When thinking about getaways everyone tends to go big, or stay home. Unless it is Paris, London, Berlin or Amsterdam the worthiness of travelling to lesser known smaller cities is seriously questioned by many. I think this attitude needs to change! FAST!
How? I am going to show you 6 smaller and maybe lesser known destinations in Europe that are worth the time off. I would say those cities and regions convince you with their charm and uniqueness alone. Just to make sure I am going to give some insider information and also tips for little trips during the stay. So you really do not have a reason to not go there. The work is basically done! All you need to do is book a flight or train or hop in the car and get going. Maybe accommodation is a nice thing to have too…
Info: Not as popular as Bruges or Brussels this gem in Belgium should be added to your list. Let’s be fair you can pretty much go to all of them in one trip. Which adds to the charm of Belgium really. But back to Ghent, it is cute, has canals and the classic flemish architecture. We all know that the reason you go to this little country is the chocolate, right?! It does have more than enough of chocolateries as well. Luc van Hoorebeke’s is the place to be if you want to see how those delicious packs of cocoa and any filling you can imagine are made. You will be able to look right into the kitchen through the floor! Stroll through the car free city center, take a boat trip through the canals or just sit down along river Leie while enjoying a nice glass of Beer.
You can feel a special atmosphere at night when the traditional houses light up and you together with the locals with hop form bar to bar in this charming old town.
Food: Right at the Korenmarkt and the Sint-Niklaaskerk is Caffè Rosario which serves a grand variety of coffee specialties and also amazing paninies. It’s perfect for breakfast or lunch and in a super convenient location! For dinner I recommend ‘t Koningshuis. This place has already been in my Burger post a couple of months back but it is worth another mention. Though slightly pricey you will get delicious burgers with great balanced flavours and not your standard beef-patty-lettuce-tomato-burger.
Info: Want to escape to a slightly warmer destination and experience the savoir-vivre without the trouble of Paris? Well Bordeaux is just what you need. Being UNESCO World Heritage Site the city center of this gem is an example of classic french architecture par excellence. However, while still preserving the old the new will not be missed. Not only the Miroir d’Eau but also the newly build Cité de Vin are prime examples of modern architecture. Talking about Wine, the mentioned museum is for every dedicated wine lover and aficionado out there a heaven on earth. Don’t miss out on the atmosphere in all the little squares during day and night! My favourites being Place Fernard Lafargue and Place Saint-Pierre with the cutest cafés. Place de la Bourse is undoubtedly the most famous and impressive with a lot going on throughout the day and at night!
If you are staying for a long weekend in summer, the beach of Arcachon is jut one train ride away, waiting with blue water, waves and beach bars.
Food: Buy saucisson, cheese, wine and baguette, sit down at the river or on your balcony and just enjoy the feeling. Alternatively you can head to one of the hundreds of bars and cafés that will serve you just that. And trust me that was pretty much all I was eating all day long, ask my friend Mathieu if you don’t believe me!
Info: So this technically is not a city but a region, but let’s put it this way: It is underrated, authentic and beautiful. Convinced? If not here’s why you should go to this most southern region on the east coast of Italy. The towns, I am talking white houses build on cliffs surrounded by crystal clear blue water in Polignano a Mare, traditional Trulli huts in Alberobello and one of the oldest continouisly inhabited cities of the world with an UNESCO world heritage site of cave dwellings, some of which have been inhabited for 9,000 years in Matera. This alone should be reason enough to go there but the food will be the vital point if you are still indecisive. It is Italian at it’s core with local produce being used and a simplicity that will make you want to have an Italian nonna or mumma. In Bari you will see the local women sitting in front of their doors every morning making orecchiette with their hands and chatting away, letting them dry in the sun and serving them to their families in the evening with Cime di Rape.
If you decide to make Bari your main spot, don’t miss out on the fishermen going out every morning, it is spectacular to see and the breeze down by the harbour will wake you right up!
Food: Orecchiette are a must eat, it ticks of every list and is delicious with tomato sauce or the locally used Cime di Rape. If you feel like Pizza, try a Panzerotti which is a folded dough pocket filled with tomato sauce, cheese and different add-ons.
Info: I couldn’t go without mentioning my former hometown and happy place! It is highly underrated and often forgotten that the Netherlands does have more places than Amsterdam. One being the host to Europe’s biggest port: Rotterdam. Modern and traditional architecture, museums, bars and restaurants the city at the river Maas has everything you could want for a short getaway. A whole Markthal just dedicated to food from around the world, a street full of bars that will make you forget the time and it’s close enough to Kinderdijk providing the real Dutch country feeling with it’s numerous windmills.
Don’t miss out on a harbour tour to see the skyline of Rotterdam and get a little insight on the port. If you get seasick easily or you want the best view in town, make sure to head up the Euromast with a 360° view of the entire city.
Food: There are more than enough blog post by now that will tell you all my favourite spots in town. For Brunch recommendations check out this article. Time for Brunch? Maybe one of those places tickles your fancy. Everything from Coffee spots to Dinner can be found here.
Info: Maybe it is selfish to add another hometown to the list. This time it’s the real one and if you’ve ever been in the area you probably agree with me. Unless you are not into beer or meat, then we might have a problem. Bamberg is a small university city with the possibility for you to pass your Beer-Bachelor. Yes, you heard that right if you manage to drink one beer in every one of the 9 breweries in the city you officially passed the exam. But be aware that when we’re talking about beer the standard size is half a liter and nothing less. If that is not for you one of the many Bierkeller will serve you just right with a cool Beer and an amazing Brotzeit and in some cases even a spectacular view. It is not only famous for it’s beer but also for the beautiful old town with architectural highlights like the old town hall build right into the river. Build on seven hills it is often referred to as the Franconian Rome with a bit of Little Venice right on the River Banks.
Interested? Don’t miss out on a stroll through the Sandstraße, the street where everyone meets in the evening for a drink. If you want to get the real feeling you need to try a Schlenkerla right from the tap, standing on the street in front of the pub, chatting away with your friends. Or buy a beer and sit down on the Untere Brücke to enjoy a relaxed start to the evening.
Food: If you tell me you are a vegetarian, I am sorry but all we have is potato dumplings with gravy and savoy cabbage. But for all the carnivores: You found your heaven! Crispy Ham Hock (Schweinehaxn), Bratwurst, Roasted Pork Shoulder (Schäuferla) or a classic Brotzeit (a mix of cured sausage and cheese with often homemade bread) if it does not contain Obazda you should ask for this cheesy spread. Recommended places to visit: Spezi-Keller (only in summer), Brauerei Greifenklau (great Biergarten in summer), Brauerei Mahrs (authentic pub/restaurant for Franconican specialties).
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags an head to those charming places before everyone else does!