Europe provides the discerning holidaymaker with a plethora of amazing cities which they can explore; discovering the secrets of each country as they go. However, whilst the regular favourites such as Rome, Paris, Barcelona and Munich are always great options for anyone looking to immerse themselves in a new culture; there is so much more to see beyond these fashionable destinations.
You may have already exhausted the old favourites or you may be looking to uncover a hidden gem buried beneath the pile of shimmering settlements that Europe has to offer, but either way; Fred.\ Holidays can help you find a real jewel in the continent's crown.
Ostrava, Czech Republic -
Behind the capital Prague (a regular haunt for groups on stag dos) and Brno, Ostrava is the Czech Republic's third largest city and has plenty for you to enjoy whilst on a city break here. As a place with important industrial heritage, the past is still clear to see but it has been complimented with many modern additions in the form of beautiful architecture.
Whilst nature lovers will enjoy the fact that there are plenty of luscious green areas, celeb spotters may be intrigued to know that the city has been used as a setting for many films and music videos.
Your days could be spent learning about the city's mining history by visiting one of the many pits, looking down on the streets below from the viewing tower at the city hall, meeting the animals at the zoo or exploring the grounds of the Silesian castle. If you want to take in one of the many sporting events then why not visit when the Davis Cup is in town or in May/June when the Golden Spike athletics meeting takes place.
How To Get There: Ryanair offer direct flights to Ostrava from London Stansted. Alternatively, you could fly into the larger airport in Prague and then take a one-hour connecting flight.
Katowice, Poland -
The most popular Polish cities to visit may well be Warsaw and Krakow, but the southern location of Katowice is a great alternative destination. Eastern Europe often gets unfair criticism for being slightly dull and grey-looking but this Silesian city is certainly breaking out of this mould.
In a similar way to Ostrava, this area of Poland has shaken off its industrial shackles in recent years and is now rising from the dust that once covered large parts. It is clear to see the influence different eras have had on the architecture here, as gothic and baroque buildings are interspersed nicely with modern Art Nouveau examples such as the interesting Spodek concert hall.
Holidaymakers on a Katowice city break will be able to enjoy walks along the river Rawa and through the many nature reserves and botanical gardens, whilst an insight into the city's history is offered in a variety of different museums. Renovation is rife in Katowice and so you're sure to also see signs of construction as the locals work hard to bring more tourists to the area.
How To Get There: Ryan Air offer flights direct from Birmingham, Bristol, Stansted, Dublin, Edinburgh and Manchester, whilst other operators also fly out of Doncaster/Sheffield, Liverpool and Luton. The airport is situated about 30 minutes outside the city centre.
Ljubljana, Slovenia -
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and can open tourists' eyes to a country that they would seldom consider visiting. But whilst the other cities mentioned above may be still finding their feet in regards to attracting regular tourists; Ljubljana is a bustling, cosmopolitan and vibrant destination that has so much culture waiting to be discovered.
Whether it's a museum, a festival, a gallery or a theatre, there is always something around every corner to keep you intrigued and entertained for however long you grace the cobbled streets of this wonderful place.
Other things to ensure you do during your sojourn to Slovenia include hiring a bike to explore the relatively small city limits, viewing the streets below from the top of the tower of Ljubljana castle (and then going back at night to see it lit up gloriously), and relaxing outside one of the many quaint cafés watching the world go by.
Alternatively, you could time your visit in line with the festive season and therefore experience the beauty and traditional of the fantastic Christmas market.
How To Get There: EasyJet have direct flights available from Stansted, whilst Adria Airways offer services from Dublin, Gatwick and Manchester. The flight time is just over 2 hours.
Riga, Latvia -
Latvia is another European country which many people wouldn't even consider as a holiday destination and fewer still could put a pin in on a map. However, Riga is a beautiful city that seamlessly combines its medieval past in the old town area with its ever-changing modern side which features plenty of Art Nouveau styling and contemporary districts.
Riga has been named European Capital of Culture for 2014 (an accolade which acknowledges how important this city is in modern-day Europe), and therefore there is plenty happening during the rest of this year. Find out many of things that will be going on, here. If none of these cultural events take your fancy; there is still plenty for you to get up to on your Riga city break.
Among the things to put at the top of your list are a visit to the local zoo, an afternoon spent in some of the different museums, and a walking tour of the city that takes in all the stunning architecture (not forgoing Alberta Iela; a street which houses many of the best examples). Groups of adrenaline seekers and horror fans can also brave the live action scare-fest at Psaiho…if they dare!
How To Get There: Ryanair have direct flights going from Bristol, Dublin, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Glasgow Prestwick, Liverpool and London Stansted. There are also services from Gatwick operated by airBaltic and from Luton by Wizz Air. Riga airport does charge a €7 security fee which can be paid in advance.
The usual suspects of the famous European capitals will always appeal to holidaymakers, but for those looking for alternative city breaks, there is so much more out there. Fred.\ Holidays can help you arrange trips to any of the above cities and many more; simply give us a call or fill in an online enquiry for more details.