With multiple countries and languages, varied cultures and cuisines, there are plenty of reasons to visit Europe. Tourism is so prevalent here that during peak seasons the capital cities and other tourist hotspots often become very overcrowded and ultimately, somewhat unpleasant.
You can still experience Europe’s finest by heading away from the capitals into the ‘real’ cities beyond. Unspoilt by your friend’s Instagram feed, you can truly explore the gems of these lesser known cities for the first time. With less emphasis on tourism, you will get a real insight into the local culture and avoid paying a premium to do so.
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Colourful Cagliari is a Mediterranean dream of pinks, oranges and yellows. This seaside city is known for its four historic districts: Castello, Villanova, Stampace and Marina. With cathedrals, museums, galleries and shopping, there is plenty to do in Cagliari. Take in the rich Italian history before stretching out on one of the beautiful beaches along Cagliari’s dramatic coastline. The marina offers a selection of restaurants to help you to unwind after a day of exploring.
Much less crowded than London, the UK’s second city has plenty to offer. Lively Birmingham is a hub for music and the arts, receiving 3.3 million visits between 2015-17. The iconic Bullring Shopping Centre is a shopaholic’s haven, home to the first Selfridges store outside London. Head to the Mailbox for more shopping and culinary delights before going on to the clubbing hotspots of Broad Street.
Another draw of Birmingham is the NEC conference centre welcoming acts and exhibitions from across the globe. Around the times of events, local hotels are much in demand, so be sure to book your stay early.
Get a real taste of Irish culture by heading to unspoiled Cork. A foodie’s haven, Cork is laid back and welcoming with plenty of choices to eat and drink. Colourful buildings line Cork harbour looking across the River Lee that runs through the city, taking in some of the finest views. The city’s castle-like former gaol is a must-see for any visitor. Take a tour inside this imposing structure to get a sense of inmate life a century ago.
Despite being the capital of Finland, tourism is much lower here than in other European cities. Still, Helsinki is definitely worth a visit. Sitting on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is rich in institutional history with museums and Parliamentary buildings. Uspenski Cathedral is an architecturally impressive must-see. This red-brick Orthodox institution overlooks the harbour and is ornately decorated inside.
For live entertainment, head to Esplanadi, a green-space in the middle of the city known for hosting Jazz festivals and fashion shows.
Known for its Renaissance-style market square, picturesque Poznań lies on the Warta River in Western Poland. With its colourful buildings and gothic cathedrals, Poznań is definitely a trip to take with your camera. Historic museums, zoos and a miniature railway are just a few of the treats Poznań has to offer, making it a great destination to visit with the family.
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