Lesser-known cities to put on your radar in 2024
Planning your next holiday is a great way to blow away the winter blues, and we have eight brilliant options – more specifically, eight lovely often overlooked cities in Europe
San Sebastián, Spain
Take off to San
There are plenty of reasons to check out this beach-fringed city in Spain’s Basque Country, although in recent years, its food scene has become the star of the show – San Sebastián has more Michelin stars (19 in total) than any other European city. It’s hardly surprising Nobu chose to open its newest property here – the Nobu Hotel San Sebastián opened in August 2023 in one of the few remaining historic buildings in the popular La Concha Bay area. It’s only a matter of time before the restaurant bags a Michelin star, but there are plenty of star-spangled alternatives in the meantime. For traditional Basque cuisine, you can’t go wrong with Arzak, which has three Michelin stars. Its head chefs are Elena Arzak and her father Juan Mari Arzak, who serve regional specialities in the house built by Juan Mari Arzak’s grandparents in 1897.
Take off to
All too often visitors simply use Bergerac as a base for wider explorations of the Dordogne, but there are numerous reasons to treat this riverside city as a destination in its own right. For starters, it has one of France’s most beautiful old towns – a tangle of half-timbered buildings fanning out from the stunning Place Pelissière. This is also where you’ll find Dordonha, a new museum that focuses on the city’s connections with the nearby river. Bergerac’s architectural treasures include the former cloisters that now house the Maison des Vins de Bergerac – a museum dedicated to the Dordogne’s many wine varieties. Bergerac is also famous for its churches, including the Saint-Jacques church – a Romanesque gem that dates back to the 12th century and is one of the most important sites on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
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A canal-threaded city that is (for now) relatively free from the crowds that flock to Amsterdam, Rotterdam looks and feels incredibly modern, largely due to the fact that after WWII it had to be largely rebuilt. A visit to the Het Nieuwe Instituut, a museum that focuses on architecture, design and digital culture, is a great place to learn the secrets behind the city’s ultra-modern skyline, highlights of which include the 800m long Erasmus Bridge (known as the Swan). Rotterdam is also famous for its nightlife, and in February 2024 will host legendary dance festival A State of Trance for the first time. In August 2024, it will lay claim to a rather different first, when it hosts the Tour de France Femmes’ Grand Départ. Finally, fancy taking a dip in Rotterdam’s canals? In late 2024, you’ll be able to do just that, when a section of the historic Steigersgracht canal will be transformed into an urban surfing and kayaking spot.
Take off to
As much as we love Venice’s canals and Rome’s ruins, it’s hard not to be wowed by Turin’s backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Sports fans will inevitably be making a beeline for this often-overlooked Italian city in 2024 , when it hosts the ATP Tour tennis finals in November. It’s also a great spot for a crowd-free culture fix, and has some of Europe’s top galleries and museums, including the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum), which has 30,000 artefacts and is the world’s oldest Egyptology museum. We’re also huge fans of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, inside the Mole Antonelliana, a former synagogue built in the late 1800s. Love a bargain? Make a beeline for the Piazza della Repubblica, a huge square that plays host to the Porta Palazzo – Europe’s largest market – six days a week.
Take off to
A city famous for its wine, Bordeaux is a great destination for fans of the mighty grape, but in 2024 it will be in the spotlight for various other reasons, too. It’s one of the venues for the 2024 Olympics (some matches of the men’s and women’s football tournaments will be held here in September) and it will also soon be the setting for what might just be Europe’s most stylish hotel – the five-star, Philippe Starck-designed Mondrian Hôtel des Carmes, which opens in November 2023 on the site of a collection of wine cellars dating back to the 1800s. It’s also worth flagging that combining Bordeaux with other destinations will soon be even easier, thanks to train operator Railcoop – the company’s new high-speed trains, launching in summer 2024, will allow passengers to travel from Bordeaux to Lyon in less than eight hours.
Take off to
A fun fact? Palma is the Spanish city with the highest number of five-star hotels. Lovers of luxury will be clamouring to check into the Nobis Hotel Palma which opens inside a 12th-century Arabian palace in November 2023. Other hot openings for the island include Lío Mallorca (Ibiza-based Pacha Group’s legendary cabaret show and club) which launched in summer 2023 on Palma’s seafront, while the Mandarin Oriental Punta Negra, on the island’s west coast, will fling open its doors in 2024. Palma is a brilliant winter sun destination, not least because of the city’s packed calendar of events, the highlight of which is November’s TaPalma tapas festival, when the island’s top chefs and mixologists join forces for a week of food and drink-themed masterclasses and demonstrations.
Take off to
The first stone of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was laid 850 years ago this year, but the celebrations will last well into 2024 (August, to be precise). Another architectural gem is the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, just a few metres from Pisa’s famously wonky wonder. Head here to learn about the history of Pisa’s cathedral and to admire various artefacts once found inside it, including the transept’s original bronze doors. Piazza del Duomo, the square in which the Leaning Tower of Pisa is located, is a Unesco World Heritage site, and other mediaeval masterpieces found here include the Camposanto Monumentale, a marble-walled cemetery.
Take off to
Football fans will soon be flocking to Stuttgart – one of the host cities for UEFA Euro 2024. It’s also a magnet for travellers with a need for speed. The city is the only one in the world to have two automobile museums, in this case a Porsche Museum and a Mercedes-Benz Museum. In addition, it’s always been a hit with architecture buffs, who come to check out the Le Corbusier-designed dwellings that form part of the Unesco-listed collection of Le Corbusier’s buildings, as well as the city’s historic market hall, which turns 110 in 2024. Don’t miss the beautifully preserved frescoes adorning the hall’s exterior.