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Been There, Seen That: Alternatives to Europe’s Biggest Cities

By Andrew Richdale

Dec 2, 2016

From the January/February 2017 issue

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Malaga is located on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol. The Andalucian city is known for its architectural sites, stunning beaches, and excellent cuisine. 

Photo by Grisha Bruev/Shutterstock

Malaga is located on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol. The Andalucian city is known for its architectural sites, stunning beaches, and excellent cuisine. 

Already explored Rome, Berlin, and Barcelona?

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Book a trip to these lesser-frequented spots: You’ll escape large crowds and see the continent through fresh eyes.

If You Like Berlin...

St. Thomas church of Leipzig, Germany

Visit Leipzig, Germany

A breeding ground for young artists, Leipzig, with its warehouse parties and Soviet towers, could be Berlin right after the wall fell.

What to do: Don’t miss Spinnerei, a 25-acre former mill turned studio compound for 100 artists. Wander through provocative photography exhibits at Halle 14 and shop for elegant coral-like sculptures at Claudia Biehne’s studio and shop.

Stay at: Pentahotel (from $95) has a lavish breakfast and is located within walking distance of the train station.

If You Like Barcelona...

Beach La Malagueta in Malaga, Spain
Visit Malaga, Spain

Sunny days by the sea, tapas binges, a bounty of trippy architecture—it’s Barcelona without all the hippies and students.

What to do: The port city has been occupied by more than five different civilizations in its 2,800 years. Admire the ruins of Phoenician lighthouses and Roman theaters. Back in this century, sip Spanish beer at the new El Rincón del Cervecero.

Stay at: The Hotel Vincci Selección Posada del Patio (from $125) is built on top of the ruins of old Moorish walls.

If You Like Copenhagen...

Aboulevard promenade in Aarhus, Denmark
Visit Aarhus, Denmark

Like Copenhagen, this second-largest Danish city is home to eye-grabbing modern design and a thriving New Nordic food scene.

What to do: Aarhus is full of forward-thinking minds. Challenge your palate with the calf’s-blood macaroons at Frederikshøj and admire the spiky Iceberg apartment complex. Get around using the city’s easy-to-use light-rail, or do as the Danish do and hop on two wheels.

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Stay at: You enter Hotel Oasia (from $100) via cobblestones, but inside it’s raw plank floors and Scandinavian style.

If You Like Zurich...

Old Town Bern, Switzerland
Visit Bern, Switzerland

Bern has the same sophisticated vibe, Old World architecture, and green spaces as Zurich—just with one third of the population.

What to do: It’s all about the good life here. Hike up to Rosengarten, a park with 200 types of roses and sweeping views of the old city. And visit the Zentrum Paul Klee for an exhibit on Klee’s relationship with the Surrealist painters of Paris.

Stay at: The 128 rooms at the Bellevue Palace (from $350) are large and comfortable. Ask for one with a river view.

If You Like Rome...

Downtown Parma, Italy

Visit Parma, Italy

UNESCO named this Italian metropolis the world’s first Creative City of Gastronomy thanks to its status as the birthplace of Parma ham and Parmesan cheese.

What to do: Enjoy langoustines and shrimp beignets at F.I.S.H. Sample salami at the market near Strada Matteo Renato Imbriani. Drink your fill of the local lambrusco. And top it all off with the creamy fior di latte gelato from Cremeria Emilia.

Stay at: Book a room at Hotel Daniel (from $80) for easy access to its restaurant, Cocchi, a shrine to cured meats.

>>Next: 8 Off-the-Grid Escapes Worth the Trek

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