Sticking to the same city break destinations can be tempting. But why not be adventurous and try somewhere new?
Here are a few less crowded alternatives to some of Europe’s most popular destinations.
If you like…Bordeaux
Try…Porto and the Douro Valley
Fans of celebrated tipples flock to French city Bordeaux to sample fine wines produced in famous vineyards close to the city. But equally beautiful and bountiful is northern Portugal’s Douro Valley.
Wine estates are friendlier, cheaper and easier to visit without prior booking, and there are many historic villages to explore. Begin your stay in the city of Porto, touring historic port warehouses, and drive two hours to reach the Douro for either a day trip or overnight stay at the Vintage House Hotel.
If you like…Amsterdam
When Eurostar star operating to Amsterdam next year, the Dutch city will be busier than ever. But just a 15-minute train drive away is the more serene Haarlem, still laced with canals, galleries and inviting Dutch “brown” pubs.
Granted city status in the 13th century, this was a thriving port town long before Amsterdam and many great masters lived here. Visit the Frans Hals Museum and explore the Teylers Museum, the oldest in the Netherlands.
If you like…Barcelona
The combination of urban excitement and beachy relaxation makes Barcelona a popular option for a weekend break, but the sands at lesser-known Spanish seaside town San Sebastian are actually far finer. Spend a few hours in the beachside La Perla thalassotherapy spa, and run directly across the beach into the bracing water.
Common throughout Spain, food is a highlight; pintxos (the Basque region’s answer to tapas) are served in bars throughout the old town.
If you like…Berlin
When the wall came down in 1989, Berlin was a riot of hedonistic activity. Young people partied hard and in subsequent years set up creative businesses in abandoned buildings. That same sense of possibility now pervades Portuguese capital Lisbon, where new shops, bars and restaurants are springing up in crumbling, forgotten spaces.
Sip cocktails in former brothel Pensao Amor, or sample street food at the dockside Time Out Market Lisboa. There’s plenty of culture on offer too; take a trip to the UNESCO-listed Monastery of the Hieronymites at Belem and the 12th century Sao Jorge castle perched on one of Lisbon’s seven hills.
If you like…Florence
Dripping in Renaissance glory, Florence is undoubtedly one of Italy’s big hitters. Nearby Verona may be smaller, but it’s just as atmospheric – and attracts only a fraction of the heaving crowds.
Spin back to the days of the Medici and powerful ruling families by visiting Juliet’s balcony, where Romeo supposedly called to his forbidden love in Shakespeare’s famous play. Scoot around the walls of the Roman ampitheatre and spend time window browsing in the old town. Find traditional shoe stores alongside independent boutiques with prices far cheaper than in bigger Italian cities.
What's your favourite city break? Tell us in the Comments box below.