The trouble with sightseeing in Europe’s most beautiful cities is that everyone wants to see the same sights.
But while there’s no avoiding the crowds, particularly at peak holiday times, every city has its hidden gems known only to locals – until now.
Here's a list of alternative spots near Europe’s top attractions, where you can soothe your frazzled nerves in relative peace after braving the tourist traps.
Rome - Visit the independent boutique stores near the Pantheon
After braving the crowds at Rome’s impressive domed temple to the gods, the Pantheon, when in Rome do as the Romans do and soak up the city’s style and creativity at a couple of independent stores.
Try Materie, a beautiful store where you’ll find innovative contemporary jewellery designs and great quality. And if you really want to indulge, head to Campomarzio70 - both a gallery and store dedicated to artistic perfumery and said to be one of the most charming shopping experiences in the city.
London - Eat the best afternoon tea near Buckingham Palace
As you’re unlikely to manage afternoon tea with the Queen when you visit Buckingham Palace, arguably the next best thing is nearby at Mayfair’s Sketch.
A centre for food, art and music set on two floors of a converted 18th century building in Conduit Street, sketch offers a quirky afternoon tea including caviar and quails eggs, raspberry cheesecake mousse and specially-baked cakes. And that’s not all – in its Gallery the walls are adorned with the line drawings of Turner Prize-nominated David Shrigley.
Paris - Dine at a local bistro near the Sacré-Cœur
Nestling in the Montmartre area near Sacré-Cœur in Paris are some of the best bistros, offering authentic local food without tourist price tags in the Passages des Grands Boulevards and Passages des Panoramas. For classic French cuisine with a contemporary lift, head to Canard & Champagne, where the menu features many delicious duck dishes.
Madrid - Browse the cultural centre near the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
After admiring the works of Dalí and Picasso at Madrid’s national museum of 20th Century art, why not head over to La Tabacalera , a social and cultural centre housed in an old tobacco factory, where you’ll find theatre, music, dance, painting, and neighbourhood events frequented by Madrid locals.
Bologna - Feast on the best tortellini near Le due Torri
Le due Torri, or the two towers, are arguably the most iconic landmark in Bologna. But after you’ve marvelled at the medieval structures, take a 10-minute stroll through the historic streets to the family-run Trattoria Serghei.
Always full of locals, the trattoria offers Bolognese delights including the delicious speciality, tortellini in broth.
Berlin - Drop in to an independent gallery near Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie is conveniently located in the heart of the Berlin gallery district, so after considering the Cold War at the Berlin Wall’s crossing point between East and West, why not wander around the corner into one of the best independent contemporary art galleries in the alternative Kochstraße area, Carlier Gebauer.
This internationally-renowned gallery showcases the talent of emerging and established artists on an experimental platform.