Paris and its gleaming avenues, Rome and its noble temples, Madrid and its party ambience… All are destinations and experiences that should be on everybody’s bucket list, but did you know there are some very interesting and less frequented destinations you could recommend.
Eindhoven, of Basel, of Charleroi? Herewith 13 destinations to keep in mind next time:
- Genoa, Italy
The capital of Liguria (visitgenoa.it) wears its Mediterranean heritage with pride. It is still a hard-working seadog, but its Porto Antico (portoantico.it) has been revitalised as an oasis of bars and restaurants, while the wealth it accumulated in the Middle Ages sings in its cluster of Renaissance palaces. The Palazzo Rosso (palazzorosso.museidigenova.it) is among the finest of these gilded shards, home to paintings by Veronese and Van Dyck.
- La Coruna, Spain
Lurking in the north-west corner of Spain, this Galician port (turismocoruna.com) soothes its scuffed, salty soul on a pair of glorious urban beaches – Playa del Orzan and Playa de Riazor – that teem with life on hot summer days. Its cramped medieval lanes are abuzz with tapas bars, its Museo de Belas Artes (museobelasartescoruna.xunta.es) is an underrated nugget of visual wonder which boasts sketches by Spanish romantic Goya.
- Linz, Austria
Austria’s third biggest city (linztourismus.at) spent 2009 as one of the European Capitals of Culture and maintains an educated atmosphere seven years on. Ars Electronica (aec.at) is a fascinating science museum which explores weighty topics like space and the digital world, as its exterior walls rotate through a rainbow of colours. The Lentos Kunstmuseum (lentos.at) is a modern art hotspot whose glass shell is as striking as the sculptures within. Then there is the setting. Both institutions preen themselves alongside the Danube.
- Stavanger, Norway
Easily accessible at Norway’s south-west corner, Stavanger (regionstavanger.com) has a calm appeal. Gamle Stavanger, its old town, is a nest of narrow lanes and wooden houses, its Romanesque cathedral dating from 1125. Rather newer is Broken Column, a collection of 23 ghostly cast-iron statues by Antony Gormley, which stand strewn around the centre.
- Leipzig, Germany
The largest urban dot on the Saxony map (leipzig.travel) was a cultured jewel long before it was an Eastern Bloc workhorse. It recalls both these sides of its story. The Museum in der Runden Ecke (runde-ecke-leipzig.de) remembers the state watchfulness of the GDR in an ex-Stasi bunker. The Bach Museum (bachmuseumleipzig.de) celebrates the 18th-century genius in the city which framed his compositions for the final 27 years of his life.
- Kalamata, Greece
A Grecian gift on the south coast of the Peloponnese, Kalamata (visitgreece.gr) deals in woozy Ionian afternoons – cafes and tavernas lining the key avenues Navarinou and Aristomenous; a 13th century castle raising its head. But it is also a gateway to the region – to the glorious antiquity of ancient Olympia (odysseus.culture.gr.
- Eindhoven, The Netherlands
The Dutch narrative rarely touches on the country’s fifth biggest city – but Eindhoven (thisiseindhoven.nl) is more than a name from the football fixture list. It delivers striking architecture in the Evoluon (evoluon.com), a UFO-esque landmark which, though built in 1966, still talks of the future. De Bergen, a district of cafes and fashion stores, does urban flair. The Stadswandelpark, south of the centre, is alive with walking trails and sculptures.
- Charleroi, Belgium
Cocooned 40 miles south of the Belgian capital, Charleroi (belgiumtheplaceto.be) is more than a swathe of Brussels commuter belt. A relative newcomer, founded in 1666, it offers opera and music at its Palais des Beaux Arts (pba.be) – and Europe’s biggest museum of camera creativity in the 80,000 images of the Musée de la Photographie (museephoto.be).
- Malmo, Sweden
Pinned so firmly to Sweden’s southern edge that the simplest way to reach it is to fly into Copenhagen and take a 20-minute direct train over the Oresund strait, Malmo (malmotown.com) is a pristine coastal hotspot. There is a definite splendour to its main squares – the interlinked Gustav Adolfs Torg, Startorget and Lilla Torg, with their cafes and eateries; more southerly Davidshallstorg with its design shops. But the city is at its finest on a summer’s day – on the sands of Ribersborgstranden beach.
- Brno, Czech Republic
Somewhat lost in Prague’s shadow, the Czech Republic’s second city (gotobrno.cz) is still an enticing dot on the map. The traditional capital of the Moravia region dispenses stately religion in its 14th century Petrov Cathedral, and contemporary flair at the House of Arts (dum-umeni.cz) – where exhibitions have covered the likes of Czech artist Milan Houser.
- Basel, Switzerland
Fixed to the Rhine where France, Germany and Switzerland meet, Basel (basel.com) sells itself as the latter’s cultural capital – via Kunstmuseum Basel, which hosts Switzerland’s greatest art collection (from Rembrandt through Monet to Picasso; kunstmuseumbasel.ch) – and the House of Electronic Arts (hek.ch), where the works are more 21st century, but no less enthralling. Art Basel (artbasel.com), the city’s major art fiesta, is held every June.
- Espoo, Finland
Part of the Finnish capital conurbation – so much so that it bleeds into Helsinki’s western suburbs, Espoo (visitespoo.fi) is nonetheless an entity with its own identity. Espoo Museum of Modern Art (emma.museum) is the country’s largest museum, a feast of work by first-rate Finns like Ville Andersson and Susanne Gottberg. The city is also a gate to Nuuksio National Park (pictured; nationalparks.fi/nuuksionp) – a realm of forests, lakes and paths.
- Debrecen, Hungary
Hungary’s second city (eng.debrecen.hu) delivers religious pomp in the Nagytemplom, a vast church of neoclassical majesty, constructed between 1805 and 1824 – and high art in the Deri Muzeum (derimuzeum.hu), where the collection features works by 19th century Hungarian painter Mihaly Munkacsy. Nagyerdo, the main park, is a splendid leafy space.
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