I’m always a fan of a cheap flight and the cost of the trip is often what determines where I go.
But sometimes bargain plane tickets can take you to cities that make people ask “why?” when you tell them where you’re off to. They’re the less obvious destinations that don’t have full shelves of guidebooks dedicated to them in Waterstones or WHSmith. To some that means they’re dismissed from the travel wishlist, but in reality, that’s what can make the jaunt all the more intriguing.
These places are usually not capital cities (though I believe Lisbon is an exception – it’s still something of a well kept secret).
Often they’re compact enough to have centres that are easily strollable, and given my predilection for pavement pounding, they tend to be right up my street.
That’s precisely why I spent my December #take12trips adventure in Dusseldorf, why I fell hard for Rotterdam and Jerez de la Frontera, and why I loved Verona (yes, I know Verona’s not exactly unknown, but it does seem to attract less attention than I reckon it deserves). In many ways, Verona felt like a more weekend friendly Rome – you see, I spent four days in Rome barely scratching its surface, whereas I felt I got right under the skin of Verona in just three.
In less obvious city break destinations, it’s also much simpler to avoid being chained to a regime of box ticking that can sometimes start to feel like a chore in major tourist magnet cities.
Consider Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Unless you know you’ll definitely make another trip there, you’re unlikely to skip it. And you shouldn’t!
But there’s no escaping what can occasionally feel like pressure to undertake some structured sightseeing in a city such as that, especially on a first (and perhaps only) visit. However, when you look at cities that don’t have all the world renowned shiny-shiny, there’s still always something to see, but there’s also much more opportunity to just be.
Then there’s the chance to understand a country a little more when you visit its “other” cities. Take London – great though it is, it’s not necessarily a realistic representation of the rest of England – try Birmingham, Liverpool or Manchester for a different point of view. For the real Scotland? Well, I wouldn’t make the effort to visit Edinburgh without making sure I had time to fit Glasgow into my trip too, if I was travelling from far enough away that my trip had to be longer than a weekend.
And so the story goes on…
I’m hoping to get to a few secret gem cities in Europe soon. Ljubljana in Slovenia and Bilbao in Spain are just two I’m intrigued by. I also fancy Ghent and Antwerp in Belgium, which often seem like they’re overlooked in favour of Brussels and Bruges.
Of course, when you really want to go to a particular city – you should definitely make that happen.
But when you find a cheap flight that fits your travel dates and it’s to somewhere you’ve never heard of or considered going to before, don’t automatically ask yourself “why?” and instead just ask yourself “why not?”