Seven alternative city breaks for spring
If you're after a fresh take on the traditional city break, it's time to forget the big names and go off the beaten track.
To give you all the culture and authentic experiences you want, with the benefit of lower prices, less crowds and cheaper flights, we've put together a list of seven alternative destinations that are just perfect for the spring season.
So why not dare to be different, and visit some of these lesser known destinations?
Bologna, Italy - for culture and cuisine
The capital of the Emilia Romagna region and arguably the heart of Italian gastronomy is a surprisingly overlooked destination. The city is peppered with medieval towers, bustling plazas and arched colonnades to shelter from the midday heat.
Gourmands will be at home here. Traditional trattorias line the cobbled streets, where you can also find high-end restaurants and food markets brimming with local delicacies.
Innsbruck, Austria - for walking and mountains
With Alpine plateaus, wide blue skies and spectacular walking trails, the capital of the Tyrol region has many draws. As you fly into the city, you descend between the jagged spires of the Austrian Alps and catch glimpses of the colourful town below.
The small, walkable centre is full of elegant buildings and cobbled alleys. From the middle of the city it’s possible to climb sky-high in minutes. Why not ascend the Nordkette mountains in the cable car for a sunny lunch? Then simply walk down in time for tea and cake, or a bite of delicious streusel!
Split, Croatia - for history and evening entertainment
The city of Split sits between coastal mountain ranges and the sparkling Adriatic. A mix of ancient and modern, it’s a buzzing place to enjoy a slice of Dalmatian life. We are of course, talking about the place a Roman emperor fell for, so it’s no wonder it enchants so many visitors.
A must-see landmark is the golden gate where Diocletian is said to have first entered the city. Here he chose to retire from his emperor duties, and tend his garden.
As well as a fascinating array of historical buildings and museums, Split is great for an evening out. Try the Croatian National Theatre for opera, ballet and music, or check out the area of Kino Bačvice with its majestic outdoor cinema. Sip on a cocktail in the Marcvs Marvlvs Spalatensis jazz bar, or visit the Time Out guide to Split for all the latest events and best bars.
Budapest, Hungary - for architecture and spas
The unification, in 1873, of Buda on the west bank of the Danube and Pest on the east led to the wonderful city we recognise today. Budapest will delight any architecturally minded traveller, with a wealth of baroque, neoclassical, eclectic and art nouveau buildings.
The Royal Palaces and Parliament buildings are a great first stop, but around every corner you’ll find a new building of interest or significance. While visiting Budapest, don’t miss the chance to take a thermal bath.
If you’re on a romantic weekend away, try a night stroll night along the Danube to the beautifully lit Széchenyi Chain Bridge that shimmers against the night sky.
Bergen, Norway - for Viking history and jaw-dropping scenery
The gateway to the fjords packed with culture and charm, Bergen is a little colourful maritime centre and the ideal weekend getaway.
Wander through the preserved, brightly coloured wooden houses of Bryggen, now a Unesco World Heritage Site. Take a boat ride through the magnificent waterways and a train journey to Flam for spectacular scenery. The route winds around the base of lofty mountains, where you’ll see storybook boats bobbing on idyllic blue water.
The next day, visit the Bergen museum for a little Viking history, then head to Pingvinen for home cooked, authentic Norwegian dining. Its informal atmosphere and local charm only add to the array of delicious dishes including traditional pickled fish, reindeer, and salmon.
Halifax, Canada - for parks, craft beer and friendly locals
In six hours on a direct flight from Heathrow, you’ll arrive on the bright, east coast of Canada. This friendly city is a great way to get a taste of the country if you don't want to fly too far.
The love of craft-brew culture and live music here mean the evenings are vibrant and you’ll never be searching for something to do. By day take a walk along the waterfront and visit the seaport farmers markets, then stroll through one of the city’s many parks.
Why not take a day trip and go back in time on McNabs Island? Don’t forget to visit the quaint and pretty Peggy’s Cove. Halifax is a brilliant starting point for windy coastal walks, wine tours and national parks.
Tallinn, Estonia - for fairytale streets and charm
Many visitors are satisfied just strolling around Tallinn's picturesque centre, with its narrow medieval buildings, thin cobbled walkways, hidden courtyards and turreted spires. The capital of Estonia is now a Unesco World Heritage Site and both Scandinavian and Russian influence can be detected throughout the city.
It makes a perfect budget break, and you don’t have to go far to soak up a bit of Estonian culture. Visit the town hall and have a coffee on one of the many terraces – this is the best place in the capital to people watch. Make sure you visit the Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral and the Kadriorg Art Museum, which has an idyllic French garden at the back.
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