Five unusual European destinations to visit this year
Europe is great, isn't it?
Mainland Europe is right on the doorstep – just ask any UK-dwelling Australian. There are thousands of brilliant, unusual places available for you to just turn up in. Here are five worth paying a visit to in the next couple of months.
In less than two hours’ flight from London you can be in Montpellier. It’s a beautiful mix of the very old, with its medieval heritage, and the modern, in the form of cultural events and quirky restaurants. Playfood is the latter: the food is served as canapés, a little like French tapas, with very reasonable glasses of wine to boot. In April the whole city becomes an artwork with pop-up dance, theatre and film across the city. Perhaps best of all, if you take the train towards the beach you can see real, wild flamingos.
Transylvania is one of the most picturesque bits of Romania – and Cluj-Napoca is both its unofficial capital and home to Romania’s largest student population. The centre is full of baroque and gothic architecture but there’s also a modern art gallery in an old paintbrush factory. There are lots of hidden bars and cafes, like L’Atelier cafe, and in May it gets especially lively thanks to the screenings and parties of Transylvania’s international film festival.
An oddball city
With recent Eurostar routes reaching Rotterdam and budget airline Flybe opening a route from Manchester this month, the Netherlands’ second city is crying out for a visit. The city has an odd mix of buildings: the Piet Blom upended cube buildings (you can stay there) nudge up beside a new psychedelic market archway. There are also fewer hedonistic tourists than in Amsterdam. Sure, there are coffee shops, but there are also cafes and bars – head to Witte de Withstraat for several options, including Bazar, an African-Middle Eastern inspired restaurant..
You can do Hungary’s Lake Balaton two ways: head to a spa hotel at Heviz and dip into the world’s second largest natural thermal lake (especially pleasing when it’s still chilly outside). Or, go outdoorsy and head for Badacsony where you can take a dip in the lake itself, or go for a cruise. A 4km nature trail starts here too, through a national park, over volcanic mountains to give views of the whole lake. Check out how far south it is and you’ll see why it gets warm in May.
Hot, hot, hot
Temperatures in Valencia this week could reach 20°. If you need any further convincing to go, then think of golden, sandy Malvarrosa beach, a bus or tram ride from the city centre. You can also pretend you’re in a sci-fi film at the swooping buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences. In the centre you’ll find the bustling art deco market, and Russafa is the neighbourhood for bars and vintage shopping. If you want a taste of Valencian culture, go in mid-March for Fallas, when people dress up, parade the streets and set off fireworks in honour of St Joseph.