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Alternative European cities for unusual breaks
  • As the oldest Portuguese city, Braga has plenty of historical sites to visit. Highlights include the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary, which has a unique baroque staircase, the 19th-century, domed Sameiro Sanctuary and the beautiful baroque Raio Palace. Foodies should try the local specialities, like potato and cabbage broth, maize bread and the local hams.

    Get there: Fly to Porto and Braga is around a 40-minute drive away.

  • The spa city of Karlovy Vary, with its wonderful hot springs, is a great alternative to Prague. As well as having a relaxing treatment in one of the city's spas, you won't want to miss a visit to the Moser Museum to see the glassmakers at work, the views of the city from the Diana Lookout Tower and a taste of the herbal Becherovka liquor, which is only produced in Karlovy Vary.

    Get there: Fly to Prague and get a bus to Karlovy Vary, which takes around two hours and 15 minutes.

  • With canals, cobbles and culture, Utrecht is an ideal European city for a short getaway. Visit the gothic Dom Church, take in the historic surroundings on a cruise through the canals and check out the Saturday flower market along the Oudegracht canal. The Centraal Museum is a must-see for its permanent art collection of children's character Miffy (one for the kids and adults!)

    Get there: Fly to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and get a direct train to Utrecht, which takes around 30 minutes.

  • Head to the Andulician city of Cordoba that was once the centre of Muslim Spain and where you can still find some remaining Islamic architecture, like the Great Mosque of Cordoba (pictured) and the fortified Calahorra Tower. The city is famed for its arts and crafts, so if you're thinking of picking up a locally-produced souvenir, there's leather, silver and ceramics on offer.

    Get there: From Seville you can catch a direct train to Corboba, which takes around 45 minutes.

  • The baroque city of Turin is a must for architect lovers and is the car capital of Italy, being the home of Fiat. Around the city you'll find the towering Mole Antoniella building - a symbol of Turin, the spectacular Superga Basilica (pictured), which overlooks the city, and a variety of historic cafés. Try Al Bicerin for its delicious bicerin - a mixture of espresso, chocolate and fresh cream.

    Get there: Fly direct from the UK to Turin Airport.

  • Fancy a boozy weekend with style? Reims in the north-east of France is the Champagne capital and home to the Veuve Clicquot house, where you can learn the secrets of Champagne production and take a guided tour of the cellars. Other highlights include the Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral - known as the Westminster Abbey of France, the lively Place Drouet d'Erlon with its many bars and restaurants, and the charming sweet shops.

    Get there: Travel by train with Eurostar from London to Paris, then Paris to Reims via TGV Est.

  • As the capital of Switzerland, Bern is the home of the Houses of Parliament but has managed to retain the charm and uniqueness of a historic city. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and some of the must-see attractions include the Zytglogge clock tower overlooking the old town, the Bear Park and the Garden of Roses.

    Get there: Fly to Zurich and catch a direct train to Bern, which takes around an hour and 15 minutes.

  • For a mix of the old and new, the divided Cypriot capital Nicosia, allows you to get a taste of its Greek and Turkish influences for a varied break. Get world-class views of the city from the Ledra Museum Observatory, feast on mezze in the local tavernas, visit the 16th-century Great Inn with its courtyard cafés, galleries and souvenir shops, and relax with a Turkish bath at the Omeriye Hamam, where you'll be scrubbed down after sweating out in a sauna - all things you can fit in a weekend break!

    Get there: Fly to Larnaca Airport where Nicosia is a 30-minute drive away.

  • Experience two thousand years of history in southern Germany's Bavarian city, Regensburg. The 850-year-old Stone Bridge is a medieval masterpiece at 330 metres long and is the oldest preserved stone bridge in the country. For a trip to remember, take a guided tour through the Prince Thurn and Taxis Palace Museum displaying history dating back to the 12th century, eat at the oldest sausage kitchen in the world and stroll through the twisting lanes and hidden courtyards of the old town, where you'll find some charming independent shops.

    Get there: Fly to Munich and catch a direct train from the airport to Regensburg, which takes about an hour and a half.

  • Denmark's second city Aarhus is often overlooked by city breakers who flock to cool Copenhagen but it's well worth a trip for its winning combination of eye-catching architecture, interesting museums, excellent shopping and fascinating Viking heritage. Part of its appeal is its relatively small size meaning Aarhus is wonderful for exploring by foot or bike. Over a few short days, you can wander among designer shops and cosy cafés, relax in renowned restaurants or stroll along the fine, sandy beaches and lush forests found just outside of town.

    Get there: Fly direct from London Stansted to Aarhus.

  • Located 520km north of Athens, Thessaloniki is a superb alternative to Greece's capital city, built near the sea and offering cosmopolitan character and a special charm. The second largest city in the country is a history lover's dream, boasting a past that stretches back to Hellenic times and 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to explore, along with the old city, Ano Poli, featuring traditional, colourful houses and the symbol of the city, the White Tower providing fantastic sea views. Food markets, the urban waterfront and neoclassical buildings of Vasilissis Olgas Avenue are other highlights.

    Get there: Fly direct to Thessaloniki from Bristol, East Midlands, Gatwick and Manchester.

  • Cultural hotspot Graz is known for its striking buildings and architecture, including the Kunsthaus Graz (House of Modern Art), which was constructed right next to the River Mur where it floats like a giant, blue bubble. Forested mountain Schlossberg overlooks the pretty medieval town centre and at the top is a clock tower that was once part of a castle. Explore this little-known city by foot, visiting the winding streets of the historic old town, the late-gothic cathedral and Mausoleum of Emperor Kaiser Ferdinand II next door. Don't miss the culinary delights in the bars, restaurants, coffee houses and inns.

    Get there: Fly to Vienna and take a connecting flight to Graz or travel by train in 2.5 hours