Travel Notes blog
Beautiful lesser-known city breaks to extend your next European holiday
by Clare Evans
6 min read

Beautiful lesser-known city breaks to extend your next European holiday

Beautiful lesser-known city breaks to extend your next European holiday
Uncover hidden gems to expand your next European holiday, with lesser-known city breaks that promise unique and enriching experiences.
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City breaks are increasingly popular as they offer an abundance of sightseeing opportunities, gastronomic delights, historic intrigue and more. A European city break can not only fit perfectly into extended vacations across the continent, but also cater to those looking to escape their routines without straying too far from home. Though the allure of well-trodden European capitals like Paris, Athens and Rome remains undiminished, here we explore some lesser-known cities that offer an authentic alternative away from the larger crowds, for unique, rich, and locally immersive experiences.


From Milan, Florence and Rome to the enchanting city of Palermo

A trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without conquering its main tourist cities like Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, or Naples. However, we’d also recommend taking a city break within Italy’s largest island of Sicily, to its capital Palermo. There are many routes from Italy’s mainland regions to Palermo, including direct trains from Rome or Naples, via ferry or plane. The city’s distinct historical and architectural heritage and its plethora of art galleries, museums, markets and excellent bars and restaurants, make it ideal for weekends or longer stays. Here are our top things to do in Palermo:

  • Admire many of Palermo’s Arab-Norman UNESCO World Heritage Site buildings, from palaces to chapels.

  • Spend a night at Teatro Massimo - Europe’s third-largest opera house.

  • Shop in the city’s historic markets. The Ballarò is one of Palermo’s oldest Arabic markets, with a vast array of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, as well as bars, trattorie and street food vendors.

  • Indulge in a unique culinary Experience with a cookery lesson in an authentic palazzo.

For more things to do, see our three Palermo itineraries to inspire your next Italian trip.

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Discover the Baroque city of Lecce

Lecce, often deemed the 'Florence of the South', is a baroque gem in the heart of Puglia. In the very heel of Italy’s boot, Lecce is accessible from other Italian regions by car, and would be a great addition to a road trip along the coast with scenic stops along the way.

Lecce’s limestone architecture, which you can see across its Piazza del Duomo and Roman Amphitheatre, radiates under the southern sun, offering a picturesque backdrop for city explorers. Here are some top things to do for your city break:

  • Take a stroll around Piazza Sant’Oronzo, one of the most elegant and architecturally diverse parts of the centre.

  • Admire the Roman Amphitheatre and marvel at the ornate façade of the Basilica di Santa Croce.

  • If you’re with children, you could visit the papier-mâché museum and enjoy a delicious gelato at Pasticceria Natale.

  • Foodies shouldn’t miss Bros’ for its Michelin-starred take on Salentine cuisine.


From Athens to the Saronic Gulf: Hydra, Aegina, and Spetses

Athens, the popular capital of Greece, offers an unparalleled blend of ancient history and vibrant modern life, making it an ideal destination for a European city break. There are stunning surrounding islands that are easy to reach by ferry and would allow for a diverse and tranquil extension to your Athens trip. We’d recommend the nearby Saronic Islands - each with their own distinct atmosphere and view into local Greek life.


Spetses is a quiet, pine tree-fragrant, car-free island flanked by secret coves and golden sands. Ever since the grand Côte d’Azur-style Hotel Poseidonion opened in the early 20th century, it has been a magnet for affluent, low-key connoisseurs of chic, Greek Island living.

Spetses is a superb destination for those who love exploring deserted bays, diving into transparent waters, and mooring up for lunch at beachfront tavernas. The island is crisscrossed by numerous paths and trails that weave through pine woods and down to the sea. One of the best ways of immersing yourself in the island’s natural beauty is on foot, but you could also rent some electric bikes and head off in effortless style.


Visitors disembarking at Hydra Port are immediately embraced by the island’s gently buzzing main town, which rises theatrically above and around the harbour. Thanks to the lack of motorised vehicles (people travel by boat, bike, donkey or on foot), one has the sensation of stepping back in time.

Located off the eastern tip of the Peloponnese, Hydra is easy to explore in a week, and whether you love secluded, off-the-beaten-track beaches, art and culture, or hiking across timeless hills, you’ll be spoilt for choice.


Aegina lies in the Saronic Gulf, just a 40-minute hydrofoil ride from Piraeus on the mainland. This proximity has made it popular with Athenians, who come to enjoy the quiet, laid-back atmosphere and the absence of mass tourism. The island is steeped in ancient history, blessed with an alluring choice of beaches, and seemingly imbued with a creative soul - over the years it has been the residence of choice for many world-famous artists and writers.

The uninhabited islet of Moni off Aegina is a lovely place for boat excursions, with serene waters and stunning natural surroundings. For gastronomes, Aegina is a culinary delight - famed for its pistachios, vibrant markets, and seafront dining spots.


From bustling Paris to serene Corsica

For a truly diverse travel experience, consider extending your French tour from the bustling avenues of Paris to the rugged landscapes of Corsica. This dramatic change of scenery will allow you to enjoy cliff-side towns and pristine waters, as a perfect complement to the urban charm of Paris.

Plan your route and uncover charming French countryside towns along the way, with our ultimate guide on travelling from Paris to Corsica.

If you’d like to discover something new for your next European getaway, we can help you enrich your experience with luxury villa stays in beautiful destinations. From the moment you get in touch, our Villa Specialists will guide you to find the perfect villa and create a bespoke itinerary, just for you, with all the things you love and enjoy doing on holiday. From unforgettable experiences and life-enhancing moments, to the essentials, like car rental. We can do it all. Contact us today and we’d be happy to help you with your holiday plans.