Reflections in the river of Dinant

Rediscover Travel: Alternative European cities to visit

You may think of Bruges as your second home, walk like a local down Amsterdam’s winding back streets and have a cafe in Paris where the baristas know you by name. But have you ever felt your travels were starting to lack a little… je ne sais quoi? If you’re starting to find your favourite destination a little too familiar, maybe it’s time to shake up your holiday ritual. These fairytale European cities are sure to steal your heart – and don’t worry, we won’t tell.

Dinant, Belgium

View of Dinant
Image: Andrés Nieto Porras

You’ll be left open-mouthed by the unbelievable landscape of the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone. Explore the beautiful Collegiate Church of Notre Dame before stopping at a cafe for a Couque de Dinant – but be sure to dunk the traditional biscuit in tea or coffee first. Made from just equal parts wheat flour and honey, they’re deceptively hard. This hidden gem is also the perfect spot for cycling, walking and hiking in the surrounding countryside.

Groningen, Netherlands

Boats on the river at Zomerwelvaart in Groningen
Image: Marco Roepers

Groningen is the ideal alternative city break for Amsterdam fans. A bustling yet peaceful metropolis of cafés and cyclists, the local university adds a surprisingly lively nightlife into the mix. Stop off at the Groninger Museum, opened in 1874 to house all kinds of art, before heading to the top of the tower of the city’s oldest church, Martinikerk, for panoramic views of the neighbourhood.

Nantes, France

The Grand Elephant at Les Machines de l'Ile in Nantes
Image by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

Nantes is Brittany’s capital, set on the banks of the Loire river, and you could happily wander around this beautiful city for hours without even needing a guidebook. The Jardin des Plantes is a spectacular botanical garden perfect for a reinvigorating walk in the fresh scent of blossoms. Another gem well worth a visit is Les Machines de l’Ile (Machines of the Isle of Nantes), where two artists have created a fantasy world of giant sculptures, including elephants and towering steel trees, which are still being added to today.

Trier, Germany

Porta Nigra, Roman structure in Trier
Image by Dennis Jarvis

One of the very oldest cities in Germany, Trier is a hidden gem in the vine-riddled valleys of the Moselle wine region. After taking a leisurely drive through the countryside, cross the Roman bridge over the river Moselle, the oldest bridge north of the Alps to still be used today. Stroll around the ruins and Roman baths before stopping at the second-century Porta Nigra gate, an incredible reminder of long-ago days.

Has this post inspired you to get off the beaten track? Take a look at our adventure page to start planning your own, or share your stories using #rediscovertravel.

Featured image by Jiuguang Wang.