Three alternative city breaks in Europe

Get away from the norm with a stay in the cities that tourists ignore, says Stuart Watkins.

887_MW_P51_Travel_03
Minsk's museum of World War II: a fitting tribute to heroism

If you enjoy hearing your friends say "where?" when you tell them your travel plans, then head to Minsk in Belarus, says Lonely Planet magazine, which ranks it first in its league of "offbeat" cities. The "spirit of the Soviet era lives on" there, yet Minsk is also increasingly cosmopolitan it's "no surprise to find sushi bars amid the Stalinist architecture".

The nine-mile-long Independence Avenue is the city's centrepiece, and a proposed World Heritage site. It runs from the Lenin statue in front of the imposing Belarusian government building near the avenue's southwest end to the alien-looking, 26-sided National Library at the other. The Museum of the Great Patriotic War, a tribute to the suffering and heroism of Belarusians during World War II(War.Museum.by/en), is also particularly worth a visit.

The Hotel Monastyrski (Monastyrski.by), a former Benedictine monastery, is a good place to stay.

Hammans and mountains

Another city that you "never thought to visit but really should" is Skopje in Macedonia, says The Daily Telegraph. Its "grand hammams, tangle of cobbled streets and atmospheric food markets" make for "a European city break with a difference". From the hubbub of the Old Bazaar, the largest in the Balkans, take an uphill walk to the fragrant rose garden of the elegant 15th-century Mustafa Pasha Mosque, said to be Macedonia's most beautiful, says Sara Evans in the same paper. Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, and a museum in the city commemorates her life. Also worth a visit is the "beautiful Lake Matka in the mountains, just under eight miles away", where you can rent boats and explore to find ancient churches.

If you "want to do Skopje in style", opt for the "glamorous" Stonebridge hotel (Stonebridge-hotel.com), which has a mix of Ottoman and contemporary dcor and a Turkish bath.

Spoilt for choice in Romania

887_MW_P51_Travel_01
Sibiu: like taking a trip back in time

Sibiu is an important cultural centre in the south of Transylvania, says Georgeta Gheorghe in Business Review. The city's historic centre is "one of the best preserved in the country": its ancient fortified walls are still standing in places, the medieval streets are covered in cobble stone, and "the squares and towers will make you feel like you took a trip back in time". There is also an abundance of museums. The Brukenthal, established in 1817, is one of Romania's oldest, and its "eclectic" art collections feature more than 1,200 paintings by masters of European art. Nature lovers are spoilt for choice: mountain walks in the largely pristine countryside offer "picturesque vistas, fresh air and the opportunity to spot Romania's amazing wildlife".

MoneyWeek recommends a stay with the friendly people at SecretTransylvania.co.uk. The Inn on Balaban (GoBtF.com/innonbalaban/Home.html), a short drive away and close to Dracula's castle, is also well worth a visit.

and one further afield

887_MW_P51_Travel_02
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: a lush and emotive focal point

When the nuclear bomb struck in Hiroshima near the end of World War II, it was assumed that nothing would grow within the bleak 1.6km blast zone for 75 years, says Becky Alexis-Martin in The Guardian. But today, Hiroshima is flourishing. Surrounding prefectures donated trees and they rapidly took root. The population is now back over one million, and there is a burgeoning gourmet scene, luxury shopping centres and a trendy nightlife. It is a city of vibrant green boulevards and open spaces, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a lush and emotive focal point.

Lonely Planet recommends Sera Bekkan, which is a ten-minute walk from the park, and which offers authentic Japanese-style accommodation as well as hot public baths, a peaceful garden and good local cuisine (SeraBekkan.jp/english/).

Recommended

Forgotten wonders of the world
Travel and holidays

Forgotten wonders of the world

There is plenty to see away from the main tourist trail, says Chris Carter
23 Oct 2020
Get out and enjoy the autumn
Travel and holidays

Get out and enjoy the autumn

It’s the season for hikes among the trees and cosy meals in pubs, says Nicole Garcia Merida.
16 Oct 2020
Travel: a cosy weekend in London at No.5 Maddox St
Travel and holidays

Travel: a cosy weekend in London at No.5 Maddox St

Chris Carter enjoys a city break in London, his home town.
9 Oct 2020
Where to take a skiing holiday this winter
Travel and holidays

Where to take a skiing holiday this winter

There are still several appealing options for a skiing holiday, despite Covid-19, says Chris Carter.
2 Oct 2020

Most Popular

Negative interest rates and the end of free bank accounts
Bank accounts

Negative interest rates and the end of free bank accounts

Negative interest rates are likely to mean the introduction of fees for current accounts and other banking products. But that might make the UK bankin…
19 Oct 2020
UK post-Covid recovery stocks: these 20 companies could be set to rocket
Share tips

UK post-Covid recovery stocks: these 20 companies could be set to rocket

Finding stocks with the potential to rise tenfold or even further is far easier said than done. But the pandemic has produced the most promising backd…
22 Oct 2020
Big spending government is here to stay – just ask Rishi Sunak
UK Economy

Big spending government is here to stay – just ask Rishi Sunak

Governments around the world are splashing huge amounts of cash as they do “whatever it takes” to prop up their economies. John Stepek looks at where …
23 Oct 2020