5. Swap Dubrovnik for seaside strolls in Zadar
Trade Dubrovnik’s cruise ship chaos and soaring prices for a lesser-known seaside city. Wonderfully crowd free by Croatian standards, Zadar effortlessly blends age-old charms with contemporary cool. Wander through the city’s medieval walled centre, a latticework of Roman streets pinpricked with Venetian-era bell towers; linger over a seafood lunch; stroll at sunset along the waterfront, while the tide plays the lulling chords of the city’s unique Sea Organ. Nearby there’s plenty to discover too, from deserted Adriatic beaches to the waterfall-laced Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Where to eat: Pet Bunara; Stratico 1
Where to stay: Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel; Brace Bersa 2,
6. Swap Amsterdam for cafés and cycling in Groningen
Canal-side townhouses, a thriving cultural scene and cycle-crazed locals – a quick description of Groningen could easily be mistaken for Amsterdam. While the Netherland’s poster child swarms with visitors, Groningen provides an ideal alternative. Spurred by its local university, Groningen is home to a buzzing café culture, affordable dining scene and vibrant cultural calendar. Get your art fix at the Groninger Museum, admire the panoramic views atop the Martinikerk, and of course, hop on a bike – pioneering Groningen’s old town has been traffic-free since the 1970s.
Where to eat: Restaurant Violà; W.A. Scholtenstraat 39
Where to stay: Hotel Miss Blanche; Hoge der A 4