Everybody likes to explore a new city, enjoy its history and culture while sampling everyday life in the bars and restaurants. With the advent of budget airlines selling seats for as little as a few Euros, it possible to pick up your small bag and head off to explore places that previously would have been hard and expensive to get too. The problem with these flights is that it can make some of the most popular destinations very crowded, especially if you are restricted by your work to only be able to travel at peak times.
There are however still plenty of places that get largely overlooked and which are well worth visiting, allowing you to miss the crowds and enjoy places unchanged by mass tourism. Here are a few of our favourites:
1. Harrogate, UK
In the 1800’s Harrogate was a fashionable Spa destination where people, including Queen Victoria, went to bath in the mineral waters at the Royal Pump Rooms. The beautiful architecture reflects this period of affluence, built out of the warm local sandstone. It remains prosperous today, with plenty of vibrant bars, micro-breweries, and restaurants to enjoy. Situated in the county of Yorkshire it also has easy access to some of the UK’s best landscapes and National Parks.
2. Ostuni, Puglia, Italy
So many visitors head to the north of Italy, to Venice and Florence, that many forget the beauty and culture to be found further south. One of our favourite regions is Puglia, identified by most people as being the heel of Italy. It has a long coastline with rugged cliffs and bays. Inland there are hills rising up to over 1,100 metres. Its towns feel unspoilt, such as the wonderful medieval Ostuni which makes a wonderful base for a long weekend of scenic delight and wonderful food.
3. Poznan, Poland
Sitting on the banks of the Warta River, Poznan is where the modern state of Poland has its roots as the Duchy of Poland. Its architecture ranges from medieval to renaissance, with beautiful squares, historic streets, the Royal Castle and its main cathedral. There are plenty of cafes and bars to enjoy sitting in and watching the locals go about their everyday lives, as well as Michelin starred restaurants and some wonderful bakeries for on-the-go treats.
4. Marrakech, Morocco
If you want to go somewhere that feels truly exotic and yet can be reached by budget airlines, Marrakech has to be one of the greatest and most exciting options. This Berber city, fringed by the Atlas Mountains, has ancient bazaars you can lose yourself in as well as the famous Jemaa el’Fnaa Square which comes alive in the evening with Whirling Dervish, Water carriers and acrobats. Stay either in a traditional riad in the Medina or a villa in the newer French Quarter. Leave the mass tourist crowds behind and enjoy the exotic!
5. Perpignan, France
This wonderful Mediterranean city lies near the Spanish border and within easy range of lovely beaches and the Pyrenees Mountains. Once the capital of Roussillon and the Kingdom of Majorca it still has lovely medieval streets to get lost in and architecture to enjoy, thanks to its position making it important both strategically and for trade. Cafes and restaurants offer lovely food and drinks, serving the tasty Rose wines the region is famous for.
Remember, there are hundreds of places across Europe that offer wonderful opportunities to visit for a few days or a few weeks, offering real insights into everyday life. Don’t follow the crowds.