We all have a list of ‘must-see cities before we die’ knocking around in our heads, but sometimes that mini-break to Paris or New York is too hard on the bank account to fit in.

But what if you could visit somewhere slightly off the beaten track, without scrimping on food, accommodation, culture, beauty or history?

Try these city swaps next time you’re planning a getaway:

You want to go to… Amsterdam

Why not try… Antwerp?

Quaff beer and eat waffles at medieval Belgian port, Antwerp. It’s big on diamonds (rather than tulips) and was the home of Baroque painter Rubens. The cobbled streets and architecture will even make you think you’re in Amsterdam.

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You want to go to… Rome

Why not try… Genoa?


Rome may have the Colosseum, but the labyrinthine city of Genoa on the Italian coast has the ocean and candy coloured buildings, as well as Renaissance architecture and many gilded palaces. Don’t miss the Duomo and Piazza San Lorenzo.

You want to go to… New York

Why not try… Washington DC?

If you’re a House of Cards fan, Washington will already be on your ‘to visit’ list. Instead of the Empire State Building, visit the White House; instead of Broadway, check out the Kennedy Center and also be wowed by the sheer number of museums the city contains.

You want to go to… Barcelona

Why not try… Valencia?

Barcelona is crammed with tourists in the summer. Have a calmer time in football-mad Valencia, where you can laze in the park that intersects the city, visit futuristic buildings like the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias and eat your body weight in paella.

You want to go to… Venice

Why not try… Bologna?

Venice is too obvious for love-struck couples - mix it up by visiting Bologna, famed for its theatres, gluttonous food options (remember ragu was invented there) and medieval terracotta buildings. It’s a great swap for Florence too.

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You want to go to… Prague

Why not try… Ljubljana?

Prague in the Czech Republic is the spiritual home of stag and hen do parties – escape instead to the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, one of Europe’s greenest cities. Eat and drink on terraces by the river which slices through the heart of the city, visit the castle and check out the colourful central market.

You want to go to… Paris

Why not try… Lyon?

Paris is beautiful, but can be overcrowded. In Lyon you can still stay in an arrondissement (it’s got nine, packed with bars, restaurants and personality). Go to the opera, eat moules frites and explore the lively, eco-friendly and newly regenerated area, the Confluence.

You want to go to… Dublin

Why not try… Cork?

You can get just as good a pint of Guinness in Cork as you can in Dublin, you know. Meander along the waterfront, take frequent rests at the many, many coffee bars, check out Cork City Gaol and the Old Butter Market, which is what made Cork a major hub in the 1860s.

You want to go to… Reykjavik

Why not try… Bergen?

At this time of year, both Iceland and Norway require you to wear thermals, and both offer the chance to see the Northern Lights. Bergen also promises some of the best trout you’ll ever eat, and you can trek into the hills surrounding the city for spectacular views.

You want to go to… Budapest

Why not try… Krakow?

Krakow might not offer spas and Turkish baths, but it does offer the largest market square in Europe, filled with life, street performances and bars and clubs. Plus, find quieter spots in the Jewish quarter and along the river (look out for the city’s mascot, the dragon).

Photo credits: Rex Features

Where will you be going on a budget break? Let us know in the Comments section.