Many of the great cities of Europe offering culture, beauty, culinary delights and unique sights are often blighted by one negative: crowds. The Notre Dame is a beautiful sight to behold, when you ignore the hundreds of tourists posing for photographs and school trip children.
Here we explain how to get the most out of five of Europe’s most popular cities.
Stay: The Villa Emilia is a trendy boutique hotel situated just outside the centre of the city, allowing you to escape the crowds. With a relaxed rooftop bar overlooking the Catalan streets, the Vila Emilia is the perfect place to soak in the slow pace of Spanish life away from the tourist traps and bustling crowds.
Eat: Can Culleretes is a dedicated Catalan restaurant, offering traditional fare differing significantly from the expected Spanish cuisine. Tourists seeking out the cheap wine and plentiful paella will avoid this place, making it perfect for you to find the iconic Barcelona culinary experience.
See: Literally hide from the gathering crowds of tourists in the Refugio 307. The underground refuge is one of thousands of hidden shelters set up in 1937 to safeguard again Franco’s bombing. The Refugio 307 is now part of the Museu d’Historia de la Cuitat, offering walking tours.
Stay: The Hidden Hotel by Elegancia is exactly what it says on the tin. Close to the Arc de Triomphe, the hotel is minimally adorned and hidden down a side street. However, walking through the front door transports you to a world of luxury with beautiful, individually designed rooms and stunning communal areas.
Eat: L’Encrier is a small bistro located in the furniture-building district of the city which has managed to stay a well-guarded secret for more than 20 years. The menu has minimum frills but is reliably delicious.
See: One of the great things about Paris is the iconic sights do tend to really absorb the crowds leaving beautiful spots such as the Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet pleasantly relaxed and quiet. With the world’s largest collection of paintings by Claude Monet, it is a must-see experience.
Stay: Built on the remains of a Roman villa from the 12th and 13th centuries, the Castello della Castelluccia served as the fortified entrance to the city. Based just outside the centre of the city in lush countryside, the Castello della Castelluccia offers a beautiful escape from the manic bustle of Rome.
Eat: The Bar Necci dal 1924 is somewhat off the beaten track, located in Pigneto but those in-the-know love the all-day, all-night restaurant-cum-bar. The menu is ever-changing according to the ingredients in season and ahead of fashion.
See: Away from the crowds is the 180 hectare Villa Doria Pamphili comprising of beautiful gardens and a stunning palatial villa. On a nice day, the Villa Doria Pamphili is the perfect place to while away the hours.
Stay: Although ominously named, The Thief is an ultra-modern, waterfront boutique hotel, perfect for a relaxing stay in Oslo. All rooms come with a rainforest shower and private balcony and all guests are invited to enjoy the rooftop terrace as well as the built-in sauna, spa and gym.
Eat: Wine buffs will love Cru with its 50 page wine menu and well-paired culinary delights. Based in one of Oslo’s best-loved shopping districts; Cru is the perfect way to end a day hitting the boutiques.
See: Escape the city and take in the peaceful beauty of the Norwegian Fjords. The best way to enjoy the majesty of the crystal blue waters snaking through rolling mountains is by the sea. Cruise1st offers trips out of Oslo taking in the sights, smells and sounds of the great Fjords.
Stay: Located next to the beautiful, sprawling National Gardens; the Hotel Grande Bretagne is a luxury hotel offering unbeatable views across the Acropolis and the original Olympic Stadium. The high ceilinged, classically designed hotel offers a spacious central hub to a cultural visit to the capital of Greece.
Eat: Away from the restaurants and bars vying for the attention of tourists is Mnisikleous 23, set in the beautiful old neighbourhood of Plaka. Serving simple but delicious pies, both sweet and savoury, Mnisikleous 23 offers relaxation and restoration in the centre of the busy city.
See: Amazingly, very few tourists make the short walk from the Acropolis to the Philopappos Hill; the monument dedicated to a Syrian Prince, and the adjoining tombs which have survived centuries, offer a unique insight into the history of Athens.