While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hang over the world and dominate our everyday lives, it can be difficult to think about anything else, especially what will happen once it begins to subside and hopefully end. It is likely our lives will not be the same post-coronavirus and many things will drastically shift. However, we all need something to look forward to in life, pandemic or not. Since travelling has all but ended during the pandemic, many of us are thinking of overdue vacations we might want to take when life seems more normal. In this post, I want to recommend three low-key European cities to visit that are great alternatives to more popular destinations.
1. Valencia, Spain
Valencia is one of Spain’s oldest cities, but it is often overshadowed by Madrid, Barcelona, and the major cities of Andalusia, Spain’s southern region. This means there are far fewer tourists at all times of the year there and it is more affordable to visit, which makes it an attractive option. However, Valencia is an amazing city in its own right, with tons to see and do. If you are interested in history, you can check out Valencia Cathedral, a 13th-century house of worship; La Lonja de la Seda, a 15th-century Gothic merchant exchange hub, or the Torres de Serranos, defence towers built in 1392 that provide beautiful views of the city. If you love to dive into the local cuisine when you travel, visit the Central Market, which has over 1,000 different food stalls. Valencia is also the birthplace of world-famous paella, meaning no trip to this coastal city would be complete without having a dish.
The city is also home to a wonderful park created from a dried-out riverbed, where you can walk or bike for miles through the centre of the city. I highly recommend renting a bicycle for a day or more and riding through this park, known as the Jardín del Turia. You could honestly spend an entire day in it. At the end of the park, you will find Valencia’s famous science museum and aquarium, which are also worth a visit. If you visit Valencia during the warmer months, a trip to its awesome beach is a must-do with its spectacular views of the Mediterranean.
2. Budapest, Hungary
Buda Castle, the Hungarian Parliament Building, and the Fisherman’s Bastion, an old fortress with fantastic views of the city, are all classic sites to see. But, other awesome areas to visit include the old Jewish Quarter, home to delicious restaurants, or one of Budapest’s many old spas and baths. A relatively new addition to Budapest are the city’s ruin bars, which are pubs created out of old, dilapidated buildings or industrial spaces from the pre-Second World War era. These bars are the core of Budapest’s night life now, so if you are looking to get the full Budapest experience, you should take a trip to one!
3. Utrecht, Netherlands
When most people think of the Netherlands, they think of Amsterdam. Yet, the Netherlands is home to other superb places to visit, and that includes Utrecht. Utrecht is a smaller city found in the central part of the country, and it has been a religious centre for centuries. However, while Utrecht is very historic and there are several great sites to visit, the most enjoyable way to enjoy the city is by taking a day trip there and strolling through its cobblestone streets. Compared to Amsterdam, it is amazing how quiet the city is, even during the middle of the day. People still ride their bicycles around the city the way the Dutch are famous for, and canals run throughout the city like they do in Amsterdam. If you want an Amsterdam-like experience but are wary of its tourists, visit this charming city for a delightful experience. You will not be disappointed!