Travel

The coolest alternative European city breaks to book before everyone else does

Posted by
Megan Murray
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It’s time to lay your peepers on something new. Check out these on-trend and rising travel hot spots and explore them before the tourists catch on. 

Places like Paris, Rome and Amsterdam will absolutely always have a place in our hearts. After all, major cities like these inspire fashion, food and cultural trends that inform the rest of the world. 

But there’s something ever so alluring about being among the first to dub a new place cool, isn’t there? We felt it a few years ago when everyone we knew had a selfie snapped next to one of Lisbon’s yellow trams (something we immediately needed to bag for ourselves) and this summer, as we’ve heard the delights of Italy’s Puglia being talked about time and time again.

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Well, to stop you getting left behind, Airbnb and Post Office Travel Money have come together to do some research on the rising alternative travel hot spots that people have been booking in the last year. 

Eastern Europe is soaring in popularity with several places from this part of the world appearing on the list, and lesser known cities like Kaunas and Lviv overtaking old favourites like Warsaw and Prague. 

There’s also lots of inspiration for those who love a city break accompanied by crystal blue waters and silky sands, with some of Turkey and Italy’s trendiest destinations proving you can have it all. 

Check out the list below, whether you’re hoping for one last summer holiday or planning ahead for winter sun, and get in there first before your friends do. 

  • 10. Alkmaar, Netherlands

    Alternative European city breaks: Alkmaar
    Alternative European city breaks: Alkmaar

    We have a huge soft spot for Amsterdam, but there are other places you can wander canals and admire those higgledy-piggledy houses that the Dutch are so known for.

    Alkmaar, situated in North Holland, has beautiful architecture and is famous for its cheese markets – something we can definitely get behind. 

  • 9. Bari, Italy

    Alternative European city breaks: Bari
    Alternative European city breaks: Bari

    Puglia is definitely having a moment. The southern region that forms the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’ has been all over our Instagram feeds, with friends and influencers posting images of the area’s typically white-washed buildings and paradisiacal waters. 

    Bari is the capital, and being a port city, puts you right in the middle of the action. Think tiny, winding streets and stunning architecture. Oh, and of course, lots of fresh seafood.  

  • 8. Moscow, Russia

    Alternative European city breaks: Moscow
    Alternative European city breaks: Moscow

    If we say cosmopolitan capital city, you might think Paris and Milan before you think Moscow. But, with a wealth of history, staggering architecture, enough galleries and museums to spend all day in and lots of shopping opportunities, this is a city break well worth considering.

  • 7. Tirana, Albania

    Alternative European city breaks: Tirana
    Alternative European city breaks: Tirana

    Famous for its pastel-hued buildings, Albania’s capital would be at home in a Wes Anderson film, and makes a perfect backdrop for holiday snaps. 

    Although the city itself is busy and bustling with lots to see and do, it’s enclosed by hills and mountains which add another dimension to your break, as does the coast which you could drive to in about an hour. 

    Even though you probably wouldn’t pick Albania for a beach holiday, its location near the Mediterranean Sea actually makes it one of the sunniest cities in the whole of European. So make sure your pack your sunglasses and SPF. 

  • 6. Kaunas, Lithuania

    Alternative European city breaks: Kaunus
    Alternative European city breaks: Kaunus

    Looking to explore Lithuania? Kaunas is a lovely option because of its pretty, historic old town and Neris and Nemunas rivers, which snake through the city. 

    Visit tourist attractions like the ornate Kaunas Cathedral Basilica and gothic Hanseatic House of Perkūnas, and stop by Laisvės Alėja, a central street lined with cafes. 

  • 5. Lisbon, Portugal

    Alternative European city breaks: Lisbon
    Alternative European city breaks: Lisbon

    Lisbon has been one to watch for a few years now, with many an Instagram pro bagging a picture by the city’s iconic yellow trams. With gorgeous view points boasting live music from locals and sangria stands, brunch spots so cool they put East London to shame and the best tile game we’ve ever seen, what’s not to love? 

  • 4. Katowice, Poland

    Alternative European city breaks: Katowice
    Alternative European city breaks: Katowice

    Previously, Krakow has always been known as the most popular travel destination in Poland, but it looks like Katowice could be about to knock it off the top spot. 

    It’s much smaller than the other, more well known cities in Poland, coming 11th in size and there isn’t as much of that charming Eastern European architecture to see, but Katowice has become much more dynamic in the last 10 years. The city centre is well designed with social spaces to relax in and there’s some lovely parks, too. 

  • 3. Kosice, Slovakia

    Alternative European city breaks: Kosice
    Alternative European city breaks: Kosice

    Architecture buffs will love Kosice, a city which sits next to the Hungarian border in east Slovakia and dates back to the medieval period. With the easternmost Gothic cathedral in Europe and the largest church in Slovakia, taking a tour of its historic buildings are an absolute must. 

    Plant fans will also be pleased to hear that the city is home to a botanical garden, with pretty outdoors gardens and a leafy greenhouse. 

  • 2. Antalya, Turkey

    Alternative European city breaks: Antalya
    Alternative European city breaks: Antalya

    A trip to Antalya is, yes, a city break, but it’s also the chance to enjoy some of the most beautiful sea and sand in Europe. There’s the Old Harbour which is filled with yachts and the coves of paradise to explore, which look out to the aptly named Turquoise Coast, famous for its bright blue waters. 

  • 1. Lviv, Ukraine

    Alternative European city breaks: Lviv
    Alternative European city breaks: Lviv

    Looking at the picture above, there’s a chance you’d place this scene in Paris, not the Ukraine. But Lviv’s beautiful architecture is inspired by both Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Germany and Italy, making it hard to put your finger on (not that we’re complaining).

    Those paying the city a visit should make sure they climb up to High Castle Park, a panoramic view point within the ruins of a 14th century castle with spectacular sights of the Lviv’s green-domed churches. 

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Images: Getty 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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