doesn’t have to mean joining the hordes of tourists. With these fabulous city breaks, you can enjoy the city getaway experience, all while treading off the beaten path.