Need to use up those holidays you’ve got left over? National holidays coming up? Treat yourself to a cheap city break this autumn!
Throughout autumn, Kiwi.com naturally has amazing deals to classic city break destinations — Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam, Lisbon, and the like — but maybe you would fancy somewhere a little bit different? Here’s our pick of some of the lesser-known places you can explore this autumn.
A city in western-central France, Poitiers is known for the glory of its mighty cathedral, the stunning Église Notre-Dame la Grande, with its intricate 12th-century facade one of the jewels of medieval France. Incredibly, there are many buildings in the city older than this, with the St. John baptistry dating back to the 4th century! The old town, with its perfectly preserved lanes of half-timbered houses and quiet squares, is wonderfully relaxing.
It’s not all sleepy and quiet though, as, with a student population of around 30,000, there is life in Poitiers as well. Le Pince Oreille is a bar and restaurant that has nightly performances ranging from cabaret to Brazilian folk music. Le Confort Moderne hosts bands and DJs and generally doesn’t even charge an entry fee. Wallaby’s is, as you can probably guess, an Aussie pub, while Le Palais de la Bière has an amazingly varied selection of… well, you can probably guess that one as well. Let it be said again: while you can easily imagine life in Poitiers 800 years ago, it’s got as much get-up-and-go as you could want from a city break.
In the very south-west of Germany lies Friedrichshafen, nestled on the shores of Lake Constance (or Obersee if you feel like being less romantic). It’s generally known for one thing: the invention and construction of the zeppelin, the art deco wonders of the German air industry in the inter-war period. This legacy remains strong today, with the Zeppelin Museum on the waterfront, and the possibility to book a flight on an (admittedly smaller) airship for sightseeing tours over the lake and the city itself.
The lake is inescapable, as much a part of the city as the buildings and the people. The lakefront promenade is where you’ll find many of the city’s cafes and bars, and where people come to sit in the autumn sunshine and listen to the gentle lapping of the water between fashionable-looking drinks and delicious bites to eat. If you’re looking for a relaxing, elegant way to spend a few days, Friedrichshafen might be ideal.
Pardubice, Czech Republic
Where? You probably don’t know the town of Pardubice, but it’s slowly becoming a more popular route due to its location. It’s smack in the middle of the Czech Republic, around an hour and a quarter from Prague and just over two hours in the opposite direction to Brno. But if you’re heading to either of these cities or beyond, Pardubice is worth your time as it stands.
The main square is your classic Central European display of gothic church, plague column, red-tiled roofs, and bell towers, with a couple of restaurants serving hearty Czech fare of the meat-beer-and-dumplings variety. A walk down the side streets gets you to the zámek, the castle/stately home which William of Pernštejn chose as his home in Central Bohemia, turning Pardubice from a small town into the center of a modern royal estate. It survives now as a nice place to stroll, avoiding the peacocks for a view over the town. So head on to Prague, sure, but give Pardubice a bit of the love it deserves.
It’d be understandable if you wanted to head somewhere south to get some sun on your autumn city break, but even though the weather on the north-east coast of England might not exactly be tropical, you’ll be certain of a warm welcome in Durham. It’s a university city with an excellent reputation (along with Oxford and Cambridge, it’s consistently in the top three in the country), and has that same air of gentility and studiousness coupled with a lively atmosphere.
Its magnificent cathedral sits high atop a rocky crag above a bend in the River Wear, accompanied by Durham Castle and a couple of the university colleges. This lazy U-shape is without a doubt one of the finest areas of architectural perfection in the country, and you’d do well not to spend your whole time simply sitting and staring. Getting out of town, the surrounding countryside of wind-swept moors and miles of beaches provides bracing walking under huge skies before rewarding yourself with tasty goodies and artisan souvenirs from the Farmer’s Market or the city’s Arts Quarter.
Turin may have become Italy’s industrial powerhouse thanks to the gargantuan Fiat car group, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s that simple. There’s a mixture of Parisian grandeur and fin-de-siècle finery in its boulevards and coffee shops, and combine this with a love of twisting the traditional into interesting shapes, you’ll find some of the country’s most fascinating food, forward-looking fashion, and daring design.
Ever since its major clean-up and revitalization in 2006 when it hosted the Winter Olympics, Turin has got its pride back. Always a proud city, it’s now more than proud to show the world what it’s about. New pedestrian areas, renovated squares, and galleries and museums packed with interesting collections are all reasons to come, as is its signature product: chocolate. Since 1560, Turin has been Italy’s chocolate capital, and the amount of chocolate shops, chocolatiers, and its use in just about everything means your mouth will be watering before you even arrive.
Sometimes overlooked for the charms of Krakow, the student vibe of Poznan, or the nightlife of Warsaw, Gdańsk is really coming into its own as a city break destination. And why not? It’s a wonderful city, with a complicated history almost completely intertwined with the fate of Poland itself. A former city-state and part of the Hanseatic League, its wealth and status as a major center of trade built the city you can see today: streets and squares of solid, handsome merchants houses, unpretentious churches and marketplaces, all of which seem to say: here’s a city that gets things done.
And get things done it did. Its shipyards gave birth to the Solidarity trade union movement which was a major factor in the toppling of the Communist government in 1989, and since then it has rebuilt itself and concentrated on tourism and showing people its battered history. The Historical Museum in the Town Hall does a magnificent job of this, showing photos of the city’s destruction in World War Two and subsequent rebuilding. Strolling around this remarkable city with those images in your head, you’ll be ready to be impressed all over again.
Sitting at the foot of the High Tatras in northern Slovakia, Poprad might not mean much to you right now, but it’s a great autumn getaway choice. It’s not too big, meaning you get to know the picturesque center easily. It’s cozy, so even if the weather’s a bit chilly, you’ll always find somewhere to put your feet up for a while. It’s in a stunning location, with the Tatra mountains rising from the back of every photo you’ll take, and if you’re feeling adventurous, they’re easy to get to as well.
The Tatra Electric Railway is the best method of exploring outside the city, a narrow-gauge tram-type system that connects central Poprad to mountain resorts in the region. As a base for hiking, cycling, horse riding, and much more, Poprad is a fabulous location. If all that sounds like a bit too much, the town has relaxing spas, old, wood-panelled pubs, and a selection of curious museums; you can even take a balloon ride over the city and up into the mountains! Just remember to pack a couple of layers for that one…!
Do you want more travel articles? Visit Kiwi.com Stories.