Published online yesterday was the Lonely Planet’s top 10 guide to the best European destinations to visit in 2014. What’s quite surprising (to me, anyway) is that amongst the quirky, lesser-known destinations such as Stavanger in Norway (gateway to the country’s southernmost fjords) and Plzeň in the Czech Republic (90 minutes from Prague and the 2015 European Capital of Culture alongside Mons of Belgium) as you’d perhaps expect to see, they’ve listed entire countries such as Greece, Italy and Denmark (admittedly with the latter concentrating on its rich Viking associations), with just the merest of mentions to specifics, such as the islands of Santorini and Sicily, and the cities of Venice, Florence and Rome.
Moving on, for the patriotic there’s two nods to Great Britain, focussing its attention of the wild delights of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and the coastlines of Southwest England. Yet, as you’re at the home of the city break specialist, naturally my attention was drawn to the three European cities highlighted by Lonely Planet for their vibrancy and vivacity: Ljubljana, Seville and Toulouse, three beautiful and beguiling city break destinations. Here’s what they have to say…
Ljubljana might not roll off the tongue for many travelers but it’s worth learning how to pronounce as you’re bound to hear much more about Slovenia’s capital in the years ahead. Ljubljana is already one of Europe’s greenest and most livable cities, boasting a friendly cafe culture by day, and vibrant nightlife after the sun sets. This year gives Ljubljana even more reasons to preen, as the city celebrates the 2,000th anniversary of the Roman colony Emona on the same site as the modern-day city. Quirky Roman-themed events and exhibitions will take place throughout the year, and the showpiece event ‘Ave, Emona!’ (22-24 Aug) will transport the city’s central Kongresni trg (Congress Square) back in time. Ready your sword for those gladiator fights (or watch from a safe distance). Plus it makes the perfect base with plentiful, inexpensive buses radiating out of the city to the rest of Slovenia, which is as picture-perfect as Switzerland but much easier on the wallet.
Seville is the vivacious capital of Spain’s fascinating Andalucía region, and a brilliant alternative to pricier and more touristed Madrid and Barcelona. The laid-back pace, authentic flamenco shows and the region’s best tapas bars are merely a few reasons why Seville entices visitors to simply enjoy themselves. And that they do – being out at night among the city’s relaxed, heady crowds is unforgettable, no matter how much sangria you drink. While Seville has the country’s most passionate and portentous Semana Santa (Holy Week), prices soar; consider September or October this year as a prime time to visit.
No surprise that France made the list. Yet Toulouse stood out to us, as it’s one of France’s most beautiful, historic, welcoming and underrated cities. Toulouse’s pink stone architecture, fabulous museums, historic churches and excellent value for money are drawing savvy travelers looking for alternatives to tourist-choked Paris and Nice. And of course, being France, Toulouse’s culinary scene is exquisite: it’s the ultimate place to experience magnificently rustic southern French cuisine, including the cassoulet of your dreams.
Ljubljana, Seville and Toulouse copy copyrighted to and adapted from the Lonely Planet’s travel tips & articles “Lonely Planet’s Best in Europe 2014”. To read the full article, click here.