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Tuesday 29 September 2020

Time to dream: Five top European destinations

Even if you’ve visited the great European capitals, there are some delightful travel discoveries to be made by taking roads less travelled.

You’ve shopped until you dropped in Paris, you’ve done Rome, walked the canal tow paths in Amsterdam and explored the Greek islands.

Here are five other delightful historic and gourmet destinations that are easy to get to using the excellent European rail network and a money-saving Eurail pass.

Ljubljana: Slovenia’s under-rated capital is one of Europe's prettiest and most accessible cities. Home to just under 300,000 people, nearly all its major attractions are found along the banks of the delightful Ljubljanica River. Over 2,000 years old, Ljubljana is reminiscent of Prague before it was discovered by the masses and is dotted with cafés, riverside eateries and markets. It is home to museums, galleries, theatres and some excellent value bars and restaurants. Much easier to get to than you might imagine, Ljubljana is just a 2 1/2-hour train ride from Trieste.

Where to stay: The chic Hotel Vander Urbani has just 20 rooms, a rooftop pool and is tucked away on a cobbled side street.

What to try: Pair sweet and spicy Tolminc cow cheese with a glass of Union Lager.

A fishing village that’s popular as a weekend destination for Lisbon residents, Ericeira has undergone recent development although the waterfront area retains its rustic charm with traditional blue and white-painted cottages overlooking the Atlantic ocean and the fishing fleet. The town is known for its surf beaches – surfing is a popular pastime - and eateries, where you can feast on local sardines and bottles of crisp Vinho Verde. Ericeira is just a 30-minute drive from Lisbon and even closer to the National Place in Mafra and the scenic village of Sintra. 

Where to stay:
Hotel Vila Gale:

What to try: Sample some grilled, fresh-caught local sardines with a glass or two of Vinho Verde.

Milan: Terribly stylish and very expensive, Milan is the fashion capital of Italy and full of interesting buildings and churches. Take Tram No.1 for a budget tour through the old quarter and make sure to visit the dramatic Milan Duomo (cathedral) with its 135 spires and 3,200 statues. Take a walk through the elegant Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II shopping precinct and try to snag a ticket to the La Scala opera house. Make sure to catch a football game featuring either AC Milan or Inter Milan.

Where to stay: The elegant boutique Chateau Hotel Monfort is brilliantly situated within walking distance of most of the highlights.

What to try: The local classic risotto alla Milanese with a glass of red from nearby Valtellina.

Lausanne: The fourth-largest city in Switzerland sits across Lake Geneva from the French town of Evian les Bains and is home to the International Olympic Committee. A large student population makes for lively nightlife and arts communities centred on the Flon district. The city traces its history back to Roman times and there are trains daily from Gare de Lyon in Paris. Cross-lake ferries serve Evian, Montreux, Geneva and other interesting lakeside communities.

Where to stay: Why not treat yourself to a night or two in one of the grandest hotels in Europe: the Lausanne Palace?

What to try: You can't visit Lausanne without partaking in a delicious Swiss cheese fondue. Also try kirsch, a strong brandy made from cherries. 

Bruges: One of the most under-rated cities in Europe, this city in north-west Belgium is known for its many lovely canals, classic cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Small enough to wander around on foot, visitors will love the towering Gothic buildings and the ultra-chic Canal St Martin district. Enjoy some moules/frites in the Markt, the pretty Market Square.

Where to stay: The luxurious Hotel Van Cleef is in the historic old part of the city and is a member of the Hip Hotels group.

What to try: Classic moules marinières with frites and a local brew.

# The writer was a guest of Eurail before Covid-19


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