Go one stop further
Explore what’s beyond the most popular cities
Have you ever wondered what is there to see and do in smaller cities rather than the so well-known capitals? Would you be able to walk through less crowded streets, try more authentic and less overpriced food, talk with locals and even be able to take a picture without having other people with their cameras accidentally photobombing you? The answer is pretty simple: YES! Often referred as hidden gems, these places offer all of the above-mentioned experiences and so much more that it is definitely worth it to plan a day or two more and step out of the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Best part? They’re all super conveniently located and reaching them with your Eurail/Interrail Pass is incredibly easy.
From Paris to Rouen
Just an hour and a half train ride from one of the world’s most visited cities is the city of Rouen. Situated in the Normandy province, famous for its WWII history and beautiful coasts, it is certainly the place to be for exploring museums and all types of art. With the Seine crossing the city and the Notre-Dame cathedral, having been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, you will certainly feel as if you’re in Paris. Nevertheless, there is so much more to discover – the beautiful clock tower Tour du Gros-Horloge, the Tour Jeanne d’Arc, which is the only remaining part of the Rouen castle and the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden that is also free of charge. To get more of the bustling city vibe, simply walk around the streets or head to the Old Market square. And because no visit to any French destination is fulfilled without trying the local cuisine, you will be delighted to find all types of places in Rouen, ranging from simple crepes to Michelin star restaurants.
From Amsterdam to Haarlem
As picturesque as Amsterdam is, it can sometimes be too crowded for your taste. In such days, a short train ride to Haarlem could be your perfect escape. Head to the Grote Markt square, where you will feel the typical Dutch lifestyle and enjoy a cup of coffee. While you’re there make sure you check the cathedral as it’s just as stunning inside as it is outside. If you’re searching for more views, head to the Molen de Adriaan, a typical Dutch windmill with a platform from where you can enjoy the beautiful cityscape of Haarlem, or look for some of the 21 Hofjes (enclosed courtyard gardens) for some quietness. Once you’re done sightseeing, you can rewind by walking through the Gouden straatjes district, known among shopping fans, or even better – pay a visit to De Jopenkerk, a former church that is now converted into a brewery and a pub as well. And if all of this still hasn’t convinced you to go to Haarlem, remember from there it’s just one scenic bike ride away and you will find yourself at one of the many beautiful Dutch beaches.
From Berlin to Dresden
Some people say that a country is not only its capital city and Germany is a really good example of that. While Berlin is certainly a travellers’ favourite, Dresden, which is just a 2-hour train ride away, has so much to offer as well. The city’s is truly an architectural hub with buildings from the Renaissance and Baroque period – Frauenkirche, one of Europe’s biggest churches, the Dresden Cathedral and the Dresdner Resizenzschloss, a beautiful palace now turned into a museum. If you’re looking for the perfect picture spot, head to Brühl’s Terrace, a 500-metre panoramic terrace revealing stunning views of the city and the river. Before you head to the Neustadt to explore some of the 150 restaurants and bars, make sure you’ve checked at least one of Dresden’s interesting courtyards – Hof der Elemente (with musical instruments in the façade that create music when it rains), Hof des Lichts (with its own projection screens for multiple purposes) or Hof der Fabelwesen (featuring beautiful paintings and ceramic mosaics).
From Prague to Cesky Krumlov
Prague is certainly beautiful but there are other cities in Czech republic that deserve your attention and Cesky Krumlov is definitely one of them. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, walking around this lovely city truly feels like stepping back into the 14th century. You will find here many interesting and well-preserved buildings such as the St. Vitus Church and the Minorite Monastery. The Cesky Krumlov castle is the largest in Eastern Europe and it is truly a must with its countless galleries and beautiful gardens. Don’t miss climbing the stairs on the Castle tower to see the city from a different angle and get that perfect photograph. If you’re travelling with kids you can pay a visit to some of the interesting museums such as the Wax figures Museum or the Marionette Museum. And if the weather is good and you don’t want to spend your time indoors, you can do a hike to Mount Klet, take a kayak along the Vltava river or even go hot air ballooning. What else would you need?
From Vienna to Graz
Often referred as Vienna’s little sister, Graz also happens to be Austria’s second largest city, European capital of Culture in 2003 and European City of Design in 2009. With so many titles, you can imagine the city has a lot to offer to its visitors. Even if you’re not the biggest architecture admirer, walking around the city centre will certainly leave you impressed, but make sure you save your last breath for the view from Schlossberg Hill. If you’re tired after climbing those 260 stairs for the panorama, head to one of the many farmers’ markets to try traditional Austrian cuisine and get a feeling of the local atmosphere. Looking for something less typical? Check out the Austrian Sculpture park, the Island of Mur or the very own Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum, dedicated to the actor who was born in Graz. Last but not least, during the Winter the city is still bustling as there are numerous ski resorts nearby.
From Barcelona to Mataró
Just 30 mins outside of Barcelona is the lovely town of Mataró. Located in the heart of the Maresme region, this hidden gem happens to also be part of the very first railway on the Iberian peninsula. However, its history goes way beyond this event, all the way back to Roman times. This can easily be seen at the Llauder Tower, the Basilica of Santa Maria, the City Hall and the town’s walls. After that, Modernism, Renaissance and Baroque had their influence as well, so nowadays there is an interesting combination of all of them occurring at different spots around the town. Someone said Vamos a la playa (let’s go to the beach)? It’s all covered, Mataró has many long beaches to catch on your Vitamin D intake. If you prefer rather stretching your shoes instead of filling them with sand, there are a lot of beautiful green parks in the area .