Europe can lay claim to many of the world’s most iconic cities, but most people don’t get much further than the landmarks labelled on the tourist maps. One way to really enjoy the historical sites, architecture and cultural highlights of these cities is to travel out of peak season. Another is to mix famous and much-loved attractions with other, less touristy ones sitting just off the beaten track. We’ve looked past the Eiffel Tower, Grand Canal and Colosseum to some of the best-kept secrets in Europe’s most popular cities, to help you plan your next city break slightly differently!
Paris – The Catacombs
Perhaps the darkest corner of the City of Light, the Parisian Catacombs were created in the eighteenth century, when Charles-Axel Guillaumot transferred bodies from nearby churchyards to create an immense ossuary, or ‘empire de la mort’. This site is becoming increasingly popular, so don’t wait too long to visit Paris’s spookiest destination – in fact, why not skip the Arc de Triomphe this time around and head straight for Les Catacombes?!
Barcelona – Turó de la Rovira
Offering panoramic views of Barcelona, the Turó de la Rovira was an anti-aircraft gun emplacement during the Spanish Civil War. These days, although the historic significance is still strongly felt, the Turó is popular with locals who visit with family and friends to admire the spectacular view of the city below. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and take in the sights from a different angle, head straight up to this natural viewing point on your arrival!
Rome – Villa d’Este
Located to the east of Rome, the Villa d’Este in Tivoli shows Renaissance culture at its most innovative and impressive. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the palace and gardens are celebrated for their architecture and design, including a host of breath-taking fountains and ornamental water features. If visiting Rome in the hot summer months, the cool shade of the gardens offers the perfect escape. Here’s your chance to enjoy Rome at its finest, minus the large throngs of people.
Prague – Brewpubs and Jazz Clubs
From the busy alleys of the Old Town to the café culture of Žižkov, Prague can easily cater for tourists with different tastes and interests. Found just a stone’s throw from many of the most congested streets and squares, the city’s numerous brewpubs and jazz clubs are a haven for anyone in search of the city’s best beer and music. Reduta, Prague’s first professional jazz club, will always be known for Bill Clinton’s performance on the saxophone, while Jazz Dock and the gastro brewpub U Tri Ruzi are firm favourites locally. You don’t need to join the masses on Charles Bridge to get a real feel for this city!
Venice – Chioggia
Venice’s canals, churches and palaces have captured travellers’ imaginations for centuries. But for those visiting La Serenissima in peak season, the effect of thousands of tourists descending daily on the fragile city can be overwhelming. The small port of Chioggia, a vaporetto ride from San Marco, is a picturesque mix of colourful palazzi, traditional market stalls and trattorie, which feels like a smaller, more sequestered version of Venice itself.
Are you planning any European city breaks this summer?
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