The day will come when the world is your oyster again and you’re ready for a jaunt across the pond to Europe. The latest is that the EU is talking about opening its doors to vaccinated Americans this summer, so you could be making that trip sooner rather than later. Sure, Paris, Rome and Barcelona await, but there are so-called “second tier” cities that are worth a look-see, and they’re likely to be less crowded, which matters more these days.
Here’s where you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the arts, culture, cuisine, and more.
Geneva is some 200 miles away from popular Zurich and it has its own story to showcase. It is home to four world exclusive museums, including the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, le Musée international de la Réforme, Patek Philippe Museum, Bodmer Foundation – Library and Museum, and international festivals. Get a real Geneva experience by taking a fondue cruise, a watchmaking class, Swiss army knife-making class, or seeing one of the world’s largest fountains, Jet d’Eau.
Later for London. Vibrant music, fancy cafés, cocktail bars and restaurants create a lively culture in Central Manchester. The city’s once-grim industrial landscape, redeveloped since the late 1980s, includes tidied-up canals, cotton mills transformed into loft apartments, and stylish contemporary architecture that has pushed the skyline ever higher. Manchester is known for its international literature and jazz festivals. The numerous galleries, museums and Chinatown, one of the largest in Europe, will also keep you busy.
Eastern Europe has hidden gems for travelers willing to stray off the beaten path. If you’re in the mood for something classic, try Timisoara, Romania’s third largest city, also known as “little Vienna,” due to the baroque architectural influence that’s still pervasive even two centuries after the end of the Austro-Hungarian occupation. Timișoara was a regional Ottoman capital for 160 years, during which time a fort was built around its perimeter. Parts of the fort still exist and is home to cozy cafes, jazz bars, restaurants and art galleries. You can tour the city by bike or by boat (small boats on the Bega canal are perfect for families with children) and walk through the city’s many parks, including the Rose Garden. There are many squares in downtown where you can people-watch from the comfort of a cool-mist terrace, with a tasty beverage of course. The action heats up at night at the many house/techno clubs.
Everyone is flocking to Lisbon, visit Sagres. The Costa Vicentina Natural Park is blooming with wild flowers; the sea is turquoise and the air is rich with the scent of eucalyptus. There are many beaches, and no shortage of sports and leisure facilities for the whole family. Surf, mountain bike, horseback ride, play tennis or stand up paddle board. One place to consider staying is The Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort near the historic town of Sagres on the unspoiled Western Algarve and surrounded by Costa Vicentina Natural Park. You’ll love the food. Expect genuine and authentic Portuguese cuisine.
Turin was the first capital of Italy. Today you can see relics from the days when the House of Savoy was in power. The palaces, squares and buildings remain. It’s not just the architecture that amazes, but specialties like truffle, plin, bagna cuada, agnolotti, Fritto misto Piedmontse come from this region. Piedmont produces great red wines like Barolo and Nebbiolo. You can shop for handmade shoes and bags, jewelry, and vintage treasures. In an hour you can be in the alps or on the sea.
This majestic, old city, with its narrow streets, is rich in history and architecture. Take in sights like Valletta’s most magnificent building, the Grand Master’s Palace, which stands in the center of the town on Palace Square, a spacious town square often used for traditional ceremonies, The National Museum of Archaeology, and Manoel Theater, one of the oldest theaters in Europe. Dine at Zero Sei Trattoria, noted for its fab Italian food. Rubino is another favorite of locals and tourists alike. If luxury boutique hotels are your thing, check into Casa Ellul. Originally a Victorian-period palazzo, Casa Ellul has a classical, yet stylish design, inspired from a combination of past Baroque influence and present chic elegance.
Le Havre, France
Founded by King Francis I in 1517, this city and the port are celebrating their 500th birthday. Special activities are planned in spring and summer to highlight its unique atmosphere. Must-see sights include the UNESCO-classified architecture of the center rebuilt after the Second World War by Auguste Perret. Le Havre is a great place to discover Normandy: Étretat is just 30 minutes away and the D-Day beaches can be reached in under an hour. When it comes to food, expect great seafood and tasty Camembert cheese from the region. And to enjoy a good night sleep, you can choose between small boutique hotels with a maritime theme, such as Hotel Vent d’Ouest.