Secret European getaways for the traveler who has been everywhere
It would be laughable to describe Europe as “an unknown destination”. Even at a time when the UK’s relationship with the continent is a little more distant than it has been in half a century, the landmass on our doorstep is a firm and familiar friend, inundated with very places. famous and must-see tourist sites. Paris licks itself. Madrid shines. Athens stands proudly on its hills. Rome will see your history, and wind it up at least a dozen times.
And yet, for each Eternal City or City of Light, there is a Perugia or a Perpignan; a Foggia or a Fréjus; a Catanzaro or a Colmar. The map of Europe is dotted with cities that are anything but foreign to the British public – but which, despite all their non-existent profiles, can be wonderful choices for long weekends of food, culture and spectacular sightseeing.
Here, Telegraph Travel’s destination experts select some of their favorite glorious mysteries – including the Galician gem that is neither La Coruña nor Santiago de Compostela, and the distinguished Dutch outpost that embraces Beethoven as one of his own.
The allure of a winter city break has lost some of its luster. New testing rules have increased the cost of the break and mean returning travelers have to spend a short time at home awaiting their result, while some European countries have stepped up measures to fight rising Covid rates . But the attraction of a few nights in an unknown city remains powerful.
Before WWII, Leipzig was one of Germany’s most dynamic cities, and after half a century of slump, this battered metropolis is reborn. Even by East German standards it was particularly drab and dirty. It is now a bustling cultural center with a young and grungy buzz. Badly bombed during the war and rebuilt in a brutalist style by the communists, no one would say it is beautiful, but it is a fascinating place. The German Peaceful Revolution began here, in 1989, and St. Nicholas Church, where these protests began, is a moving memorial (to see what they were protesting against, visit the sinister Stasi Museum in Leipzig).
The Spinnerei, once the largest cotton mill in Germany, is now full of artists’ studios. The Gewandhaus, where Mendelssohn made his name, is one of the best orchestras in Europe. Colditz is just 30 miles, an easy day trip by public transport. Lufthansa flies here with a plane change in Frankfurt. Berlin is barely an hour away by train.