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5 Europe swaps to try

Published March 5th, 2014

Europe. It’s around 50 countries (give or take) with about 733 million people crammed into the world’s second smallest continent. That’s the combined population of the US, Mexico, Indonesia and Colombia kicking around in a landmass that almost fits into Australia – if you omit Russia, that is! (Although we’re pretty sure no one puts Putin in the corner!). It’s a lot of different experiences, people, cultures, languages and sights to see, but the cosy and compact nature of this awesome continent makes it easy to cross borders and take it all in. Mmm. Smells like bratwurst, waffles and pizza to us.

 

Breakfast in Paris and lunch in Bruges, followed by dinner in Amsterdam? Absolutely doable. Six countries in 15 days? You betcha. Sampling the sites and delights at a leisurely pace or whipping along the autobahn on a sightseeing binge?  Totally up to you and your timeframe. Whether you DIY flower child-style with a combivan or opt for a Busabout hop-on, hop-on bus pass, Europe is a pick’n’mix goodie bag best enjoyed on the open road. But before you gorge yourself on major attractions, popular party hotspots and famous capital cities, here’s 5 Europe swaps to try on your big trip for a balanced continental diet. Bon appétit et voyage!

 

 

France:  Swap Nice for Biarritz

Nice is nice and all; what with its so-Frenchy-so-chic Cote d’Azur address, sexy sun-soaked shores and jet-set vacationers (we’re looking at you Beyoncé and Jay-Z) in the South of France, but swap the niceties for the just-as-ritzy Biarritz. Situated in the French-Basque region near northwestern Spain, Biarritz is one stylish locale that’s equal amounts Euro glam hotspot and sun-kissed surfer hangout. It’s got all the picturesque architecture of Nice plus the pinxtos (Basque for ‘tapas’).

 

 

Germany:  Swap Munich for Stuttgart

We say Munich, you say Oktoberfest, BMW, lederhosen and pretzels as big as your head. Now try saying Stuttgart instead. In the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg in the south of Germany, Stuttgart is said to be all about fast cars, slick technophiles and titans of industry that’s not unlike the rep of the other southern German city. While the Hofbräuhaus is totally worthy of a hops pilgrimage, ale aficionados should also try the brews at Biergarten im Schlossgarten when in Stuttgart.

 

 

Italy: Swap Venice for Lake Como

The watery sights of Venice are primed for romantic interludes. Gondolas on canals, bridges over canals, stunning architecture framing canals…you get the drift. Just as big on amore and liquid landscapes is the Italian holiday haven of Lake Como. While we can’t promise one of its famous residents will be in residence (sigh, George Clooney), this slice of nice tucked between the French Riviera and the Swiss Alps will have you falling in love with its scenery and cuisine just the same.

 

 

Spain: Swap Barcelona for Valencia

Party hearty hotspots don’t come much bigger than Barcelona where dinner starts after 9pm, the clubs get busy around 3am, and then, like a ‘90s rapper, don’t stop ‘til the break of dawn. It’s a slippery slope of sangria and absinthe in down-and-dirty dives and slick discotheques, but for one of Spain’s most exciting after-hours scenes and fiestas aplenty, swap Barca for Valencia. Just 3 hours down the coastline, Valencia is the birthplace of paella, horchata and the fiery festival of Las Fallas.

 

 

Czech Republic: Swap Prague for Český Krumlov

The Old Town of Prague just oozes timelessness with medieval squares, picturesque bridges, cobblestone streets and oodles of old-world ambience. Also located in the Czech Republic region of Bohemia (yes, it’s a place) is the equally atmospheric town of Český Krumlov. This pretty-as-a-picture fairytale spot boasts a classic castle complex (complete with resident brown bears in the moat), charming cafes and pubs that’s maybe even a teensy bit better than Prague.

 

Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.