7 of the best alternative city breaks in Europe

Adam Lowe

If Paris, London and Barcelona aren’t whetting your appetite this year, why not consider somewhere a little off the beaten track? A holiday to somewhere new can often prove fascinating and surprising, not to mention a tad more stress-free as those tourist crowds tend to be thinner. Looking for somewhere different to go? We’ve compiled seven of the best alternative European city breaks for your consideration.

Bray, Ireland

Alpharooms name Bray as one of the best alternative city breaks in Europe, and it’s not hard to see why. A relative stone’s throw from Dublin, this charming seaside town is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the Irish capital has to offer – and is a fair bit cheaper on the pocket, too. From its excellent beach to rugged hiking trails to Bray’s vibrants arts scene, there’s a lot to keep you occupied.

Zadar, Croatia

Croatia is one of Europe’s most exciting countries, so it’s not hard to see why its popularity has exploded in recent years. Sadly that popularity means its major hotspots Zagreb and Dubrovnik are packed in the summer months, so for somewhere a little off the beaten track, head to Zadar. From walks on the beautiful waterfront to a visit to Gold and Silver of Zadar, a museum housing amazing religious artefacts, Zadar should be at the top of your list.

Windsor, UK

As an alternative to London, or simply as a day trip destination, Windsor ticks all the boxes. This most royal of towns – it’s home to popular royal residence Windsor Castle – is quintessentially British and also home to Windsor Great Park which stretches from the castle to Ascot. Elsewhere, sample some fine food at one of Windsor’s great restaurants and enjoy a relaxing cruise down the River Thames.

Graz, Austria

If you’ve never heard of Graz, it’s a city well worth adding onto your must-see list. Its majesty is often dwarfed by world-famous Vienna, but in fact this buzzing Austrian city is worth a visit. It’s actually the country’s second-largest city and is chock full of fantastic Renaissance architecture. Home to the University of Graz, the city is nearly always full of life thanks to its 32,500-strong student population who ensure Graz remains one of Austria’s most hip places to visit.

Toledo, Spain

Sure, there’s Madrid. But there’s also Toledo. Architecture fans will love this city – from mosques to synagogues to cathedrals and more, it’s got beautiful buildings aplenty. And there’s a lot going on around town culture-wise – the Museum of Santa Cruz hosts exhibitions from around Spain and the rest of the world, and the Museum of El Greco celebrates the Cretan artist who spent much of his life in Toledo.

Lyon, France

Paris gets busy in its peak months, so give Lyon some serious consideration. One of France’s best museum cities, Lyon is home to myriad museums – the Institut & Musee Lumiere, dedicated to the Lumiere family who invented cinema, and the Museum of Contemporary Art to name just a small selection. Elsewhere, there are ample parks and green spaces to relax in and lots of excellent shopping districts – Auguste Comte is the place to go for antiques.

Dresden, Germany

As an alternative to Berlin, Dresden is a beautiful city for a weekend tip. Architecturally the city is diverse – for every Baroque building there is something modern and fresh (Dresden was, of course, bombed heavily during World War II, leading to many sites being restored or rebuilt). Stop by one of Dresden’s many beer halls for some ale and bratwurst or take a trip to Innere Neustadt, an area of Dresden teeming with fun things to see and do.

About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people. He sometimes performs as Beyonce Holes.