The problem with Europe’s supply of weekend getaways is that everyone is going to the same places. Over and over again. They either became non-inspiring clichés or overcrowded tourist traps. If you are limited to destinations bound by international flights, you have to be creative. Browse a selection of travel ideas that will substitute your next planned weekend trip for a nearby location offering a similar yet more unique experience.
1 Bergamo, Italy. If you ever get tired of Milan, or just want to feel a little bit more unique, head to the neighbouring city Bergamo. Take the funicular to Città Alta, the old town overlooking the valley, and flaneur through small cafés, deli shops, and cobblestone osterias. But it’s downtown, in Città Bassa, the magic happens. Go for a late day aperitivo and dive into a night full of Negronis, Caprese salads, and open air piazzas where there never seem to be enough tables.
2 Wrocław, Poland. With Warsaw and Krakow attracting the majority of international tourists heading to Poland, Wrocław is the yet-to-be-discovered weekend getaway. Go here for a romantic tête-à-tête and explore a rich supply of eclectic restaurants, cocktail bars, and lively jazz joints. Got some spare time? Fill it with the colourful houses at Plac Solny, the 1857 Główny station, or the Targowa food market, situated in one of the most beautiful old towns of Central Europe.
3 Tarragona, Spain. An hour south of Barcelona is Tarragona, the laid-back alter ego of the international tourist magnet. A charming coast city with its own “La Rambla”, ironically called Rambla Nova. This is where you enjoy an ice-cold Sangria on the terrace esplanade, writing a postcard to your grandmother. Down below is the world heritage Tarragona Amphitheatre and a palm-lined beach you most probably get to have all by yourself.
4 Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. Substitute your next planned trip to Prague with Karlovy Vary, where modern extravagance meets traditions of Bohemia. This is where Goethe spent sixteen summers and the rich and famous have returned for rejuvenating thermal baths since the 17th century. Leave your bags at Grand Hotel Pupp, once the most prestigious in Central Europe, and soak up life in a surrounding of colorful houses stacked like Lego on the mountain slopes.
5 Chioggia, Italy. Some places are so over-crowded they have become a cliché. Venice is one of them. Luckily, there is an alternative. Across the bay is Chioggia, the holy grail of Italy’s Veneto region. A small fishing village that has preserved the local, unspoiled, and day-to-day part of Italy, filled to the brink with canal facing houses and family-owned restaurants. A 1950s version of its bigger brother that, if any place, is to be called “Little Venice”.
6 Schwerin, Germany. Sometimes you want to go beyond the easy-to-fly-in-weekend destinations and explore the next level of cities. That’s when you take the train from Hamburg and find yourself in Schwerin, one of the most cultural cites of northern Germany. Take a walk around Ziegelsee, the city’s own “Alster Lake”, and continue to the Schwerin Palace. But it’s the closeness to the surrounding nature that makes Schwerin such a unique weekend destination.
7 Bratislava, Slovakia. Tired of overpriced restaurants, kitschy souvenir shops, and mainstream sightseeing tours? Trade your next planned trip to Vienna for Bratislava, the capital city of neighbouring Slovakia. A place that has shaken off its inferiority complex and gone alternative yet welcoming in the same way. The more you dig, the more you’ll find. A weekend trip as good for the summer, as for the winter.
All images © 2021 Erik Ekberger.
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