Europe has a wealth of exciting cities to explore, but if you’ve done your time moving through the crowds at La Sagrada Família in Barcelona or St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, and are after more intimate travel experiences, these five destinations should be top of your must-visit list…
Marseille, France Marseille is often overshadowed by the more glamorous locations in the South of France, but the city is absolutely worth making time for. A bustling port since it was founded by the Greeks in around 600 BC, Marseille is a melting pot of multiculturalism, and while a raft of new museums, galleries and trendy restaurants are paving a bright future, Marseille’s edgier side exudes a vibrancy that you just won’t encounter in the likes of Cannes and St. Tropez. Wander the pretty Vieux Port or the street-art-filled bohemian area of Cours Julien, or head out to sea to visit the infamous Chateau d’If, a fortress and, later, prison from which Alexandre Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo escaped. As the gateway to Provence’s stunning countryside, you are also a short drive away from the beautiful towns of Arles, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.
There’s no one who won’t be seduced by Seville, Spain’s southern city, what with its flamenco rhythms, orange trees, Carmen theatrics and excellent architecture. Speaking of which, there are Roman ruins, Baroque churches and the must-visit Moorish Alcázar Palace. On top of that, the city’s magnificent 15th-century cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece and the largest cathedral in the world. Seville is best explored on foot, allowing you to stroll through the romantic Parque de María Luisa or get lost in the jasmine-scented labyrinth of Barrio de Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter. Be sure to take a pit stop and sit with the locals to enjoy tapas and a caña (small beer) in one of the city’s many cosy bars, too.
Pack your bags and jump on the next cruise leaving for Kotor, before everyone else discovers just how magical it is. Sitting at the head of Boka Bay, it’s a fairy tale medieval town set against a backdrop of dramatic mountains and the aquamarine Adriatic Sea. The atmospheric old town is filled with 12th-century churches, Venetian palaces, café-lined squares and myriad museums. Dig out your walking shoes and traverse the town’s ancient walls, or take on the hike to the UNESCO-listed fortress (which will reward you with staggering views). In the evening, Kotor comes alive around the old port, where taverna tables spill onto the streets and live musicians play.
On the most northern tip of Denmark, where the Baltic and North seas tumultuously meet, sits the remote town of Skagen. Located on a finger of land jetting out into the sea, the windswept beaches here are rugged and beautiful, and as dunes shift and move in the changing breeze, you might spy the remains of churches, houses and World War II bunkers that have been swallowed up by swirling sands over the years. While wonderfully serene in winter, come summertime Skagen attracts many Danish holidaymakers wanting to make the most of said beaches, as well as the town’s charming streets and excellent seafood restaurants.
As the gateway town to the dramatic volcanic craters, lava lakes and waterfalls that make up the ‘land of fire and ice’, the charming little port of Akureyri offers a big list of brilliant things to see and do. Head downtown to the streets of Hafnarstræti and Skipagata for independent cafés and boutiques, climb the steps of the Church of Akureyri to be rewarded with views of the surrounding fjord and mountains, or take a dip in the geothermal outdoor pools at nearby Myvatn Nature Baths, where temperatures rise from a comfortable 81°F up to a sizzling 108°F in the ‘hot pot’. Lastly, we recommend exploring Eyjafjörður, one of Iceland’s longest fjords, by boat on a whale-watching tour, where you’ll hopefully spot a magnificent humpback.