Non-capital European cities to consider when we can all start traveling again

The Cubicle Houses, designed by Piet Bloom in 1984, are one of the big attractions in Rotterdam.

You’re probably tired of reading about the coronavirus. I’m certainly tired of writing about it. So this weekend I’m giving you a change of pace, a step into Europe during better times. This is a post by freelancer Alan Hardson on some of the best non-capital cities to visit in Europe. Yes, travel is curtailed for the time being but it will return some day. Clip this offering and keep these great cities in mind for future travel  plans.

By Alan Hardson 

Across Europe, there are 50 cities that are defined as capital cities and most of them have a justifiable reputation for being amazing holiday destinations, filled with rich culture, fascinating history and welcoming people.

However, Europe’s 50 capitals make up just a small proportion of the 800-plus cities containing more than 50,000 inhabitants in the European Union. Many of these cities don’t get the kind of exposure their more famous capital counterparts do, but they are hidden treasures waiting for a canny traveler to find them.

In this article, we’ll be looking at a couple of these cities and showing you why you should choose them over a trip to the capital.


Rotterdam might not have the international reputation that Amsterdam has, but Holland’s second city still has a lot to offer. 

There’s magnificent architecture, some amazing entertainment, a lot of culture and even a little star power. Rotterdam has been the hometown of some of Holland’s most famous sons, from Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus and satirist Bernard Mandeville to sporting stars like Robin van Persie, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Pokerstars Team Holland player, Lex Veldhuis.

Must-see attractions include the Cubicle Houses, a series of cutting-edge modern buildings designed by famous architect Piet Blom in 1984; the huge shopping center and eatery called the Markthal; and, after dark, the nightlife down on the fashionable Witte de Withstraat.


Rome might have a well-deserved reputation for being an amazing city, with breathtaking architecture, a rich well of history to draw from and an enviable food and wine culture that means there are some fantastic places to eat but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking at other Italian cities.

Palermo, the capital of the island of Sicily, has been a center for art and food in the Mediterranean for nearly 2,700 years and combines amazing weather with a lively nightlife.

The city has something for everyone. If you’re a culture buff, be sure to visit during July to see the gaudy celebration of Saint Rosalia. If you love food, you’ll find a selection of tasty treats at the La Vucciria fish market. If you love classic films, then you’re in luck. Palermo was where they filmed parts of the Godfather trilogy and you can visit the towns of Savoca and Forza d’Agrò nearby which were used as filming locations to represent Vito Corleone’s hometown.

Marseilles is a great alternative to Paris in France.


A great escape from the hustle and bustle of Paris, Marseille is a hugely cosmopolitan city with a thriving café culture. The tourist season normally peaks around July and August as people come to enjoy the best of the warm weather, but the city is just as amazing in between April and June or between September and October and is a little quieter during those times.

If you want to enjoy the sun and the sea, the beautiful natural lagoon of Calanques is a short boat journey from the city. 

If you’re looking for somewhere to get an excellent coffee and quietly enjoy a good book, then there are plenty of cafés in the districts of Vieux-Port and La Canebiere that make up what is referred to as “Old Marseille”.

When it comes time for dinner, Marseille is justifiably famous for its bouillabaisse, a rich fish stew, which is served up by a range of fantastic restaurants and cafés across the city.


Known colloquially as the Portuguese Rome, Braga is the oldest city in Portugal, having been founded by the Roman Empire, hence the name, in 279 BC.

The city is widely considered to be one of the most important cultural centers in Europe with an extensive collection of fantastic architecture and art that spans from Ancient Roman to the Gothic and Baroque periods. The city is currently gearing up to try for the title of European Capital of Culture for 2027

If you’re a history buff, Braga is an amazing city to visit, with landmarks like the Sé Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in Portugal; Antigo Paco Episcopal palace; and the sanctuary Bom Jesus do Monte. If you’re a nature lover, you’ll also be happy to learn that Peneda-Gerês, the area in which Braga sits, is home to wild eagles and wolves.