In this first of a new series of blog posts, we will help you find alternatives to some of the most-loved cities in Europe. Sometimes the obvious choice is too expensive, too crowded or just, well, too obvious. Also, you may have already been there and loved it but now fancy something different.
So, here’s why Bordeaux, Riga and Ljubljana are all great alternatives to a Paris city break and all its charms.
If it has to be France, then the beautiful city of Bordeaux is a great choice. Like Paris, it has a taste for the finer things in life and was once a must-visit city for the aristocratic elite. There’s a key focus on food and wine; whilst it cannot compete with the 118 Michelin-starred restaurants in the capital, Bordeaux can still boast 11 such dining venues and plenty more delicious spots besides that.
It’s the wine that takes centre stage, though. This is one of France’s premier vine-growing regions and the perfect place in which to sample some of the robust reds that are rightfully celebrated. La Cité du Vin, a museum dedicated to wine, is the first place you should head if you’re interested in finding out more about this aspect of Bordeaux life. You can also book a range of vineyard tours from the front desk.
And the similarities with Paris don’t end there. The banks of the Garonne River have been reclaimed in recent years to create romantic walkways, places to relax and, at the end of your stroll, the city’s ‘Eiffel Tower’ in terms of striking attractions – the Palais de la Bourse and its shimmering Miroir d'eau (reflecting ‘lake’).
Look further afield than our cross-channel neighbours, though, and you’ll find some other great alternatives. If you love the art and architecture of Paris but not the crowds, Latvia’s capital will be right up your boulevard. A wide range of cities have been called the ‘Paris of the North’ in the past, but Riga, perhaps, lives up to this moniker the best. It’s rich (culturally and economically) past gives it a cosmopolitan feel and means that it’s much easier to make this comparison than to draw similarities with Baltic neighbours like Vilnius and Tallinn.
Church spires stretch towards the sky and charming cobbled streets lead you around the UNESCO-listed Old Town (Vecrīga). It’s the mix of architectural styles that fascinates many visitors, shifting quickly between Gothic, modern and art nouveau thanks to the government’s focus on restoring buildings to their former glory. That’s not to say that Riga lives in its communist, grey past, though. Several new cafés, bars and restaurants add a lively side to the nightlife and sit perfectly next to the multi-coloured buildings commissioned by competitive, wealthy merchants in the 19th century.
Another city that recreates the Paris vibe through art nouveau architecture and pavement cafés is Ljubljana. As the Slovenian capital gains more and more popularity, travellers are realising the inherent beauty that can be found on these streets and all without the hustle and bustle of a city like Paris.
Ljubljana’s credentials as a Paris alternative are only strengthened by the fact that locals have been known to call it little Paris. Not only does this highlight the city’s size, something which makes it easy to navigate and far from overwhelming, it also points to several comparisons. One of the most prominent of these is the romantic atmosphere felt wherever you go. Whether it’s Slovenians carrying flowers from the local market, couples holding hands as they walk along one of the many waterfront paths or the boats offering whimsical trips along the river, the so-called City of Love definitely has some competition here.
Other great reasons to visit include a relaxing café culture like that found in the French capital, and an attitude to green living and reducing carbon emissions that is years ahead of the City of Light’s.
If you would like to know more about the destinations mentioned above or discuss some other alternatives to a Paris city break, call us on 0800 988 3369. You can also sign up to our mailing list for the latest news and offers to be delivered straight to your inbox.